Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica

Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, Richard Biesanz, and Karen Zubris Biesanz
The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica
ISBN: 978-1-55587-724-8
ISBN: 978-1-55587-737-8
1999/307 pages/LC: 98-7422

"This is an excellent and highly readable book on an idiosyncratic country. Just reading it makes you want to go there again."—Henri Gooren, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"The Ticos brims with the kind of insider's everyday information and insights that are essential for generalists and specialists alike, but are so hard to come by.... Refreshingly unpretentious, accessible, and frank, the book conveys the harder edge and troubling uncertainties of Costa Rica at the threshold of a new century, without losing sight of the still striking features of its exceptionalism.”—Richard Tardanico

From the reviews of the authors' earlier books on Costa Rica:

"Achieves the rare distinction of being useful to professionals, students, and the layman alike. It is informative, well written, and to be recommended." —Southern Sociologist

"This delightful in-depth study of Costa Rican society and mores is doubtless the best written introduction to the country."—John W. Gardner

"A very sensitive portrayal of Tico culture and society."—Choice


This unparalleled social and cultural history traces the development of Costa Rica's culture and institutions.

With the perspective of more than half a century of first-hand observation, the Biesanzes describe how Costa Rica's economy, government, educational and health-care systems, family structures, religion, and other institutions have evolved, and how this evolution has affected—and reflected—people's daily lives, their beliefs, and their values. They are particularly concerned with change and continuity since the economic crisis of the early 1980s and the structural adjustment that followed.

The economic policies of the past decade have resulted in a wider gap between rich and poor in the country, a middle class struggling to maintain status, and a growing sense of frustration and resentment. There is also a widespread fear of a loss of national sovereignty and cultural identity under the pressure of external demands and the impact of foreign goods and mass media. Nevertheless, though Tico society certainly has been affected by these changes, the authors find that the response to change has been shaped by a deep-rooted culture. Despite the popularity of many elements of foreign influence, they find even more evidence of the continuity of a cultural core.

Providing a comprehensive introduction to a country they know well, the authors also contribute astutely to an understanding of the reciprocal influence of structural adjustment and national culture.


Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz was author (with John Biesanz) of Costa Rican Life and The People of Panama and (with Richard and Karen Biesanz) The Costa Ricans. Her publications also included multiple editions of Modern Society: An Introduction to Social Science and Introduction to Sociology. She was a resident of Costa Rica since 1971 to her death in 2008.  Richard Biesanz is professor of sociology and anthropology at Corning Community College. Karen Zubris Biesanz writes on Costa Rican society.  Richard Biesanz is professor of sociology and anthropology at Corning Community College. Karen Zubris Biesanz writes on Costa Rican society.


  • Introduction.
  • Land and People.
  • History.
  • Economy.
  • Government and Politics.
  • Class and Ethnicity.
  • Community.
  • Housing, Health, and Everyday Living.
  • The Family.
  • Education.
  • Religion.
  • Leisure.
  • Change and Continuity a la Tica.