September 15, Independence Day is a big deal in Costa Rica. So big in fact the entire month of September is dedicated to independence.
During the “Mes de la Patria”, red and white flags, banners and decorations are everywhere.
Here are things to know about Costa Rica’s Independence Day.
- This year is the 197th year of independence from Spain.
- Costa Rica shares independence day with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
- Though September 15 is the agreed upon date of independence for Costa Rica, the news of independence declared in Central America did not arrive in Cartago – the capital of Costa Rica – until October 13 (1821).
- There was no war or fight for independence.
- September 15 is a statutory holiday and celebrated on the day it falls. No long weekend or “puente” with this holiday.
- Every year, the symbolic Torch of Independence makes its way from Guatemala to Costa Rica, arriving in Cartago on the evening of September 14.
On October 13, 1821, when the Act of Independence of Central America documents arrived at Cartago, an emergency meeting was called upon by Governor Juan Manuel de Cañas.
There were many ideas on what to do upon gaining independence, such as joining Mexico, joining Guatemala or Nueva Granada (today Colombia).
A group was declared (Junta de Legados), which created the temporary Junta Superior Gubernativa de Costa Rica.
Independence from Spain was acknowledged and ratified on October 29, 1821, by the colonial authorities. It was then ratified in the cities of San José on November 1, 1821, at Cartago on November 3rd, 1821, at Heredia on November 11, 1821, and Alajuela on November 25th, 1821.
Following full independence in 1838, Costa Rica had no regular trade routes established to export their coffee to European markets. Lack of infrastructure caused problems in transportation (sound familiar?): the coffee-growing areas were mainly in the Central Valley and had access only to the port of Puntarenas on the Pacific coast. Before the Panama Canal opened, ships from Europe had to sail around Cape Horn in order to get to the Pacific Coast. In 1843, the country established a trade route to Europe.
An era of peaceful democracy in Costa Rica began in 1869 with elections. Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late nineteenth century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its republican development. In 1917–19, Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a dictator.
In 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election. “With more than 2,000 dead, the 44-day Costa Rican Civil War resulting from this uprising was the bloodiest event in twentieth-century Costa Rican history.”
The victorious junta drafted a constitution guaranteeing free elections with universal suffrage and the abolition of the military. Figueres became a national hero, winning the first election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then Costa Rica has been one of the few democracies to operate without a standing army. The nation has held 16 successive presidential elections, all peaceful, the latest being in 2018.
Happy Independence Day Costa Rica!