What is “Pura vida” in Costa Rica?
Pura vida is a phrase used in Costa Rica on various occasions, but especially in response to a greeting (“How are you?” – “Pura vida”) and is equivalent to “very well”, although it should be emphasized that the inhabitants of Costa Rica give it a broader and deeper interpretation. The simple meaning of Pura Vida is pure life or simple life. And this has a lot to do with the culture and attitude of the local Ticos. The people of Costa Rica tend to be much more relaxed and carefree than many other countries and peoples. They just don’t worry as much as others do, there is really no need to worry when you are in paradise. It is probably the most common phrase that travelers to the country often hear. Pura Vida is both a greeting and a farewell, an answer to the question, “How are you?” and an expression uttered-perhaps shouted-on joyous occasions. The “pura vida” symbolizes for Costa Ricans the simplicity of good living, the attachment to humility, abundance, exuberance, well-being, joy, peace, satisfaction, conformity, happiness and optimism, associated with the art of appreciating the apostura in the simple and natural, the art of good living.
Some researchers like Víctor Manuel Sánchez Corrales, from the University of Costa Rica, suggest that it was at the end of the 1940s when in some sectors of Costa Rica began to pronounce that phrase that little by little became the main letter of presentation of the Ticos: ¡Pura vida! Today, it is still their trademark.
The origin of the phrase is attributed to the 1955 Mexican movie ¡Pura Vida! directed by Gilberto Martínez Solares and starring Antonio Espino y Mora, known as “Clavillazo”, and Ramón Valdés. Melquiades Ledezma, a down-on-his-luck character played by Clavillazo, repeats the phrase thirteen times during the film. The actor had already used it in previous films. It was released in Costa Rica in 1956, so the veracity of this origin is doubtful.6
Around 1990, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, ICT, carried out a large national and international campaign promoting ecotourism, where through videos, posters and other publications, it accompanied images of beautiful landscapes with aspects of national life, under the slogan “pura vida” (pure life), officially positioning a phrase that it has used on other occasions as a national brand.
The expression is now so intrinsically linked to Costa Rican language and culture that it constitutes a “group-community brand” that transcends borders and shows the particular way Costa Ricans see the world.