The most affluent country in central America, a consequence of its being so close to the USA, and a favourite destination for American tourists; though once you get outside San Jose, the capital, the affluence diminishes somewhat, and the further you go, the more this is the case.
You can tell just how close it is to the USA by standing in the main square in San Jose. At any compass point you can find yet another branch of MacDonalds, Wendys and Burger Kings, all of them offering little stalls that only sell American desserts as well as the big store that offers Latin variations on the normal themes of junk food. Coffee, bananas and beef are the major produce, almost all of it exported, which is why, if you leave San Jose, the utopist picture of stable, comfortable Costa Rica quickly subsides into the classic Third World poverty of slum barrios followed by slum favellas followed by slum rural villages, followed by life in the real hinterland, where American tourists tend not to travel, unless on day-trips to purchase ethnic souvenirs or to see the sloths - such as the one photographed above on my own journey into the tropical rainforest.
Costa Rica has a history of stable governments, a fact that may be attributed to the overthrow of regimes not supportive of the USA in Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, to name just four of its closest neighbours; Costa Rica's decision to dissolve its armed forces in 1949 has provided an obvious guarantee against military coups, but it may also have been an expression of understanding of the power of the USA and its need to feel secure behind that buttress of stable surrounding countries.
The sex tourism is over-stated, according to the propaganda, but not according to the tourist websites, which are prolific (google Costa Rica and "Hot Costa Rica Women" will be one of the first you hit; I haven't hyperlinked it; if you really want to go there, go there for yourself). Most Americans come for the toucans and the macaws however, and until 2004, when two former Presidents were jailed for serious corruption, they tend to look out over the rainforests without seeing what they prefer not to see.
Marks For: 10 if you’re American, 2 otherwise
Marks Against: 0 if you're American, 8 otherwise
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