Immigration to Costa Rica

Immigration in Costa Rica constitutes 9% according to the census of 2012,[1] about 360,000 people and most come from neighboring countries. Costa Rica's ethnic composition has contribution of many immigrants mostly from Europe and less extend from Asian and African slaves.

The composition of Costa Rica consists mostly of Europeans with an important group of Mestizos and lesser extent of blacks and indigenous people. In recent decades, the immigration to Costa Rica has increased the attraction to build enterprises and tourist attractions. After a considerable drop from the decade of 1950 to 1980.

total foreign population 2012[1]
Place. Country. Numbers.
1 Nicaragua287 000
2 Colombia20 000
3 Spain16 482.[2]
4 United States16 000
5 Panama11 427
6 Canada 10 000
7 El Salvador7 189
8 Honduras5 669
9 United Kingdom5 200
10 China4 500
11 Mexico4 285
12 Venezuela 3 886
13 Argentina 3 600
14 Peru2 700
15 Chile 2 600
16 Italy2 300
17 Russia2 300
18 Germany2 100
19 Poland1 900
20 Cuba1 700
21  Switzerland1 642
22 Dominican Republic1 475
23 Brazil1 300
24 Belize1 270
25 Guatemala1 200
26 Uruguay1 200
27 France1 000
28 Ecuador900
29 South Korea520
30 Japan190
31 Haiti150

Social characteristics

The phenomenon of immigration in Costa Rica, besides addressing many dimensions of this social phenomenon in the country, from the demographic and socioeconomic characterization, has presented problems in the country during the last decades. Since most of the foreign community in Costa Rica comes from Nicaragua, where many do not find employment, and the arrival of drug dealers and criminals. These problems also present within Colombian immigrants. The government of Costa Rica has tried to stop illegal immigration of Nicaraguans and return them to their country. Just as has been initiated programs to promote economic prosperity of the poorest immigrant population, such as Nicaragua. there is also a percentage of political refugees in other countries who have sought asylum escaping from persecution in their countries.[3]

Immigrant groups

Currently the largest immigrant communities are from Nicaragua (74.5%), Colombia (4.3%), Spain (4.2%), United States (4.1%) and Panama (2.4%). There is a 11.8% corresponding to other nationalities, with significant communities of Argentina (3600), Chile (2466), Mexico (4000), El Salvador (5600) and Venezuela (3,886).[1] For several years there are a remarkable migratory movement of Europeans (especially Spaniards, Bulgarians, Russians, Ukrainians, Swiss and Swedish), Asians (Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese) who are putting down roots in the country attracted by political stability, a way of life alternative and a mild climate.


According to the census of 2012, almost 9% of the population in Costa Rica is foreign-born. 287,000 Nicaraguans comprise nearly three-quarters of that foreign population.[4] This phenomenon has been more marked since 1984, when there were 45,918 Nicaraguan-born people in Costa Rica.[5] The Nicaraguan diaspora has been driven by circumstances within that nation.


Costa Rica in recent decades has become a refuge for thousands of Colombians who have fled their country in an attempt to obtain personal and family stability that Colombia does not offer to them, because of the paramilitary groups and drug trafficking related to the long-standing Colombian civil war. However, most of Colombian immigrants have a higher education, and receive the same rights as Costa Ricans. What makes easier to dual citizenship.[6] According to the census of 2012, there are about 20,000 Colombians in Costa Rica being the tenth community of Colombians outside the country.


Main article: Spanish Costa Rican
Celebration of Santiago Apóstol in Costa Rica.

The Spanish immigration began with the exploration of Hernán Ponce de León and Juan de Castañeda along the Pacific coast, soon after led to the native population of this region under Spanish control. Although a small number of colonists settled in Costa Rica because of the small number of Indians who inhabited the region. After independence, the governors were interested in populating the territories with white workers, preferably imported from Europe.[7]

After independence, the governors were interested in populating territories with white people workers, preferably brought from Europe, banana cultivation was attracting a lot of capital and labor for the construction of the railway to the Atlantic. In the census of 1864 there were only 41 Spaniards in Costa Rica, then the number increased to 2,527 Spaniards in 1927.[8]

