The history of San José.

Continuing with our commitment to extend and expand the knowledge of the Costa Rica history, traditions and culture to other latitudes. This is our second entry in the series of “History of our Provinces.” Now it is the turn of San José our Capital city.

You can enter HERE to read and learn about Cartago our old capital click HERE.

San José the current capital city of Costa Rica is located in the Center of the Central Valley. Before the arriving of the Spaniards several Cacicazgos (small Indians kingdoms) developed. The Huetares one of the eight original ethnicities of Indians in Costa Rica. Extended their area of influence through out all the Central Valley and up to the the riversides of the Virilla and Tárcoles rivers.

The first Spaniard settlement is believed to have occurred in what now is the district of  Mata Redonda around the year 1640. During this first years San José consisted more  more a series of farms disseminated arbitrarily that a town or a city. Due to this disorganize settlements. In 1736 the Cabildo of Leon ordered the construction of a small church in La Boca del Monte near the present district of Curridabat. For the people to congregate and concentrate.  The church was finished in 1738 and advocated to San José father of Jesus that same year.


Tobacco and the flourish of a city.

At the beginning San Jose faced difficulties with the irrigation systems. The more profitable crops (sugar cane and coffee) were either monopolize and or held by government officials or their relatives. And didn’t require extensive irrigation. Allowing the owners of these plantations to control the inner politics, wages and commerce. Many of tenants of the land in San Jose were fortune chasers. And second generation Spaniards. Who came to the new world in the search of good fortune. San Jose during those years was describe and as beautiful unique place. That fill with a delicate aroma when the white flowers of the plant of coffee bloom. However a second crop was regulary use by the inhabitants of San José the tobacco plants.

Tobbaco plants were not knew. Before 1760 Tobbaco was seldom use trade money of goods and services among lower and middle class people. After 1760 the Tobacco got unexpected impulse at the same time another important crop faced decadence the Cacao. While Panama used to have the Monopoly of Tobacco exportations, Costa Rica started selling tobacco Nicaragua. Whom export it futher north. The Costa Rican goverment never took notice of the Tobacco since they thought the commerce of trade of the crop was firmly in hands of Panamá.

By 1766 the Factoria Nacional de Tacabo of San Jose was a place were owners of the tobacco plants could sell their crops directly profiting from it. This new plantation give place to different people to emerge as landlords and owners of Tobacco plantations. A new social class of powerful Criollo was taking shape.

San Jose a modern City

In 1822 after the independence of Costa Rica the first constitution. The pacto de concordía. Set San Jose as the capital of the province of Costa Rica. This will change every 2 years between the provinces of Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia. From 1822 and until 1835 the capital of Costa Rica would change time and time again motivated by some armed rebellions mixed interests. The capital would land once and for all in San José after the Josefinos and Alajuelenses won against the Cartaginenses and Heredianos the battle of La liga.

old Tram in San José Costa Rica

From that moment on San José develop as the proud capital of Costa Rica during the last part of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX. Also during the era a select group of families amaze an considerable amount of money and political power. The group historical identify as the Coffee oligarchs was indeed a cluster of entrepreneurs and business families. That decided the political north of the country by choosing the candidates to the presidency. The oligarchy arguably came to an end after the foundation of the second republic in 1948.

Cuesta de Moras San José Costa Rica


San José Today.

Today the capital of Costa Rica is a busy city. Full of contrast, needs, history and activities. The Avenida Central well known by all the ticos is a very busy street full of colors, sounds and sometimes unidentifiable smells. Full of must see/must visit places such as the Mercado Nacional, the Teatro Nacional, Plaza de la Cultura, Plaza de la Democracia, and the National Museum, Gold Museum and Jade Museum.

Theater Tol during the FIA 2017

Daily traffic jams contrast powerfully with those archives images of fluent commuters walking by and using the Tram. The daily life in San Jose the capital is noisy and a constant rush to chase the bus among thousands of by standards. Running, talking and pushing,

But the city is thriving with cultural activities every day of the week. With a relation of square meters to theaters similar to Paris France. You can always find life music, street performance, dance and theater and and excellent culinary experience every night. In addition to this every year San Jose blooms in a very opulent display of arts. music, and food. With both the Transitarte organize by the Municipality of San José and the FIA (Festival Internacional de las Artes) organize by the Ministry of Culture of Costa Rica among others. You can click HERE to read about the Transitarte and HERE to read about the FIA

San Jose, Plaza de la Democracia. San José
FIA paseo de Damos During Transitarte 2017








San José [Chepe] for the locals is a messy city trying to catch up with this messy times. Struggling withthe relentless dynamic of modernity. A mash up of all the cultural and social diversity of Costa Rica. Every day in the streets of San Jose from Cuesta de Moras to the Sabana. Saints and sinners, rich and poor share the capital. A place full of history, traditions, culture and relevance for the country. Once a pristine and innovating city. San Jose today is dirty and in some places smelly. But very much alive. Hopefully one day soon it will recover its old glory.



Leave a Reply