Continuity and Change in Latin America and Spain
Edited by Paloma Fernández Pérez and Andrea Lluch
Chapter 8: From the domination by family elites to the presence of multiple players: capitalism in Costa Rica in the twentieth century
The aim of this chapter is to contribute to the knowledge of family businesses, specifically large family businesses (LFB), in Costa Rica. In particular, the chapter will discuss the causes that can help to understand the continuity and survival of LFB in Costa Rica in the twentieth century. This period in the economic history of Costa Rica can be divided into three identifiable phases and these will provide the basis on which the chapter is organized. With the first period covering 1870 until 1948, followed by another spanning 1948 to 1978 and concluding with a third that comprises 1978 to the present day, this chapter shows how the Costa Rican economic scenario has transformed from being dominated by a small elite of families to one where multiple players are in competition and LFB play a relatively smaller role. Generally speaking, little is known about family businesses and LFB in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Observation Center for Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Companies points out that 50 per cent of these types of company are family-run (Brenes and Govaere, 2009). With respect to LFB in particular, even less is known. Nevertheless, it is possible to put a dimension on the phenomenon. In Costa Rica today, 95 per cent of companies are classified as micro, small and medium-sized (MEIC, 2013). If we consider that there are approximately 49 000 companies in total, the group of large businesses would add up to about 2450 firms.
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