The morning of Sept. 15 was divine: Light poured down San José’s Avenida Segunda as thousands of people migrated toward Parque Central. Police were alert but good-natured as they formed a perimeter around the eggshell stage. Hordes of uniformed children roughhoused on the park’s concrete walkways, then broke into lines and filed into their seats.
President Laura Chinchilla made the rounds among the children, posing for photographs and shaking hands with dozens of young citizens.
Sunday’s Día de la Independencia celebrated 192 years of independence from Spain, Costa Rica’s first step toward total autonomy. To commemorate the event, officials gathered in the Parque Central around 8 a.m. to deliver speeches, play anthems and hand out special certificates to meritorious students.
The program began with Costa Rica’s National Anthem, followed by a speech from Nicole Arguedas, a student at the Superior High School for Girls. Afterward, Mayor Sandra García of San José gave a rousing speech about the history of Costa Rican independence. When she mentioned the admittance of the northwestern province of Guanacaste into the Republic, her words were met with a round of applause and cheers, particularly in light of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s controversial claim on Guanacaste last month.
Costa Rican Education Minister Leonardo Garnier made a penultimate speech, adding to the youth-centric nature of the Independence Day activities.
Finally, Chinchilla approached the microphone and spoke at length about Costa Rica’s achievements in recent years and its fortitude during a global economic recession. The ceremony ended with the Hymn of Sept. 15, a musical homage to Tico independence. The live brass band continued to play the hymn as the audience dispersed, joining the multitudes along Avenida Segunda, where the annual parade was already in progress. Thousands of spectators lined the streets, where marching bands beat drums, blew trumpets, and even played “When the Saints Come Marching In” on xylophones.
Similar parades, showcasing the talents of mostly children and teenagers, poured through the main streets of towns across the country. Toward the end of an eventful year, Sunday was a day of pure and unbridled pride.