Elections and Events 1812-1900


Seligson 1987: "Under the Spanish Constitution of Cadiz, in 1812 local 'cabildos' (city councils) were established in Cartago, San Jose, Heredia, and Alajuela, Costa Rica's principal towns" (page 155).


Booth 1998: "As Guatemala's most distant region, Costa Rica's colonial status ended without any local combat in 1821 when Mexico won independence" (page 38).

Jiménez Castro 1982: "El 16 de noviembre de 1821 se realizaron las primeras elecciones parroquiales o de primer grado y el 23 de ese mismo mes las de partido o de segundo grado (page 135).

Seligson 1987: "Costa Rica, which had not fought for its independence, was informed of the Guatemalan declaration of September 15, 1821, on October 13. On October 25 a meeting of the 'cabildos' was held to decide on the form of government the new republic would have. During this meeting the delegates decided that the 'cabildos' had not been created for the purpose of establishing a new government; therefore the delegates would have to ask for a popular election to name delegates to a new Junta de Legados de los Pueblos, ...which would then decide on the form of the new government...On December 1, 1821, the junta approved Costa Rica's first constitution...[which] established a rather complex system of indirect representative democracy that was based, nonetheless, on popular sovereignty" (pages 155-156). Describes in detail how this system functioned from the village to the national level.


Jiménez Castro 1982: "El 6 de enero de 1822 se reunió en Cartago la Junta Electoral de Provincia con la presencia de 25 electores. El 10 de enero de 1822 se declaró la anéxion de Costa Rica al Imperio de México y el 11 del mismo mes se eligió la Primera Junta Gubernativa" (page 135).

Seligson 1987: Costa Rica is annexed to Mexico on January 10, 1822 (page 157).


Seligson 1987: Iturbide abdicates as emperor of Mexico and the independence of Central America is declared in July of 1823 (page 157).

Wilson 1998: Costa Rica becomes part of the Central American Federation, which has an executive branch at the federal level but gives each country "the right to elect its own national head of state and Legislative Assembly" (page 17).


Booth 1998: "A congress elected in 1824 chose Liberal educator Juan Mora Fernández as Costa Rica's first chief of state. The congress also wrote a 'fundamental law,' or constitution, establishing a bicameral legislature and weak executive" (page 39).

Busey 1961: Juan Mora Fernández is elected indirectly, without opposition, and serves for two terms (1824-1833) (page 64)..

Taplin 1972: A constituent assembly is convened September 6, 1824 (page 163).


Parker 1981: The first constitution is finished in January 1825 (page 260).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: From 1825 to 1833 the country is governed by Juan Mora Fernández (page 6).

Taplin 1972: The first legislative assembly is convened April 1825 (page 163).


Biesanz 1988: Mora Fernández is reelected in 1829 (page 18).


Busey 1961: In 1833, José Rafael de Gallegos is "elected by Congress, though opponent had obtained more electoral votes. Resigned under severe criticism" in 1835 (page 64).

Blackford 1992: José Rafael de Gallegos' "election to the presidency was the first case of electoral irregularity in Costa Rica, in that he was awarded the presidency by the Congress even though Manuel Aguilar won a majority of the votes" (page 38).


Taplin 1972: A decree on April 3, 1834 provides that the state capital will alternately be at San José, Heredia, Cartago, and Alajuela (page 163).


Ameringer 1982: "Carrillo had been the governor of the province in 1835 and, after Costa Rica's secession from the federation, remained as first president of the new republic until 1842" (page 12).

Biesanz 1988: "Braulio Carrillo, who ruled as a heavy-handed dictator from 1835 to 1842, is given credit for defeating the opponents of national unity and integration" (page 18).

Busey 1961: Braulio Carrillo is elected indirectly, without opposition, to complete Gallegos' term and serves from 1835 to 1837 (page 64).

Munro 1967: Carrillo "carried on the policy of his predecessor and laid the basis for the present prosperity of the country by encouraging the production and exportation of coffee" (page 144).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: Gallegos is forced to leave office and Carrillo is elected president to complete his term (page 7).

