Torches, lanterns and parades to mark Día de Independencia

A.M. Costa Rica/Casa Presidencial file photo
These are some of the modern street lanterns or faroles that children and/or their parents make for display at school and at Sept. 14 events.

Costa Rica celebrates its 191st anniversary of independence Friday and Saturday.

This is the annual celebration that is marked by relays of school children carrying torches and youngsters making elaborate versions of 19th century street lanterns calledfaroles.

Saturday, Sept. 15, is the holiday, but Friday evening activity will take place in San José, Cartago and many towns around the country.

The torch of independence is expected to reach Costa Rica from Guatemala early Thursday and come to San José and then to Cartago in the hands of runners.

Many adult Costa Ricans still reminisce about the time they carried the torch years ago.

President Laura Chinchilla and her ministers will await the torch in Cartago. Months ago she promised to travel to the community by train, and it appears that the right of way will be in shape to handle the journey. Several crews are working on the tracks this week to allow that to happen.

The torch will have a brief stopover in San José for a 6 p.m. ceremony.

Saturday is a legal holiday, and workers who normally are on the job that day of the week are off with pay unless they choose to work. If so, they receive double time. The normal work week in Costa Rica includes Saturday.

The U.S. Embassy reported Tuesday that it would be closed Friday. Public school children will be off Monday. Many will march in parades Friday evening and Saturday

Although some historians are seeking to move independence day to Oct. 29, that idea has not met with public favor. The historians argue that Costa Ricans did not learn about the freedom from Spanish rule until weeks after the Captaincy-general of Guatemala proclaimed its independence from Spain. That was Sept. 15, 1821.

The faroles or street lanterns are generated by the idea that Costa Rican citizens came into the streets when independence was announced and discussed the event at night under the glow of artificial light. Some of the faroles are elaborate and far different than what would have been used in 1921. Those in use today include some that are models of the Catedral Metropolitana and major public buildings.

One tradition that is followed all over the country is that citizens and even expats go to the curb at 6 p.m. on the night of Sept. 14 to sing the national anthem.

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