July 20th, 2009

Costa Rica v. Nicaragua: Border Dispute Resolved

For the past four years, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have been embroiled in a dispute over the San Juan River, which runs between the two countries. Fishermen, tour boat operators and pleasure boaters from both countries have, for many years, shared the river relatively peacefully, although undercurrents of conflict have existed for two centuries.

The Cañas-Jerez treaty of April 15, 1858 demarcated the border between the two countries. Under the treaty, the San Juan River belongs to Nicaragua, and the border runs along the Costa Rican side of the river. However, Nicaragua recently argued that its possession of the river allowed it to control river traffic as well. The Nicaraguan government refused to allow Costa Rican law enforcement officials to patrol the river. In addition, Nicaragua demanded that passengers on river boats have Nicaraguan tourist visas, arguing that these passengers needed to purchase tourist passes in order to travel along the river. Costa Rica argued that its commercial and police vessels had a right to freely navigate the San Juan River. Conflict escalated.

On September 29, 2005, Costa Rica took its case to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice in The Hague. At issue was the interpretation of the Cañas-Jerez treaty. Costa Rica claimed that the treaty did not allow Nicaragua to restrict navigation of Costa Rican police along the river and that such restriction violated the 1858 treaty.

On July 13, 2009, the court reached a decision in Costa Rica v. Nicaragua, granting most of the demands of the Costa Rican government. The court recognized the right of Costa Rican tour and passenger boats to freely navigate the river for commercial purposes. Passengers on these boats do not have to procure Nicaraguan tourist visas. In addition, Costa Ricans can use the river for daily transportation requirements—to ferry children to and from school, to deliver food and other necessities to people living in the region and for subsistence fishing.

Interestingly, Costa Rica lost on the one issue it originally brought before the court—whether Costa Rican police had the right to patrol the river. The court held that Costa Rican police had no right to this activity. In addition, Costa Rica can no longer use the river to transport weapons or supplies to police stations in the San Juan River region. The court also granted Nicaragua the right to inspect Costa Rican ships and their passengers at various predetermined checkpoints along the river.

On the whole, Costa Rica is satisfied with the decision, and Costa Ricans hope that tension in the San Juan River area will dissipate.

Read about Costa Rica v. Nicaragua in La Nación.

Read the International Court of Justice’s complete decision in Costa Rica v. Nicaragua.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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July 13th, 2009

The Lyrics of Costa Rica’s National Anthem

Costa Rica’s national anthem opens with a mention of the country’s flag, whose symbolism is so important to Costa Rican civic life. Alluding to the red, white and blue of the flag, the anthem praises the reddened faces of the country’s laborers, the white of peace and the blue skies above. A paean to tranquility and hard work, Costa Rica’s national anthem embodies the ideals of this peace-loving country.

In translation, the anthem’s lyrics read as follows:

Noble homeland, your beautiful flag
Expresses your life to us:
Beneath the limpid blue of your sky,
Peace reposes, white and pure.

In the tenacious struggle of fruitful toil,
That reddens a mans face,
Your sons, simple laborers, achieved
Eternal renown, esteem and honor.

Hail, gentle land!
Hail, honorable mother!
When someone tries to stain your glory,
You will witness your people, strong and valiant,
Exchange their rough tools for weapons.

Hail, homeland! Your generous soil
Gives us sweet sustenance and shelter.
Beneath the limpid blue of your sky,
Long live labor and peace!

In the original Spanish, the anthem’s lyrics read as follows:

Noble patria tu hermosa bandera
Expresión de tu vida nos da:
Bajo el límpido azul de tu cielo
Blanca y pura descansa la paz.

En la lucha tenaz de fecunda labor
Que enrojece del hombre la faz,
Conquistaron tus hijos, labriegos sencillos,
eterno prestigio, estima y honor,
eterno prestigio, estima y honor.

¡Salve oh tierra gentil!
¡Salve oh madre de amor!
Cuando alguno pretenda tu gloria manchar,
Verás a tu pueblo, valiente y viril
La tosca herramienta en arma trocar.

¡Noble patria! tu pródigo suelo
Dulce abrigo y sustento nos da;
Bajo el límpido azul de tu cielo
¡Vivan siempre el trabajo y la paz!

Click here to read about the Costa Rican flag.
Click here to read about the Costa Rican coat of arms.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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July 6th, 2009

Costa Rica’s National Anthem

In 1852, Costa Rica had just declared its independence from Spain and would soon need to defend itself from American imperialists. During a relative political lull, Juan Manuel Mora Porras, Costa Rica’s president, prepared for diplomatic visits from the United States and Great Britain. He realized that the country was ill-prepared to receive foreign visitors, because it had no national anthem. The president quickly commissioned an anthem to be performed for the visitors.

At the time, Manuel María Gutiérrez was the director of San José’s military band, and he dashed off the music to the anthem in time for the official visits. Although Gutiérrez was a consummate musician, he was not a lyricist; he wrote only the rousing music to the national anthem. Its words would not be written for another fifty years.

In 1903, the Costa Rican government, headed by President Ascención Esquivel, sponsored a lyric-writing contest for the national anthem. The poet, José María Zeledón, won the contest’s 500-colón prize with a passionate poem about peace, national bravery and the good hearts of the country’s laborers. Interestingly, Zeledón used the pseudonym of “Campesino”—a reference to Costa Rica’s honorable labor force and to one of the country’s true ideals—when he signed his name as the anthem’s lyricist.

Costa Ricans heard the complete national anthem—and Zeledón’s lyrics—for the first time on independence day, September 15, 1903.

Listen to the Costa Rican national anthem.

Read more about the history of the Costa Rican national anthem.

Read more about the American imperialists and Juan Santamaría, the Costa Rican hero who defeated them.

Read more about the Costa Rican idea of the campesino.

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.

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