This great national hero was born in 1831, in Alajuela, the son of Manuela Santamaría. He is said to have been an only child and is described as a young, hard-working, humble, courageous, and very cheerful man. Today, remembering this great hero, Juan Santamaría, is nothing more than admiring how brave he was, it is also honoring all those who, like him, gave their lives for our beloved homeland.
He was part of the troops that at that time were under the command of a Salvadoran General named José María Cañas. In the Campaign of the year 1856 his name began to make history, with his great sacrifice, Juan Santamaría was to free us from the filibusters and slavery.
In Alajuela, there is a park where a bronze statue is dedicated to the memory of this great man, along with two cannons from those years. 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 statue was presented on September 15th of the year 1891 by José Joaquín Rodríguez, who was the president of the Republic.
His plaque says: “I am Juan Santamaría, from Alajuela, who honored Costa Rica, by offering my life for freedom. I am one of the glorious names, but also of the humble anonymous ones who fought with boldness against the invaders. I have been the celebrated hero. Today I am the symbol of all those who abjure the imposition and injustice”.
A great symbol for our country
On April 11th, 1930, Professor José Vasconcelos said that Santamaría was the true hero of our race, that others had fought against Spain but that Juan Santamaría, on the contrary, fought against the only enemies that truly were: “the filibusters”.
His life: a hard trip
Juan’s mother was known by 3 different names, Doña Manuela Carvajal, Manuela Santamaría or Manuela Gallegos. The house of Juan and his mother was a shack made of adobe, poorly made, it had no windows and a dirt floor which they swept with a tuft brush. He had a deep love for his mother. He helped his neighbors in the crop fields, in orchards, putting wood in the house, he earned very little but he gave it to his mother. Every afternoon he brought branches to his house to light the fire.
He died when he was only 28 years old, on April 11th, 1856. Since he was a man who always had a smile on his face, a poet wrote: “A ray of sunlight emerging behind a hill that was Juan’s laughter.” For that same reason ever since the day of his sacrifice, Juan Santamaría is represented as a ray of sun that illuminates eternally, orienting consciences and wills with the glorious destiny of our beautiful Costa Rican homeland.
It is said that General Cañas at the height of the battle, went by the row of men asking who of all those brave would be willing to sacrifice himself and burn the “Meson” to save the lives of all, and in that very moment Juan Santamaría, without hesitation cried out, I will sir, this is recorded in the history of that great battle.
A beautiful anthem is dedicated to our great her. It was written by Araceli de Pérez with music by José Castro and says:
He was born in Alajuela,
he lived so poor,
he did not go to school
but inside of him, he felt great courage,
and he arrived at the barracks with a simple drum,
he went to war,
full of emotion,
and with a torch,
he burned the Meson,
this was in April a day like today,
and of a thousand feats,
this is the best one
A great example that of Juan Santamaría
This national hero gave his life for his great homeland, this is recognized both inside and outside our country. Although his social and economic conditions were not great, this was not an obstacle to fulfill a great goal, to give the maximum sacrifice for his country. Today he is a great pride for Costa Ricans, to see that in our country there have been people with such courage, they are worthy of admiration and always will be remembered.