Brief Historical Timeline of Guanacaste
By Adam Williams
Costa Rica’s northwest Guanacaste province, rife with volcanoes, spectacular white sand beaches, tropical rainforest, and the country’s rich cultural origins, was not always considered part of Costa Rica. For centuries, Guanacaste belonged to its northern neighbor Nicaragua; though three years after regional independence from Spain was declared in 1821, residents of the Nicoya Peninsula decided that the province should be a part of Costa Rica.
A look at the province’s history:
* 1200-1500A.D.: Chorotega Indians inhabit region. Thought to have emigrated from southern Mexico, the Chorotega tribe is known for its sophisticated agricultural production, pottery and ceramic crafts.
* 1519: Spaniards arrive in Guanacaste from Nicaragua and conquer Chorotega people, establishing slave trade and cattle ranching for leather and beef.
* 1544: First church of Costa Rica is constructed in the town of Nicoya.
* Sept. 15, 1821: Regional nations declare independence from Spanish rule, though news does not arrive in Costa Rica until a month later. Guanacaste and Nicoya Peninsula considered a shared province of both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Day deemed Costa Rican Independence Day.
* July 25, 1824: Residents of Guanacaste vote to annex the province to become part of Costa Rica and shed dual ownership with Nicaragua. Vote is held peacefully and day is celebrated as national holiday.
* 1854: Liberia named capital city of Guanacaste province.
* March 20, 1856: Costa Rica and Nicaragua join forces to defeat U.S.-led group in the Battle of Santa Rosa. Led by infamous U.S. filibuster William Walker, who tried to conquer Central America during the mid-1800s, the group of around 300 U.S.-associated troops were surrounded by 900 Costa Rican and Nicaraguan soldiers at the Santa Rosa farm in Guanacaste. The battle lasted about 15 minutes and Walker and his clan were expelled from Costa Rican territory.
* April 15, 1858: Cañas-Jerez treaty signed between Costa Rican and Nicaraguan governments established new international boundaries, officially giving Guanacaste and Nicoya to Costa Rica. U.S. President Grover Cleveland authorizes treaty in 1888.
* 1959: Guanacaste tree named National Tree of Costa Rica.
* July 29, 1968: Arenal Volcano, located on border of Alajuela and Guanacaste provinces, erupts, covering towns at the base of the volcano and killing around 500 people. Soon after, a hydroelectric dam is constructed nearby and water buries damaged towns, creating Lake Arenal.
* Oct. 1995: Daniel Oduber Quiros Airport converted into international hub. Expansion of the airport results in tourism boom, as Guanacaste becomes one of Costa Rica’s most visited regions.
* 2006: Famed Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz opens branch of his Ad Astra Rocket Company in Liberia
* 2011: A shiny new, state-of-the-art Passenger Terminal Building is constructed at the Liberia airport.