Costa Rica will celebrate its 200th birthday on Wednesday, September 15.
But if you had been living in Costa Rica on September 15, 1821, you wouldn’t have heard shouts of independence for nearly a month. Word that Central America had declared its independence from Spain didn’t arrive to Cartago — the colonial capital — until October 13.
And it took several more weeks for the rest of Costa Rica’s cities to ratify the act of independence. (News traveled slower in the days before daily email newsletters.)
Even then, Costa Rica didn’t exist in the form we know today. Though it had its own government, it had no permanent capital and aligned itself within the Mexican Empire.
This dissonance led to a short civil war in 1823. A Republican victory assured Costa Rica would break from Mexico … but instead of full independence, it became part of the Federal Republic of Central America, a singular sovereign state.
By 1840, the Republic of Central America had dissolved, allowing for all members to establish their own republics. Costa Rica briefly became the “Free State of Costa Rica” until 1848, when a reformed constitution officially (and finally!) established the Republic of Costa Rica.
So when is Costa Rica’s Independence Day? As we’ve seen, independence is messy business. September 15, 1821, is as a good a date as any.
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