Wilson 1998: "In 1835, Braulio Carrillo Colina became president as a compromise candidate after an indirect election had produced a stalemate...(H)e immediately put aside the Ambulatory Law (Ley de la Ambulancia)--which mandated periodic rotation of the capital city among the four major cities--and established the capital in San José" (page 20).


Busey 1961: In 1837, Manuel Aguilar is "elected by electors from three provinces, constituting majority of total electors, over Carrillo opposition from remaining provinces" (page 64).

Munro 1967: "Carrillo was defeated for re-election in 1837" (page 145).

Wilson 1998: "The only president elected in a competitive election during the first seventy years of independence was Manuel Aguilar in 1837; he was turned out of office the following year in a coup" (page 20).


Busey 1961: Carillo overthrows Aguilar in 1838 and rules as dictator from 1838-1842 (page 65).

Munro 1967: Carrillo "regained his position by a 'coup d'etat' in 1838 and for four years exercised dictatorial powers" (page 145).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: "Los militares actuaron y derrocaron a Manuel Aguilar, el 27 de mayo de 1838, siendo este el primer golpe de estado en la historia del país" (page 7).

Seligson 1987: Carillo decreed a new constitution in 1838 which declared him chief of state for life, eliminated popular sovereignty and local government, and created the office of "jefe político" (page 159).

Taplin 1972: On November 15, 1838, Costa Rica "declared its independence from the Federation" (page 164).

Wilson 1998: Carrillo, a Liberal, decrees himself head of state for life in 1838 (page 20).


Bird 1984: "Morazán returned to Costa Rica from Panama in April 1842, seized power and prepared an army but was soon defeated and was executed in September 1842" (page 31).

Busey 1961: General Francisco Morazán overthrows Carrillo in 1842, the "'golpe' [is] followed by election, without any alternative" (page 65). He is overthrown the same year, executed, and José María Alfaro is elected indirectly, as interim president, without opposition. He serves from 1842-1844.

Munro 1967: "Carrillo was overthrown by a bloodless revolution in 1842, when Francisco Morazán, landing on the Pacific Coast, won over the chiefs of the army which the president sent against him, and occupied the capital" (page 145). When Morazán attempted to use his position to reestablish the Central American union he was deposed and executed. "During the seven years which followed this revolution, continual quarrels between political factions and constant interference by the military leaders made it impossible for any administration long to maintain itself in office" (page 145).


Busey 1961: Francisco Oreamuno is elected indirectly, without opposition in 1844 but resigns voluntarily (page 65). He is followed by Rafael Moya, as next legal designate.

Seligson 1987: The constitution of 1844 "established for the first time the 'direct' election of the president, senators, and judges...Perhaps because of fears of the consequences of direct election, however, voting rights were significantly restricted. Voters had to be married, male citizens of at least twenty-five years of age, and owners of property with a value of about 200 pesos. These restrictions on the vote limited the electorate to only 2.4 percent of the population...(T)he election of 1844 was the only election during the nineteenth century for which data exist to measure the extent of popular participation. As far as this researcher has been able to determine, all other quantitative data for that century refer only to electoral representation, not to the popular vote" (page 160).

Wilson 1998: The 1844 constitution provides for direct election of the president and senators and a voter registration system (page 21). "The franchise, though, was restricted to married males over twenty-five and property owners,...which effectively reduced the electorate to 2.5 percent of the total population." The practice of direct elections lasts just three years and is not reintroduced until 1913.


Busey 1961: Moya resigns in 1845 and is followed by José Rafael de Gallegos, as next legal designate (page 65).


Busey 1961: Gallegos is overthrown and José María Alfaro is elected by Congress, without opposition, to finish term (page 65). "Though military action caused resignation of Gallegos, Alfaro was selected without military intervention."


Biesanz 1988: "In 1847 Congress named as the first President (rather than simply Chief of State) José María Castro" (page 19).

Busey 1961: José María Castro is elected indirectly, without opposition in 1847 (page 65).

Schooley 1987: In January 1847 the office of the president is established with a six-year term (page 98).

