“Pura vida,” a quintessential Costa Rican expression, translates to “pure life.” Its richness lies in its varied interpretations, encompassing phrases like “full of life,” “this is living!”, “everything’s great,” or “the essence of living.” Versatile in its use, “pura vida” serves as a greeting, a farewell, a response affirming positivity, and a means of expressing gratitude or appreciation. Today, this expression transcends mere words – it embodies a philosophy. It’s a lifestyle synonymous with a carefree, optimistic, and untroubled attitude.

The phrase’s roots trace back to Mexico, as per Víctor Manuel Sánchez Corrales from the University of Costa Rica. Its introduction to Costa Rican culture is credited to the 1956 Mexican film “¡Pura vida!,” where Antonio Espino, the lead actor, frequently employed “pura vida” in unconventional contexts. Adopted eagerly by Costa Ricans, the phrase gained widespread usage, mirroring its cinematic origin. By the mid-1990s, “pura vida” not only found its place in dictionaries but also emerged as Costa Rica’s de facto motto, an emblem of national identity and attitude.

Pura Vida! Movie poster from 1956

The film in entirety can be watched here on YouTube.