Independence Day in Costa Rica!

Independence day in any country is an important marker of a country’s ability to stand on its own two feet and claim its rightful spot against the rest of the sovereign nations. Naturally, the means in which a country attains its independence spurs the traditions which well be help up in festivities on the day which is relegated for celebration. One of the great things about learning Spanish in Costa Rica is that you get to immerse in the local holidays and cultures.

Personally, I hail from the US of A and therefore associate Independence day with fireworks, hotdogs, and endless traffic jams. I was somewhat surprised to learn that fireworks were not a part of Costa Rican Independence day tradition. Curious to find out what inspired the festivities which were to color the celebration of Costa Rica’s independence, I embarked on a brief history trip.

Costa Rica had been a province of Spain, however, since there wasn’t much mineral wealth to speak of Costa Rica was able to exist with a decent amount of autonomy. When Spain began to tax their provinces they began to revolt, and such revolutions culminated in the signing of the Guatemalan Independence Act on September 15, 1821. In typical “Tico time” fashion Costa Rica didn’t receive the news of their independence until about two months later. The way in which they were alerted about their newly acquired freedom was by what has become known as a freedom torch.

The freedom torch went from Nicaragua to Cartago alerting people of their independence, an act which has since been made into a tradition. The night prior to Independence Day a torch is carried down that same route and upon its arrival to Cartago (which had been the capital at the time of their independence) the entire nation comes to a stop to sing their national anthem.

Here in Jaco, the school children participate in a town wide running of the torch. Led by firetrucks to ensure their safe passage through the streets the children parade from their way down the main road holding their own symbolic versions of the torch.

costa rica independence dayOn the morning of Independence day I was awoken by the unfamiliar sounds of sirens and drumbeats making their way down the not so distant main road. Every town and city in Costa Rica the town takes part in a day long parade. Every school participates, their students marching bands had practiced ardulently in the weeks leading up to the day of the parade. All the children dress in typical Costa Rican garb, or in colors of their flag- red white and blue.

Smiling through their sweat soaked brows, children entertained with rehearsed rhythms drummed out by bands of children in crisp red shirts. Gaggles of preciously primped little girls in traditional long skirts and wide brimmed hats showed off their folklore dance moves. Every now and again a precariously balanced child would strut passed us on a pair of stilts, walking with a stiff wave so as not to lose their balance.

 

Despite the overwhelming heat for what is called “winter” here in Costa Rica, the turn out was massive. It seemed to be a never ending line of children walking down the road with prideful smiles plastered across their bright faces. The sense of community was overwhelming as parents greeted other parents, friends waved to each other from across the street, and parade watchers handed out water bottles to the costumed children.

While I walked back from the parade, one of the students managed to sum up the experience perfectly, saying that even though sheindependence day in costa rica was just in this country as a visitor the parade had made her feel a sense of belonging.

As the drumbeats subsided and the sirens faded, the parade watchers and walkers dispersed to the beach to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day in their independent country with a pride and joy.

 

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