The beginning of the 20th century in Costa Rica unveiled more civil unrest than was customarily apparent. The coffee elite had been running a system for 50 years that the public was starting to see through. Other exports began spreading the wealth through the landowners, primarily bananas, and labor disputes occurred. Sociological ideals that included an educated populace were backfiring on those in charge.
Political expansion actually led to the formation of a Communist and Reformist Party. These parties garnered enough interest to the public to actually compete in elections and gain some footholds in the government during the depressive years of the 1930s and 40s. This was not a power-hungry dictatorship, however, as the rulers took charge fought for social reform and furthered equality. Based on the leader of the Communist Party in Costa Rica, the brand of communism is referred to as Tico-Comunismo.
The Great Banana Strike of 1934, a month-long event where 10,000 workers demanded better living and working conditions, ultimately had to be resolved with military force. One of the organizers was aligned with the Communist Party, and the inclusion of the event led to eventual banishment of communism in Costa Rica. The seeds of unrest had been planted, though, and conflict was on the horizon.
Rafael Angel Calderon became president of Costa Rica in 1940. The people of the working class loved him. A social agenda of education, including the formation of Costa Rica's first university, and healthcare for all, really burgeoning for the commoner, solidified his popularity. The rich and elite members of the coffee industry in Costa Rica were put off. War maneuverings during WWII, including the internment of members of the coffee trade thought to be aligned with the German cause, led to a major split from the conservative crowd.
Civil War and the Trade of Tourism
Civil war hit Costa Rica in 1948. The country of roughly 150,000 ended up losing 2,000 individuals to the fighting. Most of the fighting occurred in San Isidro. It was spurred on by formerly exiled José Figueres Ferrer. His army took advantage of the contested election that year between Calderon and Ulate helped him take a contingent hold on the presidential seat. His strong arm tactics actually helped transition laws that are still in place today, including the abolishment of a national army, and eventually gave leadership to the winner of that year's election: Ulate. These three men would shift presidential command, through elective choice of the people, through 1970.
Trade problems and land hoarding by the wealthy eventually led to Costa Rica's bankruptcy in 1989. Import needs for a better infrastructure and the Nicaraguan civil war put too much pressure on the country with not enough resources to keep everybody working. Officially, Costa Rica is a neutral republic. While there has not been further violence, especially as compared to other Central American countries, Costa Rica has been in a declining economy for some time now.
Tourism and technology hold the keys for a better future in Costa Rica. Manufacturing and information services for computer companies, especially if free-trade agreements are ratified, can bring new money into the country, allowing for export to be less about what the land can provide and more about how the people can help each other. This frees the land resources and natural beauty of Costa Rica to be more available to tourists and vacationers from around the world!