Costa Rica is celebrating its Bicentenary of Independence in 2021. After signing the 1821 Act of Independence, the country has been characterized from the start for its clear institutional vocation.

Costa Rica is a country very proud of its heritage and highly conscientious about instilling this pride in their children from an early age. No other holiday is more important than Independence Day. Independence, Liberty, Freedom, Love of Country are so important for Ticos (Costa Ricans) that they have designated the entire month of September as “el Mes de la Patria” or Month of the Homeland.

Sepamos ser libres, no Siervos menguados

Today, two hundred years later, this small but ambitious Central American country effectively proves to other nations that even with scarce economic resources and facing important threats and challenges, it is possible to live in peace, freely and democratically, while respecting the environment.

The History

Costa Rica was a part of Spain, and Guatemala was the regional government for territories in Central America. This all changed in 1821, and once they became autonomous, so did every other territory, becoming what is now Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Costa Rica did not actually get the news until October 13th, 1821.

The Republic of Costa Rica gained independence as a result of the Mexican War of Independence that lasted from 1810 until 1821. Costa Rica never fought for independence, but Guatemala declared the independence of all countries in Central America that year.

On November 12, 1821, an interim government was established. On December 1, the Pact of Concord (the first Constitution of Costa Rica) was signed and it was established as the date officially designated for the commemoration of the political emancipation of Costa Rica, this led to the celebration of the first elections in December of 1821. However, it was never celebrated on that day, as the Federal Republic (1824-1839) adopted September 15 to solemnize independence. With these historical milestones the celebration of September 15 was institutionalized.

Costa Rican “independence was not gained as a result of warfare,” Julio Jurado Fernández from the Tico Times explains. “There was no war of independence. Costa Ricans became owners of their own destiny by simply ratifying Guatemala’s declaration” of freedom.

Traditions and Activities

During the month of September public and private businesses and buildings as well as people’s homes fly the national flag and are adorned with streamers and other decorations in  “White, blue and red”, the colors of the Costa Rican flag, and other patriotic signs. Throughout the country, the Independence Day is celebrated with marches, patriotic parades and hoisting of the national flag.​

Depending on where you are in the country, you might also experience traditional dances with couples dressed in typical garb, a fancier version of what was worn during colonial times. Simple “campesino” outfit for the men and beautiful wide colorful skirt and white layered blouse for women. The skirt creates movement and colors as several couples move in synch to the music of the “marimba”.

The Lanterns Parade

Faroles or Lanterns are made by Costa Rican’s to celebrate their Independence from Spanish rule (1821). There was no electricity at that time so people walked to the towns center with homemade lanterns. While community leaders were discussing plans for the next day the rest of the town was outside holding up their lanterns, probably singing with voices high in anticipation of their freedom from Spain. People still gather at community centers or schools with their lanterns on the eve of Independence Day, September 15th.

Educational centers will have the opportunity to hold civic events in person, as long as all the protocols established to prevent Covid-19 infections are complied with. These events will have a maximum duration of 40 minutes and a limited capacity.

The Freedom Torch

The official festivities actually begin the night prior to Independence Day on September 14th when a series of runners carry the “freedom” torch from Nicaragua (stopping for Costa Rica in the city of Cartago) and continue all the way to Panama. This is meant to be a re-enactment commemorating history when an official “news” runner ran from border to border of the then Federal Republic of Central America, notifying the people of the region of their official liberation.

The runners, selected from local schools throughout Central America to carry the torch, take on their task with great honor, as the mission serves as a great source of patriotic pride throughout the region. These runners cross the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica each year on the eve of the day of independence arriving to Cartago( (which had been the capital at the time of their independence) , where the torch is usually welcomed by the acting president of the country. At this same time, the entire nation comes to a stop to sing their national anthem, with most citizens singing along whether they be young or old, home or standing on a street corner, whether riding a bus or driving a car, wherever they may find themselves, their enthusiastic patriotism is both humbling and contagious. This year will be a little different due the COVID restriction , the route of the torch will be hardly representative in ten points of the country between Peñas Blancas and the central canton of Cartago.

The Bicentenary

Costa Rica has reached the bicentenary of independence, 200 years of this beautiful homeland on its fighting feet, with big challenges and big hopes, and with the confidence that we will overcome the difficulties that today worry us. If you are lucky enough to live in or be visiting Costa Rica in the month of September , you are sure to take notice of the many festive displays of Tico pride and patriotism just about everywhere you go throughout the country, it will be even more so because it is an important year for the country, it celebrates its bicentennial.

It will be from September 1st when the highlights of the bicentennial festivities begin to take place . The bicentennial celebration will feature more than 400 activities across 55 institutions.

Highlights:

Festival of Light ( Festival del Luz):

When: September 15, 8:00 pm Where: National Stadium , San Jose, Costa Rica

Art, music, dance, actors, fireworks, the first drone show in our country, and many more surprises, will be part of the great event organized at the initiative of the Municipality of San José. The event will be broadcast live by repretel.com, Teletica, Official FB profile pf Municipalidad de San José and official FB of Festival del Luz.

For more activities organized by Costa Rica Government check the official calendar in the website dedicated to the Bicentenary