You are here: Home > About CR > Art & History > Costa Rica Art > Literature


Costa Rican literature is colorful despite what critics may say. This section presents famous Costa Rican authors and their works. Read some national works, it is highly recommended.

  • © Thomas Perkins -

Costa Rican prose includes stories, novels, historical chronicles and essays. Surprisingly enough, no indigenous texts have even been found or known to have existed. From the early 1900's Costa Rican literature can be classified as realistic. Works from this period reflected the almost grim lifestyle in Costa Rica and how the population was insistent on seeking change.

The earliest prose from the 1930's and 1940's demonstrate a plea for social progress as its major underlying theme. Many of the vast majority of modern literature continues to draw strong influences from the local setting. For example, many writers decided to write about the plight and struggle of the banana plantations and the United Fruit Company.

Even though the themes struggle between the classes has given way to a lighter, more novel approach, it still largely lacks mysticism and surrealism. This is due to the lack of  experience and meaning, and the wisdom, subtlety, and romanticism. Costa Rica is on of the only countries that cannot compete with the best Brazilian, Argentinean, and Colombian literature. Only Julieta Pinto came close when she wrote El Eco de los Pasos, a striking novel about the 1948 civil war.

However, after the civil war Costa Rica has remained a relatively peaceful country. Because of this,  Costa Rica has not had very many polemic struggles or severe social injustice in its history and tends to appreciate a higher standard of living, many authors have had difficulty deriving inspiration and passion from real life experiences. Hence, many of the literary works of Costa Rica focus more on lighter subject matters such as hope, peace, celebration, and cooperation. This lack of subject matter has also given Costa Rica the reputation for being limited in its prose. This is not to say that there do not exist a variety of darker works or that there are no deep books.

The 1950's gave way to new trends in incorporating psychology into literature as a new element. Many writers took a deeper look into regional matters and day to day people. Then the 1970's and 1980's gave Costa Rica a reason to write again with the struggles of an economic crisis and mass unemployment. To everyones surprise, Costa Ricans unlike other Latin American countries chose not to write about Socialist ideals. Instead authors wanted to take a closer look at identity and how each person could ambitiously overcome their circumstances through social protest. Mainly literature has been used as a cultural tool to reinforce national identity.

Famous Writers

Costa Rica has always been under the influence of the most famous Latin American writers who have become household names such as Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, Jorge Amado, Pablo Neruda, Isabel Allende, or Jorge Luís Borge.

Some of Costa Rica's most well known authors over time are:

  • Lauerano Alban: (1942 - ) from Turrialba. Mainly poetry.  Has won Premio Adonais de Poesía (Madrid, 1979) y el Premio Internacional de Poesía Religiosa (Burgos, 1983), el Premio Nacional de Poesía Aquileo J. Echeverría (1980 y 1993), and received the Magnon National Prize for Culture in 2006 from the Costa Rican government. Most important works include: Herencia del Otoño (1980), Geografía Invisible de América (1982), Aunque es de Noche (1983), Autorretato y transfiguraciones (1983), El viaje interminable (1983), Biografias del terror (1984), Todas las Piedras del Muro (1987) y la Enciclopedia de maravillas (1995), and around 1000 poems that describe the world.

  • Manuel Arguello Mora: (1834 - 1902) from San Jose. Mainly political or historical novelist/journalist. Some of his most important works include: Luisa (1887), Mi familia (1888), Misterio (1888), El Huerfanillo de Jericó (1888), Costa Rica Pintoresca (short story, 1899, Margarita (1899), Elisa Delmar (1899), La Trinchera (1899) and La Bella Herediana, El Amor a un Leproso (1900). Journalist for the Reforma Newspaper.

  • Jose Marin Cañas: (1904 - 1980) from San Jose. Mainly novelist/journalist. Some of his most important works include: Lágrimas de Acera (1929), Los Bigardos del Ron (1929), Como tú (play,1929), Tú, la imposible (1931), Coto (1934), El Infierno Verde (1935), Pedro Arnáez (1942), Tierra de Conejos (1971), and Valses Nobles y Sentimentales (1981). Director of  Newspaper La Hora.

