For those who have the chance, traveling to Costa Rica in mid-September can be the most memorable time to vacation here as you can take part in their Independence Day celebrations. The history behind the holiday began in on Sept. 15, 1821. This date was when a Central American Congress agreed to and signed “The Act of Independence”. This document asserted that Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica were independent and free of the Spanish Empire.
The Central American Independence was utterly unlike most other countries in the Americas, as they did not have to fight anyone for independence. Since the Spanish government had depleted both its armies and its monetary reserves due to the war with Napoleon Bonaparte, and a couple of smaller Latin American wars, Spain had begun to see the region as a financial burden. So Spain chose to support the countries and the Central American Independence as a whole rather than fight it.
Although the document itself was signed on September 15th, it took more than a month for the news to be relayed to all of the citizens as it was relayed by word of mouth from house to house.
Costa Rica then finally became a truly independent nation when it chose to separate from the Central American Republic altogether in 1838. Their traditions and culture have been celebrated every September 15th since that time beginning with a symbolic independence torch. Much like the way the Olympic torch travels, the independence torch is carried by relay from Guatemala to Costa Rica’s colonial capital of Cartago, always arriving on Sept. 14. when the big countrywide celebration begins.
The celebration begins with their traditional nighttime lantern parade which is called Desfile de Faroles by schoolchildren. The children make homemade, colorful paper and wooden “lanterns” (nowadays with LED lights) which they carry through the streets. These lanterns are in all types of shapes such as houses and torches and other objects that remind the Costa Ricans of the journey that brought them the message of independence long ago. These parades take place in almost every city and town in the country on the night of September 14th.
The national holiday on the 15th of September is a national holiday so be prepared for the fact that most businesses and institutions are closed for the day. Costa Ricans will emerge on the streets in their traditional clothing, which for men is usually a white button-up shirt and white cotton pants with a red sash belt. They also adorn their outfits with a red handkerchief around their neck and a straw hat. Women usually wear long, multi-colored skirts in layers, with a white, sleeveless blouse that may be embroidered, have ruffles or ribbons. Generally, a choker necklace is worn, and their hair is styled in braids or a bun with flowers.
The day is filled with parades, laughter, and enjoyment. Costa Ricans are proud of their heritage, and they are happy to share it with visitors from all over the world. Traditional foods are served, and Costa Rican music fills the air as they celebrate being a free and peaceful nation. So if you have the chance, Book your next trip to Costa Rica in mid-September and share in the warmth of their friendly celebrations of independence.