Juan Santamaría Day


The Costa Rican calendar apart from all the wonderful national days, festivals and religious occasions also incorporates within it, days to name after its heroes. One such day is celebrated every April 11th to honor Costa Rica’s only martial hero, Juan Santamaría.

Brave hearted Juan was born on 29th August 1831, and he is famed and respected for his gallant deed to look after his country during the Second Battle of Rivas in 1856. Juan Santamaria Day is celebrated nationwide every year and his declared as a national holiday.

During 1854, United States sent in William Walker to Central America. Their mercenary mission was to dominate the people of this republic and enslave them. It led a great deal of effort from Costa Rican president, Juan Rafael Porras side to unite other Central American states and instigate a revolution to throw out Walker from their homeland.

The rebellions lead to the birth of legend of Santamaria. When the Costa Rican troops hunted down Walker’s men, many of them found shelter in a wooden hostel. The hostel being in a valuable location to fire from made it deadly for the Tico army to make their way to it. Several soldiers were sent by General Jose María Cañas but all were killed. That was when the young blood, Juan Santamaria stepped up and volunteered. Just 19 years old then, this young boy just demanded for his mother to be looked after he was gone and stepped into the fire.

The patriotic soul fought hard and almost made his way to the hostel when he was shot. Even then he did not give up and sustained his pace. He was able to make it to the hostel and set the hostel on fire, with all his injuries fresh and agonizing. Even though he didn’t survive, his name became immortal on the pages of Costa Rican history. He passed away on 11th April. The war continued and Walker was ultimately captured and shot in 1860.

Juan Santamaria’s daring story came to light after four decades and was engraved as a prominent headline in nation’s sovereignty. A lot of historians probed the story but the deed of a young boy, who played an ordinary drummer in military, was extraordinary.

In 1891, Costa Ricans embraced his act by placing his statue in his hometown Alajuela forever. Also, another one was placed in San Jose’s congress. His mother was paid regular pension and took care of. The national government also declared 11th April as Juan Santamaria Day in 1915 and the main airport of Alajuela was also renamed after him.

Now every year, Santamaria Day is celebrated throughout the country. The Ticos honor him and pay tribute in true Costa Rican fashion. The courage of Santamaria awakens the hidden patriotism in every Tico. The festivity includes bullfights, music performances, parades, traditional dances and food. The banks, offices and schools are closed and the people rejoice in the remembrance of a 19 year old barefooted poor soldier who gave their country the last fighting chance when all hope was turned into despair.