The Spanish Founding Fathers
Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage in 1502, and accompanied by his 13 year old son Hernando, landed at the island now named Quiribrí off Puerto Limón on the Caribbean Coast. In later years other Spanish expeditions arrived, not there, but at the Pacific Coast. Since then, the greater part of the population of Costa Rica has descended either from marriages between Spaniards themselves or from inter-marriages with local Indian women or the Black Slave Girls they brought with them. Today the population is mostly, white, mulattos and nearly 90% Roman Catholic.
Though the early arrivals of the Sixteenth Century came from various regions of Spain, many of the larger and most important business and industrial enterprises established in Costa Rica in the 20th.Century was set-up particularly by Catalans, who came from areas around Barcelona. An example is Jordi Pujol who built an industrial empire based originally on importing fertilizers and then expanding into the manufacture and sale of building materials and fine home accessories.
The country has been fortunate in attracting these Catalans who have always enjoyed worldwide reputation as being the best and hardest workers of Spain. Something similar has occurred in Colombia where immigrant Catalans have made Medellín the most important industrial centre of that country, especially in textiles More good Catalans and Spaniards from other regions continue to come to Costa Rica.
The Black Population
Historically, the country has experienced four migrations of blacks. The first inflow occurred with the arrival of Spaniard Juan de Cavallon who brought slaves with him in the 16th. Century and landed in Guanacaste Province. Then in the 17th.Century another inflow occurred when colonists brought slaves to Cartago. But the largest immigration of all came from Jamaica in the 1880s when Minor Keith was constructing the railroad to connect the Central Valley with the Caribbean Coast. He was desperately searching for badly needed workers who could withstand the tropical heat and diseases of the Atlantic Lowlands. Other Blacks came later from Panama on being left unemployed by the French when these failed in their attempt to build the Canal across the Isthmus, but their number was not too great.
Costa Rican, Italian and Chinese workers had not been able to get the job done, especially the section from Cartago to Limon. Many died; others went on strike and refused to work any further. Finally, if it hadn't been for the Black workers, American Minor Keith would not have been able to materialize his dream of building the urgently needed railroad. This put an end to having to ship the country's coffee crop by way of the Pacific and going all the way around Cape Horn and the Straits of Magellan to get to England, Costa Rica's best market.