Visiting Costa Rica is one of our family’s favorite leisure activities. In fact we have an on-going love affair with Costa Rica. We go there every year and normally spend several weeks travelling round the country. It is a place where we unwind from our work pressures in Italy and lead a Sage Vita lifestyle, cultivating a sound mind and a sound body.
The most common greeting in Costa Rica is pura vida, which literally means pure life, or good life. And indeed life in this small country of Central America can be pleasant, blessed as it is by gorgeous natural resources jealously preserved and defended by rigorous environmental laws. The name Costa Rica means ‘Rich Coast’ and was probably so named because Christopher Columbus thought that gold was to be found in abundance in the country. Despite its name, Costa Rica is not a rich country by western standards, and poverty can be found in rural areas – but never below the level of human dignity.
Costa Ricans are happy people
In many of the global surveys dealing with “peoples happiness rates”, Costa Rica generally ranks among the first ten countries in the world. Remarkable for a tiny nation squeezed between North and South America along with other dwarf neighbors often referred to as “banana republics”. Bananas undoubtedly account for a good share of its agricultural production, but Costa Rica hardly can be mocked as a banana republic.
Interestingly, the absence of gold and silver contributed to its present well-being. In fact, the Spanish conquerors shifted their interest to other areas where such resources were abundant, founding cities and harbors from Mexico to the tip of South America. Not having any commercial or militarily strategic value, Costa Rica was also relatively untouched by slavery trades. This has been a blessing. Costa Rica sailed peacefully through the centuries and landed into modern times avoiding the turmoil and bloody revolutions that affected its neighbors.
Today’s Costa Rica is a presidential democracy enjoying an enviable degree of political stability. Once more, a remarkable feat for a country located in a traditionally unstable area of the world. There is one single factor that makes it unique: Costa Rica has no armed forces since 1948 when its Constitution was amended accordingly.
It undoubtedly was a courageous decision taken by wise and visionary leaders, but from another point of view it was an extremely hazardous gamble on the very survival of the country. From 1948 to recent times all Central American nations went through civil wars, bloody coups, social uprisings that killed people by the thousands and rattled the economies. All excepting one: Costa Rica.
From this perspective, pura vida is much more than wishing somebody something nice. It is rather an invitation to share a way of life or, to say it in other words, to live and enjoy a Sage Vita.