Average fertility was 2.7, down from 5.4 in 1973 and 7.3 in 1960.The drop in birth rates was attributed to rising female literacy, to a decline in the proportion of the population working in agriculture, and to increased access to family planning.The northern Pacific suffers frequent droughts, associated with the Niño phenomenon. Pacific ports include Puntarenas, Quepos, and Golfito.Two modern ports, Caldera and Punta Morales, were built near Puntarenas in the 1980s.Aside from the flag and religious icons, important symbols include flags of the major political parties (green and white for the National Liberation Party; red and blue for the Social Christians) and of the most popular soccer teams. Costa Rica gained independence from Spain as part of the Mexican Empire (1821–1823) and the Central American Federation (1823–1838).In 1824 it annexed much of the province of Guanacaste from Nicaragua.Costa Rica has a level of biodiversity—4 to 7 percent of the world total—unmatched by any other nation its size. In 2000, Costa Rica's population was four million, with 60 percent living in the Central Valley in and around Cartago, San José, Heredia, and Alajuela.Thirty-two percent of the population was 14 years old or under, while 5 percent was 65 or older. The country had 21.9 births and 4.0 deaths per 1,000 population in 2000, and a net migration rate of 2.4.
One-quarter of the territory endures practically in its wild state with rainforests, dry tropical forest, and savannas.
Despite the influential Catholic Church's opposition to contraception, in 1990, 86 percent of sexually active women of childbearing age used birth control. Spanish is the official language, but the variant spoken has features particular to Costa Rica.
On the Atlantic coast, however, descendants of Caribbean immigrants speak English, as do many others throughout the country who learned it to better their employment prospects. The national flag, a partial imitation of the French tricolor, consists of blue horizontal stripes on the top and bottom of the flag and two white inner stripes divided by a wide red stripe, which contains the national coat of arms to the left of center.
In the 1850s, Costa Rican troops joined Nicaraguans and Hondurans to defeat William Walker's pro-slavery filibusters.
This campaign sparked proto-nationalist sentiment, and it was only then that the term nación began to be used to refer to Costa Rica rather than to all of Central America. Elites had to improvise a national identity following independence.