Topics in Culture

Part III: Social Diversity in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is made up of people from different ethnic backgrounds. However, the highest percentage of Costa Ricans are whites and Mestizos, who make up 94% of the whole population. Other groups can be described as ethnic minorities in this country. Black Cost Ricans make up 3% of the total population while Chinese make up 1% of the total population. Costa Rica possesses few survivors of its indigenous groups. These people are also treated as minorities since they are less than 1% of the total population. In Costa Rica, indigenous groups are divided into eight communities, each with their language and customs. However, the modern influence has affected these communities leaving only six native languages in existence. The most notable indigenous communities are the Cabecares and the Bribris (Daniel Zueras, 2008, p.1). These groups still hold onto their traditions and have not been affected by modernism. They have artifacts like pots and sculptures, which are used to display their culture.

The government has set up several commissions whose mandate is to protect the indigenous communities while preserving their culture. One such commission is the 1973 National Commission for Indigenous Affairs (CONA) (Daniel Zueras, 2008, p.1). This commission was set up to find avenues through which the indigenous people’s lives could be improved using national resources. Even with the creation of such commissions, the indigenous people remain marginalized as compared to the rest of the population. First, they only gained their right to vote in 1994 while others had these rights much earlier. Additionally, their land has remained unprotected, being used by the dominant people for development activities like mining (Daniel Zueras, 2008, p.1). Additionally, the indigenous people cannot access important facilities like hospitals and schools further derailing their social status. Due to their low levels of literacy, the indigenous people are discriminated upon by the majority population when it comes to employment. Minority religious groups include Jehovah’s Witness, which holds 1.3% and Protestants at 0.7%. However, there exists no form of religious discrimination from the Catholics who are the majority.

The gender status of women in Cost Rica has changed over the years. Traditionally, they were required to stay at home and perform domestic chores (Cheryl Martin and Mark Wasserman, 2008, p.400). However, with the fight for equality continuing, Costa Rican women are now allowed to participate in professional careers. Women in this country have also developed rapport with other citizens to the extent of holding political office. The issue of reproduction remains an issue of constant debate in Costa Rica. At the family level, women have a considerable amount of power over the kind of decisions that are made concerning reproduction. However, women still hold onto traditional customs, which restrict their reproductive strategies (Cheryl Martin and Mark Wasserman, 2008, p. 407). Nonetheless, on the national stage, women are more powerful in the formation of reproductive strategies. With an increasing number of female political leaders, women are actively involved in any policies regarding reproduction. Additionally, it is important to note that most women use contraception methods to plan their families. This is in contrast to the Catholic teachings, which most of them follow.

Costa Rica’s per capita income is said to be at around $6,900. It has a reasonably equal form of income distribution. In the past, Costa Rica had a larger upper class opposed to the middle and lower classes (Cheryl Martin and Mark Wasserman, 2008, p.312. However, with the introduction of better development policies, the number of people in the middle class has increased significantly. Additionally, due to the high levels of literacy, more people are qualified for professional jobs thus reducing the number of unemployed people. Subsequently, this has resulted in a decrease of the people living under the poverty line. Nonetheless, poverty remains an issue for the country, as there are people whose income cannot sustain their basic needs. The Gini index for Costa Rica as of 2008 was 48 further supporting the equal distribution of income in the country.



Martin, C. E., & Wasserman, M. (2008). Latin America and its people. New York, NY: Pearson Longman.

Zueras, D. (2008). Costa Rica:  Indigenous People still largely invisible. IPS News. Retrieved from




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