Viva la Independencia!
In 1502, on his third trip to the New World, Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean shore of Costa Rica and proclaimed the area under the rule of Spain. In 1821, after more than three centuries of Spanish domination, Costa Rica gained its independence, which is celebrated every year on September 15. Actually, all of Central America proclaimed its freedom at the same time in August of that year, but it took more than a month for the news to travel from Guatemala to Cartago, then the capitol of Costa Rica. From this history came the tradition of carrying the torch, beginning in Guatemala City on 11 September when runners literally pass and carry the torch across the western tip of Honduras, through Nicaragua and eventually into Guanacaste and ultimately to Cartago on 15 September, at which time (6:00 p.m.), the national anthem is sung throughout the country as all other activity stops and the anthem is broadcast concurrently by all national television and radio stations. Costa Rica is a country of immense national pride and equally important is passing this feeling and culture on to the next generation. Preparation for the Independence Day celebrations in Costa Rica elementary and high schools begins at least a week before the actual event. It is a living example of the citizenries strong ties to family and community, something other, modern countries might take note of. Parades, dances and fiestas abound in nearly each and every little town. School children can be seen dressed in the red, white and blue colors of the national flag. Typical Costa Rican food is everywhere, including fried yucca or plantain, gallo pinto, flan, rice pudding, tres leches and even tamales, which are generally reserved only for this day and Christmas Week. It is an excellent time for visitors to witness a piece of Costa Rican history and be a part of the culture at the same time.