July 1, 2011

The Rich Past of Guanacaste

Guanacaste Independence Day

Beyond the tropical dry forests, vast pasturelands and winding rivers, endless beaches and scenic coastlines, the region of Guanacaste has a rich agricultural, cultural and archaeological history.

Guanacaste has always been rich in agricultural production. The main agricultural activities of Guanacaste are: rice, cotton, sugar cane, corn, citrus, sorghum, bean, vegetables, coffee and fruits. In addition to food, cattle ranching soon developed as its most common activity in the region. The primary revenue from cattle ranching was the sale of leather and fat to merchants in Panama. In the 18th century, a market for beef existed which eventually supplied many parts of Central and North America due to the increased demand for inexpensive beef.

The cultural significance of Guanacaste date back over 10,000 years. The Guanacaste region was a plentiful tropical environment inhabited by several indigenous groups and tribes referred to as ‘Peoples of the Mesoamerican culture. The Caribs lived on the east coast. The Borucas, Chibchas, and Diquis stayed in the southwest region, The Chorotegas, originally from Mexico, dwelled there as well. The region’s largest and most significant tribe was the Nicoya.

During the Spanish Conquest, the invaders established a lucrative trade: the sale of human slaves to Panama and Peru. The trafficking of human beings coupled with untold deaths resulting from disease, decimated the local indigenous population. While many nations have no record of its first inhabitants due to conquest, the National Museum, in San José, and various archaeological sites throughout Guanacaste display the rich legacy that has been left behind.

In 1823, the regions of Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras declared themselves as independent nations. They were no longer under Spanish rule. With the conquering of the Spanish, the cultural influence began to change. The country was highly influenced by European migration. Although 3 million immigrates were from Spain, many families arrived from different regions of Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America.

Independence for Guanacaste

– July 25th, 1825

But, while many of these Central American nations remained war torn, Costa Rica prospered. Shortly after in 1824, Guanacaste, originally a providence of Nicaragua, requested that they be annexed and made a part of Costa Rica. The residents of the communities of Nicoya, Santa Cruz, and Cañas believed in Costa Rica’s values and traditions, and saw a more promising future for themselves, free from Nicaraguan rule. Though they announced their annexation on July 25, 1825, it was not until 1858 that the change in boundary lines was officially recognized and agreed upon by the two countries involved.

This moment has had significant impact on the history of both the region and the nation of Costa Rica as a whole because it was viewed as a triumph of democracy. The annexation of Guanacaste quickly led to the formation and celebration of Guanacaste Day, which is celebrated in Costa Rica on the 25th of July of every year. The whole nation rejoices in festivities by having parades, bullfights and traditional folk dances are performed while children are educated on the strong family values and traditional values of Costa Rica.

A few additional notable facts about Guanacaste:

  • Guanacaste’s name dates back to the indigenous ‘Quahnacaztlan’, a native word for the Guanacaste tree which would later become the national tree of Costa Rica.
  • Guanacaste is responsible for constructing the nation’s first Chapel, built in Nicoya in 1544.
  • The first school in Costa Rica – the Institute of Guanacaste
  • The first Chapel in Costa Rica was built in Nicoya in 1544. This edifice is still considered the oldest Parish in Costa Rica.

Rich in resource, rich in history, rich in appeal and last but not least…Guanacaste is as rich today as it was hundreds of years ago.

About the Author

Hasani Petiford
As an award-winning author and speaker, Hasani Pettiford has an appeal that transcends barriers of age, culture and occupation. For over a decade Mr. Pettiford has been a recognized authority on human sexuality, interpersonal relationships and personal growth and development. Hasani has directly impacted the lives of many nationwide with his best-selling books and speaking engagements.


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