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The New York Times, September 3, 1893, p. 17:



Beautiful Environments of San Jose,
4,000 Feet Above Sea Level and Surrounded by Mountains--
A City of Chivalrous Men and Beautiful Women,
Devoted to Fine Arts and Paris Fashions--
Hospitable to Accredited Strangers--
Routine Life in the Tropics--Hotel Life in Costa Rica.

    The City of San José de Costa Rica is built on a lofty mesa or plateau, nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. It lies in a natural amphitheatre, surrounded by foothills and mountains.
    The mesa is not as extensive as that on which stands Guatemala City, in the republic of that name. The "Athens of Central America," while having three to four times the population of San José, has a greater resemblence to a city on a plain.
    In San José the foothills are nearer, and the lofty mountain ranges are just back of them. The capital of Costa Rica has long been known and famed for the classic beauty of its surroundings and the grandeur of its mountains. They lift their peaks skyward, and extend in all directions, as far as the eye can reach.

    The highlands of Costa Rica have been invaded by American enterprise. The capital is lit by an electric light plant from New-York City, the arc system being used for the streets and the incandescent for hotels and residences. Another evidence of Costa Rica's push and energy is shown in the tram-via, or street cars. They connect several parts of the city with the railway station. American models and methods are popular in the sunny republic.

    While Costa Rica is rich in soil, climate, and scenery, it is also known for its charming and cultivated society. Nowhere in Central America is real intellectuality more marked. In fact, travelers state that San José de Costa Rica is the most polished and courtly centre in Central America.
    The educational standard for youth is high. Fine art receives great attention. As a natural result art and music find a home in the congenial clime. The fine Opera House during the "season" receives many European opera companies, and the audiences will compare favorably with those of New-York, London, and Paris.

    And these audiences, too, sustain the proud boast of Costa Rica of the beauty of her daughters, many as fair and charming as their sisters in distant Andalusia in the mother country. In San José the blonde and brunette types can be contrasted, the brunettes with black hair, pearly-white teeth, and jet-black eyes that can be as placid as a Sabbath morn or flash fire, as only Spanish eyes can.

    The welcome accorded a stranger to scenes and surroundings so attractive, when the visitor is properly accredited, is instant and warm. The tropics have a world-wide fame for hospitality, and nowhere will it be found in more attractive form than in Costa Rica.

    A few words regarding Spanish-American etiquette may be in order. In the matter of calling it is just the reverse of English and American practices. The new-comer makes out his visiting list and either calls in person or sends his card to all those whose acquaintance he desires to make. The stranger makes the first call. A return call or sending a card is de rigeur. Should the new-comer make a second call it then rests with the residents to follow up the acquaintance or drop it. After having stayed a time, or when leaving the country, many publish a card in the newspapers, called a "Despidida," a species of farewell, in which Señor Fulano de Tal--or Mr. Smith--places himself at the disposal of his friends in New-York, London, or Paris, as the case may be, when friends can ask him to make endless purchases.

    In matters religious the Costa Ricans are Roman Catholics, that being the dominant faith in all Spanish America.

    Observant travelers are at once impressed with the natural grace and refinement of the upper classes. There is a polished case and courtesy that no pen sketch can do justice to. Perhaps it is best described by saying that it is the French etiquette of the time of the Empire, somewhat accentuated. Another thing will impress the stranger; it is the universal and courtly address paid women. For them it is a veritable paradise, a royaume des femmes. In all Spanish America the Spanish form of direct and personal compliment obtains and is strictly good form. A gentleman will publicly congratulate a lady on a well-fitting Parisian robe or hat. If the fortunate possessor of fine eyes, he may say: "Que ojos magnificos"--"what magnificent eyes." It always pleases and is admissable. This open and direct style of compliment in our centres probably would lead to trouble. They are a remarkably sensible lot of people, and do not take life as seriously as we do. They know full well that a few polite phrases are indicative of a kindly heart and true refinement. Hence they are current coin, and no none but a boor would take exception to them. Under truly tropical skies our every-day commonplaces seem lost.

