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Being a relatively young country means that Costa Rican literature is still shaping itself. No earlier books or writings authored by the indigenous people of the land have been discovered yet, leaving their existence unknown. The source for most of the works in print right now are from the colonial periods, which felt the influences of Europe. The literary works of Costa Rica reflect reality at the time they were written. Characters and plots shared accounts of people's lives during the periods. Costan Rican literature can be broken up into five generations: the olympus, repertory, 40s, urban and disenchantment.

During the Olympus generation (1890 – 1920) the writings were incredibly influenced by the lives and opinions of the authors. A political period of government transformation was taking place and the public, including the writers, were beginning to form an understanding and opinion as a whole. One of the first Costa Rican authors was Manuel Arguello Mora, who was raised by the country's president. He wrote quite a bit of historical novels, including La Trinchera in 1899 that described a clash involving the infamous U.S. filibuster William Walker and his group who won and lost control over Nicaragua. Mora was also a journalist and wrote for the weekly paper, La Reforma, which he founded.

A new style of language was born within the sentences and words of the Repertory generation (1920-1940) that was influenced by a turning point in the oligarchical regime that was established during the Olympus period. Writers used their work to judge and critique the crisis as it unfolded. Carmen Lyra was the pen-name of Costa Rica's first prominent female writer Maria Isabel Carvajal who used her words to express concern with the powerful fruit companies. She was also a well-known political activist for the country's communist party, eventually taking part and leading organized acts and strikes before being exiled to Mexico.

Balanced may have been restored to the government system in Costa Rica, which became socially democratic, but a sense of concern could be heard within the words of the 40s generation (1940-1960) authors. Most of the works expressed worry for the overall social welfare of people including land and business beyond the country's borders. One successful writer with a grand collection of novels, short stories and poetry was Fabian Dobles Rodriguez who was celebrated with the Magon Prize, the country's most prestigious award for cultural work. Most of his writings portrayed the hardships that faced Costa Rica's peasants and urban poor.

Soon the literature turned its focus from the people to the land that was beginning to establish an identity for itself during the Urban generation (1960-1980). Development began to shape the character of the country as it progressed from the tumultuous times of transformation in the previous periods. Jorge Debravo is a well-known poet of this time whose first book was a dictionary. He got a quick start after his work was published in El Turrialbeno magazine while he was attending ninth grade in school. Despite his early death at 29, he is still remembered and the country's National Day of Poetry falls on his birthday.

As if in a political statement, the writings of the Disenchantment period (1980-present) have been trying to break away from the earlier styles of Costa Rica's literature. The raw nature of the writings that were more realistic are beginning to fade away as new approaches start to appear. However, the politics still can still be read in-between the context as literature will always be a form of expressing matters of the heart that all can relate to in some literary way.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Costa Rica: Gay Manuel Antonio, Art In Costa Rica, Museums and Culture.

By Allison Carlton

I am. a traveling bard. a word warrior. who is. pursuing a search. a mission. an adventure. a quest. a voyage. a journey....

04 Nov 2010

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