Why Costa Rica?
Images of forests, smoking volcanoes, amazing close up nature, black sand beaches and friendly people… That is the image of Costa Rica today.
Forty years ago, few people knew much about Costa Rica or where it is. Hidden in the jungles of Central America, insignificant by any other definition, this little country and its people lay dormant and unknown.
The Costa Rican people and its government had a deep appreciation for the diverse natural resources they held in their hands and felt the responsibility and wisdom to protect it and great pride to show it off to the rest of the world. As a consequence a national park system was born 40 years ago putting 15% of the countries land mass and some marine areas under a protection and designated 13 national parks to be protected forever.
A free and independent country with no standing army, the Switzerland of the Americas, Costa Rica welcomes travelers to experience all it has to offer.
Adventures and leisure seekers, Culture & language enthusiasts will all find their special space and time in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a lesson to teach us. In a dangerous geographic neighborhood that is strewn with failed states and immense poverty, the people of Costa Rica have carved out a mostly peaceful existence by broadcasting what is positive about coexistence and working to inspire their neighbors to do better for their citizens. While this is not possible everywhere on earth and it is not free of corruption and other social problems, Costa Rica is an impressive statement of a better existence in a dangerous time.
Costa Rica is Central America's special jewel. The country's natural attractions, wildlife and reputation for enlightened conservation draw tourists from all over the world. Successive governments have made a real effort to preserve the country's image as an ecotourism heaven, making Costa Rica one of the best places to experience the tropics naturally and with minimal impact. The country's bio-diversity attracts nature lovers from all over the world.
The primary attraction for many visitors is the 850 recorded bird species, which include the resplendent quetzal, indigo-capped hummingbirds, macaws and toucans. Costa Rica's tropical forests have over 1400 tree species and provide a variety of habitats for the country's fauna including four types of monkey, sloths, armadillos, jaguars and tapirs. There are also a number of dazzling butterflies. National parks cover almost 12% of the country, and forest reserves boost the protected land area to 27%
What is so special here?
In a short amount of time we travel from the town of San José to coffee plantations and active volcanoes. Close to these places there are ecosystems that show the magnitude of life in the country. The slopes of the central mountains going to the Caribbean region would enhance the amazing nature. The stops on the way would give an idea of different species of flora and fauna. Therefore, the country is one of its kind on this planet.
The Jewish history of Costa Rica is rich, interconnected with that of Caribbean Jewish and very interesting!
The first wave of European settlers arrived with the Conquistadores in the 1560s. Costa Ricans acknowledge that among the early colonists were Anusim, or Jews who converted to Christianity under duress in Spain. Indeed, some families in Costa Rica can trace their Anusim background through their family name: Arias, Pacheco and Chinchilla. However, none of these families returned to Judaism. Other indications of early Jewish influence include certain dietary and ritual practices among the local population.
During the years of Spain's rule over the country, Jews were not formally allowed to enter the province. Nevertheless, commerce with Jewish traders from the islands of Jamaica and Curacao grew strong. Spain’s colonial rule over Costa Rica ended during the eighteenth century as a result of ongoing periods of war between Spain and England. At the conclusion of the colonial period, there was no Jewish presence in Costa Rica. Yet despite this lack of physical presence, the Jewish heritage manifested itself in the first official flag of the country in 1823: white with red Magen David in the middle of the flag.