Though Costa Rica has not formally adopted a National Motto, there is phrase, unique to Costa Ricans, which has been adopted as a more than adequate stand-in. It is not symbolic of an historic milestone, nor does is it full of “self-importance”. “Pura Vida” is simply a commonly used phrase, that all Costa Rican’s, visitors and this blog use, that identifies the people and the country. From the hotel staff at Blue River Resort & Hot Springs in Rincon de la Vieja you’ll hear it several times daily. It characterizes everything good about Costa Rica. Visitors and marketing campaigns have made the phrase familiar globally. ‘Pura Vida’ is easy to remember and rolls easily off the tongue. Literally translated into English, it means, ‘Pure Life’ and of recent, marketers have used it and the Happy Planet Index to effect the slogan, “the happiest place on Earth.”
If you are anywhere and hear someone say ‘Pura Vida!’ you can bet that it is a Costa Rican, or someone whose life was forever transformed by a visit to Costa Rica. The term seemingly replaces those things most sought after by Western cultures, things of material value that are replaced with a devout appreciation for things related to good health, pure living and natural values.
More Costa Rica National Symbols
- The Costa Rica National Flag
- The Costa Rica Emblems & Coat of Arms
- The Costa Rica National Bird
- The Costa Rica National Flower
- The Costa Rica National Anthem
- The Costa Rica National Symbol of Work
- The Costa Rica National Symbol of Wildlife
- The Costa Rica National Musical Instrument
- The Costa Rica National Drink
Back to National Symbols of Costa Rica
The origin of the phrase is unknown. It may have developed initially as the term used as a greeting between Ticos when they met (as is commonly used today too), to signify that although the situation or times were hard, they realize it could be worse, and were grateful for what they had. Some suggest it originated and then became popular, in 1956 after a Mexican movie. The movie is called ‘Pura Vida’, starring Antonio Espino y Mora, and directed by Gilberto Martínez Solares. The leading man uses the phrase ‘Pura Vida’ repeatedly when faced with adversity and then moves on with life. So if this legend is correct, after the film’s successful release, the phrase became more popularly used and also found its way into the Costa Rican printed media.
For the visitor who is not fluent in Spanish, you can travel undiscovered throughout the countryside by carefully using the phrase at the right moments in a conversation. ‘Pura Vida’ can be used to express admiration, satisfaction, pleasure, as a greeting or a farewell; ‘Pura Vida’ covers them all. Or, when asking a Tico, “Como Estas?” (“How are you?”), don’t be surprised to see a smile and hear ‘Pura Vida’ in reply as a way to convey an unspoken meaning.
Here are examples of how ‘Pura Vida’ can be used:
When asked “How are you?”, answer ‘Pura Vida’ accompanied by a smile.
Whilst traveling throughout the beautiful countryside or roaming along the sandy beaches you will meet Ticos greeting you with ‘Pura Vida’. They will be pleasantly surprised if you respond with an equally warm ‘Pura Vida’, again a smile adds emphasis to your sincerity.
To express gratitude for an act of kindness, a thoughtful action, a gift, or service, greater satisfaction is shown when the response is ‘Pura Vida’ instead of a mere ‘Thank You’.
‘Gracias’ or ‘Thank You’ both express gratitude but ‘Pura Vida’ kicks-it-up-a-notch and shows deeper heart-felt appreciation.
An attractive person can be affectionately describes as ‘Pura Vida’, with a twinkling of the eyes’.
It can express sorrow or sympathy when ‘Pura Vida’ is offered as a token of sharing the grief or loss with someone.
So remember whenever you need to say “Life is so good”, “Be well”, “Have a good day”, “Thank You”, “Hello” or “Goodbye”, “Pura Vida” has you covered.
So widely accepted is the saying in Costa Rica, the phrase is often used to market the Country’s tourism products and is a tag line throughout the tourist industry. ‘Pura Vida’ is symbolic of things healthy, natural, good, loving, beautiful and most of all, things Costa Rican. As the saying goes, “When in Rome…” you’ll find
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