Latin American Countries’ Shared Independence Day
Did you know several Latin American countries’ Independence Day is the same? Yes!
The history of independence for Latin American countries is very significant due to what happened during the discovery of the Americas and the Spanish conquest.
But it’s even more special for Central American countries because they share this important date due to each country’s development and growth.
So, join us on this journey in the history of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
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September 15, an Important Celebration in Central America
Every year, September 15 marks the anniversary of Central America Independence Day, except for Panama.
This celebration marks the end of the Spanish mandate in Central America with the Declaration of Independence of 1821, carried out relatively peacefully.
Initially, there was governance through the Federal Republic of Central America that sought the emergence of a joint region. However, a dissolution occurred after several years, and the five republics we now know were created.
This allowed each country to create its own model of economic and social development according to the local interests of its population.
Independence brought with it many effusive attempts to define the elements of each country. Details that would distinguish them as a single nation regardless of the variety of indigenous and mestizo peoples living there.
In this search for identity, we can mention several things that are part of each country’s culture, like food, indigenous clothing, instruments, languages, traditions, celebrations, etc.
All this without cutting relations between the Central American countries themselves. On the contrary, it created a process of Central American integration that makes it possible to enhance the region.
Brief Overview of Central America Independence
Driven by the political chaos caused by Napoleon Bonaparte’s attack on Spain in 1808, the Central American region claimed its independence from the Spanish government.
Other reasons for seeking independence were that the Bourbon reforms gave political power to several cities and put stricter rules and laws that didn’t favor people in general.
The first indications of the search for independence occurred in November 1811 in the Salvadoran town of El Calvario. Their enthusiasm triggered the rest of the Central American towns and countries to follow suit.
Then, in 1814, new movements began in Mexico to obtain freedom from the Spanish authorities. Despite imprisoning revolutionaries, the population wanted autonomy and quickly moved forward.
In 1821, everything changed. Under Agustín de Iturbide’s leadership, the Mexicans obtained what they had sought for so long without much violence.
The news spread rapidly throughout the rest of the Central American countries; what happened at this time is celebrated in history since festivities allude to this particular action.
After exhaustive meetings and dialogues between politicians, recognized local authorities, and religious leaders who were part of the Catholic Church, on September 15, the independence of Central America was finally decided.
José Cecilio Del Valle drafted the Act of Central America’s Independence. In it, it was established that a new regime must be elected unanimously, and it also included the draft of a new Constitution.
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How Central America Celebrates Their Shared Independence
September 15 is a special date for the five sister countries celebrating their independence in the isthmus. People in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica dress up, filling their streets with flags and singing their national anthems.
Learn with us how these nations commemorate their shared Independence Day.
One of the first Independence Day celebrations in the region involving the five countries is the Torch of Independence.
Guatemala is joined by other Central American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, on September 15 with the annual “running of the torch.” From Guatemala City to Cartago, Costa Rica, people run relays carrying torches.
People of all ages do this!
The tradition dates to September 14, 1821, when María Dolores Bedoya ran through the Guatemalan streets carrying her lantern to symbolize hope for the liberated nations.
In this Central American country, the streets are painted with white and blue ornaments. Cars, houses, and buildings decorate their walls and doors with Guatemalan flags.
Preparations for this celebration begin long in advance. Schools dedicate the entire month to learn about the history of independence and each of the symbols that characterize the country.
Most schools take part in their own torch relays. On the night of September 14, students gather in one of the city’s main squares, El Obelisco, to light up their torches and run back to their schools.
Some businesses and companies also light up their torches, often running alongside the brave students.
In other cities outside Guatemala City, people also tour local villages carrying torches.
This is how the torches illuminate the entire country, some accompanied by marching bands, the parents of students, and cars decorated with balloons and flags.
Many private schools have marching bands called bandas de guerra. These bandas march around on September 15, playing military songs.
There are also martial bands, bandas marciales, that play popular music, such as cumbias, reggaeton, etc., to inject a livelier touch to an otherwise solemn occasion.
These are busy days on the streets, so traffic becomes particularly intense. But that doesn’t stop Guatemalans from celebrating their Independence Day.
You’d be wise to stay indoors, though.
Read also: 10 Reasons to Learn Spanish in Guatemala
The celebrations in this Central American country are also very effusive and full of parades, music, and patriotism.
Since El Salvador was one of the pioneer countries in seeking independence, they pay tribute to this part of history by holding a procession of cars decorated with the flags of the 5 Central American countries that share this celebration.
The streets of the country’s main cities prepare to receive hundreds of students who participate in a massive parade that marches to the rhythm of music played by local school bands.
Another institution that joins the independence celebrations in El Salvador is the military, which for over 200 years has organized a parade to commemorate this unique event.
