Afro-Costa Ricans 101

My trip to Costa Rica is rapidly approaching and I’m getting pretty excited.  Apparently this rain we’ve been getting on the East Coast is going to ride with us on into early June.  While I actually enjoy the rain, this 40 days and 40 nights of moisture we’re experiencing is not the business.  If I can miss out on some of that, I will take it!

Part of my trip preparation has included learning about Afro-Costa Ricans.  Below are a few entry level facts to introduce us to black folks in Costa Rica:

  1. They are descendants of enslaved Africans and free blacks from the Caribbean

While Africans who were enslaved by the Spanish were the first to arrive in Costa Rica, their descendants make up the least of the black population.  A majority of the black community comes from the Caribbean (mainly Jamaica).  During the late 19th century, many people migrated from Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago to work on the railroad that connected San Jose to Limón.  Much of the Afro-Costa Rican population can be found in San José and Limón.  This demographic also includes Mulattoes (those of mixed European and African ancestry).

  1. The languages spoken include Spanish and Mekatelyu

Due to the colonization of Costa Rica by Spain, Spanish is the national language.  Therefore, most people in Costa Rica speak Spanish.  Mekatelyu is Limonese Creole English or what some may call Patois.  This was introduced by the Jamaican migrant workers who settled in the city of Limón.  Mekatelyu comes from the phrase “make I tell you” or “let me tell you.”

  1. August 31st is Afro-Costa Rican Day

This holiday got it roots in 1980 when the Union of Educators decided celebrating Costa Rica’s diversity and the contributions made by its black citizens was important.  Aug 31st holds significance because on this day in 1920, the first international convention of the Universal Negro Improvement Association was held.  This celebration typically extends beyond one day and involves tons of music, food, parades, and overall cultural recognition.

I hope you found these facts interesting and insightful.  If you know anything else about Afro-Costa Ricans feel free to share in the comments!


For more info, check out the sources I used below:

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