What is Juan Santamaría Day?
Costa Rica, lacking an army since 1948, doesn’t have many war heroes. The most notable exception is Juan Santamaría, a poor drummer boy from Alajuela. Santamaría helped thwart a notorious U.S. figure’s march through Central America during the mid-19th century.
Celebrated every year on April 11, Juan Santamaría Day commemorates the Costa Rican victory in the Battle of Rivas in 1856 against the U.S. citizen William Walker and his mercenary army.
After overthrowing the government of Nicaragua, Walker set his sights on other Central American countries in hopes of developing a slave-trade empire. The Costa Rican government sent troops to Nicaragua to fight the growing threat.
It seemed unlikely that Costa Rica would win the battle until young Juan Santamaría set fire to a hostel where a number of Walker’s soldiers were staying. The fire led to a heavy loss in troops for Walker’s army, but also killed Santamaría. This act of heroism confirmed Costa Rica’s sovereignty and is celebrated every year with a parade and ceremony in Alajuela.
Originally published on April 10, 2014.
You may be interested
News briefs: Costa Rica news highlights to start your FridayAlejandro Zúñiga - December 4, 2020
Happy Friday from The Tico Times! Here's the news you should know as a new day starts in Costa Rica.…
Unemployment and underemployment rates remain high in Costa RicaAlejandro Zúñiga - December 3, 2020
Unemployment in Costa Rica was 21.9% in the August-October quarter, slightly lower than the previous period but still significantly higher than the…
Saprissa, Alajuelense qualify for Champions LeagueThe Tico Times - December 3, 2020
Costa Rica's two most-popular soccer clubs will represent the country at the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. Deportivo Saprissa and Liga…