A little history lesson

While having coffee the other week, we had an interesting conversation with our friend Wilson (who grew up here) and a Tico gentlemen sitting next to us (whom we didn’t know, but everyone is so friendly here, he just jumped in the conversation too). I’m always asking questions and wanting to understand things. So, this is what I found out for a little bit of Costa Rican history.

Do you know where “Pura Vida” came from?

A 1955 Mexican movie! It was called “Clavillazo Pura Vida” – and that’s where the slogan came from. After that movie, Costa Ricans started saying it everywhere and it became Costa Rica’s special saying (which I love). We hear “Pura Vida” a LOT more in touristy places, I think they really have tried to “brand” Costa Rica with this, which helps Costa Rica to stand out and apart from other countries.


What is up with the word “gallo”?

The word “gallo” is used a lot here. You see the word “gallo” all over menus. Gallo technically translates to “rooster”, so I wanted to know more about this.

6a00d83451fa5069e201a3fcb6f368970bGallo Pinto for example – is a colorful mixture of the mixture of rice and beans (similar to a rooster’s many colors).

Pico de gallo – is a colorful mixture of tomatoes, onions, herbs and seasoning.  We also had this in Texas.

Gallo as also a small appetizer (boca), you will see a lot on menus, and typically means a couple of small tortillas with potatoes, rice, chicken or cheese inside.

I also discovered a small little something I can order with my coffee that is usually in every soda or restaurant (per Wilson), but is hardly ever on the menu: “prensada de queso”. This is a Costa Rican typical cheese which is fried, and then pressed between two corn tortillas and then grilled! What could be better? YUMMY, hot, small and delicious. (Yes, this is my “word of the day” to learn so I can ask for this wherever I go!):


Where did the words “Tico/Tica” come from?

As you know by now (because you read my book), Tico/Tica is what the local Costa Rican people are called (Tico is male, Tica is female), and they call themselves this as well (it is not derogatory). Wilson said there are different versions of this story, but this is what he thinks – that this word came from the Nicaraguans around 1856. It has to do with the way the Costa Ricans end their words; they will change the ending to “tico”. For example:

claritito (very clear)/ claritico (extremely clear)
chico (adjective for small) / chiquitico (very small)
chirrisco (very small) / chirrisquitico (extremely small)
poquito (a little amount) / poquitico (a very little amount)
dulcito (sweet) /dulcitico (very sweet)
confite (candy) /confitico (little candy pieces)

When “tico” is used as the suffix, it denotes a smaller version and also signifies affection. My friend told me they will even sometimes say “poquitititititico” to imply very very very little.

So there you go, just a few tidbits… there may be other versions out there (please don’t take my word for any of this!).  I’m just fascinated by every little story I hear of Costa Rican history.

Cheers! — Jen

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14 Responses to A little history lesson

  1. wow, thanks! that was really interesting, especially the Pura Vida. the guy on the poster looks just like a waiter at the Best Western hotel in San iIsidro del General!

  2. Great info! I was always asked those questions but didn’t know the answer. What type of cheese was used for the tostada?

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