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Juan Santamaria

Costa Rican History: Juan Santamaria

Juan Santamaria – Hero of a Peaceful Republic

It’s rare to hear Costa Rican war stories. Also, even more, unique to hear of national heroes who had a role in some violence. After all, one cool fact about Costa Rica, is that they abolished their military in 1948. However, previous to that time, tiny Costa Rica was forced to fight to preserve their independence. In 1855, an American by the name of William Walker threatened to annex all of Central America for the Southern Confederacy. By 1855, Walker had managed to control the Nicaraguan government. Then proclaim himself as “President.” His next conquest was going to be Costa Rica.   William Walker had grandiose ideas to usurp all of Latin America for the United States. Juan Santamaria had other ideas. Walker accomplished setting up dominion in Nicaragua and was moving to Costa Rica. Then stopped by Juan Santamaria in this epic event.

Juan Santamaria- The Hero

The President of Costa Rica at the time, Juan Rafael Mora, brought together a makeshift army of peasants to fight the much more heavily armed enemy. Walker and his army invaded the Guanacaste province. The Costa Rican army expelled and followed them into Rivas, Nicaragua. It is here that the enemy made their mistake; Walker and his army took protection in a wooden fort. Now enter young Juan Santamaria. It is he who bravely volunteered to burn the fort. This forced Walter and his army out of hiding, resulting in his death. Also maintaining the independence of Costa Rica. Now, April 11th a Costa Rican National Holiday in memory of Walker’s defeat in Rivas.

Places Named In His Honor

The International Airport, in which many arrive in Costa Rica, is aptly named “Juan Santamaria International Airport.” Although you may think the airport is the capital city of San Jose, it is technically in the town of Alajuela. The Alajuelenses (name of people from Alajuela) are very proud of that fact since Santamaria was born in Alajuela. There’s also an excellent museum in the center of the town, dedicated to this hero with a nearby statue showing young Santamaria leading his comrades with a torch in hand.

Current Pride Related To The National Hero

Costa Ricans take immense pride in the fact that they don’t have an army. Furthermore, Costa Rica proved triumphant through all the conflicts, they kept their sovereignty strong in the face of an enemy. Even if their neighbors were invaded, Costa Rica stayed independent. Juan Santamaria is possibly the greatest hero and symbol of Costa Rican independence.

Costa Rican History: Juan Santamaria
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