Banco Central de Costa Rica


Notable citizens portrayed in banknotes


 Región de Acordeón

Braulio Carrillo Molina

1800 - 1845


Braulio Carrillo was born in San Rafael de Oreamuno, Cartago, on the 20th of March 1800. He studied Law and graduated as an attorney. He was a Magistrate for the Supreme Court of Justice, which he then came to preside. He was elected as Deputy to Congress, and in 1828 became President of Congress. Additionally, Carrillo represented Costa Rica before the Federate Congress.

Carrillo was Head of State on two occasions. From 1835 to 1837 and again in 1838 as a result of a coup d’état. He was recognized as President by Congress on the 26th of June, was sworn two days later, and remained in power until 1842. He ruled with an iron fist, instilling values like honesty, morality, and hard work. Carrillo enthusiastically promoted the country’s development, bringing about progress and order in Public Administration.


During his administrations, he abolished the so-called Ambulance Law (Ley de la Ambulancia.)  He firmly fought idleness and vice, abolishing holidays and religious festivities to this end. He also paid off the country’s foreign debt, and on the 8th of November 1838 he broke ties with the Central American Federation, declaring Costa Rica "a free and independent State."


Under his administration, the road to Matina was built and inaugurated, thereby saving the country in costs for exporting coffee through the Pacific coast. He also enacted the so-called Carrillo General Code (Código General Carillo), the first piece of legislation containing rules on civil and criminal law with their respective procedures, and set up the Judicial System. It was this way that Braulio Carrillo completed the country’s independence from Spain -until that time, it was Spanish laws that were enforced.  He ordered by decree the creation of the courts of justice and juzgados, and established custom tariffs and regulations for the public treasury and for the Police. In 1842, Francisco Morazán invaded Costa Rica and Carrillo was deposed. He sought exile in El Salvador, where he was killed on the 15th of March 1845. In 1971 he was declared a Distinguished Citizen and Architect of Costa Rican State by Congress.

Source:  Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez, Historian

Mauro Fernández Acuña

1843 - 1905

Every year on  the 22nd of November Costa Ricans celebrate Teachers’ Day, honoring the memory of distinguished citizen Mauro Fernández Acuña.

Don Mauro was born on 19th of December 1843. His father, Aureliano Fernández, died as a result of the cholera epidemic that hit the country. His mother, Mercedes Acuña, had two more children, and was therefore left in a precarious situation. With great sacrifice, Mercedes provided for as much of an education as she could for her son. By the time he was 8, Mauro already spoke English and French, read the classics, played the piano, and sang.


In his adult life, he graduated as a lawyer, and worked as co-magistrate and attorney- magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice. Fernández served the country as a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1888. He was also a deputy for the Congress of the Republic. He was a professor of Forensic Law, as well as Minister of Finance. However, his influence was most significant and everlasting as Minister of Education during the Administration of Bernardo Soto. Major changes needed to be introduced in Costa Rican education. Thus, in 1886, the General Law of Common Education (Ley General de Educación Común) was passed, and as a result the country’s education would take a fundamentally scientific approach and would be more practice-oriented.


With his educational reform, Mauro Fernández accomplished major achievements, such as teacher instruction; implementing modern teaching methods, and organizing the curricula. New schools were opened, e.g. the emblematic Liceo de Costa Rica, the Instituto de Alajuela, the Colegio Superior de Señoritas, and the Escuela Normal (Teachers’ College).


Furthermore, curricula were approved for obtaining a high-school degree through sufficiency tests. The Organic Regulations for Graduate Education Schools, and higher education institutions were created for Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Music. A school statistics office was also created, as well as the education boards, El Maestro magazine, and school warehouses.


Source: Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez, Historian

Alfredo González Flores

1877- 1962


On the 15th of July 1877 there was unusual joy and hustle at the home of Elemberta Flores and Domingo González. She gave birth to one of Costa Rica’s most distinguished citizens - Alfredo González Flores.