    When European-bred women visit Costa Rica they are reminded of courts and cities of the true Continental type. It seems superfluous to add that it has a great charm for strangers. The Capital is very cosmopolitan. It is said that fully a fourth of its residents are Colombians and Nicaraguans from the adjoining republics, respectively, to the south and north.

    Already reference has been made in these columns to the architecture that obtains in Costa Rica. It constantly reminds the visitor of that in Spain--an architecture that in its mother country has received a lasting impress, caused by sad years of Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula... the "globe trotter" will find it to-day not only in Spanish America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, but in Jamaica as well--a modification of the luxurious style of Moorish building eminently adapted for the tropics, giving stability, shade, and consequent coolness.

    The every-day life of the upper classes may be very briefly summarized. The early morning meal--Continental fashion--consists of coffee and rolls, and perhaps some dulce or sweet. Such coffee! Not one in a thousand knows a good cup of coffee. Costa Rica grows a coffee berry famous in the London markets. Breakfast at 11 or 12--à la fourchette--meats, game, vegetables, vin ordinare, ending with queso y jalea, or cheese and guava jelly. It is a Spanish American custom, met with also in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

    For purposes of business and professional work the morning hours are the best. They are the coolest. After breakfast, the midday siesta or rest. Generally it means a nap--an hour or two taken from the day. After it, the cigarette and getting ready for the afternoon. Dinner at 6, 7, or 8, as the case may be. Dining there is a fine art, and the meal is taken in a leisurely, philosophic way, and nothing is allowed to interfere with its continuity. When people are comiendo--or dining--any intrusion is very bad form, in fact, unpardonable. Later, calls and receiving visitors is in order. Informal calling, as we know it, by strangers is not good form. That is exclusively for relatives and intimate friends.

    Turning to hotel life, El Gran Hotel just now has taken on new fame, as being the temporary repose of Mr. Weeks, the New-York embezzler of $1,250,000 belonging to women. The meals in hotels are served at about the hours already noted. The hotel table presents an endless variety of dishes, largely Spanish and French. There is everything and anything from bacalao, or codfish, to jalea, or jelly, meats, game, and a great variety of tropical fruit. In some of the hotels the dining tables are placed in an alcove near the patio or central court, well away from all sunshine and glare. Oftentimes the courts present a wealth of tropical plants--ferns, palms, and flowers. M. Victor wasn an early-day famous caterer. Needless to say he was a Frenchman.

    Apropos of things French, French dresses, hats, and dainty shoes are à la mode. Paris gives the fair ones their fashions--Mother Eve's daughters are much the same in all climes. Indeed, all Central Americans have a marked liking for France. Many Costa Ricans and Central Americans educate their children abroad. When Spanish Americans speak two languages--and herein they are dealt with collectively--the second language is French. It is a first cousin of their own sweet, musical toungue. The Spanish language has a marvelous flexibility and a music all its own.

    In closing, a brief glance at Central America may be in order. To-day it is composed of five republics, whose Constitutions are popularly supposed to resemble that of the United States of America. They are Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, named in their geographical order, proceeding north from the Isthmus of Panama. While a Spanish possession they were one and known as the Vice Royalty of Guatelmala. Spain is not a popular theme in Spanish America. In all Central America they speak and write of the Spanish yoke. The Central Americans effected their independence in September, 1821. La Independencia was followed by a form of federal government. After several years of civil war, the Confederate States resolved themselves into republics, as already named.

    The total area of Central America, including British Honduras, is estimated at 175,867 square miles, with a population of over 3,000,000, of whom perhaps a fourth are white, or oreoles of European descent, the remainder Indians and their descendents. The nearness of Central America, the Nicaragua Canal--a commercial necessity--as well as the valuable trade developed by an American corporation, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, give the whole an interest essentially American.

The New York Times, January 7, 1894, p.21:



What Has Been Done and What Must Be Done to Span the Isthmus from Ocean to Ocean--Costa Rica Without a Rival as a Sugar-Producing Country--We Get Our Finest Bananas from Costa Rica,
and They Require Little Cultivation.

