This month marks 200 years of the declaration of independence for Costa Rica, expected to be celebrated virtually due to the pandemic.
- Independence parade archive photo for illustration purposes only -

Published on Thursday, September 2, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This month marks 200 years of the declaration of independence for Costa Rica, expected to be celebrated virtually due to the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Costa Rican flag was raised, a special flag known as the Pabellón Nacional. This symbol is only used in formal acts where the presence of the President is present. This flag includes the great seal, one of the principal national symbols of the country.

The first act of celebration took place at the Presidential House, with the presence of seven children, representing the seven provinces of the country.

In his speech, President Carlos Alvarado stressed the importance of leaving future generations a more just, more impartial, secure and prosperous country.

Two hundred years ago, in 1821, the legal document known as the Act of Independence of Guatemala by proclaimed the independence of Central America from the Spanish Empire. This invited the other provinces of the Captaincy General of Guatemala to send envoys to a congress to decide the form of the region's independence.

The act was enacted on September 15, 1821, according to the files of the Organization of American States Foreign Trade Information System.

At that time Costa Rica was part of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, an administrative division established by the Spanish Crown.

Due to prior reforms that were taking place, on Sept. 15 the Capitanía proclaimed itself independent from the Kingdom of Spain, but it didn't mean Costa Rica was independent right away.

The country still belonged to the Central government of Léon, Nicaragua and the Nicoya provinces, according to Ana Botey, a historian from the University of Costa Rica and author of “The History of Costa Rica."

"The document stating the Central American Organization had declared independence from Spain did not arrive in Costa Rica until October, probably on a mule," Botey said. "That's how difficult communications were at the time."

Contrary to what is historically taught where Costa Rica immediately declared its’ independence,  it took at least three years for local authorities to begin developing their type of legislation.

"At this time Costa Rica was still part of the then independent Capitanía, and there were internal divisions on whether the country should join the Mexican Empire of Iturbide," Botey said. "The latter never happened, and we became part of the Federal Republic of Central America from 1823 to 1839."

During that time, Costa Rican intellectuals worked hard to create their legislation on almost anything but the Constitution.

According to historian Ricardo Fernández Guardia, in his book, "Costa Rica Historical Booklet," upon independence, Costa Rican authorities faced the issue of officially deciding the future of the country.

Fernández (1867-1950) was a historian, writer, and former Consul of Costa Rica in 1945. "Two bands formed, the Imperialists, defended by Cartago and Heredia cities which were in favor of joining the Mexican Empire, and the Republicans, represented by the cities of San José and Alajuela who defended full independence," Fernández said.

"Because of the lack of agreement on these two possible outcomes, the first civil war of Costa Rica occurred. The Battle of Ochomogo took place on the Hill of Ochomogo, located in the Central Valley in 1823," Fernández said. "The conflict was won by the Republicans and, as a consequence, the city of Cartago lost its status as the capital, which then was moved to San José."

According to Botey's study, by this time, the country had found great success in the production of coffee, which provided the country's primary income. "The Federation was falling apart but Costa Rica had to leave the group to sign export contracts with international buyers such as England," Botey said.

In 1838, long after the Federal Republic of Central America ceased to function, Costa Rica formally withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign. The considerable distance and poor communication routes between Guatemala City and the Central Valley, where most of the Costa Rican population lived then and still live now, meant the local population had little allegiance to the federal government in Guatemala.

"From colonial times to now, Costa Rica's reluctance to become economically tied with the rest of Central America has been a major obstacle to efforts for greater regional integration," Fernández explained in his Costa Rica history book.

It wasn't until 1839 when the country started to work as a real independent entity. However, Botey clarifies that this idea could also be false from the historical perspective. "Independence is an ongoing process, one that has to be worked on constantly to ensure the sovereignty of the people," she said. "I understand people need a date to celebrate for cultural purposes, but in fact, September 15 symbolizes the start of a cycle that never ends."

How is Costa Rica independence day celebrated in your community? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to

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