Costa Rica, the Forgotten Colony of Spain Made Ticos Work Harder to Survive
Christopher Columbus discovered Costa Rica, when on his fourth voyage on the 25th of September 1502 he arrived at the small island of Quiribrí, so named by the aborigines just off Cariary, what is today Puerto Limón on the Caribbean. He later changed it to Uvita which in 2002 regained its original Indian name. According to some historians, Columbus didn't go on shore because of his gout and rheumatism, but his son Hernando and brother Bartolome, who accompanied him, did. Other historians say Columbus did go on land and remained there 22 days while his damaged vessels were repaired. It must be remembered that September is when the hurricane season in the Caribbean is at its best.
Colonization ofthe country, however, did not proceed from there but rather from the Pacific Juan de Castañeda and Hernán Ponce de Leon and Juan Dávila in 1519 all travelled up the south and central Pacific coast of Costa Rica as so did Andrés Niño and Gil Gonzalez Dávila in 1522.
It was Fernando de Córdoba in 1524 who founded on the east coast of the Gulf of Nicoya what he named Villa Bruselas which is considered the first Spanish settlement in Costa Rica. In 1544 Diego de Gutierrez did some exploring some 30 kilometres inland. However, the first Spanish Conquistadors to really settle in Costa Rica in a more permanent form were those under Juan de Cavallon who seated themselves in what is now the town of Esparza.
But soon British pirates began to raid Esparza, so Cavallón and his men moved further inland to the Central Valley where in March 1561 they established the settlement of Garcimuñoz at the site of what is now Ciudad Colón. Cavallon's harshness with the Indians made the Spanish Crown in 1563 replace him with Juan Vasquez de Coronado who moved Garcimuñoz to Quircot in the Guarco Valley and later to the new place they named Cartago.
Not all colonists moved from Esparza to the Central Valley with Cavallon. Others decided to go north and west on their own and set up large cattle haciendas in the Diría and Bagaces valleys with herds brought on the hoof from Honduras. Thus, while the farms in the Central Valley were small units that were worked intensively, the cattle ranches of the Pacific which covered hundreds, perhaps thousands of acres each, required the task of only a few cowboys. To this day practically the same distribution of the land exists in that area.