Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2009

Contested Cornerstones of Nonviolent National Self-Perception in Costa Rica: A Historical Approach

Sebastian Huhn

May 2009

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Crime, violence, and insecurity are perceived as society's biggest problems in contemporary Costa Rica. This degree of priority is especially remarkable because the country has always been considered the peaceful exception in the violent Central American region. In this paper I analyze four cornerstones of the nonviolent national self-perception in the 1940s and 1980s as the fundamental basis for the current talk of crime: the civil war, the abolition of the military, the proclamation of neutrality, and the peace plan for Central America and the subsequent granting of the Nobel Peace Prize. The result of the analysis is the determination that these historical cornerstones were not publicly discussed as expressions of the nonviolent identity for which they are today cited as evidence.