Sunday, September 15th, 2019.

September 15, 2019

In this Daily: Día de la Independencia, the Independence Day for Costa Rica

Today is el Día de la Independencia in Costa Rica, the 198th anniversary of the nation’s separation from Spain, on September 15th, 1821. Costa Rica shares this national holiday with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. 

Today we celebrate Costa Rican culture, history, and tradition, and look at the events surrounding Costa Rica’s Independence Day. 

Costa Rican Independence, Día de la Independencia

History of Costa Rican Independence

In the early 1800s, Costa Rica was a province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which was governed as a Spanish colony. Other provinces included modern day Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. 

In the aftermath of Mexico and Peru’s wars for independence from Spain, increasing numbers of voices called for Central American independence as well. This push for independence came to a head in Antigua, where the central government of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, as well as the central government of the province of Guatemala, was located. 

Legend tells it that on the night before the Provincial Council of Guatemala (the province’s government) was to deliberate on the issue (September 15, 1821), people took to the streets of the city of Antigua. With lanterns in hand, they sang songs of freedom and independence late into the night, calling for all of Central America to be free from Spain. 

On the next day, the Provincial Council of Guatemala officially signed the Act of Central American Independence from Spain. 

This act made three major declarations. First, it declared the province of Guatemala a free state. Second, it declared the Captaincy General of Guatemala dissolved. Third, it included an invitation to the other provinces to become free and independent nations as well.

News of this decision did not reach Costa Rica until over a month later, in the then-capital city of Cartago. After a brief deliberation, Costa Rica decided to follow Guatemala in becoming a free and independent nation. 

Despite this delay in the initial news, Costa Rica decided to observe September 15th, the date the Act of Central American Independence from Spain was signed, as their Día de la Independencia. They share the date with the other Central American countries.

Costa Rican Independence, Día de la Independencia


The Continued Work for Independence

The immediate years after independence were tumultuous for Costa Rica (as well as many Latin Americans). Forming a new nation left many questions, and the ensuing decades were rife with political and military conflicts.

Internally, there was conflict over the direction of this forming nation, leading to coups, regime changes, and a civil war that shifted the capital from Cartago to San José. Externally, Costa Rica faced numerous attempts to reunite Central America through military force. 

Despite these times of unrest, Costa Rica has remained a sovereign state since its independence.

Costa Rican Independence, Día de la Independencia Day

Traditional Celebrations of Día de la Independencia

The Costa Rican celebrations of 15 de Setiembre blend the story of Central American independence with Costa Rican pride. 

On the night of September 14th, Costa Rica celebrates national pride during los desfiles de faroles (lantern parades). These parades echo the calls for Central American Independence in the city of Antigua on the night of September 14th, 1821. People make homemade lanterns of many shapes and sizes, play traditional music, and participate in traditional dances. Specific customs are slightly different per region, but all ticos are united in waving the red, blue, and white of the Costa Rican flag.  


A Day to Celebrate Costa Rica

As celebrations wind down today and tomorrow, there are many reasons to be proud of Costa Rica. It’s a peaceful country, without an army, choosing instead to focus on the wellbeing of its people. Costa Rica is also a leader in literacy, sustainability, and protection of the environment, setting an example for the whole world of a better way to live. Add in the rich culture, friendly people, and the tremendous natural beauty of the country, and there’s no place we’d rather be. 

¡Feliz Día de la Independencia!