- The Republic of Costa Rica lies on the Central American isthmus between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, consisting of a mountainous backbone – rising to 3819m at the summit of Cerro Chirripó, its highest point – flanked by low-lying coastal strips. Though set in one of the most geologically active regions on Earth, Costa Rica has suffered less from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions than its northern neighbours – the worst incident in modern times was the earthquake that struck near Cartago in April 1910, killing 1750 people.
- The country’s population is largely of Spanish extraction, though there’s a substantial community of English-speaking Costa Ricans of African origin around the Caribbean coast, along with 65,000 or so indigenous peoples. Costa Rica is a young country: out of its population of 4.5 million, more than a quarter are aged under 15; men currently enjoy a life expectancy of 77, women of 81.
- Costa Rica’s main exports are coffee and bananas, though in recent years income from these products has been overtaken by that from tourism. The country’s recent prosperity has also been partly funded by massive borrowing – per capita, Costa Rica’s levels of debt are among the highest in the world. Despite widespread poverty (around 21 percent of the population), the free and compulsory primary education system means that the country boasts a literacy rate of 95 percent, the best in Central America.
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