History of San Jose

Mother Earth Travel > Costa Rica > San Jose > History

Embraced by the splendorous and perennial green-blue mountains that form the Cordillera of Talamanca and the Central Volcanic Cordillera, lies the city of San Jose. Established around a small hermit in honor of Saint Joseph in May 21, 1737, in what was known as 'The Plain of the Mount's Mouth', it extends over a longitudinal Southeast ' Northwest axis. Its growth from a small villa to Costa Rica's capital city was hard and painful.

Four leagues north from Aserri, in a very pleasant plain, there is an ugly village with the diminutive of Villita, just getting formed. It is composed of eleven roof-tiled and fifteen straw houses, which form no plaza or street. It lacked water which was then carried by open channels; the church is the most narrow, humble and indecent from all those I saw in that province; its patron Saint Joseph.

With these textual words, starts the oldest registered description of San Jose, made in 1751 by the bishop Agustín Morel de Santa Cruz. With less than one hundred and fifty inhabitants, building a town was a challenge, since there was not even water for basic needs. Presbyter don Juan de Pomar y Burgos was then assigned to 'la Villita' (Small Village) and commissioned to construct a water system and establish a parish. It is important to note that all the village settlements from that time were highly influenced by a very powerful ecclesiastic and religious government. It is precisely doña Maria de Torres, mother of the priest Manuel Antonio Chapui, a great promoter of the development of San Jose, who donated the land that is actually known as 'La Sabana'. This is one of the largest city parks and 'lungs' of San Jose and used to be our International Airport some forty years ago.

Nevertheless, San Jose was not meant to be Costa Rica's capital city from the beginning. It was not until 1823, in the time of Costa Rica's Independence from Spain, that this honor was taken away from the more traditional Cartago and given to more dynamic and growing, San Jose. It is this great communal effort oriented towards agriculture and commerce that established the basis to design the future of the young city. In the educational area, towards 1814, the Santo Tomas Education House was established by the neighbor's own initiative. It was declared University of Santo Tomas by public decree in 1843. Minor studies consisting of lessons in Latin, Castilian, and Philosophy were imparted as major studies in Law, Medicine, and Theology. With the economic growth of the city, thanks to the coffee and tobacco plantations, many youngsters had the opportunity of traveling and studying in universities abroad, mainly in England.

It is worth noting that this educational process was extended in the course of time and social reforms, to make Costa Rica what it is today: A country of educated and well mannered people who love peace.

In the agricultural area, San Jose was known for its coffee and tobacco plantations. This activity flourished all over the Central Valley and the producers started buying land and farms away from the city. They also built homes downtown in the venerable Barrio Amon, to spend seasons with family and friends. Actually, this sector of San Jose has become a place of Bed and Breakfast hotels, restaurants, and commerce established precisely on these nostalgic and charming homes.

Mother Earth Travel > Costa Rica > San Jose > History