If you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park book and movie series, you probably associate Costa Rica with the fictitious islands of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna (Site B), where John Hammond went about cloning dinosaurs. However, Costa Rica is known for other things than being the setting where Wayne Knight’s character Dennis Nedry sold stolen dinosaur embryos to InGen’s rivals, namely its culture, natural marvels and for the world’s largest oxcart.
Though Costa Rica proudly boasts a line of historical cultural and political figures, here are the five most famous ticos and ticas (costa ricans) of modern times that created their own inspirational success stories.
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10. Joel Campbell
Joel Nathaniel Campbell Samuels is a famous professional footballer from Costa Rica who currently plays for Sporting Clube de Portugal (on loan from Arsenal) and the Costa Rica national football team. Even though his position is as a forward, he can also play on the wing.
As a professional football player, he has earned 50 caps for Costa Rica since his international debut in 2011 and was also selected for that year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America.
9. Nery Brenes
Nery Antonio Brenes Cárdenas is a Costa Rican sprinter and is one of Costa Rica’s most famous track and field athletes who reached the 400m sprint semi-finals in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He has participated in the IAAF World Indoor Championships and Golden Leagues. At the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, he won the gold medal, setting a new national and championship record.
8. Óscar Arias
Óscar Arias Sánchez served as President of Costa Rica twice, between 1986 and 1990 and again from 2006 to 2010, after challenging the Costa Rican constitution in lifting the ban on non-consecutive reelection. Known for his democratic views, Arias was recognised for his “work for peace in Central America” as a recipient of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize. Though unsuccessful, he served as mediator for the 2009 Honduran Constitutional Crisis.
7. Keylor Navas
Costa Rica’s national football team’s goalkeeper Keylor Navas made his debut in 2008 but has quickly become one of the world’s most celebrated footballers – in fact; he was named the top 2014 World Cup star by The Guardian. The 30-year-old currently plays for Real Madrid, after being transferred from Levante in 2014 for a reported €10 million.
6. Giannina Facio
Giannina Facio is a famous actress and producer from Costa Rica who has appeared in numerous films. Most notably in her famous partner’s - Ridley Scott - films. She has worked with Scott on Gladiator, portraying the wife of Russel Crowe’s character and also made appearances on Body of Lies, American Gangster and The Martian.
5. Paulo Wanchope
Paulo Cesar Wanchope Watson is a Costa Rican former footballer and former head coach of the Costa Rica national football team. As of February 2009, he was the second best scorer in the history of the Costa Rica national football team, just behind Rolando Fonseca, with a total of 45 goals in 73 international matches.
4. Laura Chinchilla
Laura Chinchilla was sworn into office in 2010, becoming the first female president of Costa Rica and the eighth in Latin America. She started her career as a non-governmental consultant, and went on to serve as Vice-Minister and then Minister of Public Security in the José María Figueres administration and one of two Vice-Presidents during the Óscar Arias administration.
Though her views on abortion and same-sex marriage (she, however, supports gay rights) have been somewhat controversial, Chinchilla is celebrated for her work in combatting climate change and raising awareness for environmental protection and sustainability.
3. Franklin Chang Díaz
As the third Latin American and first Costa Rican to travel to space, Franklin Chang Díaz has participated in seven NASA space shuttle missions – a record he shares with American astronaut Jerry L. Ross. Chang Díaz, who is of Chinese descent, was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2012.
His final mission in 2002 saw him perform three spacewalks as part of the construction of the International Space Station. After retiring from NASA in 2005, he went on to develop the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, an electromagnetic thruster for spacecraft propulsion.
2. Debi Nova
Deborah Nowalski Kader, also known by her stage name Debi Nova is a singer-songwriter from Costa Rica who currently resides in Los Angeles. She has been nominated for a Grammy award at least six times for songs like “One Rhythm” that reached number 1 on the Billboard Dance Charts. She has also collaborated with famous artists like the Black Eyed Pease, Mark Ronson, Sean Paul, Franco De Vita and Ricky Martin.
1. Maribel Guardia
Crowned Miss Costa Rica and Miss Photogenic in 1978, Maribel Guardia went on to become a prominent singer, actress, and TV hostess in Latin America. She appeared in films like Pedro Navaja and the telenovelas Al Diablo Con Los Guapos and Tú Y Yo, which is considered to be one of her major soap opera roles.
Should someone else be on this list that we haven’t included? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article was originally published in February 2015.