Sunday, March 22, 2009

Measuring Land in Costa Rica

Land in Costa Rica is most often sold by the square meter, which is about 10.76 square feet. For larger plots of land, other units of measure become necessary. For example, rural land is usually referred to in hectáreas (hectares) or manzanas

A hectare measures 10,000 square meters.

A manzana measures 7,000 square meters.

Many Costa Ricans will also have a good idea of what an acre is, giving it an approximate 4,000 square meters--which is quite close to the more accurate 4,046 square meters. 

An approximation that seems a little more perplexing is the approximation of the lenght of a city block as 100 meters, which would make the total area of a city block a full hectare (100 X 100 = 10,000). However, the original idea behind the the manzana as a unit of measure was that it approximated the area of a city block. While this strange approximation does not create any functional problems because it is so widely accepted, it is nonetheless interesting for those of us interested in etymology. 

Another interesting approximation that Costa Ricans make is for the gallon, which is often assumed to be four liters. This gallon measurement comes somwehere between the 3.79 liters used in the United States and the 4.54 liters for the imperial gallon. 

Although I am stressing these approximations, it's important to point out that they're quite accurate. I would actually say that Costa Ricans generally have a better grasp on units of measure and their conversions than most people in the US. Costa Ricans--on average--have to economize on a daily basis. Costa Ricans are constantly calculating per-unit prices to stretch out their money as much as possible--in ways that most Americans are only now learning how to do. 

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