- Casa Presidencial photo -

Published on Monday, September 13, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government has moved up the observed Independence holiday from Wednesday, Sept. 15 to today, Monday, Sept. 13.

The customary public parades and concerts, for the second consecutive year, are suspended by order of the Ministry of Health to avoid covid-19 contagion. Instead, celebrations will only be virtually open to the public.

Since the Act of Independence of the Central American territories was proclaimed in 1821, in Guatemala City, Costa Rica was no longer under the Spanish government and formed part of the Federation of Central American States.

This independence launched a new stage for Costa Rica history. It was now a free and independent nation. The Independence Day of Costa Rica is commemorated on Sept. 15 of each year, the Ministry of Culture said in its statement.

As of this date, they began with a series of traditions whose purpose is not to forget this important date that remembers and enlivens the national feeling of freedom among Costa Ricans.  Among the most representative and popular custom celebrations are:

The pathway of Independence Torch. The torch path is a traditional relay race from Guatemala down to Costa Rica. Every Sept. 13, the torch is passed between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This route is carried out by students from different regions of the country, who are previously chosen in their schools. Generally, they are exemplary students.

The torch route ends in Cartago Province. This is where all five countries reunite as a symbol of joint celebration by representatives of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which became independent on September 15, 1821, the ministry said.

Today’s transnational tradition of more than half a century, began at the end of the 1950’s as an initiative by school professor Alfredo Cruz Bolaños, who at that time served as supervisor of the Public Education Institute.

Between 1958 and 1964, Cruz traveled through Central America learning how Independence Day was celebrated in each of the five Central American countries. Inspired by his observations, he created the idea of starting a route carrying a torch through Central America, according to Sonia Gómez, historian of the Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.

This year, the torch route will be starting today and will reach Cartago city tomorrow, organized by the Ministry of Culture, Education and other institutions. It will not be as public as it was before, but it will be broadcast live during the day on the Ministry's Facebook page and on local channel 13, which is the official government channel.

Lantern parade. Although Independence Day is celebrated on Sept. 15, the celebrations take place throughout the month. One of them and perhaps the most anticipated by children is the well-known lantern parade that took place every Sept. 14 at night.

“Every year hundreds of children prepare in advance what they will present with high pride on September 14, lanterns of all sizes, colors and very elaborate creations, some, the most practical, buy an already built lantern, but participating in the said activity is a pride and pleasure,” the ministry said.

The lantern parade usually started at 6 p.m. Children, accompanied by their parents and teachers, walked through the streets with their lanterns lit and singing Costa Rica's hymns.

In Costa Rica, the lantern parade tradition began in 1953, after the 1948 Revolution. There was a need to preserve national values. Teacher Víctor Manuel Ureña Arguedas (1912-1995) understood this. The director of San José Province schools took it upon himself to inspire civic spirit in the people, starting with the children who organized the first parade. Ureña officially organized the lantern parade and asked teachers from all schools and colleges to carry out this activity every year on Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.

This year due to the pandemic, the celebrations have changed and at most schools, students made their homemade lanterns as homework assignments.

Student parade. Another of the most anticipated traditions is the parade of students through the main streets and avenues throughout the country.

Costa Rica does not have an army, which is why those parades are organized by the schools when students and their school bands make their community parades. On some occasions, these parades were led by students in traditional costumes dancing Costa Rican music.

This year, there will be no parades. Instead, the ministry band will present a folk music concert tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m., which will be broadcasted on local channel 13 and
on the Ministry's Facebook page.
Also, the National Theater will present a concert of folk music performed by the San José Concert Band at noon on Sept. 28. The concert will be broadcast on the Theater's Facebook page.

The California-based company, Intel, will hold a fireworks show made with 500 drones. The show will take place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the National Stadium, in Sabana Canton, San José Province, as part of the celebrations of the bicentennial of independence, announced the Municipality of San José. The show is virtual and will be streamed on the Municipality Facebook page.

Houses and government institutions were fully decorated. Another way to celebrate is the decoration in houses, public institutions and private companies, among others, with national symbols such as flags, lanterns, art handicrafts among others.

According to the historian Gómez, there is no exact data about when Costa Ricans started to decorate their homes and institutions. Researcher David Díaz Aria wrote in his report, "La Fiesta de la Independencia en Costa Rica, 1821-1921," (the Costa Rican Independence Day festivities, in the English language) that in 1846, when the 25th anniversary of Independence was commemorated, a delegation of politicians went to the house of a member of the capital's economic elite, where they found ornaments (referring to patriotic decorations) decorating the house.

To learn more about Independence Day folk celebrations, the Museum of Costa Rica is displaying the White, Blue and Red Exhibition today and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. As of Wednesday, the exhibition can be seen virtually on the museum's website.

Also, in celebration of the bicentennial of independence, the government enabled the Spanish Language website "200 Costa Rica” to share about the cultural activities that will take place in celebration of the 200 years of Costa Rica’s Independence Day.

What activity to celebrate the independence of Costa Rica is organized in your community?
We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com


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