    A study of the map accompanying this article will give the reader a tolerably clear and comprehensive view of the present state of railway construction in Costa Rica. The distances for the railways constructed and to be constructed are as follows: From Port Limon, on the Atlantic, to Guasimo, constructed, 50 miles; Guasimo to Muelle San Carlos de Costa Rica, 50 miles, to be constructed; Muelle San Carlos to Culebra Bay, or deep water, on the Pacific Ocean, 90 miles, to be constructed; total, 190 miles, of which 50 are completed and in operation.
    The system will be narrow gauge, or 3 feet 6 inches. No engineering difficulties will be met. There are no gradients exceeding 1½ per cent. in the whole line, or from ocean to ocean.

    Railroad and canal building in Central America depends wholly on labor. In building the last fifty miles of the Costa Rican railways, on the Atlantic side, 22,000 men were imported. They were imported from all parts, Italy furnishing thousands. The labor question was but a series of vexations and cost, nor did the labor problem receive any solution until the sturdy negroes of Jamaica were engaged. Their employment solved the difficulty. Their value in coast work, in hot climates, is a constant quantity. They solved the labor problem for Costa Rica, as they did years ago that of the Panama Railroad...
see also: Panama News - Nicaragua News - Guatemala - El Salvador

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    Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries.

    In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development.

    Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
    CIA World Factbook: Costa Rica

Area of Costa Rica: 51,100 sq km
slightly smaller than West Virginia

Population of Costa Rica: 4,133,884
July 2007 estimate

Languages of Costa Rica:
Spanish official

Costa Rica Capital: San Jose

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    Costa Rica as a sugar-producing country claims to stand without a rival. Sugar planters from the island of Trinidad have visited it, and, after close inquiry and personal inspection, admit that it will produce more sugar per acre than any land known to them.
    Costa Rica's three climates enable her to grow sugar all the way from tide level to an elevation of 4,000 feet. At the latter, one of the largest estates will be found--the hacienda, or estate, that is named Naraujo. There 500 acres are under cultivation. It produces ten tons of dulce, or native sugar, per mauzana, the latter the equivalent of an acre and three quarters. The great fertility of the soil is evident when the statement is made that crop after crop for twenty years has been grown without any fertilizer or any replanting.
    The sugarcane at that elevation, 4,000 feet, never blossoms, therefore it can be cut at any time. The planter controls the situation, and not the cane. The sugar lands referred to produce double the crops obtainable in Louisiana, acre for acre.

    San Salvador exports her sugar. It is taken all the way around Cape Horn, or through the Straits of Magellan, to Europe, and pays, despite the long and expensive sea voyage.
    The same land produces excellent coffee. The exports of coffee last year were over $5,000,000.

    In Costa Rica, as well as in the atlas or highlands of Guatemala, a sugar is grown that takes eighteen months to mature, instead of two crops annually, as at sea level, and a crop every eight months in the middle zone, or 4,000 feet above sea level.
    At this writing, Costa Rica produces enough sugar for domestic consumption. Some years ago she imported sugar from Ecuador. The native sugar, or dulce, is used for producing fine sugar and for purposes of distillation.

    Ths Santa Clara plains are especially adapted for cane and coffee planting. Part of that fertile plain now is accessible by the existing railway system on the Atlantic side, and the projected extension will develop the rest of it.

    Costa Rica produces a tobacco, known locally as chicagre. It is dark and very strong, resembling, when manufactured, the old-time perique. Tobacco is grown now near Guasimo. To-day tobacco is one of the republic's monopolies. When made free, as now contemplated, it will be extensively cultivated for export, when it will compete favorably with the very large quantities shipped by Mexico to Havana, the United States, and Canada.

    The Banana River Railway is the name of a brance, now built for five miles, extending in an easterly direction from Port Limon toward the Banana River, and Boca-del-Toro, an extension of this line, will be pushed, opening up a tract of very rich land. In all, it will extend twenty-five miles. This line would form part of the interoceanic line if extended twenty-five miles further to Guasimo, and also would form part of the interoceanic line through to Culebra Bay.
    The line to Matina will open up one of the most fertile sections of Costa Rica for the cultivation of bananas, rubber, and cocoa. The rich river-bottom lands through which the road will pass being especially adapted for the cultivation of these articles of export, it is expected that the present export of about 1,500,000 bunches of bananas will be increased by a further export of 2,000,000 bunches additional, as a result of opening up this rich coast region.

