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Alajuela History, Costa Rica

Alajuela is currently the second largest city next to San José.  The citizens of Alajuela fought alongside the residents of San José during the civil war that determined independence from the First Mexican Empire.  Independence was won and the capital of Costa Rica was shortly changed from Cartago to San José. 

Alajuela is home to Costa Rica’s national hero, Juan Santamaría.  Juan Santamaría fought for Costa Rica when William Walter and his mercenary army came to Costa Rica in 1856 in order to take it over.  In 1857, Walker and his troops retreated to Rivas in Nicaragua where they hid out in a wooden fort.  Juan Santamaría and his troop from Alajuela decided to burn down the fort.  At the time, Santamaría was only 17 years old.  As he went with the torch in his hand to burn down the fort, the opposing troops began to shoot.  He was apparently shot several times yet was able to launch the torch at the fort and burn it down. Santamaría lost his life in this battle and ever since has been a national hero which has been celebrated all over Alajuela. 

The international airport which is in Alajuela, only a half hour from the San José downtown, is named after Santamaría as the Juan Santamaría International Airport. 

There is also a museum named after the hero and a park named after him, the parque Juan Santamaría, also in Alajuela.   Some say that Juan Santamaría never existed or that the history had been exaggerated but this is Alajuela’s and Costa Rica’s hero and to prove it, they have dedicated April 11th as Juan Santamaría Day.  

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