By Claire Wallerstein

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Extra info for CultureShock! Costa Rica: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette

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Costa Rica signs warning of a 100,000 colón (Costa Rican currency) fine for littering. ’ Many voters are clearly disillusioned with both the political system and the law, with rural campesinos (peasants) particularly disenfranchised. Abstention in the 2002 elections, particularly among first-time voters, was 31 per cent. While this may not be high for the US or UK, it was by far the highest level in Costa Rica in more than four decades. As authority-suspicious people living in a paternalistic country, Ticos do have a few means of making the state more accountable.

Nevertheless, the 150-km (93-mile) long railway was not completed until 1890, and took more than 5,000 lives to build. Keith was paid in part with a 99-year lease on 320,000 hectares (470,720 acres) of land in the area—a move that was to have an unimaginable impact on the country. The enterprising engineer planted bananas on the land, and set up the United Fruit Company in 1899. Exports spiralled from 100,000 stems in 1883 to one million in 1890 and 11 million by 1913. Costa Rica was, for many years, the world’s biggest banana producer.

Figueres’ troops were well armed, partially by the CIA, while Picado had to call in machete-wielding banana workers to help him out. The fighting lasted six weeks and claimed 2,000 lives before a peace treaty and amnesty were signed. Figueres ruled for 18 months—enough time for him to issue more than 800 decrees which would drastically alter the very fabric of the country, before handing the reins of power back to the legitimately-elected Otilio Ulate. Figueres won a second term in 1951, as well as a third in 1970, during which he would oversee the country’s so-called cultural revolution.

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