    The increase in the consumption of bananas in the United States has been remarkable during the past fifteen years. Fifteen years ago the fruit was almost unknown in the United States, save as a luxury upon the tables of the well-to-do classes. To-day this nutritious fruit is consumed principally by the poorer classes, through its cheapness, its import cost being less than potatoes.
    The imports last year were over 15,000,000 bunches, or the equivalent of 400,000 tons, furnishing employment for a great many men and steamers.

    Although Costa Rica supplies the finest bananas that come to the United States, they require but little cultivation, due to the latitude and very rich alluvial soil, the best being that of the river bottoms. There they clear the land of undergrowth--dense tropical jungle--and plant the suckers eight varns, about twenty-two feet--apart.
    The timber is then cut down, which, with the exception of the hardest woods, disappears in the space of about two years in that remarkable climate of great heat and excessive moisture. Its decay fertilizes the soil.

    In a year the plant will bear fruit. The plant attains a height of 25 to 30 feet., and the plant itself is cut down close to the root to obtain the bunch of bananas. New suckers keep coming up from the ground. They, in turn, furnish new plants and new fruit.
    In Costa Rica, plowing is not recognized. The soil is rich and porous. The only cultivation necessary is to keep the ground clear of grass and weeds.

    A well-managed banana plantation will produce 350 bunches per acre yearly, and in the rich bottom lands will last from fifteen to twenty years, if kept clean, and produce large and good fruit.
    In several of the West India Islands it is necessary to plow the lands, and the production is not one-half per acre that of Costa Rica. They are in a higher latitude, and their respective climates are not so suitable for banana cultivation.

    The culture of cocoa require shade, which can be supplied by the banana plants. This tree will not produce a good crop before five years, but is will continue to bear for a century, once in bearing. The roots of the cocoa [cacao] tree go down to a great depth, supposed to be equal to the height of the tree.
    The cocoa of Costa Rica is of a remarkably good quality, and commands in the country double the price of the Ecuadorian article. At present none is exported. Following the opening of the railway, a valuable export trade will follow.

    The rich lowlands are the natural habitat for the rubber tree. Some twenty years ago rubber was an important article of export from Central America, especially from Costa Rica, but the rubber cutters destroyed the trees in their avarice to obtain all the milk, and the tree became scarce.
    For eight years the Government of Costa Rica has forbidden the tapping of rubber trees on Government lands. Many are now planting rubber trees on many banana and other estates. Soon it will form a valuable article of export.

    The construction of the railway to Lake Nicaragua from Costa Rica, and the extension of the loop from the Muelle San Carlos to Culebra Bay, will concentrate attention on Costa Rica as a progressive republic.
    The line from Nicaragua to Port Limon will handle all of Nicaragua's imports and exports. Nicaragua has no port worthy of a name on the Atlantic. The Culebra Bay extension will make a powerful competing line with the Panama Railroad. The light gradients and deep-water ports on both oceans will give it an immense advantage over the Panama railroad. Culebra Bay is 500 miles nearer to San Francisco, Cal. The line to Nicaragua can also be made an interoceanic one if the steamers on Lake Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan railroads are used to Corinto.

    This route in time would be a favorite one for tourists, owing to the picturesque scenery in the two republics and the volcanic islands and lake scenery in Nicaragua.

    In conclusion it may be well to refer to the engineering difficulties surmounted in Costa Rica by Mr. Minor C. Keith of Brooklyn and his staff. The cost of the last fifty miles of the railroad built by him from La Junta to Cartago was $6,500,000. It was one of the most difficult pieces of railway work in the world, the road rising from 150 feet in elevation to 5,000 feet at Cartago. It is one of the most picturesque routes in the world, having some ten horseshoe curves and one bridge 600 feet long and 230 feet above the water.

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