All these parades end up at the Jorge Mágico Gonzalez National Stadium, where the president gives a commemorative speech. Then, the military displays airplanes flying over the city.
In schools, students carry out activities to celebrate independence.
They decorate the classrooms with commemorative images of the country, stage plays about the heroes of independence, discuss the history of El Salvador, write poems and essays, and make collages to honor the memory of this pioneering republic.
Independence Day celebrations in Honduras are very similar to those in El Salvador. They, however, start partying on September 6, their Flag Day.
From September 1 to 15, special lessons are held in schools where teachers talk about national dances and traditional costumes, and students learn about Honduran history and culture.
However, September 15 is the big day. This is when people from all cities and villages begin the important celebrations.
The day begins with 21 cannon shots fired by the military at 6:00 in the morning, marking the beginning of the festivities.
Parades take to the streets with colorful floats accompanied by students from public and private schools and musical bands made up of students, too.
The famous palillonas also accompany the parades. These are women dressed in fantastic military uniforms waving canes to the tune of marching bands.
Generally, during these civic holidays, people often have the opportunity to celebrate with their relatives. They eat typical Honduran dishes made up of beans, beef, cabbage, bananas, sour cream, and tortillas.
They also enjoy a famous dish called baleada, which is a tortilla filled with beans, cheese, and sour cream.
You can buy these tasty dishes anytime, but it’s particularly special for Hondurans to have them as they watch and walk alongside the parades.
Nicaraguans are on another level when it comes to celebrating their independence. They celebrate throughout September!
People there decorate the streets with the Nicaraguan flag, national symbols, balloons, etc.
On September 1, we can see an opening ceremony where local politicians, Central American ambassadors, and hundreds of students gather to start the festivities.
On September 11, they receive the torch that travels from Guatemala to Costa Rica. This takes place on the Las Manos border between Nicaragua and Honduras. Ministers of education from both countries precede this exchange.
The torch travels 387 kilometers until it reaches the next border, and approximately 8,000 students from municipal schools are involved in making this possible.
On September 12, the torch arrives at the National Palace of Culture, where the president of the republic and the minister of education receive it. On this day, folklore activities are carried out in the morning.
On September 13, the torch reaches the border with Costa Rica, where the ministers of education of both countries pass on this symbol of freedom.
On September 14, the president of Nicaragua holds a civic event with other politicians and local authorities, and they award medals to the best students and teachers in the country.
They also organize a parade with the help of 100 schools from Managua. In this parade, we can see up to 15,000 students, marching bands, plus marching bands from the army and local police.
All schools across Nicaragua also take the time to read the Central American Independence Act out loud. This only happens in Nicaragua.
Talk about commitment, huh?
Nicaraguans finish September commemorating the battle of Hacienda San Jacinto and, yes, again, the independence of Nicaragua.
It’s said that Costa Rica received the news of the independence of Central America a month later. However, they celebrate this date with great joy and patriotism.
This country is the final destination of the Torch of Independence that travels from Guatemala, and every year, on September 14, it arrives in Cartago, the colonial city of Costa Rica.
This commemorates the arrival of the good news of independence in 1821.
On this exact date, students carry out the Desfile de faroles, a lantern parade where each child makes paper lanterns in the shape of houses or traditional Costa Rican objects and joins the march.
On September 15, there is a massive parade with musical bands from the schools where students get dressed in traditional Costa Rican costumes.
At 6 in the afternoon, the national anthem is broadcast on television and radio so that the entire country can sing it wherever they are. And then people can join local parades and even take their torches.
On this day, Costa Ricans and tourists take to the streets, and they enjoy music, dancing, and typical dishes such as rice with chicken, tamales, coconut flan, and tres leches cakes.
A particular detail in Costa Rica, starting in 1915, the military presence in the parades decreased. And then, in 1948, the national army was abolished. Hence, the independence celebrations focus on youth and strengthening peace.
See also: 8 Places to Learn Spanish in Costa Rica
Speak Spanish and Talk With Central Americans!
All independence celebrations in these 5 Central American countries are encouraged by celebrating freedom, identity, and the hope to continue fighting for all its citizens.
Although we know that there is still a lot of work to be done in each country, these celebrations must continue to be instilled in new generations to strengthen their sense of belonging.
Furthermore, citizens will always seek the best for their country through patriotic fervor, become passionate workers, get involved during elections, and care for the environment.
If you were captivated by the history of the independence of Central America, we encourage you to continue getting to know Central Americans and their culture by learning Spanish.
This is an easy way to exchange anecdotes, traditions, and culture, learn about new lifestyles, and be more empathetic with the lives of those around us.
You’ll love to learn more about Latin American countries through this fantastic language!
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