The Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas is observed on April 11 every year. This day, also known as Juan Santamaria Day, honors this pivotal fight for Costa Rica, as well as the 19-year-old, barefooted hero who fought bravely against Nicaragua’s filibuster army and gave his life. The Battle of Rivas occurred on April 11, 1856, in the Nicaraguan city of Rivas. In Costa Rica, the fight is most known for Juan Santamaria’s destruction of the opposing army’s citadel. It is regarded as the most significant in a series of wars, with profound importance to Costa Rica’s national identity.
History of Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas
The Battle of Rivas was fought at Rivas, Nicaragua, between the army of William Walker and the army of President Juan Rafael Porras, General José Joaquin Mora Porras, and General Jose Maria Caas of Costa Rica. Walker was an American who seized control of Nicaragua, gathered soldiers, and cemented his regional dominance. Costa Rica, therefore, declared war on Walker in response to his activities. Walker’s army had been on the run after two fights with the Costa Rican army when they encountered about 700 Costa Rican soldiers in Rivas on April 11, 1856.
The two forces had been engaged in a brutal struggle for nearly nine hours without either side obtaining a definitive advantage when Juan Santamaria, drummer boy from Alajuela, offered to set fire to “El Mesón de Guerra,” a structure where Walker’s men were gathering. Santamaria, the son of a single mother, volunteered for the duty on the condition that somebody would care for his mother in the event of his death.
Santamaria ignited the thatch roof of Walker’s fortress, forcing his forces to leave. While he accomplished his goal and contributed to the Costa Ricans’ victory, Santamaria was assassinated by sniper fire. His bravery was necessary for Costa Rica’s triumph at Rivas. As a result of his sacrifice, he was named a Costa Rican National Hero.
Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas timeline
On June 29, Walker's troops fight the Chamorro government of Nicaragua at the First Battle of Rivas.
Mora fears that Walker's filibusters would make him invincible, so he launches war on Walker and his supporters on June 1.
William Walker, an American mercenary, leads a Nicaraguan army in the Second Battle of Rivas which takes place on April 11.
On April 11, Santamaria ignites the thatch roof of Walker's fortress, forcing his forces to leave.
Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas FAQs
What is the Costa Rican way of honoring Juan Santamaria?
The day of Santamaria’s death is a national holiday, and the days coming up to it are marked by marching bands, parades, concerts, and dances all around the country. The celebrations are held all around the country, but mainly in Alajuela.
What is Costa Rica best known for?
Costa Rica is recognized for its breathtaking national parks, where visitors may participate in thrilling sports such as river rafting, canyoning, cave tubing, and zip line. It’s also one of the best destinations for animal enthusiasts to see exotic animals like macaws, sea turtles, and cute sloths.
Who owns Costa Rica?
In 1561, the Spanish arrived in Costa Rica and colonized the area. For almost 250 years, it was a Spanish colony. Costa Rica, along with numerous other Central American countries, declared independence from Spain in 1821.
Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas Activities
Attend a parade
Join one of the several parades and concerts. They’re held nationwide to celebrate Santamaría.
Join in the burning of the inn
The inn fire is re-enacted in many towns and villages. This is done by igniting a palm frond structure.
Allow your kids to re-enact the battle
Children dress up as filibusters and peasant farmers to go to school and recreate the Battle of Rivas in school plays. Allow your kids to recreate the battle — it’s the best way to learn.
5 Interesting Facts About Santamaria
Rivas had its first combat
A lesser-known first battle of Rivas was fought in 1855 between Walker's army and the Chamorro government of Nicaragua.
Santamaria died at the age of 25
Santamaria, who set fire to Walker's fortress's thatch roof, was shot and killed at 25.
An airport named after him
The Santamaria International Airport in Costa Rica is named after the youthful hero, Santamaria.
Alajuela Park now has a Santamaria statue
On September 15, 1891, Santamaria's monument was constructed at Alajuela Park.
The conflict because of Santamaria
Santamaria's services enabled the Costa Ricans to win the Second Battle of Rivas.
Why We Love Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas
It promotes boldness
Juan Santamaria was bold. The Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas inspires everyone to be courageous like him.
It's a triumph celebration
The Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas is a commemoration of the Costa Rican victory against Walker's army. It’s a day full of celebration and pride.
It enables children to learn about history
The history of other countries is important. The Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas helps the younger generation learn about Costa Rica's history.
Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas dates