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Cartago, capital of the province of Cartago, the second most densely populated Costa Rican province after San José. Cartago competes with Heredia and Alajuela for the distinction of being the second city of the meseta central, the Costa Rican heartland. As the site of the basilica of the Black Virgin (Nuestra Señora de los Angeles), it retains an unrivaled place in the religious sentiments of the people and is the destination of an impressive annual pilgrimage. Cartago and its residents played pivotal roles in the watershed 1948 revolution. Costa Ricans always remember Cartago for the devastating earthquake it suffered in 1910 and its sporadic episodes with the nearby Irazu volcano.

Cartago's greatest glory came in the colonial period. From the time of its foundation in 1564, it was the capital and most important city in one of Spain's most isolated and neglected colonies. By the independence era (c. 1821) the city had a scant seven thousand residents. In 1823 Cartago was defeated by the more dynamic and republican San José in the struggle to be the new nation's capital city.

See alsoCosta Rica .


For the independence period, see Ricardo Fernández Guardia, La independencia: historia de Costa Rica (1971); for the role of Cartago in the crisis of the 1940s, see John Patrick Bell, Crisis in Costa Rica (1971); for the impact of coffee production and its aftermath, see Carolyn Hall, Costa Rica: A Geographical Interpretation in Historical Perspective (1985); and for its place in Costa Rican society over the years, see Richard Biesanz, Karen Zubris Biesanz, and Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, The Costa Ricans (1982; rev. ed. 1988).

Additional Bibliography

Moya Gutiérrez, Arnaldo. Comerciantes y damas principales de Cartago: Vida cotidiana, 1750–1820. Cartago, Costa Rica: Editorial Cultural Cartaginesa, 1998.

                                      John Patrick Bell

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