April 11th is a national holiday in Costa Rica, celebrating Juan Santamaría Day, which is held every April 11 to commemorate the death Juan Santamaría (August 29, 1831 – April 11, 1856). Juan Santamaría is officially recognized as the national hero of Costa Rica.
Juan Santamaría is the man most responsible for victory in the Battle of Rivas in 1856 against the U.S. citizen William Walker and his mercenary army.
Walker began a campaign on Costa Rica in hopes of developing a slave-trade empire, after overthrowing the government of Nicaragua. Costa Rican called on its citizens to go to Nicaragua to fight the growing threat of William Walker.
After defeating smaller group of Walker’s soldiers at Santa Rosa, Guanacaste, the Costa Rican troops continued movingg north until they reached the city of Rivas, Nicaragua, April 8, 1856.
The battle that follwed is called the Second Battle of Rivas. The fighting was hash but the Costa Rican forces were not able to drive Walker’s men out of a the command center in a hostel near the town center.
Ultimately after several attempts to bring down the command center Santamaría volunteered to make a run to torch the hostel on the condition that, should he die, someone would look after his mother.
Santamaría was successful in his mission but died from his wounds.
His act of heroism solidified Costa Rica’s sovereignty, and is remembered and celebrated with parades and fireworks throughout the country on every April 11th.
San Jose’s international airport in Alajuela is named after Juan Santamaría, hero of Costa Rica
The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
San Jose Costa Rica