The Birthday of Democracy in Costa Rica

Why It Is Celebrated Every November 7th

For almost a decade, Costa Rica had lived within the current of liberalism that finally, after many attempts, had managed to enter the country.

By 1889, Costa Ricans were submerged in one of the most interesting political campaigns in our history. For almost a decade Costa Rica had lived within the trend of liberalism that finally, after many attempts, had managed to enter the country. For the first time, a vital institution within the democratic game appears the political party. Before 1889, the campaigns were carried out around a figure of sufficient intellectual and moral prestige, and although this did not change after 1889, the important thing is that after that year, around these figures, more or less permanent groups were formed. They would form political parties, of course, with eminently personalist traits.

In 1889, the first 2 political parties that record our history, are presented in the political contest. The Liberal Progressive with the candidacy of Don Ascensión Esquivel, a candidate to which we could give the qualification of “official”. In opposition to this movement, we find a party organized for the most part by the action of a young political figure who began to stand out in the national environment: Don Rafael Yglesias Castro. This movement was baptized with the name of the Democratic Constitutional Party and presented as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic Mr. José Joaquín Rodríguez, a serene, rested and intelligent man who at that time occupied the honorable and important position of President of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Both candidates came from somewhat different sectors. Esquivel was a member of the so-called Olympos, that is, the circle of intellectual values of greatest prestige in the country at that time and that agreed to liberal ideas in Costa Rica. In contrast, Rodriguez’s movement had a more popular character; the constitutionalist movement aimed to get closer to the feelings of the people. It was then in the presidency of Don Bernardo Soto who had taken the decision to secede from power to impose the incumbent candidate Esquivel, who had been appointed as the second president of the country

Once the elections were held, the winner was the opponent José Joaquín Rodríguez. However, he would not be proclaimed president, Instead Esquivel had been proclaimed president of Costa Rica by Bernardo Soto, but not everything indicated that it would be easy to deceive the people. Likewise, the Costa Rican people had become more interested in politics and saw this moment an important means to achieve the development of the country, for this reason, they refused to accept who had been imposed as president demanding transparency and that the result of the votes be respected.

The wave of discontent in the country increased to such a degree that Don Bernardo Soto resumed the presidency on August 10, 1889. But the atmosphere had already heated up and the consequences of this attitude were the loss of confidence of the people in the president Don Bernardo. According to the Constitution in force, that of 1871, the elections would be held under the second-degree system (indirect). On November 3, the first-degree electoral process, which lasted three days, began with the appointment of voters. The sane and measured attitude that reigned in the early hours of the day, changed substantially in the afternoon

In that environment the elections took place, giving an overwhelming victory for the “Rodriguismo” that obtained almost 90 percent of the electors and that assured the presidential election for Lic. José Joaquín Rodríguez.

The fraction “Esquivelista” however, at least part of it, did not accept that defeat and on the afternoon of November 7th, an unexpected event happened. A platoon of policemen went out to the streets of San José, screaming “Long live Esquivel and death to Rodríguez”, they were joined by some groups of civilians, which formed a large demonstration.

That demonstration provoked the logical, spontaneous and immediate reaction of the “Rodriguismo” that quickly took to the streets of San José to defend the victory obtained in the elections against what seemed like a government decision not to respect the popular demand. It was Don Rafael Yglesias Castro who was in charge of organizing the constitutionalist forces that soon were swollen by thousands of Costa Ricans who defended the sacred right of suffrage. The way in which that improvised army that surrounded the city of San José was organized from the early hours of the night, was brilliantly described by Don José María Pinaud.

This happens because the people learned that Rodriguez’s victory would not be respected. Rejecting the imposition of a president on November 7th, 1889, seven thousand Costa Ricans, organized and armed with sticks and machetes, went out to the streets ready to assert their decision and demand respect for the electoral results. Although after that date there were new electoral frauds and even dictatorships, that November 7th, 1889, is considered the birthday of Costa Rican democracy, because, for the first time, the people took up arms to demand respect for the criteria issued in the polls.

Since 1942, decree number 18 establishes the birth of Costa Rican democracy, every November 7th with the purpose of honoring the Costa Ricans who took up arms to defend the electoral process of 1889.

VIARosibel Silva
SOURCERosibel Silva
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