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Costa Rica celebrates Juan Santamaría Day

April 11, 2021

Costa Rica, lacking an army since 1948, has relatively few war heroes. Perhaps 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.

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

“Today marks 165 years since we were called to face a challenge where we made history: the Battle of Rivas,” said President Carlos Alvarado, who participated in a small ceremony Sunday morning.

“On April 11, we commemorate that act of courage that demonstrated what we are capable of winning as a country. It is our turn at this particular moment to honor that fact by facing a new threat with hard work, union and above all with protection for the life and health of all.”

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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