Battle Of Rivas
On April 11th every year, the Battle of Rivas is commemorated in Costa Rica. Known as Juan Santamaria Day, this holiday also commemorates the 19-year old barefooted soldier who fought for his country against the forces of William Walker in 1856.
During this holiday, people gather at the statue of Santamaria in the park at Alajuela or visit the museum that was established in his honor. People also enjoy parades, concerts, and other national activities. And school children all across the country will dress up to reenact the Battle of Rivas in-school performances.
The History Of The Battle Of Rivas In Costa Rica
During the mid-19th century, William Walker cooked up a plan to conquer the Central American states. His plan was to establish private military expeditions into Latin America and then turning them into English-speaking colonies that he could control. This process was known as filibustering. His plan was to claim this land and to make it a new federation of the U.S.
As Walker consolidated his forces in Nicaragua, the president of Costa Rica, Juan Rafael Mora, watched with concern. Mora decided to declare war on Walker to protect his country and its people. The response from Walker was predictable. He decided to order an invasion of Costa Rica by his filibuster forces.
On March 20th, Mora’s army surprised and attacked Walker’s forces who were being led by Colonel Louis Schlessinger. Schlessinger ended up abandoning his troops and they were easily defeated. Listening to rumors that Mora’s forces were going to attack from the north, Walker abandoned Rivas and headed out. Mora was able to slip into Rivas and capture the city easily.
Unfortunately, many of the dead from the war were dumped into the wells of Riva and a cholera epidemic broke out. This epidemic was brought back to Costa Rica and resulted in 10% of the population being killed. As a result, Mora was blamed for the epidemic and he lost favor with the public.