  • Ricardo Castro Beeche: (1894 - 1967) from San Jose. Mainly journalist and politician. Director of El Diaro and La Nacion Newspapers.

  • Alfonso Chase: (1945 - ) from Cartago. Mainly poems and narratives. He has won many prizes including: Premio Nacional de Poesia (1967, 1995), Premio Nacional de la Novela (1968), Premio Nacional de Cuento (1965), Premio Carmen Lyra de literatura infantil (1978), and is a Fullbright Scholar of the Univeristy of Arkansas (1992).  Some of his most important works include: Los Reinos de mi Mundo (1966), Arbol del Tiempo (1967), Cuerpos (1972), El libro de la Patria (1975), Los Pies sobre la Tierra (1978), El Tigre Luminoso (1983), Entre el Ojo y la Noche (1991) and Jardines de Asfalto (1995).

  • Fabian Dobles: (1918 -1997) from San Antonio de Belen. Mainly a novelist and political activist. Received the Magnon National Prize for Culture in 2006 from the Costa Rican government (1968). Some of his most important works include: Ese que Llaman Pueblo 1942 (1960), ), Una Burbuja en el Limbo (1946), El Sitio de las Abras (1950), Los Leños Vivientes (1962), En el San Juan hay Tiburón (1967), Tú Voz de Sombra (1942), Verdad del Agua y del Viento, Yerbamar (1949), Historias de Tata Mundo (1955), El Targuá, El Violín y la Chatarra (1966), and Cuentos de Fabián Dobles (1972).

  • Quince Duncan: (1940 - ) born in San Jose, from Limon. Mainly political activist writing about racial problems in the Limon province, first Afro-Caribbean writer in Spanish. He has won: Premio Nacional de Literatura and Premio Editorial de Costa Rica. Some of his most important works include:  El Negro en Costa Rica (1972), Los Cuatro Espejos (1973), La Rebelión Pocomía y otros Relatos (1974), El negro en la literatura costarricense (1975), Los Cuentos del Hermano Araña (1975),  Jack Mantorra y otros Relatos (1977), La Paz del Pueblo (1978), Final de Calle (1980), Una Canción en la Madrugada (1970), Teoría y Práctica del Racismo (1984), Kimbo (1990), Historia Crítica de la Narrativa Costarricense (1993), El Trepasolo (1995), The Best Short Stories of Quince Duncan (1996), El Señor de Chocolate (1997),  and Ensayo Contra el Silencio (2001).

  • Hernan Elizondo Arce: (1920 - ) from Heredia, lived in Guanacaste. Mainly novelist and poet. He won: Juegos Florales international prize (1953, 1963) and Premio Nacional de Poesía Aquileo J. Echeverría (1964). Some of his major works include: Adiós, Prestiño, La Ventana, Anecdotas y Relatos, De este Lado de la Eternidad, Alma, Dolor y Paisaje, Memorias de un Pobre Diablo, De este lado de la Eternidad, Muerte al Amanecer, Santo el Niño y el Mar,  Cuidad y Sombra, and Calle, Jinete y Yo.

  • Carlos Luis Fallas aka "Calufa": (1909 -1966) from Alajuela. Mainly novelist and political activist. He won: the William Faulkner Foundations Ibero-American Novel Prize (1962) and recieved the Magnon National Prize for Culture from the Costa Rican government. Some of his most important works include: Mamita Yunai (1940), Gentes y Gentecillas (1947), Marcos Ramirez (1952), Mi Madrina (1954), Tres Cuentos (1967), and  Un Mes en la China Roja.

  • Carlos Gagini: (1865 - 1925) from San Jose. Mainly novels. Some of his most important works include: Diccionario de Barbarimos y Provincialismos de Costa Rica (1892), Ensayo Lexicográfico sobre la Lengua Térraba (1892), Chamarasca (1898), Diccionario de Costarriqueñismos (1919), La Caida del Aguila (1920), Erizo : novela histórica, El árbol enfermo, and Redemptions : a Costa Rican novel translated by E. Bradford Burns (1985).

  • Manuel Gonzalez Zeledon: (1864 -1936) from San Jose. Mainly novelist and journalist. He worked on La Patria Newspaper and founded the El Pais Newspaper. He also became an ambassador to the USA.

