Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's Independence Day

In 1821, Costa Rica, along with a handful of other Central American countries, declared its independence from Spain—and September 15 became Costa Rica's Independence Day. Throughout the last week we've noticed businesses, restaurants, and vehicles throughout our community decked out in red, white, and blue bunting and Costa Rican flags to mark the national holiday.

A brief lesson in Costa Rican history teaches us that Costa Rica's declaration of independence occurred in Guatemala. The Costa Rican people learned of their newfound independence weeks later when torch bearers who had traveled through countries to the north delivered the message in Cartago, the old capital of Costa Rica.

On Friday, September 14, schools across the country celebrate the holiday. Younger kids dress up in traditional Costa Rican dress and carry faroles (lanterns) in parades. The faroles are representative of the torches carried to the country in 1821.

Our girls had a chance to dress in their beautiful new Costa Rican outfits and loved it. They were particularly excited about the skirts that flared when they twirled. The boys wear white shirts and red bandanas. Everyone looks very festive!

Last night we were at a local hardware shop when at 6pm, everyone stood to sing the national anthem playing over the loudspeaker. Erin was singing along, since she'd learned the words at school and sung them earlier in the day. It was a nice moment.

At the same time, in Cartago, President Oscar Arias and his cabinet assembled to receive the torch of independence which had been carried by school children from the nation's northern border throughout parts of the nation and to Cartago. Interestingly enough, our family saw what we think was the carrying of this torch one evening as we were driving through the mountainside to the girls' school. There were emergency vehicles driving down the mountain with teenagers running behind them, carrying the torch and bearing the Costa Rican flag. I feel very fortunate that we got to see this traditional event.

Today we drove to Ciudad Colon, a small town west of Santa Ana, and saw a bit of their town's parade. The parades are not big, according to a Tico friend; they generally consist of a few boys playing the drums, the children marching and dancing in traditional dress, maybe a small float and a few payasos (they are clowns, but different than the clowns in the US). Anyway, we would have loved to have seen the whole thing, but we were busy paying phone bills and getting money to buy our new appliances (another blog on those to come!).

Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica!

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