COSTA RICA

 

The first Croatians arrived in Costa Rica from the island of Krk and the vicinity of Rijeka, in the second half of the 19th century. This was followed by immigrants from Dalmatia and the Dubrovnik region. The most famous Croatian family in Costa Rica is the Orlić family, which has even yielded the president of the republic.

Said president was Francisco Orlich Bolmarich[1], born in San Ramon in 1907. His father was Jose Orlich Zamora, and his mother was Georgina Bolmarcich Lemerić. He had two sons from his marriage to Marita Francisco Orlich Bolmarcich; Francisco Jose and Mauricio.

Before going into politics, Orlich Bolmarcich worked in coffee and sugarcane production, and then in a shoe factory. He was elected mayor of San Ramon in 1938, and then made a representative, only to participate in the civil war in 1948, where he served as the commander of the northern front. After the war, he became the minister of public works, and was again made a representative. From 1962 until 1966, he served as the president of Costa Rica, which, during his stay in office, had joined the Central-American common market. He opened the National Childrenís Hospital, which improved the state of healthcare for the rural population. In Costa Rica, the fact that Orlich Bolmarcich organized a meeting between Panamaís and Central-Americaís presidents with US president John Kennedy in 1963 is considered very important.

The parliament decorated him for his contributions for the people. He died in San Jose in 1969, and it was then that the following would be heard: His motto was work, and his passion was his country.[2]

The post office of Costa Rica published a stamp with his likeness and an envelope on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Orlich

Francisco Orlich Bolmarcich, president of Costa Rica from 1962 until 1969 (courtesy of Ana Sule Galleguillos)

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President Orlich's grandfather was among the first Croatians to arrive in Costa Rica in 1870. He was Frane Orlić, éic to his mother, from the island of Krk. It is told he was fond of saying: Everything you want will cost you, so you need to work. Don Chico, as he was known, really did work, and benefited not only himself, but those around him as well. In San Ramon, in the Alajuela region, everything of any significance was either built or sponsored by don Chico, and left to the community. He first donated materials and the project for a church which was built in San Ramon in 1924. He went to Germany in order to obtain plans for the church. After that, he donated the land for building a hospital, with the sole condition that it be named after his son Nikola, one of his children, who had died before his time. Thanks to don Chicoís donations, street lighting, a school, a communal salon, and even a bridge was built.[3]

 

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Pictured left, on the right side, is Aquileo Orlich, the only one of Frane Orlićís sons to stay in San Ramon. In the background is the church that was built according to plans that don Chico donated.


[1] In South America, it is common for people to have their motherís and fatherís family names. When they marry, women may add their husbandís family name as their third, which is usually done when said husband is well-known.

[2] Baranović, Pjero; Bezić Filipović, Branka. 2010. Hrvati na markama svijeta [DVD-ROM]. Croatian Heritage Foundation, Split branch.

[3] Magazine Vertice informativo, October 2011, pg. 17.