  • Joaquin Gutierrez*: (1918 - 2000) from Limon. Mainly novels. He was a member of Academia Costarricense de la Lengua. He won Magnon National Prize for Culture from the Costa Rican government (1975), received from the University of Costa Rica the Honoris Causa doctorate, and La Nacion Newspaper named him the most important Literary Figure  of the Century (1999), along with many other international prizes. Some of his most important works include: Cocori, La Hoja de Aire, Muramonos Federico, Puerto Limon, Vietnam: Cronicas de Guerra, Chinito Pinto, and Cronicas de Otro Mundo.

  • Carlos Salazar Herrera: (1906 -1982) from San Jose. Mainly poetry and essays. He won several awards including: Magnon National Prize for Culture from the Costa Rican government (1964), and a Galderon award when he was only 14. Some of his most important works include: El Cafe (1920), La Piedra de Toxil (1928), Cuentos de Angustias y Paisajes (1947), El Raudal (1961), and Tres Cuentos (1975).

  • Max Jimenez: (1900 - 1947) from San Jose. All types of prose. Some of his most important works include: Ensayos (1926), Unos Fantoches (1928), Gleba (1929), Sonaja (1930), Quijongo (1933), Revenar. Maderas del autor (1936), El Domador de Pulgas (1936), El Jaul (1937), Candelillas (1978).

  • Tatiana Lobo: (1939 - ) from Chile but resided in Costa Rica. Mainly plays and short stories. She won Mexico's Premio Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and  Premio Nacional Aquileo J. Echeverría. Some of her most important works include: Tiempo de Claveles (1989), El caballero del V Centenario (1989), Asalto al Paraíso (1992), Entre Dios y el Diable, Mujeres de la Colonia (1993), Calypso (1996),  Blancos y negros, todos Mezclados (1997), El año del Laberinto (2000).

  • Carmen Lyra aka María Isabel Carvajal Quesada: (1888 - 1949) from San Jose. Novelist and political activist. Some of her most important works include: Las Fantasías de Juan Silvestre,  En una Silla de Ruedas (1918), Bananos y Hombres, and Cuentos De Mi Tia Panchita (1920).

  • Joaquin Garcia Monge: (1881 - 1958) from San Jose. Mainly novelist and political activist. Some of his most important works include: El Moto (1900), Las Hijas del campo (1900,  Abnegación (1902), La Mala Sombra y otros Sucesos (1917), Tres Novelas (1959) and Una Extraña Visita.

  • Carmen Naranjo Coto: (1928 - ) from Cartago. Mainly novelist. Some of her most important works include: Cancion de la Ternura (1962), Misa a Oscuras (1964), Hacia tu Isla (1966), Los Perros no Ladraron (1966), Memorias de un Hombre Palabra (1968), Diario de una Multitud (1974), Cinco Temas en Busca de un Pensador (1977), El Caso 117.720 (1987), En Partes (1994), Más allá del Parismina (2001), En esta Tierra Redonda y Plana (2001), Marina Jiménez de Bolandi: Recordándola (2002), El Truco Florido, and Rosario Santos.

  • Leon Pacheco Solano: (1898 -1980) from Cartago. Mainly poetry and philosophy. He won the Magnon National Prize for Culture in 1972 from the Costa Rican government. Some of his most important works include: Las Modernistas Meditaciones al Margen de Motivos de Proteo (1918), Inspiradas en Rodó, el Ensayo sobre el poeta Rafael Cardona, su personalidad (1919) y la Filosofía de la crítica: Moisés Vincenzi, su Personalidad (1920).

