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Costa Rica celebrates Juan Santamaría Day

April 11, 2020

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.

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.

Saturday would typically be a day of celebration in Alajuela and across Costa Rica, but the coronavirus pandemic has hindered celebrations. 

“164 years ago, together with a humble man from Alajuela, we overcame a great threat with union and courage,” said President Alvarado, who attended a small ceremony Saturday morning. “Small, but enormous in history, Costa Rica with our simplicity and great spirit today is called to defeat another enemy.

“We will come out ahead, and we will make history again.”

What was Walker doing here in the first place? What was mid-1800s life like in Costa Rica?

And what do we know about Santamaría himself? Check out the stories below for answers:

What is Juan Santamaría Day?

Who was Juan Santamaría? Five (debated) things you should know

Life in Juan Santamaría’s Costa Rica: A look back

If you want to learn more about Juan Santamaría and Costa Rican history, we recommend visiting Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría in downtown Alajuela or the National Museum of Costa Rica in San José once the pandemic passes. 

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