A National Hero’s Memory

A Worthy Citizen: Juan Santamaría

Our memorable Juan Santamaría

This great hero was born in 1831, in Alajuela. He was the son of Manuela Santamaría. He is said to have been an only child and is described as a young, hardworking, humble, courageous, and very cheerful man.

Juan Santamaría, the great Costa Rican hero

Today, when accepting that this great hero, Juan Santamaría, is much more than remembering how brave he was. We also remember all those who, like him, gave their lives for our beloved homeland, which was a very significant act for all of us.

In the beginning, he was part of the troops that at, that time, were in command of a soldier named José María Cañas. He was Salvadoran and the General of that troop. In the confrontation of the Campaign of 1856, his name had begun to be historical. The great sacrifice of Juan Santamaría was to take the inn, as a brave way to burn the war room. Through this great passage, we could free ourselves from the filibusters and from slavery.

In Alajuela, there is a park where there is a bronze statue that is dedicated to the memory of this great man, along with 2 cannons of that time. You can see in that same park also 7 plaques where were written the names of several brave men who, like Juan Santamaría, died in the battle of 1856. The mentioned statue was presented on September 15th, 1891, by José Joaquín Rodríguez, which was, at that moment, the president of the Republic.

Monument to Juan Santamaría

His plate tells us about him

“I am Juan Santamaría, from Alajuela, who honored Costa Rica, by offering my life for freedom. I am the one with the glorious name, but also the humble anonymous one, who fought with boldness against the invaders.

I have been the celebrated hero. Today, I am the symbol of all those who abjure of the imposition and injustice”.

A great symbol for our country

On April 11th, 1930, Mr. José Vasconcelos had always said that Santamaría was the true hero of the race; that others had fought against Spain, the mother country, at last, of those peoples; that Juan Santamaría, on the contrary, fought against the only enemy that we had had, which were the filibusters. For that reason, the hedgehog is the continental symbol of the race.

His life: a hard trip

Juan’s mother was known by 3 different names; Doña Manuela Carvajal, Manuela Santamaría, or Manuela Gallegos. Juan and his mother’s house was a “casuca” made of “adobes and horcones”, poorly made. Its roof was of tiles; it had no windows and its floor was of raw ground, which they swept with tufts of a rudimentary brush.

He also had a deep love for his mother. He used to help his neighbors in errands, in orchards, bringing wood in the house, etc. He earned very little, but he gave it all to his mother. Every afternoon, he brought branches to his house to light the fire.

He died when he was only 28 years old in 1856, on April 11th. Since he was a man who always had a smile on his face, a poet wrote about him: “A stroke of sun on a peak had something of Juan’s laugh”.

For that same reason, since that time until today, our Juan Santamaría is represented as a ray of sun that illuminates eternally, orienting consciences and wills the glorious destiny of our beautiful Costa Rican homeland.

As an interesting highlight, General Cañas, at the end of the fight, walked around the row asking who, among those brave men, would be able to burn the inn to save the lives of all of them. At that time, Juan Santamaría shouted loud and said: “I will!”. That decision is engraved in the historic record of that great battle.

A beautiful anthem dedicated to our great hero

It was written by Araceli de Pérez, and played by José Castro:

Juan Santamaría

He was born in Alajuela, he lived so poor

That he did not go to school.

But inside him, he felt great courage

And he arrived at the barracks of simple drum.

He went to war

Full of emotion and with a tea

He burned the Inn

This was in April, a day like today

And of feats thousand, this is the best.

A worthy citizen: Juan Santamaría

This great hero worked and gave his life for his beloved homeland. All this can be evidenced by his actions and merits obtained inside, and outside, our country. Although his social and economic conditions were not great, they were not an obstacle to fulfill a great goal; to give his life for his country.

Parade made in his honor

Today, it is a great pride for Costa Ricans to see that in our country there have been people with such courage. Indeed, they are worthy people to be always admired and remembered.

SOURCEYesenia Mujica
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