The National Flag
According to a law passed on September 29, 1848, Costa Rica’s national flag is “tricolor with five horizontal stripes […] a middle red stripe will be placed between two white stripes, each of which will be followed by blue stripes.” Each one of the stripes occupies one-sixth of the height of flag, except the middle red one which is twice as thick as the others.
The National Emblem
Costa Rica’s national coat of arms was established on the same date as the national flag. It is defined as follows: in the center, three volcanoes and one valley appear between two seas with merchants sailing on both sides. To the left on the horizon, a rising sun emits its rays. Five stars form an arch over the volcanoes and symbolize the country’s departments (in 1964, the number of stars was increased to seven to reflect the changes in the way the land is organized). Two branches of Myrtle appear above this scene, holding up a strip of ribbon that reads “República de Costa Rica” and above this, a blue strip of ribbon in the shape of a crown bears the words “América Central.”
The original sheet music by Manuel Maria Gutierrez dates back to 1852. He wrote the piece in just three days when a national anthem was urgently needed before the arrival of US dignitaries. The lyrics were penned by Jose Maria Zeledon Brenes and declared official in 1949, after a long series of alternative lyrics had been considered since 1879.
La Guaria Morada (Guarianthe skinneri). Toward the end of the 1930s, the director of Argentina’s parks and gardens and the Annual Tropical Flower exposition of Miami needed a Costa Rican national flower. The Rotary Club and the Garden Club organized a competition to select the flower. The competition was to be held throughout the entire country and the flowers entered had to be native to America and present in Costa Rican traditions and legends. The “Cattleyaskinneri” (Guaria Morada) was selected as the national flower on June 15, 1939.
Guanacaste. The EntelorobiumCyclocarpum, known as Guanacaste, was chosen as the national tree of Costa Rica on August 31, 1959, as a symbol of the Costa Ricans great interest in nature and its conservation, as the tree itself symbolizes abundance and protection.
The yigüirro (clay-colored thrush). This cheerful bird symbolizes the optimistic attitude of the people of Costa Rica. It was declared the national bird in 1977.
National Symbol of Work
The carreta costarricense (Costa Rican ox-cart). This simple but beautiful vehicle and work tool was designated in 1988 as the national symbol of work. During the 19th century and much of the 20th, this cart was the only means used to transport and haul coffee, the economic engine of the country.
Wildlife National Symbol
The white-tailed deer. This deer species is in danger of extinction due to illegal hunting and the destruction of its natural habitat. The animal can live in the mountains or at sea level, but it prefers the savannahs of Guanacaste such as those found in Santa Rosa National Park. It was declared a national symbol in May of 1995.
The marimba. This instrument is present in all popular Costa Rican celebrations. The country’s most important marimba production center is in the province of Guanacaste, although the instrument is played throughout Costa Rica. A decree from the president of the country and the secretary of culture gave the instrument national status in 1996.
Symbol of Freedom and Peace
The torch of independence. Juan Santamaria
, a national hero in Costa Rica, carried a torch that helped lead to victory against William Walker’s filibusterers in the 1856 battle of Rivas. Since 2005, the torch of independence has been considered “the national symbol that exalts national patriotic civic sentiments."
Symbol of Natural Wealth
The crests of Chirripó National Park. These rock formations considered of “great natural and esthetic value” were officially declared a national symbol on April 25, 2011.
It’s interesting how a country as small as Costa Rica can have so many official national symbols. Perhaps the absence of an army and the renunciation of militarism may be the reason that Costa Ricans enjoy their time observing their surroundings and placing value on that which is important to them.