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During the twentieth century, the definition of "whiteness" became more inclusive, as elites sought to convince mestizos that they were part of a "homogeneous" nation distinct from the "Indians" elsewhere in Central America.

In Guanacaste and northern Puntarenas, much of the population is descended from Indians and colonial-era slaves.

The major Atlantic port, Limón, is unprotected from tropical storms.

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Its territory is 19,652 square miles (51,022 square kilometers).

Volcanic mountains—several of which produce sporadic eruptions— run northwest to southeast, dividing Costa Rica into Pacific and Atlantic zones. The capital, San José, is on the meseta central, a plateau twenty-five miles by twelve miles (40 kilometers by 20 kilometers).

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.

In 1502, Columbus stopped near present-day Limón, Costa Rica. [with] gold and mines." Subsequent chroniclers called the region "Costa Rica"—Rich Coast—although it turned out to be among the poorest of Spain's colonies.