Human habitation of Costa Rica dates from at least 5000 BC, but
in comparison with the great civilizations of pre-Columbian America
the Native Americans of Costa Rica were neither numerous nor highly
developed. When confronted by Spanish soldiers and missionaries,
they resisted violently. Those who did not succumb to the epidemics
that swept over the Isthmus either died fighting or fled to remote
areas of the country.
Costa Rica, with a relatively small Native American population,
has been strongly influenced by the culture and traditions of Spain.
Native American and African American influences have had relatively
little impact. The Roman Catholic cultural pattern of Spain, with
emphasis on the family and the church, has evolved into a national
style of life. Festivals in honor of patron saints are a colorful
part of village and town life. The guitar, accordion, and mandolin
have traditionally been the most popular musical instruments, and
the music reflects a Spanish heritage. Traces of the Native American
culture survive in designs used in jewelry, leather goods, and clothing.
The national sport is soccer.