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Student parades are one of the most anticipated traditions organized by local schools.

- Photo via Ministry of Public Education -

Costa Rica celebrates Independence Day

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Published on Friday, September 15, 2023
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Today, Costa Ricans and those who have adopted this beautiful country celebrate the country's 202 years of independence.

The festivities such as student parades, concerts, fireworks, dances, food and folk music will continue in all communities throughout the country today.

Student parades are one of the most anticipated traditions organized by local schools. Students and their school bands dress in traditional costumes and dance to Costa Rican folk music through the main streets.

In San José City, the patriotic celebration begins at 8 a.m. when government authorities are scheduled to present a floral offering before the National Monument at the National Park in downtown San José. 

Then, at 9 a.m. President Rodrigo Chaves, escorted by members of his government, will give the traditional independence speech at the Plaza de la Democracia in downtown San José.

After that, at 10 a.m., more than 14 bands and students from San Jose's public schools will carry out the traditional student parade along Second Avenue. The parade will be broadcast live on local channel 13, which is the official government channel.

The Independence Day party will end with a fireworks show organized by the Municipality of San José.

In Costa Rica, another common way to celebrate is by decorating private and public spaces with national symbols such as flags, lanterns and art.

Costa Rica has declared 16 national symbols to symbolize its culture, flora, and fauna throughout its history.

The traditional lantern parade took place last night. The parade takes place every year on Sept. 14 at night on Independence Day Eve. 

This week, the festivities began with the arrival of the Torch of Independence, which traditionally travels through Central America from Guatemala to Panama.

The country marks today's Independence Day, as in 1821 when it was proclaimed in the Act of Independence of the Central American territories in Guatemala City.

The independence document allowed the Provincial Council of the Province of Guatemala to proclaim the independence of Central America from the Spanish Empire and 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.  

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 immediately independent.

Costa Rica 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."

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

During all those times, Costa Rican intellectuals worked hard to create 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 had to decide 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."

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 lives now, meant the local population had little allegiance to the federal government in Guatemala.

And so, it wasn't until 1839 that the country started to work as a real sovereign nation. 

How does your community celebrate the independence of Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com