In the early of the twentieth century many Spaniards used Costa Rica as a bridge to move to Panama attracted by the construction of the Canal. The events in Catalonia for the same dates Catalan prompted many to migrate to Costa Rica, becoming in a few years a thriving and influential Catalan colony that persists today. This colony, located in San José (Costa Rica) came to consist mainly of Catalans, followed by Galicians, Asturians and Castilians. Currently the Catalans make up most of the community of Spaniards in Costa Rica. There are currently 16,482 Spanish citizens in Costa Rica according to the 2009 census.[2]

United States

They are the third largest group of immigrants in Costa Rica along with the Spaniards, after the Colombians and Nicaraguans. Conforming 16,000 Americans in the country and nearly half of them have less than 29 years. Besides that prefer to live in San José, Pérez Zeledón, Escazú, Alajuela, Santa Ana and Santa Cruz. Their functions are performed in the country of education, commerce, touristic and administrative activities. And half of these immigrants have dual nationality.[9]


According to the census of 2012, there are 11,427 Panamanians in Costa Rica. They mainly live in San José. They form 4.1% of the immigrant population, making them the fifth-largest immigrant community in Costa Rica.


According to the census of 2012, there are about 10,000 Canadians in Costa Rica. They mainly come from Calgary, Alberta and Ottawa. Many prefer to live as in Canada, and establish themselves on the beaches as in Playa Escazú (border to Panama), and elsewhere as San José and Santa Ana. Others prefer to live in San Jose or in other urban areas. And most conducted tourist and business activities.[10]

El Salvador

According to the census of 2012, there are about 7,189 Salvadorans in Costa Rica. And established in San José. Many of them are from the upper class and they are looking to develop their businesses. There are other significant communities of El Salvador as in the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, Spain, Canada, Australia and Switzerland, until it became a large Salvadoran community abroad.


According to the census of 2012, there are 5,669 Hondurans in Costa Rica, and live mainly in San José. Many of these immigrants used Nicaragua as route to go to Costa Rica.

United Kingdom

After the independence of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican government began attracting foreign immigration to strengthen the workforce, they came mainly from Central Europe and North America, although mostly Germans, Britons and Americans arrived, the last two immigrant groups were grouped as Anglos. England was the first to notice the potential that Costa Rica had to the coffee production, over time, agricultural areas of the Caribbean and northern Costa Rica were under English domain especially by the activities of coffee. Afterwards the Britons brought Italians for construction of the railroad of Altiplano. So most of the agricultural production were held by the English.[11]

According to the census of 2012, there are about 5,200 Britons in Costa Rica, forming the second-largest European community after the Spaniards.


The Chinese community in Costa Rica (including Taiwanese) is the largest Asian community in the country. According with the census of 2012 about 4,500. Their story begins with the first Chinese immigrants that arrived in Costa Rica in 1855. They were a group of 77 people originally from Canton, who had come to Central America to work on the Panama Railroad. During 1859-1863 under the administration of José María Montealegre, laws were enacted which prohibited the migration of blacks and Asians, in an effort to reserve Costa Rica for European settlements.[12] Later, "a Chinese colony" began to form in that area, founded by Joseph Chen Apuy, an immigrant from Zhongshan, Guangdong who arrived in 1873. Puntarenas was so well known among the Chinese community as a destination in China that some in error thought they it was the name of the country.[13] In the 1970s, Taiwan started to become the most China immigration to Costa Rica. However, they formed a transitional group, of which many used to Costa Rica as a temporary stop while waiting for permission to live in the United States or Canada.


Costa Rica is the Central American country where most Mexicans live. The waves of migration from Mexico to Costa Rica started from 1970s attracted to a stable democracy, a mild climate and political stability. According to the census of 2012, 4,285 Mexicans were living in Costa Rica from Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Baja California and Mexico City. They are professionals, doctors, secretaries, among other services. Costa Rica is the ninth destination for Mexican immigrants in the world.[14]


According to the census of 2012, there are about 3,886 Venezuelans in Costa Rica that live mainly in San José. Most of them come as refugees from political problems that occur in the country.


Costa Rica is the country with the most Argentines in Central America. According to the census of 2012, there were 3,600 Argentines living in Costa Rica. Historically there were two migratory waves of refugees running away from military dictatorships that Argentina lived through between 1976 and 1983. A second wave occurred during Argentina's economic crisis (1999-2002), when many Argentines professionals decided to migrate to Costa Rica to develop in their professional areas. Most Argentines in Costa Rica come from Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario. Most of them reside in the provinces of San José, Cartago, Limón and Guanacaste.


