Today in Latin America, Juan Santamaría

costa-rica-juan-santamariaToday 153 years ago, in 1856, Juan Santamaría was killed by Nicaraguan liberals and William Walker’s men in Rivas, Costa Rico. His deeds may be doubtful, but the story exudes the unique time period that was the 1850s for Central America.

Juan Santamaría was, like countless figures in Central American history (Agusto Sandino, Farabundo Marti come to my mind immediately) born illegitimately in 1831 and joined the army as a drummer boy. As William Walker, a story unto himself, invaded Central America, attempting to develop a slave state and annex it to the United States – the hero of Manifest Destiny. Well, not since the 1820s had Central America as a whole (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and half of Nicaragua) risen up together to fight. Santamaría jumped at President Mora’s call for men and fought his way to Rivas, in 1856.

Walker’s men were cornered in a hostel. Costa Rican General José María Cañas suggested someone light the hostel on fire. Santamaría is said to have stepped up after multiple attempts and, despite being shot (and eventually killed), lit the hostel on fire and turned the tide that would eventually lead to the Walker fleeing Nicaragua. He would be executed after returning to Honduras in 1860. He was 36. Santamaría was 25.

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~ by Daniel on April 11, 2009.

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