Seligson 1987: "The constitution of 1847, which replaced the 1844 document, reflected for the first time the influence of the rising power of the coffee aristocracy...The wealth generated by coffee exports produced a powerful economic elite. The 1847 constitution eliminated the direct vote of 1844, and replaced it with a modified version of the Juntas Populares of the 1824 Federal Republic System" (page 160). Gives details of the new voting qualifications and constitution of the Juntas Populares.

Wilson 1998: The 1847 constitution and its amendments allow only literate males over twenty-five with property in excess of 1,000 pesos to vote (page 21).


Busey 1961: "Republic of Costa Rica [is] proclaimed August 30, 1848" (page 65).


Presidential election (Mora Porras / Conservative)

Biesanz 1988: "In 1849 the powerful coffee barons used the army to force [Castro's] resignation. From 1849 to 1859 Juan Rafael Mora, a coffee planter, was president" (page 19).

Busey 1961: In 1849, Juan Rafael Mora Porras comes to power through a coup, "followed by farcical 'elections'" (page 66).

Munro 1967: "In 1849...with the election of Juan Rafael Mora, another era of stable government commenced" (page 145).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: Juan Rafael Mora is president from 1849-1859 (page 7).


Peeler 1998: "After 1850, coffee enabled a rather evident, if weak, ruling class to consolidate its power and to stabilize the state well in advance of the other Central American countries" (page 50).


May 3: Presidential election (Mora Porras)

Biesanz 1988: "In his first term, with his popularity slipping, [Mora] dissolved the rebellious Congress and rigged new elections in his own favor" (page 19).

Taplin 1972: Mora is reelected May 3, 1853 (page 165).


Biesanz 1988: Mora leads an army to repel the invasion of Guanacaste by William Walker from Nicaragua (pages 19-20).


May 4: Presidential election (Mora Porras)

Taplin 1972: Mora is reelected May 4, 1859 (page 165).

August: Government overthrown

Busey 1961: In 1859, José María Montealegre comes to office through a coup, followed by indirect elections without opposition (page 66).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Mora is overthrown August 14, 1859 as a result of conflicts among groups in the coffee oligarchy, and José María Montealegre is proclaimed provisional president (page 23).

Seligson 1987: In 1859 the president is "deposed by coffee interests after he attempted to create Costa Rica's first private bank, an attempt the coffee aristocracy viewed as an economic challenge. A new constitution, approved that year, reduced the term of presidential office to three years and established limitations on presidential reelection" (page 161).


Busey 1961: In 1863, Jesús Jiménez is elected indirectly, without opposition (page 66).

Munro 1967: Jesús Jiménez is elected president in 1863 (page 146).


Busey 1961: In 1866, José María Castro is elected indirectly, without opposition (page 66).

Munro 1967: José María Castro is elected in 1866 (page 146).


Busey 1961: In 1868, the military forces Castro out of office and Jesús Jiménez comes to power, followed by indirect election without opposition (page 66).

Munro 1967: Castro is deposed in 1868 and Jiménez as first designate reassumes power (page 146).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Coup of November 1, 1868 brings Jesús Jiménez to power (page 23).


González-Suárez 1994: "(T)he constitution of 1869...proclaimed primary education obligatory and free for boys and girls and reduced an 80 percent illiteracy rate in 1889 to 25 percent by 1927" (page 177).

Seligson 1987: A new constitution is approved in 1869 which lowers the voting age to twenty-one and establishes "universal, obligatory, free primary education for both sexes" (page 161).


April 27

Ameringer 1982: "Colonel Tomás Guardia...seized power for himself in 1870 and dominated political affairs until his death 12 years later" (page 17).

Munro 1967: Jiménez is deposed in 1870. Guardia "was the real ruler of Costa Rica from 1870 until his death in 1882, although he did not at once assume the presidency" (page 146).

Taracena Arriola 1994: "Ya nombrado general y luego de haber forzado la renuncia del presidente provisional Carranza, [Guardia] convocó a elecciones para una Constituyente" (page 197).

Weaver 1994: "(W)hen unstable coffee markets seemed to threaten the economic elite's control, the elite sponsored the dictatorshp of Tomás Guardia" (page 94).

