Despite the influential Catholic Church's opposition to contraception, in 1990, 86 percent of sexually active women of childbearing age used birth control. Spanish is the official language, but the variant spoken has features particular to Costa Rica.
On the Atlantic coast, however, descendants of Caribbean immigrants speak English, as do many others throughout the country who learned it to better their employment prospects. The national flag, a partial imitation of the French tricolor, consists of blue horizontal stripes on the top and bottom of the flag and two white inner stripes divided by a wide red stripe, which contains the national coat of arms to the left of center.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, successful males of African, Indian, or mixed ancestry married poorer "Spanish" women, using "whitening" to assure their children's upward mobility.
In the nineteenth century, immigration from Europe and the United States "whitened" the population, particularly the elite.
Despite this "exceptionalism," the country shares many social, economic, and environmental problems with its neighbors. As much as 95 percent of Costa Ricans consider themselves "white." "Whiteness" figures importantly in national identity.
The indigenous population that survived the conquest was small and, for the most part, rapidly became Hispanic.
The major Atlantic port, Limón, is unprotected from tropical storms.