According to the census of 2012, nearly 2,700 Peruvians were living in Costa Rica. Some of them are directly from their country of origin, and others had emigrated to Chile and then have fled the anti-Peruvian racism in Chile. Although there are also cases of racism against Peruvians in Costa Rica, they are to a lesser extent compared to Chile.


According to the census of 2012, nearly 2,600 Chileans living in Costa Rica. They have mostly settled in urban areas such as San José.


Main article: Italian Costa Rican
The "National Theatre" in San Jose, Costa Rica was made by the Italian engineer Cristoforo Molinari in 1897. It has a huge resemblance to the Temple of the Opera, La Scala in Milan.

The Italian migration to Costa Rica comprises several migratory waves between 1887 and 1888. By February 1887, the railroad entrepreneur, Minor Cooper Keith, had four hundred men working at the ends of the new line, but needed more. In October of the same year (unsuccessful attempts of the commissioners in Italy, Canary Islands and Cape Verde) the employer had to travel to London to get Italian workers. Indeed, on May 10, 1888, it docked in Limón (Costa Rica). The ship's name was Anna Elisa, and it came with 671 new workers and their medical needs. That is how the first railway line in Costa Rica was built. then the number of Italian immigrants increased until 1433. Many Italians were indignant by the deaths of workers. In October 1888, the Italian workers promoted a tremendous strike. The discontent of the Italian workers exploded on 20 October 1888, when all of them deserted the camps and fled to Cartago (Costa Rica). By November 15 of that same year, nearly all of the immigrants had already moved to Cartago, where many married white Costa Rican women and created their own families, but others went off on a ship that carried Italians who wanted to return to their country. 848 immigrants came on March 16, 1889.[15] Currently, according to the census of 2012, there are 2,300 Italians in Costa Rica, and their descendants are found in Cartago.


The Russian immigration in Costa Rica, comes from the twentieth century. Being mostly from Volga, Belarus (including people from Ukraine and the Baltic countries), who came as refugees after the First World War and after the Cold War. There are also a number of Costa Ricans who studied in the Soviet Union through scholarships, and came back married to a Russian person to establish a family in Costa Rica. According to the census of 2012, there are over 2,300 Russians in Costa Rica.


The immigration of Germans to Costa Rica can be divided into three phases: from its beginnings to 1871 (the year in which the German Empire was founded) from 1871-1918, when he ended the First World War; and from 1918-1919 until the start of the Second World War in 1939. The first Germans immigrants arrived between 1825 and 1826 to Costa Rica. In 1850 the German immigration had reached small proportions. In 1864 there were 164 Germans living in Costa Rica. Most of these Germans were attracted by the growing foreign commerce. Others migrated by the economic situation that was facing Germany in the 1840s and the failed revolution in 1848. Then came another group in the late of the nineteenth century, there were new infrastructure projects and existing personal networks between Germany and Costa Rica have helped to increase the immigration. Before the First World War, had already created the German Club in 1910 and the German School in 1912. Then beginning another third group of immigrants. where was seen the boom of Second World War. After this war, there was affection in the relations between the two countries, and many naturalized Germans after the war no longer appear in the statistics.[16] Currently the census of 2012, says there are 2,100 Germans in Costa Rica.


Polish immigration in Costa Rica comprises from 1929 to 1941. By 1929, about 15 Poles came to Costa Rica, then they increased significantly in 1930, when there were 90 Poles in the country. Two of the first Polish immigrants were Jacobo Schifter and Lollew Gudmundson, who left their country to settle in Costa Rica, and this became a motive for many more to go Costa Rica. The massive immigration of Poles to Costa Rica was between 1933 and 1936. Xenophobia developed in Costa Rica, because most of the Poles were of Jewish origin, the Poles in Costa Rica were engaged in the home industry and small businesses. Later, around 1939, came several waves of Jewish Polish families fleeing the Nazi repression, others followed after the war, because the country's economy was devastated. By the 1950s, the majority left the country to emigrate to Mexico or Argentina.[17] Currently the census of 2012, says there are 1,900 Poles in Costa Rica.


According to the census of 2012, there are over 1,700 Cubans to live in Costa Rica. The immigration began from the 1960s through boats of refugees fleeing the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. They were attracted by the political stability that the country has.


