History of Guanacaste

Guanacaste’s name dates back to the middle of the 17th century from a Guanacaste tree that stood long ago in the intersection between the roads that take you to Nicoya, Bagaces and Rivas. Today, the park across from the Church of Liberia occupies the spot where the historical tree was found. The Party of Nicoya, formed by the towns of Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Canas, decided to join the state of Costa Rica in July 25, 1825. Guanacaste became a Costa Rican province by the # 36 law of December the 7th of 1848, with 4 cantons and 8 parochial districts.

Before the Spanish invasion, the Guanacaste region was populated by many indigenous peoples, most notably the Chorotega people, whose presence can still be seen in pottery still produced in certain areas of the province.

Over the course of the first 20 years after the Spanish came into the region, they managed to decimate the local population with a combination of the diseases they spread and their capture of locals who they sold as slaves down to Panama and Peru. During much of the colonial times, Guancaste in fact belonged to Nicaragua, not Costa Rica.  

In the pre-Colombian period the territory that today occupies Guanacaste, was inhabited mainly by the chieftainships of Churuteca and Nicoya. Gil González Dávila, visited the region in 1523, and in 1554 Mr. Pedro Ordóñez was named magistrate of Nicoya. The first Chapel was built in Nicoya, erected in 1544; this is considered the oldest Parish of Costa Rica.

In 1961 the Diocese of Tilarán was created, its first Bishop was a Monseigneur Román Arrieta Villalobos. The first school was created in the middle of the last century. The Institute of Guanacaste initiated its activities in 1945 in the city of Liberia, and in 1949, the teacher college of Guanacaste, in 1972 the Regional Center of Guanacaste, of the University of Costa Rica.

The main agricultural activities of Guanacaste are: rice, cotton, sugar cane, corn, citrus, sorghum, bean, vegetables, coffee and fruits. Cattle, chickens and fish are raised in several farms along these beautiful lands. Guanacaste offers great folklore; two of the most popular songs are “El Punto Guanacasteco “ and the “Luna Liberiana”.