September 15th is Independence Day in Costa Rica, and the whole country celebrates this important event with parades of bands, lanterns (faroles), the song, “Diana” (Independece Hymn), a torch relay race and other activities.
Costa Rica gained its independence from Spain on September 15th, 1821. Before it became independent, Costa Rica was Spanish territory, and Guatemala was a center of regional government. In September 1821, Guatemala declared its independence from Spain, simultaneously declaring the independence of Costa Rica as well. On September 14th, 1821, at dusk, Guatemalans gathered to celebrate their independence. During this meeting, the Guatemalan celebration was made with lanterns (faroles) and for this reason the lanterns are now an integral part of the celebration of independence in Costa Rica. The parade of lights starts at 6:00 pm every September 14th in every community. Traditionally the National Anthem is sung during each of these activities and parades, and several radio stations transmit the National Anthem at 6am on September 15th.
Students in elementary schools and high schools play an important role in the celebrations of September 15th. The Costa Rican educational system is the pride of the country; Costa Rican patriots have always said that the future of the country’s independence is in the hands of its youth. Students are the major players in the parade of lights, parade of bands, torch relay race. It is not unusual to see people decorate their homes, offices, businesses, cars and parade with flags this month.
Costa Ricans have always celebrated the fact that their patriotic celebrations are an activity of students and citizens, and not a military group activity.
A curious fact in the history of the Independence of Costa Rica is that our country didn’t know about its independence until October 1821, because in those days, news took a month to get from Guatemala.