He completed high school at the Liceo de Costa Rica, and eventually specialized in Law and Economics. Both of these served to provide the country with highly valuable services - first as a Deputy in Congress, and then as President of the Republic.


In 1910, while serving in Congress, he was appointed as First Designated Member of the President, and as such he was called to exercise as President of the Republic from 1914 to 1917. He came to power because in the 1914 elections no candidate obtained an absolute majority. Thus, a twist of fate gave Costa Rica one of its most progressive governments of all time.


Those who believe that the President would be easily persuadable would be proven wrong. González Flores was a statesman, a visionary man with an extraordinary intellectual capacity. He was convinced that the country needed a change in course to take the path to a more integrated development. His economic and social reforms were definitive, including, for example, the non-convertibility of currency, savings, control of gold reserves, bond issuance, creation of banks, as well as introducing property and income taxes -under the premise that the rich should pay as such, and the poor should pay as such.


González Flores was enlightened and ahead of his time, but his revolutionary measures touched upon major vested interests. Thus, Federico Tinoco, who was his Minister of Defense, overthrew him on the 27th of January 1917. González Flores was exiled in the United States. He remained on the fringes of party politics upon his return to the country, although he did serve the country in countless public offices with dignity and transparency.


Source: Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez, Historian.

Jose Figueres Ferrer

1906- 1990


This man of a profound, innovative thinking was born on the 25th of September 1906. He studied in the United States, and settled in his farm "La Lucha" upon returning to Costa Rica, where he started growing pita and coffee.  Yet fate had a different life ahead for is country life-lover turned into an entrepreneur. He decided to raise his voice as he disagreed with the path the country was taking. In his view, democracy was being tarnished, and civil freedoms were no longer being upheld. In 1942 he gave a speech on the radio explaining his dissatisfaction with the Government -a speech he could not finish. He was taken prisoner and subsequently deported to Mexico. And that was where it all started.


José Figueres rose in arms in 1948, when Congress annulled the elections whose legitimate winner was Otilio Ulate Blanco. His friend Francisco Orlich opened up a second battle front in the country’s northern region. Costa Rica was now in civil war. The government’s forces deposed arms after a little more than four months, Figueres went into San José, acclaimed as a hero.


Laying the foundations for modern Costa Rica, the Founding Board of the Second Republic was established, and was presided over by Figueres. The board’s decrees strengthened democracy, and it had highly significant social achievements. And in a magnificent example to the world, the Army was dissolved by decree. On the 7th of November 1949, a new Political Constitution entered into force -and continues to be in force. The next day, the Board handed over power to Otilio Ulate. Figueres Ferrer founded the National Liberation Party on 12th of October 1951, a party which took him to the Presidency twice (1953-1958, 1970-1974). His administrations account for many accomplishments, the following being among them:


• Costa Rica’s Electricity Institute (ICE) was created (ICE)


• The Banking System was nationalized


• The National Institute of Housing and Town Planning was created


• The Costa Rican Board of Tourism was created


• The Mixed Institute of Social Assistance was created


• The General Directorate of Social Adapting was created


• Costa Rica’s Technological Institute was created


• The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports was created


• The Atlantic Railroad was nationalized


• The National Symphonic Orchestra was created


• The National University was created


• The National Comission of Indigenous Matters was created


• A Family Code was passed


• Costa Rica’s Oil Refinery (RECOPE) was nationalized


• The Social Security System attained a universal coverage


• All hospitals were passed to be under the administration of the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS).


The Costa Rica of today has José Figueres indelible mark.  His fights and commitments make him the most significant public figure and ruler in the country’s history. Thus he was declared Costa Rican Character of the 20th Century. The leader of the Second Republic died on 8th of June 1990, and was declared a Distinguished Citizen on 12th of November of that year


Source: Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez, Historian.