Wilson 1998: "Guardia Gutiérrez initially governed through Bruno Carranza Ramírez, but a few months later a plebiscite declared him president" (page 22).

Yashar 1997: "General Tomás Guardia launched a successful coup on April 27, 1870, and assumed dictatorial power in Costa Rica for the next 12 years (1870-82). As the country's military hero in the 1856 war against William Walker, and later as the first Liberal leader, Guardia developed a historical legacy as a progressive dictator" (page 49). "Throughout the Liberal period, the Costa Rican oligarchy succeeded in blending Liberal discourse with oligarchic control and electoral fraud" (page 50).

Constituent assembly

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: The constituent assembly is installed on August 8 and Guardia is named president (page 25). Guardia dissolves the assembly on October 9, 1870 because of disagreements (page 26).


August: Constituent assembly election

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Guardia calls for election of constituent assembly on August 12, 1871 (page 26).


Parker 1981: "Under Guardia a new constitution was prepared in December 1871, which [was in effect for] seventy-five years" (page 261).

Schooley 1987: The 1871 constitution "established a four-year term for the president and a unicameral congress and prohibited the re-election of the president" (page 98).



Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: "El 8 de enero de 1872 Guardia fue nombrado Presidente de la República, mediante elecciones en las que participó en condición de candidato único. (Las actas de esas elecciones no aparecen en los Archivos Nacionales)" (page 174).


Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: A new congress is installed on May 1, 1872 and names Guardia president for the period from 1872-1876 (page 26).


Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Elections are held for half the seats in congress in 1874 (page 26).


April 2: General election (Esquivel)

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Elections are held for half the seats in congress in 1876 (page 26). Aniceto Esquivel runs as only candidate to succeed Guardia as president, takes office in May, is deposed in July for not following Guardia's policies, and is succeeded by Vicente Herrera. Gives number of votes from each province for Esquivel (page 175).


Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Herrera resigns in September 1877 and Guardia assumes power (page 27).


Busey 1961: Guardia resigns because of illness in 1880 and is succeeded by Salvador Lara, the next legal designate (page 66).

July: Constituent assembly election

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: Guardia calls for election in July 1880 but dissolves assembly in September (pages 27-28).


July 9: Presidential election (Fernández Oreamuno)

Busey 1961: In 1882, General Próspero Fernández is elected indirectly, without opposition (page 66).

Munro 1967: "Guardia was succeeded after his death by his close associate, Próspero Fernández, who was at the time in command of the army" (page 146).

Parker 1981: "Constitutionalism (a four-year presidential term and a one-house Congress half of whose members were renewed every second year) prevailed for thirty-five years after 1882" (page 261).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: "Elecciones presidenciales de 1882" (page 176). Gives votes from each province for only candidate, Próspero Fernández.

Taracena Arriola 1994: Guardia dies on July 6, 1882 and is succeeded by his brother-in-law, Próspero Fernández. "Candidato único, el general Fernández, proveniente de una rica familia cafetalera, inició su período constitucional el 10 de agosto de 1882, luego de haber ejercido el poder provisional desde la muerte de su antecesor" (page 198).

Wilson 1998: "(I)n 1882, a noncompetitive, indirect election was won by General Próspero Fernández Oreamuno, commander of the armed forces and brother-in-law of the late dictator" (page 22).


Alcántara Sáez 1989: "La política liberal del momento tuvo su hito en 1884, año en el que se firmó el contrato Soto-Keith, con el que se inició la penetración del capital norteamericano, y que dio origen al monopolio del banano en el país" (volume 2 page 150).

LaFeber 1993: "The nation needed railroads to carry coffee beans cheaply to Atlantic ports...In 1884 Costa Rica signed a contract with a U.S. builder, Minor Keith, to finish the railroad within three years" (page 56). "Keith received invaluable help from Costa Rican dictator, Tomás Guardia, and from his own marriage to a former Costa Rican president's daughter. Keith then refinanced the nation's huge debt to the British. In return, Costa Rica gave him a ninety-nine-year lease on the railroad, 800,000 acres of state land, and exemption from import duties on all construction materials" (page 57).


