Afro-Costa Rican
Afro-Costa Ricans are Costa Ricans of recent African ancestry; they have had a great impact on Costa Rican culture. Concentrated in Limón Province
Limón Province
Limón is one of seven provinces in Costa Rica. The majority of its territory is situated in the country's Caribbean lowlands, though the southwestern portion houses part of an extensive mountain range known as the Cordillera de Talamanca...

, Afro-Costa Ricans the descendants of Jamaican and other British West Indians who immigrated in the nineteenth century for work on the Atlantic Railroad, plantations, and docks are more widely perceived as "black." (These Afro-Costa Ricans are part of an English speaking Protestant group extending along the entire Caribbean coast of Central America.) Blacks denied Costa Rican nationality until 1948 were blocked by law and discrimination from working elsewhere, so Limón
Puerto Limón, commonly known as Limón , is the capital city and main hub of Limón province, as well as of the cantón of Limón in Costa Rica. It has a population of about 60,000 , and is home to a thriving Afro-Caribbean community...

 remained culturally distinct until the mid-twentieth century.


The first blacks that arrived to Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

 came with the Spanish conquistadors. Slave trade was common in all the countries conquered by Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, and in Costa Rica the first blacks seem to have come from specific sources in Africa- Equatorial and Western regions. The people from these areas were thought of as ideal slaves because they had a reputation for being more robust, affable and hard-working than other Africans.

During the seventeenth century, the elite from the then capital city of Cartago
Cartago is the name of at least three different places:* Cartago Province, Costa Rica* Cartago, Costa Rica, capital of the province of Cartago* Cartago, Valle del Cauca, Colombia* Cartago, California, United States-See also:*Special:Allpages/Cartago...

 invested in cacao farms in Matina
Matina is a municipality in the Brazilian state of Bahia....

, in the
Atlantic region. Black slaves worked and lived in these farms, isolated from the rest of the country; the owners only went to oversee the crops once a year. However, the following century witnessed a gradual lessening of the abysmal differences between blacks and their white owners. As whites took black women as their concubines, they freed the children that were born from this union. The same thing started to happen with the "zambo
Zambo or Cafuzo are racial terms used in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry...

s" or the products of the union between Indians and blacks. Some analysts have suggested that this tendency to free slaves was due in part to the desire of the owners to free themselves of the economic burden that slaves had become in a poor country such as Costa Rica.

Whatever the reason for the gradual freeing of slaves was, it's a fact that by the time of the Independence of Costa Rica from Spain (1821), slavery was a disintegrating institution. The Federal Assembly of Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

 declared the abolition of slavery in the region in 1822, but this law didn't get fully authorized in Costa Rica, until April 17, 1824. By the time that the law was established, the slave population in the country was considerably low, since a lot of the slaves had been freed previously.

In 1871 the railroad to the Atlantic started being built. Henry Meiggs Keith, an American hired by the Costa Rican government, was in charge of this monumental ordeal. He insisted in utilizing blacks for clearing the forest and building the railroad tracks. Several workers arrived from the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 and other countries, but in 1872 the first group of Jamaicans entered the country. These Jamaican
Jamaicans of African descent
Jamaicans of African ancestry are citizens of Jamaica whose ancestry lies in the continent of Africa, specifically West Africa. Up until the early 1690s Jamaica's population was relatively equally mixed between white and black people. The first Africans to arrive came in 1513 from the Iberian...

s and their descendants would become the main inhabitants of the region, thus providing the basis for a culture that was entirely different from any other in the country. The two large Jamaican migrations occurred at the time of the railroad construction and in the next century, for the banana plantations owned by the United Standard Fruit Company. If it hadn't been for this influx of black population, Costa Rica wouldn't have become the world's largest producer of bananas in 1911.

By the 1920s, the black population had improved its economic status dramatically, through their own farms or through their jobs with the banana company. However, since they weren't even considered citizens of Costa Rica, they didn't possess legal rights to own land. In the 1930s many white Tico
Tico is a colloquial term for a native of Costa Rica. The plural form is ticos.Costa Ricans are usually referred to as ticos by themselves and persons of other Spanish-speaking countries, instead of using the more-formal costarricense. Some dictionaries show the formal name as costarricenses.There...

s moved into this region and took over the land of these blacks. Many blacks had to migrate to Panama or other countries when they were dispossessed of their land or even of their job at the banana company. Due to these repressive circumstances, many black workers organized strikes and labor unions, and they even participated with Figures (revolutionary leader) in the 1948 Civil War
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

, after which they won citizenship and full guarantees.

The story of the black population in Costa Rica started, as does the story in most American countries, with slavery. From the beginning this group of people were indispensable in agricultural chores and in cacao and later on, banana plantations. Their participation was also central in the construction of the railroad that would connect the interior of the country with the coast, thus, with the rest of the world. However, the blacks didn't only contribute to the economy and progress of the nation, since elements of their culture, such as their language, religion, food and music, shaped a whole new culture in the Caribbean, and eventually extended to the rest of the country.
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