Juan Santamaria Day – April 11th

A statue of Juan Satamaria with torch in handApril 11th is Juan Santamaria Day, a national holiday here in Costa Rica. The holiday is recognized on Monday. Everything will be closed then.  This three day weekend is a big celebration and a time of patriotism.
Juan Santamaria is a national Costa Rican hero. A symbol of the little guy and national pride. Throughout Costa Rica this weekend will be marked with marching bands, parades, concerts, and dances. The festivities are widespread but take place especially in the city of Alajuela. When you fly into Costa Rica you land at the Juan Santamaria International Airport.
Here is the story of Juan Santamaria:
U.S. citizen William Walker and his private band of mercenaries overthrew the government of Nicaragua and attempted to conquer other nations in Central America, including Costa Rica. The Costa Rican people were called to take up arms and march north to Nicaragua to fight against Walker.
Combat was fierce and the Costa Ricans were not able to drive Walker’s men out of a building from which they commanded a superior defensive position.
On April 11, 1856 Costa Rican General José María Cañas suggested that one of the soldiers advance towards the building with a torch and set it on fire. Numerous soldiers tried and were killed. Juan Santamaría, a 19 year old military drummer, volunteered. He too was shot, but, before his death he was able to set fire to the building and contribute decisively to the Costa Rican victory over Walker’s private forces.