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The Battle of Santa Rosa drawing  by Carlos Aguilar Durán.



Costa Rica commemorates the battle against the U.S. invaders



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Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2024
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

 



On March 20, the country honored the 168th anniversary of the Battle of Santa Rosa, which took place in 1856 between the Costa Rican army and the so-called invading soldiers led by U.S. citizen William Walker.


This conflict is also known as the First Battle against the U.S. invaders.


As part of the celebrations, schools around the nation held cultural events such as folk music and dances to commemorate Costa Rica's triumph in the conflict.




According to the Ministry of Public Education's records, the circumstances that led to the battle began in June 1855, when William Walker from Nashville, Tenn., U.S., aboard the Vesta ship in Realejo Port arrived in Nicaragua with a platoon of 57 men.


Walker headed the American Falange, a group of soldiers that marched on Rivas City in Nicaragua to establish a Central American slave republic.


His purpose was driven by the primary economic activity, cotton growing, which employed African slave labor bought in the Antilles.


When Walker landed in Nicaragua, the country was in the midst of an internal battle between two political parties, the Democratic and the Legislative, which would eventually lead to civil war.


Walker's involvement helped the Democratic Party win. Then he was appointed general of the Nicaraguan Army. He persuaded Nicaraguan President Patricio Rivas of his proposal to form a united state with all Central American countries. Walker aspired to lead a slave kingdom in Central America.


Due to Walker's growing presence in Nicaragua, Costa Rica's president at the time, Juan Rafael Mora Porras, assembled an army of over 10,000 soldiers.





The Costa Rican army, led by General José Joaquín Mora Porras (the President's brother), marched to the border with Nicaragua.


Responding to Costa Rica's actions, Walker appointed Colonel Louis Schlessinger, a Hungarian soldier, who headed an army of around 300 men from Germany, France and the United States. They were known as Walker's Army.


Walker's troops invaded Costa Rica territory and settled at Hacienda Santa Rosa, a big estate located in La Cruz Canton, Guanacaste Province.


On March 20, 1856, the invaders and the Costa Rican army fought on the site. "They called it the Battle of Santa Rosa, and it only took 18 minutes for the Costa Ricans to defeat Walker's army," the ministry noted in records.


The invaders were forced to return to Nicaragua. But, barely months after losing the conflict, Walker was sworn in as President of Nicaragua on July 12, 1856.


Walker, worried by the setback, received unsubstantiated rumors that Costa Rica's army was preparing to attack Nicaragua. So he chose to meet his troops at Rivas City located in the south of Nicaragua and near the Costa Rican border. He was successful in building a new army of 3,000 soldiers.


Honduran General José María Cañas, an opponent of Walker and leader of the Costa Rica army, sends one man to the hostel where Walker and his men are staying. 


With a torch, soldier Juan Santamaría Rodríguez successfully set fire to the entire area, thus helping to Costa Rica's triumph over Walker's force.


The action was known as the Second Battle of Rivas against the Walker'a army.


The British Royal Navy detained Walker in Honduras in 1860. He was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad on September 12, 1860. He was buried in an old cemetery in Trujillo City, Colón Department, Honduras. 


Juan Santamaría Rodríguez was a drummer in the Costa Rican army, officially recognized as the national hero of Costa Rica for his actions in the battle.


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 How would Costa Rica be if the outcome of the battle had been different? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com




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