Published Friday, May 22, 2020

San José city celebrates 283 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a study by the Municipality of San José, it was discovered that the founding date of San José has different dates between historians.

It was not until 1951 that the Academy of Geography and History of Costa Rica established May 21, 1737, as the foundation date of the capital city. At that time, the capital was known as the "Villa Nueva de la Boca del Monte" or interpreted in the English language as "New Town in the Mouth of the Valley."

The Academy provided a study of documents from that period, where it was established that San José was mentioned in those records 283 years ago.

According to the study, in a document titled “San José y Sus Inicios” which means San José and its beginnings, published by the Ministry of Culture in 1987, was based on the data collected by historians from the 1900s, such as Cleto González-Víquez.

González-Víquez was born in 1858 in Heredia Province. The renowned historian also served two terms as the President of Costa Rica in 1906 and 1928 respectively.

According to the study, in 1736 the Catholic Church of Spain ordered the construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception of Cubujuquí.

That same year, the León Council gave an order to build the church in the vicinity of the Aserrí Valley, located in what is now the mountainous area of southern San José.

León Council functioned similar to a municipal council. It was the first local administration unit established by the Spanish in the places where they settled and served as general authority for the entire newly occupied territory as long as the king did not appoint officials.

The site chosen to build the church was at the
Villa Nueva de la Boca del Monte.

According to historical data, "there were 2 or 3 houses in the village. Neighbors were opposed to building houses nearby, in part because there was no water access near the new church."

However, in the year 1751, "26 houses were already registered in the Boca del Monte Valley, which was located in the outskirts of the church," said the historian's report.

According to the Academy of Geography and History of Costa Rica, San José was formally declared a city on October 18, 1813, before the Cortés of Cádiz.

The Cortes of Cádiz was the first national assembly to claim sovereignty in Spain in the 1800s.

In 1823, after independence from Spain and later with the Captaincy General of Guatemala, the Villa Nueva de la Boca del Monte was named as San José, becoming the new capital of the Province of Costa Rica.

Before San José, the first capital was the city of Cartago. Which is now the current city of Cartago in the Province of the same name.

In 1850, President Juan Rafael Mora Porras established San José as the capital where "the buildings of the main public services and local commerce would be established." This was the beginning of the transformation of San José from a villa, or town, to a city.

Juan Rafael Mora Porras  was President of Costa Rica from 1849 to 1859.

On  September 1860, the was executed before a firing squad.

-This is an Illustration of La Villa del La Boca del Monte by C.Edmonds S.C., published in the U.S. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1856. - Via the Library of Congress.-

Among the interesting data collected by historians, San José was established as the third city in the world to have electric lighting in 1884.

According to the Academy’s study, after the Costa Rican Civil War in 1948, the new authorities began a process of improvements by constructing new buildings to house public institutions in San José.

Currently, the capital of San José has 288,054 inhabitants, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census.

What historical city tours have you done in Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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