Battle Of Rivas

On April 11th every year, the Battle of Rivas is commemorated in Costa Rica. Known as Juan Santamaría Day, this holiday also commemorates the 19-year-old barefoot soldier who fought for his country against the forces of William Walker in 1856.

During this holiday, people gather at the statue of Santamaría in the park at Alajuela or visit the museum that was established in his honor. People also enjoy parades, concerts, and other national activities. School children all across the country 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 concocted a plan to conquer the Central American states. His plan was to establish private military expeditions into Latin America and then turn them into English-speaking colonies that he could control. This process was known as filibustering. His aim 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 Rivas, and a cholera epidemic broke out. This epidemic was brought back to Costa Rica and resulted in the death of 10% of the population. As a result, Mora was blamed for the epidemic and he lost favor with the public.

Observing the Battle of Rivas in Costa Rica

This holiday is observed through reenactments, parades, and other special events orchestrated for the general public. People also use the day to spend time with friends and family members.

Where is it celebrated?
Costa Rica (National holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
April 11 Thursday
Next year (2025)
April 11 Friday
Last year (2023)
April 11 Tuesday