1) Luis Guillermo Solís
Even as Election Day approached, it appeared that Johnny Araya, of the then-ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) and José María Villalta, of the Broad Front Party, would duke it out in a runoff. But when the initial results came in, they showed Solís at the top of the pack, sending him and Araya to a second round of voting. When the first poll for the runoff election showed Solís with a commanding 64.4 percent of the potential votes, Araya bowed out giving the dark horse candidate an easy victory.
2) La Sele and Las Ticas
But Costa Rica wasn’t done. Just months after the country’s stand-out performance in the men’s World Cup, the Costa Rican women’s team, known as “Las Ticas,” qualified for the first time ever for the women’s World Cup. The tournament will take place next June in Canada.
3) The Gays
LGBT rights saw a number of small lifts in 2014, and by the end of 2014 gay rights advocates had won some landmark victories. The year kicked off with the country’s Protestant churches reaching out to LGBT Costa Ricans in a sign of acceptance. A month later, the Education Ministry announced that Costa Rican public schools would observe the International Day Against Homophobia, implementing education programs about sexual diversity and discrimination.
In May, newly elected Luis Guillermo Solís assumed the presidency and began firmly supporting the country’s LGBT community. In one of his first acts as president, Solís flew the rainbow diversity flag alongside the Costa Rican flag at Casa Presidencial. Starting in November, the country passed a bill allowing people with public health insurance to extend their benefits to their same-sex partners. The bill also allows same-sex couples hospital visitation rights and the authorization to make medical decisions on their partners’ behalf.
4) Keylor Navas
Catapulting himself forward with a spectacular performance in the World Cup, Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas managed to secure a spot with the legendary Spanish soccer club, Real Madrid. Aside from advancing his own career and grabbing himself a nice salary, Navas also transformed into a national hero. Now in Costa Rica, it’s almost impossible to go a day without spotting Keylor’s photo plastered on the front of a newspaper, his name emblazoned on the back of a jersey or his image waltzing across a football field on the television.
5) Craft Beer
Taking note from the craft beer boom in the U.S., Costa Ricans began their slow steady march away from the watery national brews towards stronger, finer-flavored beers in 2009 with the arrival of the Costa Rican Craft Brewing Company. It took a few years to catch on, but in 2014 craft beer grew into a full-blown movement. Bars dedicated to craft and home brewers are popping up across across San José (here, here and here are some we reviewed this year), and new breweries are starting to enter the scene. Even Costa Rica’s powerhouse cervecería — maker of the national brands Imperial and Pilsen — is getting in on the game, releasing a few “craft beers” under the brewery name Domingo 7.
1) Johnny Araya
The year 2014 was a tough year for former San José Mayor Johnny Araya. Araya entered the presidential race as the candidate for the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), and in the months leading up to February’s general election his victory seemed almost inevitable. But the Araya camp underestimated the influence of both leftist Broad Front Party candidate José María Villalta and the non-career politician Luis Guillermo Solís from the Citizen Action Party (PAC). Despite the threats to his election, Araya still skipped out on debates and blew off interviews, and Costa Rica watched as Araya’s poll numbers slowly diminished. On Election Day, Araya was forced into a runoff with Solís and, humiliated by the last set of polling numbers, dropped out of the race before the second round of voting in April.
Despite dropping out, Araya continued spending money with a “gratitude tour” that looked suspiciously like campaigning. At the end of the election, the defeated Araya campaign had spent four times as much as the Solís campaign. Making matters worse for the disgraced candidate, in December a PLN ethics commission banned Araya from running for office for four years, claiming he “brought shame to the National Liberation Party … [and] caused the biggest defeat in [the] party’s history.” The disqualification makes Araya ineligible to run for mayor of San José in 2016, a position he held for 22 years before running for president.
2) The guy who tried to smuggle hundreds of animals through Costa Rica’s airport
In what is believed to be the largest animal trafficking case in at least 20 years, German tourist Maciej Oskroba was caught at San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport with more than 400 live animals in his luggage. The animals were seized and Oskroba was deported without his bounty.
3) This tiger shark off of Costa Rica’s Coco’s Island
4) Stabbing punks from the World Cup
Costa Rica had an unexpectedly beautiful run in the World Cup and the energy of the whole country during that time was electric. Unfortunately, not everyone took the opportunity to celebrate, and during Costa Rica’s final match against the Netherlands a vicious stabbing in the Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José took down two fans and another fan was injured by a glass bottle. The incident cleared the packed plaza, where thousands of Josefinos had gathered to watch the match, and put a damper on the end of Costa Rica’s legendary World Cup run.