In 1889 a Costa Rica very different from today’s, with a population of less than 250,000, saw the birth of one influential business that still remains as the country has grown and undergone some drastic changes. La Prensa Libre newspaper is now celebrating its 125th anniversary and its success as Costa Rica’s longest-running news provider.
The paper spent its first years surrounded by the country’s heavy political turmoil and electoral fraud. It openly backed José Rodríguez Zeledón in the 1890 presidential election where he received the majority vote but was nearly denied office by then-president Bernado Soto, who had chosen Ascensión Esquivel Ibarra to succeed him. La Prensa Libre and the Catholic Church rallied the people to protest Soto and threaten him with an armed uprising.
Rodríguez eventually took the presidency and during his tenure he began a dictatorship by disbanding congress in 1892 and suspending civil and political rights until he left office in 1894. The federal government under Rafael Yglesias Castro censured La Prensa Libre from reporting on politics a few years later.
Since then it has been through world and civil wars, economic crises, the construction of the nation’s first railway, and the proclamation of the 1949 Constitution of Costa Rica.
According to a release from the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, “La Prensa Libre is undoubtedly an inherent characteristic of what it means to be Costa Rican, it’s part of our idiosyncrasy and the existence of the same democratic national system could not be conceivable without this legendary medium.”
Prensa Libre is currently owned by Grupo Extra, which also runs Diario Extra, Extra TV, and Radio América.