The month of September is dedicated to celebrating independence

The flags and banners are going up to celebrate September as patriotic month. This is an annual designation because the month contains the Día de la Independencia, which is a legal holiday and is Sept. 15.

Nearly every public building and many private ones have been decked out to commemorate the month.

To kick off the month, President Luis Guillermo Solis, other officials and children from the Escuela Betania and the Liceo Anastasio Alfaro were to be at the Bandera traffic circle in Montes de Oca at 9 a.m. today for a ceremony. A new Costa Rican flag will be run up the pole and those attending will sing the national anthem, said an announcement from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

This also is the month when high school students and others carry the torch of independence along the same route that the news that Costa Rica no longer was part of the Spanish empire traveled.

The so-called Carrera de la Antorcha de la Independencia is a tradition now, but it is not an old one. The route of the torch dates just from the mid-1960s when educators from all over Central America created the idea.

The torch starts in Guatemala, the seat of the Capitanía General de Guatemala where independence was declared in 1821.

Some 193 years ago, the news was contained in a letter that arrived in Cartago Oct. 13. The letter was dated Sept. 17 and reflected the decision by the council in Guatemala City to declare independence. The letter began “The day 15 of the current year came into effect in this city a glorious independence.” Council members signed the document.

The letter and two other documents outlining subsequent political actions are treasures in the Archivo Nacional. Copies are HERE!.

The second document is a manifesto that says Guatemala is joining in with other places in New Spain to assert its independence. The third document gives a six-point list to Costa Ricans and asks them to select representatives for a congress to convene in Guatemala City.

Because the letters arrived at night, the tradition is that Cartago citizens read them by lantern light, which is why lanterns or faroles are part of the independence celebration today.  School children make their own each year.

The effort for a unified Central America failed. In fact, the idea was a highly controversial one that led to executions and other strong responses over the following years.

Carrying the torch a kilometer or so each year may sound a bit

The original letter from Guatemala City.

The original letter from Guatemala City.

hooky in these days of the Internet, but hardly any Costa Rican thinks so. Many cherish the memory of the time they carried the torch of liberty a short distance along with their classmates.

The torch bearers need not be children. Fire fighters, Cruz Roja members and police officers participate. The original torch goes to Cartago for an official celebration, but torches lighted from the original or even lighted from third-hand torches go by various routes to nearly the entire country.

Each community hosts a celebration when the torch arrives. A big event is at Parque Central in San José where an Olympic-style cauldron awaits the torch. The torch arrives exactly at 6 p.m. on its way to Cartago.

That also is the time when Costa Ricans gather in public to sign the national anthem. Even waiters in restaurants and others at work stop to sign.

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