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- Photo via Ministry of Culture -

Costa Rica celebrates its national symbols

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Published on Wednesday, September 13, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Costa Ricans are days away from commemorating their 202nd Independence Day on Sept. 15.

During Independence Week, it is typical for public and private schools to celebrate with various civic events. 

One of the most important topics for individuals to understand is their country's history. Costa Rica has declared national symbols to symbolize its culture, flora, and fauna throughout its history, according to the Ministry of Culture.

The National Anthem (Himno Nacional de Costa Rica) was created by Manuel Mara Gutiérrez (1829-1887) in 1852. He was the director of the Marching Band at the time.

The Guaria Morada (Cattleya skinneri) is the National Flower representing the flora. This is a purple native plant to the American continent that grows freely throughout the country.

The National Tree is the Guanacaste Tree (Enterolobium ciclocarpum), which is native to the Americas' tropical regions. It is notable for its huge size, frequently spherical crown, and unusually formed seed pods. This tree grows in abundance, particularly in the Guanacaste Province.

The National Bird is the Yiguirro (Turdus grayi), or clay-colored thrush species that can be found in North America as far north as South Texas and as far south as northern Colombia in South America. It was designated a national symbol in 1977 because of its powerful and melodic song, which always appears at the start of the rainy season.

The Costa Rican ox-cart (carreta típica Costarricense) was designated as the country's work symbol in 1988. During the colonial period, ox carts were utilized to transport sugar cane, tobacco, and coffee. The piece of equipment was critical in the development of Costa Rica's agricultural industry. The ox cart is now one of the most recognizable handcrafted pieces of art in Costa Rican culture.

In 1995, the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was designated as a Costa Rican National Wildlife Symbol. It can be found on the back of the Costa Rican 1,000 colón note.

In 1996, the marimba was designated as a National Musical Instrument. It is the instrument most associated with Costa Rica's traditional events. The marimba's construction has been handed down from generation to generation by oral tradition.

In 2005, the National Torch was designated as a national symbol, symbolizing regional togetherness and commemorating the historic events of independence, freedom, and democracy.

To promote tourism, the Crestones of Chirripó National Park were designated as a national symbol in 2011. Mount Chirripó, at an elevation of 12,536 feet, is Costa Rica's highest point.

In 2014, the manatee (genus Trichechus) was designated as Costa Rica's national symbol of marine biodiversity. The decision was made on the initiative of two first-grade kids who were concerned about the conservation of natural resources on national territory.

When the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the collection of pre-Columbian cacical communities with stone spheres of Diqus as a World Heritage Site in 2014, the pre-Columbian Indigenous Spheres were deemed a national symbol.

In 2018, the National Theater was designated as a national symbol for being one of the most significant buildings in American history and our crowning architectural achievement. The National Theater's construction began in 1891. The theater was finished in 1987.

In 2020, Costa Rican coffee was designated as a national symbol, signifying economic, social, and cultural development. Throughout history, it has been referred to as the "gold seed" of Costa Rica. This natural resource has long been an important component of the national and local economies.

As part of efforts to safeguard the species and its environment, the sloth became a national wildlife symbol. Costa Rica is home to two sloth species: the two-toed sloth (Choleopus hoffman) and the three-toed sloth (Barypus variegatus), which get their names from their lethargic movements.

The boyero, who steers the oxcart, has been designated as a national symbol of labor. National Boyero Day is an annual celebration held on the second Sunday of March. The boyero traces back to colonial times when farmers transported their crops to San José using oxcarts.

The Morpho butterfly (Helennor narcissus), often known as the Blue Morpho butterfly due to its magnificent blue tints and wingspan of up to 15 centimeters, has been formally designated as Costa Rica's national symbol in April 2022.

In October 2022, the Mascaradas were designated as a National Symbol. Costa Ricans experience traditional Mascaradas in community celebrations, through marimba music, dancing, masks, and a lot of colors.

The National Flag was designed when Costa Rica became a sovereign nation in September 1848. It was made up of five horizontal stripes. Blue dominates the first and fifth stripes, while white dominates the second and fourth. In the center, a red stripe doubles the breadth of each of the other four stripes.

The National Emblem is included in the flag. It has three volcanoes and a long valley that stretches between two oceans. There is a commerce ship in each ocean and a riding sun between the blue sky and the blue water on the horizon. On the national seal, two wreaths of myrtle leaves are united by a ribbon with the words "República de Costa Rica." The seven stars create an arch to represent the seven provinces of Costa Rica: San José, Cartago, Heredia, Alajuela, Puntarenas and Guanacaste. The crown is made of a blue ribbon with the words "América Central."

What is your favorite national symbol representing Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com