San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Alajuela schoolchildren paint historical murals

More than 200 children from eight Alajuela schools recently learned their history through a unique mural-painting project, the fruits of which now adorn the facade of the Juan Santamaría Museum in the city northwest of the capital.

Alajuela School Children 2

“Women in the Campaign,” by the Manuela Santamaría Rodríguez School.

The eight colorful panels, which measure 2.6 by 1.6 meters each, depict the “Campaign of 1856,” the war that guaranteed Costa Rica’s sovereignty as a nation and helped establish the independence of all of Central America with the defeat of U.S. soldier of fortune William Walker and his mercenary army in Rivas, Nicaragua. The campaign is closely tied to the city of Alajuela because native son Juan Santamaría is credited with winning the war by torching Walker’s headquarters in Rivas on April 11, 1856.

The children of all ages painted the murals designed by artist Mario Murillo using Cantilán acrylic paints donated by the Filo Color company. The panels represent “The Call to War” by President Juan Mora Porras, painted by the Miguel Obregón school; “The Leave Taking,” by the Holanda school; “The Battle of Santa Rosa” in Guanacaste, by the Guatemala school; “The Battle of Rivas,” by the Bernardo Soto school; “Women in the Campaign,” featuring national heroine Pancha Carrazo, by the Manuela Santamaría Rodríguez school; “The Taking of the Transit Route” or the San Juan River, by the Juan Rafael Mora school; “The Surrender of William Walker,” by the INVU school; and “Free Country,” by the Villa Bonita school.

The murals will be on display through the end of June. The Juan Santamaría Museum is dedicated to the history of the Campaign of 1856, but offers cultural programs, art shows and materials for research and study on the campaign and local history. The museum is across from the north side of Alajuela’s Central Park and is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 2441-4775 or 2442-1838, or visit

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