I lived in Costa Rica for 25 years and have now lived in Panama for four. During that time, I have obviously gained insights into the contrasts between the two countries. Though neighbors, the topography did much to keep them apart and their historical development – economic, social and cultural – could not have been more different.
Panama City was one of Spain’s first beachheads in the Americas. Its strategic geographic importance was immediately obvious to the conquistadores. Costa Rica, on the other hand, remained largely uninhabited because the mountainous terrain made access difficult. Around the time of independence, nearly two hundred years ago, there were still only about 30,000 people in the whole of Costa Rica and the population was slow to grow