María Isabel Carvajal Quesada

1888- 1949


A living example of struggle and tenacity was born in 1888 - María Isabel Carvajal, a.k.a. Carmen Lyra. A unique woman, she was unhesitant in facing the whirlwinds of her time. She fought for the social and political vindications of her beloved people, marginalized sectors -a love that was reciprocal and passionate.


She earned a scholarship to continue with her studies in Pre-School Education at the Sorbonne University, in Paris. Upon her return, she founded and directed Costa Rica’s first Montessori School, located on the "Edificio Metálico" in San José, serving mainly poor children. She was also the first professor at the Chair of Children’s Literature of the Teacher’s College. Carmen Lyra’s legacy to national culture is considered of vital importance. She was the pioneer of children’s narrative in Costa Rica, and helped promote the social realistic trend in Costa Rican literature.


Ever since she was very young her social sensitivity lead her to participate in social and political activity. Her merciless fight against the government of the Tinoco brothers was a breeding ground for her combative life.


With extraordinary courage and vehemence, Carmen Lyra led students, women, and workers until destabilizing the Tinoco brothers and their ferocious dictatorship. At this point she underwent a metamorphosis, turning into an icon for her people. From this point on, she would fight with all her strength against injustice, becoming a fundamental part of popular movements of the first part of the 20th Century. She devoted herself entirely to political action. She stood out as a journalist and was a skilled leader of Costa Rica’s Communist Party. She began her work in Literature guided by her friend Joaquín García Monge, who wrote in the Repertorio Americano magazine: "Carmen Lyra, with her incredibly modest humanity, has come to be a symbol of freedom for her country. It seemed a lie that such a petite, fragile body could harbor a women’s soul so sweet and yet so great," Gutiérrez wrote.  "The teacher who had turned love and beauty into her gospel, devoting herself to children and to her country, the writer of our wildlife uncles, all full of humanism and optimism, was predestined to be also an incarnation of civic courage and of an incorruptible republican spirit of the Costa Rican people," he said.


She wrote several stories and short stories for school books, and also published some stories showing a profound commitment to the dispossessed. However, her most unforgettable work and the one which immortalized her was Los Cuentos de mi tía Panchita (Short Stories of my Aunt Panchita), which is considered to be a classic of Costa Rican literature.


She died in Mexico in 1949, where she had lived in exile since the end of the 1948 civil war. She was acknowledged as a Distinguished Citizen in July 1976.


Source: Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez, Historian.

Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno



Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno died on the 4th of January 1945. Just a little before passing, he decided he wanted his funeral to be simple, and void of all official pomp.


He said before he died:


"When my life is over I do not want any ceremony honoring my body; I do not want any speeches beside my tomb, and instead of (musical) notes of national mourning, I prefer the murmur of the good, generous land that I have loved and admired so much, falling over my mortal remains, harboring me and taking me to eternal oblivion."


With these words Ricardo Jiménez summed up, like no other public figure before or after his time, the virtues and limitations of our people, standing out among politicians for having a miraculous sense of intuition that made him lord and master of our country’s public life for half a century.


He was a typical Costa Rican liberal who did not want an all-mighty government for our country. He strove for public liberties, believed in Law and in Education, and constantly defended those who were persecuted. Moreover, he defended until he died that there should be a respectful separation between the Church and the State. He served in the highest three offices in the Government of the Republic: as Chairman of the Constitutional Congress,  President of the Supreme Court of Justice, and three times as President of the Republic.


Among his accomplishments the following are worth mentioning:


• Rebuilding Cartago City after the 1910 earthquake


• Promoting the construction of public buildings, roads, piping systems, as well as the dock in Puntarenas.


• Founding the Mortgage Loan Bank, the National Insurance Bank, the General Directorate for the Postal Service, the School of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Health, and Completing electrification of the Pacific Railroad.


Named a Distinguished Citizen in 1942, Ricardo Jiménez was essential in our history. His mark was profound, and his talent and powerful personality transcend time.


Source: Osvaldo Valerín Ramírez, Historian.


Imagen de Estructura
Banco Central de Costa Rica © 2016.