Recently, Costa Rica celebrated its Independence Day on September 15th. Many future expats as well as those who are residing here now do not know how Costa Rica’s name evolved.
Originally, it was thought that Christopher Columbus gave the country the name of “Rich Coast,” after seeing the indigenous people’s abundance of gold ornaments. However, everyday it become more apparent that this version of how the country got its name could possibly be a myth.
Another theory about how the country’s name originated was that the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, coined the phrase Costa Rica. This is because he actually explored the country extensively where as Columbus only spent his time around the present day Puerto Limón area.
Another theory country’s name is that the term Costa Rica is a variation of the indigenous word in huétar, “cotarrique” whose meaning is unclear to this day.
The only thing we know for sure is that the first time the term Costa Rica was mentioned was in an official document from the Spanish government that was drafted in Panama on December 17, 1539.
Now for the origin of the term pura vida.
It goes without saying that anyone who has ever visited Costa Rica as a tourist or who lives here as a retired expat is familiar with the term, pura vida, simply translated into English — pure life. However, it can also mean “to enjoy life,” “all is good”, “the good life,” “goodbye,” “this is life,” “the essence of life,”and more. Pura vida has a deeper meaning to the people of Costa Rica and those who spend time in this incredible country. The saying is now the national motto and brand name and reflects the lifestyle and character of Costa Rica’s wonderful people. It also implies that no matter how bad your life may seem at any given moment, there is always someone else who’s life would make yours look like paradise. Additionally, Pura Vida symbolizes the Costa Rican mindset of liberty, democracy, and positivism in the face of adversity.
But where did Costa Ricans get this saying come from? According to the experts, a film called Pura vida came to Costa Rica from Mexico in 1956. In the movie, “pura vida” is the expression of eternal optimism used by a comic character, played by the actor Antonio Espino, who unfortunately can’t seem to do anything right. Faced with difficulties the unlucky character always responds, “pura vida” when asked, “How are things going?” While a small population used this phrase at the time, it began to be used widely in the 1970s, 1980s and is a household word today.