Costa Rica Independence Day Celebrations
It’s the 15th of September and that means only one thing – Costa Rica’s Independence Day! Weeks before, you’ll see stores, businesses and homes putting up red, white and blue decorations. School bands will start practicing for upcoming parades and small children will collect their supplies for homemade lanterns. One thing is clear, Ticos love their country and they are not afraid to show it!
Everything you need to know about Costa Rica’s Independence Day.
During class I asked some students to tell me more about the national holiday. Here’s what they had to say.
Way back when – 1821 to be exact – Costa Rica and other Central American territories (El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) were part of Capitanía General de Guatemala. It was on 15 September that Guatemala officially proclaimed their independence from the Spanish Empire and as a result all Central American territories were also independent.
Of course, this news took about a month to reach Costa Rica. Nevertheless, 15 September marks Costa Rica’s Independence Day.
Costa Rica’s Independence Day – Freedom Torch and Faroles:
Costa Rica’s Independence Day celebrations begin the day before (14 September), with the lighting of the Freedom Torch in Guanacaste. That torch is carried from town to town until it comes into San Jose and onto the previous capital city Cartago where the president receives it.
Along with the Freedom Torch, school children create faroles or lanterns. They light these faroles in the evening at celebrations at schools across the country. There’s also a ton of fireworks well into the night.
Why Faroles and torches? Well in 1821 Dolores Bedoya went around on foot with only a torch and encouraged the people of Guatemala to join together and show their support for independence. The town’s people waited with only torches throughout the night and into the morning when the declaration was finally signed. Today the Faroles are traditionally used to commemorate this.
Today actual fire/flames are prohibited and rather small LED lights are used to light up the Faroles.
Costa Rica’s Independence Day Parades:
On 15 September parades fill the streets. Now it’s not difficult to find one – they take place throughout the country – so we decided to head into San Jose. There were thousands of marching bands, dancers and people dressed in traditional costumes. It was awesome! And the sound will give you goosebumps.
We arrived around mid-day and it was clear that these students had been playing for hours. I even saw a drummer with bleeding hands that got wrapped up before he continued to play. The dedication and synchronization was amazing, but not surprising considering schools prepare well in advance.
Again, I’m just blown away by how well organised everything is. Traffic can be crazy because streets are blocked off, and obviously the crowds are massive but we didn’t have a single issue. We walked along the streets watching the parade without any hassles.