April 11, 2010

Juan Santamaria Day – Costa Rica

Did you know that a private American citizen overthrew the country of Nicaragua and tried to conquer other nations of Central
America, too? William Walker wanted to form a private slave-holding empire!

(This was in 1856, shortly before the U.S. Civil War.

Costa Rica's national hero Juan Santamaria died during a battle at Rivas, Costa Rica, against William Walker's forces
. Santamaria was (some sources say) able to light a hostel on fire before he died, and by eliminating the hostel and its superior firing position, he turned the tide of the battle, leading to Costa Rica's victory.

In 1860 William Walker was captured and executed in another Central American country, Honduras.

A person who takes this kind of unauthorized military action—when a citizen of the U.S. mounts an attack on another country, without U.S. government knowledge or support, in order to create or further a revolution, he is called a filibuster. According to Wikipedia, filibusters created revolutions for financial gain, for their political ideals, or just for adventure.

Later the term filibuster was used figuratively for the political act of one person talking and talking and talking in the U.S. Senate and thereby single-handedly delaying or preventing a vote on a particular bill. Nowadays (thank goodness!) we don't have American citizens randomly trying to overthrow other governments through military force, so the term filibuster is used almost entirely for this Senatorial maneuver.

Learn a Bit about Juan Santamaria

Santamaria was a poor laborer and the son of a single mother. He answered the call by the Costa Rican president to fight against William Walker's attack, joining the army as a drummer boy.

He was nicknamed “the Porcupine” (el erizo) because of his spiked hair.

When he volunteered to do the dangerous task that got him killed, Santamaria asked that, if he died, others would take care of his mother. The Costa Rican government did give his mother a pension for the rest of her life. Perhaps she was comforted in her loss by the fact that her son is one of very few Costa Rican heroes honored by statues, an airport named for him, and a national day.

Learn a Bit About Costa Rica

This nation in Central America lies just north of Panama. It is one of the most stable and peaceful of the Central American countries, with a higher literacy rate and better economy than most. It is the oldest democracy in Latin America and is ranked the “greenest” or most ecologically-minded country in the entire world!

The official language is Spanish.

  • All sea turtle species are endangered. Here is a YouTube video about kids helping to save sea turtles in Costa Rica. It's in Spanish (very rapid Spanish!), so I just enjoyed the footage of kids with the lumbering mama turtle and countless hatchlings.
  • Eco-tourism is important to Costa Rica. This includes visitors who want to experience the rainforest and the incredible animals that live there. Learn about the rainforest at Kids Saving the Rainforest. Be sure to take a look at the baby animals the organization has rehabilitated, here and here. (One is el erizo!)
  • Nature Kids is a Costa Rican organization that helps families in need but that also focuses on environmental protection.
  • Some kids created a travel blog for National Geographic. Check out the bats in this first Costa Rica post, and the volcano in this post. (There are six posts about Costa Rica—read them all!)
  • Color rainforest animals here.

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