The Swiss in Costa Rica have come since the nineteenth century, attracted by the mild climate, and through the development of Costa Rican chocolate. According to the census of 2012, there are about 1,642 Swiss in Costa Rica.

Dominican Republic

According to the census of 2012, there are about 1,475 Dominicans in Costa Rica. They mainly live in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.


According to the census of 2012, there are about 1,300 Brazilians in Costa Rica. Many of those who come are actors, actresses, models and television hosts. The Brazilians in Costa Rica live mainly in the best hotels in San José.


According to the census of 2012, there are about 1,275 Belizeans in Costa Rica. Many arrive as part of the Mormon missions along with Canadians.


According to the census of 2012, there are about 1,200 Guatemalans in Costa Rica. They come to improve their economic conditions, but mostly by the political stability that has Costa Rica. Most live in San José. However the largest Guatemalan community abroad is located in the United States.


According to the census of 2012, there are about 1,200 Uruguayans in Costa Rica. Although not come for social problems because Uruguay has better political and economic stability that Costa Rica, although this country has recently proved attractive for Uruguayans entrepreneurs.


The French immigration in Costa Rica has its beginnings from the decade of 1840. For the victory of liberal governments, it became easier the arrival of painters, musicians and French singers. Since these last wanted diplomatic relations with France. France has greatly contributed to Costa Rican in culture and influence. One of the composers of the national anthem of Costa Rica was part of the French composer Gabriel-Pierre Lafond, although the first composer of this hymn was Manuel María Gutiérrez. The Museum of Art was created by French sculptor Louis-Robert Carrier Belleuse, as the flag of Costa Rica was created with the inspiration of the flag of France.[18] Now home to about 1,000 French in Costa Rica, according to the census of 2012.


According to the census of 2012, there are about 900 Ecuadorians in Costa Rica. Many who come are usually television presenters, models or entrepreneurs. And living in apartments in the city of San José.

South Korea

The Korean immigration is a recent Korean diaspora in Hispanic America. In Costa Rica became the first Koreans in the 1990s, and developed business clothing, cars, restaurants and transport. Just as there are many institutes and Korean associations. As the high percentage of Protestants, they have missions from the Korean church.[19] The Korean community is not large in Costa Rica, agreeing 522 residents, according to the census of 2012.


According to the census of 2012, the Japanese community in Costa Rica is not large, agreeing 190 residents in the country. Although these have developed many technological companies in the country.


According to the census of 2012, the Haitian community is not large, agreeing 150 residents in the country. And established on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, most of these Haitians have arrived illegally because Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, forcing many to want to leave the country.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Inec — Sección de Estadística. INEC.
  2. 1 2 Censo electoral de españoles residentes en el extranjero 2009 INE-Censo cerrado. Retrieved 11/12/2014.
  3. Cepal Inmigración en Costa Rica: características sociales y laborales, integración y políticas públicas Retrieved, 11/12/2014.
  5. Carlos Castro Valverde Migración Nicaragüense en Costa Rica (Cuadro 2) 5 December 2002. Retrieved, 11/12/2014.
  6. Julio Varela Jara Inmigración Colombiana en Costa Rica Retrieved, 11/12/2014.
  7. La conquista española y colonización Retrieved 2014-12-11.
  8. Marín Araya, Guiselle. "Españoles en la ciudad de San José a fines del siglo XIX y principios del XX" [Spaniards in the city of San José at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th]. Universidad de Costa Rica. Retrieved 23 November 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  9. La Nación La mitad de los estadounidenses que viven en Costa Rica tienen 29 años o menos Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  10. Canadians Living in Costa Rica Retrieved, 11/12/2014.
  11. Los inmigrantes y el poder en Costa Rica Pages: 133,134 and 135. Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  12. Loría Chaves & Rodríguez Chaves 2001
  13. Chen Apuy 1992, p. 5
  14. Mexicanos en Costa Rica Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  15. Revista Acta Académica La inmigración italiana en Costa Rica Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  16. Business Magazine La inmigración alemana en Costa Rica. Migración, crisis y cambios entre 1920 y 1950 en entrevistas con descendientes Alemanes. Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  17. Polacos judios y xenofobia en Costa Rica: 1929 - 1941 Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  18. Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, República de Costa Rica Relación de Costa Rica con Francia Retrieved, 2014/11/12.
  19. Historia de la migración coreana Retrieved, 2014/11/12.


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