Was Christopher Columbus Disappointed in What He Found in Costa Rica?
Today October 12 is a Holiday in the US. It’s Columbus Day.
On September 8, 1502 Christopher Columbus arrived on the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica and took refuge just off the coast near what is now the Port of Limon. Was he disappointed in what he found in Costa Rica?
The native Indians were friendly towards Columbus and his men and brought goods to trade with them. They brought cotton cloth, clubs, bows and arrows. Columbus especially admired the pendants made of tumbago which is an alloy made of copper and gold and the golden mirrors worn about the Indian’s necks. The Indians communicated that there was gold along the coast to the south. So Columbus named the area “rich coast” or in Spanish Costa Rica. Thinking that it would be a rich jewel in Spain’s Crown.
But sadly, it turned out to be one of the poorest of Spain’s colonies. And for many reasons. Mainly it was the terrain which was almost impassible. The impenetrable forest and raging rivers and swamps made it almost impossible to navigate.
The Spaniards did not find the gold they have anticipated. And for them this was a great disappointment. Sixty years passed before the first settlement was established. Despite the obstacles the Spanish settlers began to carve out the jungle to make their new homes. But life was hard. They learned from the Indians to use native methods to cultivate crops. The land was fertile and the forest abundant in wildlife. But food was scarce. Generating wealth was difficult. The settlers became discouraged but stuck it out. Gold was consistently the theme and the Indians always pointed south, and this gave the Spaniards the fever. But these legendary mines were never discovered.
The settlers remained, carved out the land, built their homes, and raised their families.
Today Costa Ricans will tell you that it was this independent yomen farmer, working his plot of land in the hills that planted the seeds for the beginning of the great democratic tradition in today’s Costa Rica.
If you travel to Costa Rica you will immediately see the Spanish culture, language, and traditions brought to the new world by these Settlers. The King and Queen of Spain sent Catholic priest to serve the immigrants and to convert the Indians. Today Catholicism is the official religion. Beautiful churches are found in every town and children are taught Catholicism in the public schools.
Costa Rica does not have an official day (holiday) to commemorate Christopher Columbus.