Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Costa Rica

Decades of U.S. and Costa Rica friendship in honor of July 4th.

On Sunday, the United States of America — a North American country between Mexico and Canada — celebrated its 245th birthday. You may have heard of it.

The United States and Costa Rica have maintained an official diplomatic relationship since 1851. Both nations are “deeply committed” to promoting democracy, education and human rights, the Costa Rican Embassy says.

But for today’s Costa Rica Daily, let’s go all the way back to June 11, 1863. Thanksgiving Day was not yet a holiday in the United States, the U.S. Civil War was raging and Mary Ford was eight months pregnant with a son, Henry, who would later revolutionize the automobile industry.

On that day, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln authored a letter to Jesús Jiménez Zamora, the newly — and democratically — elected President of Costa Rica.

“I pray your Excellency to accept the assurances of my earnest wishes for your personal happiness and for the prosperity of Costa Rica,” Lincoln wrote:

The full letter is available here through the U.S. National Archives Catalog.

President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address five months later, and he was assassinated in April 1865.

After his first term ended, President Jimenez allowed for a peaceful transition of power … but then re-took office via an 1868 coup d’état. Today, he’s best remembered in Costa Rica for mandating public education for both sexes.

As for Costa Rica-U.S. relations, the partnership has remained strong (with some notable exceptions).

U.S. Presidents who visited Costa Rica

Several U.S. Presidents have visited Costa Rica:

  • 1928: Herbert Hoover, as president-elect during a “goodwill tour” of Latin America.

  • 1963: John F. Kennedy, during a massive volcanic eruption.

  • 1968: Lyndon B. Johnson, though it was an informal visit.

  • 1982: Ronald Reagan, when Ticos were upset at the amount of security protecting the U.S. leader. A video of his visit is here.

  • 1989: George H. W. Bush, during a summit to celebrate democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

  • 1997: Bill Clinton, who got drenched when visiting a rainforest.

  • 2013: Barack Obama, during a brief visit to promote regional economic ties.

  • The current U.S. President, Joe Biden, visited Costa Rica in 2009 when he was Vice President.

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