Torch Ignites National Pride, Begins Sept. 15 Celebrations

September 16, 2005

WITH a backdrop of flickering flashbulbs, echoing drums and illuminated paper lanterns, President Abel Pacheco accepted the symbolic Torch of Independence Wednesday night in Cartago, east of San José, and declared it a national symbol as Costa Rica celebrated 184 years of independence from Spain.“The declaration (of the torch as a national symbol) expresses our intention that the light of the torch forever shines down on a free and sovereign people,” Pacheco said, speaking at his final torch ceremony as President, as his final term ends in 2006.The Torch of Independence is ceremonially carried every year from Guatemala to Costa Rica as a symbol of the region’s shared independence, announced in Guatemala City on Sept. 15, 1821. The tradition began 41 years ago after being proposed by Costa Rican professor Alfredo Cruz.The torch is traditionally carried by the children of the five Central American countries and is accepted at its final destination in Cartago, Costa Rica’s former capital, by the Costa Rican President on Sept. 14.“My strongest wish is that the light of this torch… guides us down a path of ethical values and principles, so that solidarity, social justice, the respect for human dignity and the search for shared well-being always marks our future,” Pacheco said.Immediately following the celebration, hundreds of thousands of children and their parents poured into the streets throughout the country carrying small handmade paper lanterns that glowed like fireflies in the twilight hours of the evening.That following morning, schoolchildren throughout the country marched to the beat of drums and the ringing of xylophones in the yearly Independence Day parades.“I want to reiterate my faith in Costa Rica,” Pacheco said to the crowd in Cartago on Wednesday. “It is my absolute conviction that, under the weight of difficult circumstances present in our world and in Costa Rica, this good and generous people has the energy, the capacity, the intelligence and the courage to proceed and reach new victories.”

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