  • Julieta Pinto: (1922 - ) from San Jose. Mainly novels and children's books. She was the first director of the Escuela de Literatura y Ciencias del Lenguaje at the Universidad Nacional de Heredia. She has won: Premio Nacional Aquileo J. Echeverría (novel 1969), Premio Nacional Aquileo J. Echeverría (story 1970 and 1994) and was the first women EVER to win the the Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón  from the Costa Rican government in 1996. Some of her most important works include:  Cuentos de la Tierra (1963), La Estación que Sigue al Verano (1969), Los Marginados (1970), David (1973), A la Vuelta de la Esquina (1975), Si se Oyera el Silencio (1976), El Sermón de lo Cotidiano (1977), El Eco de los Pasos (1979), Abrir los Ojos (1982), La Lagartija de la Panza color Musgo (1986), Entre el Sol y la Neblina (1986), Historia de Navidad (1988), Tierra de Espejismos (1991), El Despertar de Lázaro (1994), El Lenguaje de la Lluvia, El niño que Vivía en Dos Casas (1997), Ecos de los Pasos, Tata Pinto (2005), The Blue Fish, and La Vieja Casona, Detrás del Espejo (2000).

  • Eugenio Rodriguez Vega: (1925 - 2008) from San Ramon. Mainly historian and political sociologist. Director of the magazine Surco. He has won the Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón  from the Costa Rican government in 2005. Some of his most important works include: Apuntes para la Sociología Costarricense (1953), Los Días de Don Ricardo (1971), Biografía de Costa Rica (1980), De Calderon a Figueres (1980) , Siete Ensayos Políticos (1982), Una Historia Mínima de Costa Rica, Historia de Costa Rica después de 1948, Por el Camino (1990), Libro de Memorias, Voces del 43, Cinco Educadores en la Historia (2001), and Cien Momentos.

  • Jose Leon Sanchez: (1930 -) from Puntarenas. Mainly novels.  A story based on the tragic true story of a man wrongly condemned to the San Lucas Island Prison. His best known works are  Isla de los Hombres Solos and Tenochtitlan.

  • Alonso Vener(1976- ) from San Jose and living in Japan. Mainly poetry. Some of his most important works include: Virtudes Escondidas (2003), Pesares Cotidianos (2004), Resurrecciones (2005, and El Guardian de los Cuervos (2007).


Costa Rican poetry typically has followed the same literary movements as the majority of Latin America due to strong influences from other countries, just as Costa Ricans have in other forms of media.

Poetry has been a form of expression in Costa Rica since colonial times. The majority of  experts would agree that poetry was born in Costa Rica in the 1890's, around the same time Costa Rican literature began to really emerge. In 1890 La lira costarricense was published, and it was a poetic anthology that included authors like the following: Jose Maria Alfaro, Juan Diego Braun, Jenaro Cardona, Aquileo Echeverria, Carlos Gagini and Rafael Machado. Additionally, a few of these poets wrote several short stories, novels and essays. The undertone for the poetry written by these authors has romantic tones and are, as with many Latin American literature, filled with nationalistic and political ideology.

Modernist poetry advanced when an artistic magazine called Repertorio Americano (1919) was published. Some authors that participated with their creations were: Rafael Angel Troyo, Lisimaco Chavarria and Auristela Castro de Jimenez. Topics covered by these authors include such concepts as spiritualism and mysticism with the use of  lavish language and detailed imagery. Castles, fairies and Parisian settings are common poetic themes of the Modernist tendency. In fact, this detour into fantasy and luxury earned the authors a lot of criticism because they were accused of ignoring their surroundings.

Most recently, erotic poetry has emerged strong. Erotic poetry, actually spread starting in the 1960's. Costa Rica being a natural paradise allowed authors to draw inspiration from love intertwined with that of nature, thus announcing that eroticism and sex were natural and glorifying them.

Contemporary Literature

There is a lot of promise for what up and coming writers will do in Costa Rica, since they have a wide range of topics they can cover at least on a national scale. Also, more and more people have become open to careers in the arts, and writing has become one of the most acceptable forms in which one can dedicate their lives work to. In the past, no one was willing to try and make a living off writing.

There are several contemporary authors who have written riveting pieces and actually won prizes. Many have been motivated by governmental contests and by La Nacion newspaper who have recently invented new programs and prizes.  New authors realize that they can no longer simply imitate other people's works, that they actually need to expand and innovate to stay competitive in today's world. However, sadly with today's influences of pop culture many youth of today have strayed away from reading the classics and are more interested what's happening on TV or the latest video games. Costa Rican's in general are not known for being very cultured or well read, only the elite have this privilege.

Document Actions

Powered by Propertyshelf

Legal Information