Busey 1961: In 1885, after Fernández dies in office, Bernardo Soto is next legal designate and is then elected indirectly, without opposition (page 66).

Munro 1967: After Fernández' death "his son-in-law, Bernardo Soto, took charge of the administration as first designate" (page 146).

Wilson 1998: "When General Fernández died in office in 1885, he was replaced by his brother-in-law, Bernardo Soto Alfaro" (page 22).


April 4: Presidential election (Soto / Liberal)

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: "Elecciones presidenciales de 1886" (page 177). Gives votes by province for only candidate, Bernardo Soto.


Booth 1984: "Mobilized by the church in response to Liberal anticlerical laws, a Catholic party appeared from 1889 to 1891" (page 161).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: The Partido Liberal Progresista (page 140-142), the Partido Constitucional Democrático (pages 142-144), the Partido Independiente Demócrata (pages 144-148), and the Partido Unión Católica (pages 148-152) are formed in 1889.

Yashar 1995: "Costa Rican political parties first emerged in 1889 with the Constitucional Democrático...and the Liberal Progresista...parties. These first parties...were ephemeral organizations largely designed to mobilize support during elections for a given candidate from the dominant agro-export class" (page 73).

November 3-5: Presidential elections (Rodríguez Zeledón / Conservative)

Busey 1961: José Joaquín Rodríguez is elected indirectly in opposition to the official slate (page 67).

Dunkerley 1988: "The notion that after 1889 Costa Rica was governed democratically because in that year the opposition won the poll and was permitted to take office must be sharply tempered by recognition that this went no further than a refinement of the rules of competition between very small numbers of landlords" (page 24).

Kantor 1969: "The election of 1889 was the first in the country's history in which freedom of speech was guaranteed. The people were aroused during this presidential campaign and from then on were a factor to be considered" (page 191).

Munro 1967: Soto "allowed the first comparatively free and popular election which the Republic had ever known...Rodríguez severely repressed all opposition, and governed during the greater part of his term without the aid of Congress" (page 147).

Oconitrillo 1982: "(S)e llegó a las elecciones de primer grado, ya que entonces el Presidente, los diputados y los munícipes eran nombrados por el sistema de voto indirecto. En las elecciones de primer grado que duraban tres días, se nombraban a los electores quienes a su vez, semanas más tarde, elegían a estos funcionarios" (page 13). Gives number of electors elected by department for each candidate (page 18). In December the electors voted, gives votes for each candidate (pages 18 and 276).

Parker 1981: "Though Soto was tempted to pave the way for a successor who would continue his liberal policies, and doubtless had the power to do so, both he and Ascensión Esquivel (the man he had chosen) made the decision to step aside when the free vote they encouraged in 1889 went against them. Thus Costa Rica experienced her first genuine election in which the people at large took part and her first peaceful transition from a group in power to the opposition" (page 262).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: "Elecciones presidenciales de 1889: resultado de la primera vuelta" (page 180).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: Gives number of electors and percent of vote in the popular election and the number of votes and percent of votes received in the electoral college by the PLP (page 16). Gives number of electors and percent of vote in the popular election won by the PCD (page 18).

Stansifer 1998: "(T)he Costa Rican election of 1889...is generally considered the first genuinely free election in Central American history. It was in the previous two decades that coffee prosperity and the benevolent, positivist, authoritarian rule of President Tomás Guardia had enabled Costa Rica to begin to build a secularized state...The election of 1889 marked the end of authoritarianism and the beginning of the so-called Liberal Republic" (page 125).

Vega Carballo 1992: "The election in 1889 of opposition candidate José Joaquin Rodriguez as president has been taken as the birth date of competitive democracy and a party system in Costa Rica" (page 205).

November 7

Lehoucq 1992: "The mobilization of a large contingent of armed men in San José by the opposition during November 1889, along with President Soto Alfaro's unwillingness to endorse the actions of his mutinous officers, permitted Rodríguez Zeledón to become president in 1890" (pages 63 and 66).

