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Costa Rica History Timeline

1500s
  • (1502) Christopher Columbus visited area, named it Costa Rica (Rich Coast)
  • (1522) Gil González Dávila led expedition to Golfo de Nicoya, converted thousands of Indians to Christianity, took their gold, sold some as slaves
  • (1524) Francisco Fernández de Córdova founded first Spanish settlement near present day Puntarenas
  • (1540's) Costa Rica part of vice-royalty of Spain
  • (1561) Juan de Cavallon of Spain established first colony
1700s - 1800s
  • (1723) Irazú volcano erupted, destroyed Cartago
  • (1808) Coffee from Cuba introduced, became primary crop
  • (1821) Central America gained independence from Spain; dispute over Costa Rica joining independent Mexico or confederation of Central American states
  • (1823) Costa Rica joined United Provinces of Central America with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
  • (1838) Costa Rica became independent
  • (1855) US adventurer, William Walker, took over Nicaragua, attempted to take Costa Rica
  • (1849 - 1859) Led by Juan Rafael Mora, Costa Rica took lead in organising Central American resistance against William Walker
  • (1859) Mora ousted, fled to El Salvador
  • (1860) Mora attacked Costa Rica to attempt to recoup the presidency; after initial victories, he was defeated, captured, taken before firing squad
  • (1874) Banana cultivation began
1900s
  • (1910) Earthquake destroyed Cartago, 700 killed
  • (1917) Frederico Tinoco ousted President Alfredo Gonzalez
  • (1919) US Marines invaded Costa Rica
  • (1940's) US Navy purchased two-thirds of the island of Vieques, for $1.4 million
  • (1940 - 1944) President Rafael Angel Calderon Guradia introduced liberal reforms: recognition of workers' rights, minimum wages
  • (1948) Civil war over disputed presidential election lasted six weeks, more than 2,000 dead
  • (1949) New constitution in effect; women, people of African descent given right to vote; armed forces abolished, replaced with civil guard; social security, national banks introduced
  • (1963 - 1964) Irazu volcano erupted, destroyed over 400 homes, 40 killed, crops seriously damaged
  • (1968) Arenal volcano erupted, destroyed town of Tabacón, killed 78
  • (1978) Economy sharply deteriorated
  • (1982) Harsh austerity program introduced to pull Costa Rica out of economic decline
  • (1985) US-trained anti-guerrilla force clashed with Sandinista troops

1900s continued

  • (1987) Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras signed peace plan devised by Oscar Arias Sanchez; Sanchez won Nobel Peace Prize
  • (1991) Earthquake in Limon region killed 27, injured 400, left 13,000 homeless
  • (1999) One million tourists visited Costa Rica
2000s
  • (2000) Nicaragua, Costa Rica settled border dispute over navigation along San Juan River
  • (2003) Energy, telecommunications workers struck over privatization plans; teachers struck due to problems in receiving salaries; three ministers resigned; US Navy left Vieques Island
  • (2004) Three diplomats from Chile killed by security guard at embassy in San Jose; three former presidents investigated for contractor payments
  • (2005) Serious flooding along Caribbean coast caused by heavy rains, 13,000 forced from homes; seven Central American nations (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) agreed to create rapid-response force to combat drug trafficking, terrorism, other regional threats; bank robbery attempt resulted in 30-hour hostage standoff, nine people killed, including five bank customers
  • (2006) Public workers struck for two days in protest of free trade deal with US
  • (2007) Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) barely passed; Costa Rica elected as non-permanent member of UN Security Council; agents made largest marijuana bust in nation's history, seized 4.85 tons in abandoned boat.
  • (2009) Costa Rica re-established ties with Cuba after 48 years
  • (2010) Laura Chinchilla elected first woman president

Costa Rica Photographs

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This page was last modified on April 7, 2017.