Today, all of Costa Rica is celebrating and rejoicing its 190-year old independence from Spain. The Spanish arrived in the 1500’s and stayed for nearly 300 years as it colonized the region, enslaved native populations and decimated the country with smallpox. The fight for independence started in 1821 when it declared itself independent from Spain as did four other Central American countries.
Costa Rica was the first Central American country to begin exporting coffee helping to develop the first middle class in the region. Another first for the country is the election of its first female President Laura Chinchilla, who took office last February. The country also has bragging rights as having the highest life satisfaction anywhere in the world and being one of the greenest countries in the world.
The country has lived in relative peace since its declaration of independence abolishing its army in 1949 and living in the words of Jose Maria Zeledon Brenes: “Vivian siempre el trabajo y la paz.”
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent their congratulations to the people of Costa Rica today:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate the people of Costa Rica on the occasion of your 190th Independence Day this September 15.
As the Freedom Torch arrives in Cartago and Costa Ricans across the country reflect with pride on your country’s strong traditions of protecting democracy, preserving the environment, and respecting human rights, know that the American people stand with you. Costa Rica’s commitment to creating a bright future for your nation’s youth is an inspiration and provides the foundation for our common values and strong partnership.
Whether you participate in the “lantern parades” or you celebrate over dinner with family and friends, I wish all Costa Ricans a happy independence day and reaffirm our commitment to strengthening the bonds of friendship between our countries.