Ticos (Costa Ricans) Without Sex

In 1925 Costa Rica only men could vote, for such, only men could have a "cedula". Today, the cedula is issued without identifying the sex of the individual.


“Oh, no, it’s true, I’m without sex!,” posted on Tweeted Leonardo (Garnier), commenting on the recent change to ‘cedula’ or identity card emitted by the Civil Registry, eliminating a person’s sex.

The new cedulas issued by the Civil Registry do not indicate the sex of the individual

“I’ve seen people crying out loud because, when they get their new cedula… their sex doesn’t appear! It seems that some, indeed, need the plastic card to remind them if they were this… Or that. It makes me laugh.” wrote Leonardo.

It’s not that the Civil Registry no longer requires to know the sex of the individual or include the information in its files, the change consists of the elimination of the letters “F” and “M” that distinguishes between male and female, thus leaving the sex box empty.


So why have the sex box but not the actual sex?

Luis Guillermo Chinchilla, director of the Registro Civil, explains the change is due to “the provisions that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights” and the sex box will be eliminated from cedulas in the future, once the current batch of cards is used up.

The Civil Registry is the longest-running institution of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE), since 1888 in charge of keeping track of the vital and legal information that all Costa Ricans.

This Civil Registry is responsible for the registration of births, deaths, marriages and separations that happen every day, more than 99.5% of the country’s population has a registry. All the information collected by the Civil Registry is for the vital component to carry out the national voting processes.

The cedula is the certification of citizenship and ability to vote and is the single most carried document by all Costa Ricans – natural or naturalized – 18 and over with its 9 digit identification number that is the basis of all and everything in the country. The Civil Registry also issues a TIM (Tarjeta de Identificación de Menores ) cedula from minors from 12 to 17.

The cedula is not be confused with the “Dimex”, the residency cedula that is issued by the immigration service to all foreigners with legal residency in Costa Rica.

History of the Cedula

The first time an identify document was issued by the Civil Registry was in 1926. It included information such as features of the face, if the person knew how to write or read and all the data that allowed to identify the bearer of the document, this because it did not include a photo.

Former president of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solis could not open a bank account, for example, without his cedula

According to Rocio Montero, of the department of documentation at the TSE, the basis of the first cedula is to identify a person to be able to vote.

“In the 1925 law, only men could vote, for such, only men could have a cedula. But it was not given to all men, they had to comply with the requirements of voting, which included being able to read and write, have an income and owned land,” said Montero.

The law also marginalized the “locos, imbeciles o dementes” (crazy, imbeciles or demented) even though they may have moments of lucidity or deaf-mutes that could read and write.

Image from La Nacion archives

It wasn’t until 1937 that the cedula had a photo, but even though, it included facial characteristics of the holder.

Cedula trivia

  • The cedula is issued to citizens at no cost (save for a ¢25 colones stamp), yet it costs the institutions more than ¢3,385 colones per each one.
  • The registry information of each cedula can be obtained online by anyone here.
  • The first number of the cedula identifies the province where the birth was registered.
  • The cedula of naturalized citizens start with the number 8.
  • A man, in protest against the TSE, requested a cedula twelve (12) times between February 4 and 28, 2019, forcing the Civil Registry to consider, for the first time in history, not issuing him it for free.
  • An immediate family member (of legal age) can request a cedula and photos for their deceased loved ones

Have a question about the cedula? Visit the Civil Registry website or post your questions or comments below or to our official Facebook page.