Republic of Central America, S of Nicaragua with its capital at San Jose. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who named it for the gold he found along its coast. Conquered by the Spanish in 1563, it was part of the captaincy general of Guatemala until independence from Spain in 1821. The country became part of the Mexican Empire of Augustin de Iturbide and subsequently a member of the Central American Confederation from 1823 to 1838. It became a sovereign republic in 1838. A bloodless coup in favor of Federico Tinoco in 1917 caused friction with the United States, and Tinoco was deposed in 1919. In December 1941 Costa Rica entered the war against the Axis. Civil war broke out briefly in 1948 following a disputed election result. A new constitution was adopted in 1949, and the country since then has been democratically governed. In 2004, the country’s reputation for good government was shaken by allegations of corruption by a number of its former presidents. Costa Rica continues to be one of the most stable and prosperous nations in Latin America, having no armed forces, and is known worldwide for pioneering the development of ecotourism.