Taracena Arriola 1994: "(E)l levantamiento popular del 7 de noviembre de 1889 [fue] ante el intento de fraude electoral de parte del Gobierno. Actuando directamente en la disputa del poder por las elites, la participación de las clases subalternas obligó a Soto a entregar la primera magistratura al doctor Carlos Durán por espacio de seis meses, quien llevó a cabo normalmente la convocatoria a elecciones presidenciales" (page 199).


Taracena Arriola 1994: "En las elecciones de 1890, la Iglesia decidió participar activamente con el propósito de evitar que los liberales continuasen en el poder y consolidaran las reformas. Ésta no lo haría, en un primer momento, mediante la creación de un partido propio, sino apoyando al Partido Constitucional Democrático, fundado un año antes y encabezado por el licenciado José Joaquín Rodríguez (1889-1894)" (page 199).


Municipal elections

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: First election in which the UC participates (page 21).

Taracena Arriola 1994: "(E)l Partido Unión Católica [fue] fundado por la jerarquía eclesiástica con miras a participar en las elecciones municipales de 1891 y triunfador en varias circunscripciones" (page 200).


Congressional elections

Taracena Arriola 1994: "Esta nueva coyuntura política [Partido Unión Católica] permitió el acuerdo electoral entre los liberales y el presidente Rodríguez para las elecciones de diputados de 1892, que si bien fue efímero conllevó la derrota de la Unión Católica" (page 200).


Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: The Partido Civil is formed in November 1893 (page 152-157).


February 4-6: Presidential election (Iglesias Castro / Conservative)

Munro 1967: "In 1894 [Rodríguez] forced the legislature to elect his friend Rafael Yglesias to succeed him" (page 147).

Oconitrillo 1982: Gives order of finish of parties (page 25). Although one party wins a relative majority, it does not win an absolute majority. The electors meet on April 1st ; gives votes for each candidate (page 27 and 276).

Lehoucq 1992: "As a result of [violence and fraud], Iglesias Castro went from controlling twenty-seven to fifty-three percent of the vote in 1894" (pages 66-67).

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: Gives number of electors and percent of vote for UC as reported by different sources. The official results were never released (page 21). "Elecciones presidenciales de 1894: resultado de la primera vuelta" (page 186). Gives number of votes for each candidate as reported by two newspapers. "Elecciones presidenciales de 1894: resultado de la segunda vuelta" (page 188).

Taracena Arriola 1994: "Haciendo uso de la suspensión de garantías y de las presiones militares y gubernamentales, el Partido Civil--oficialista--triunfó imponiendo como presidente al propio yerno de Rodríguez, Rafael Iglesias" (page 200).


Congressional elections

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: Gives seats won by each party (page 19).



Salazar Mora, Orlando 1992: Congress approves legislation to allow for presidential reelection (page 19).


Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: The Partido Republicano is formed in July 1897 (pages 157-164).

November 14-16: Presidential election (Iglesias Castro)

Lehoucq 1992: "In 1897, Iglesias Castro sidestepped a prohibition against consecutive reelection to the presidency by pressuring municipal authorities to eliminate this ban by exercising their right to reform the constitution. With the opposition abstaining, Iglesias Castro became president for another four year period beginning in 1898" (page 67).

Oconitrillo 1982: Iglesias sought to change the constitution to allow his reelection (page 30). The Partido Republicano was founded to resist his efforts and asked its followers to abstain from voting. On December 12th the departmental electoral boards declared that Iglesias had won the election unanimously (pages 31-32). On May 8, 1898 congress also declared him the winner.

Salazar Mora, Orlando 1990: "Elecciones presidenciales de 1897: resultado de la primera ronda" (page 199). Gives votes for PC by province.


LaFeber 1993: "In 1899 [Minor Keith] merged his firm with Boston Fruit to form the United Fruit Company" (page 57).


Stansifer 1998: "The arrival of the United Fruit Company after 1900 created a powerful economic enclave and, along with the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, brought in black West Indian workers, but neither the company nor the black workers appeared to affect the evolution of the Costa Rican political system" (page 125).