Juan Santamaria's Monument
It was the mid-1850s when William Walker, a lawyer, doctor and soldier of fortune from Tennessee, endeavored to conquer the five Central American states and annex them to a new Federation of Southern States in the United States. Walker and his filibusteros intended to hold political and financial power over this territory in Central America, with Walker as president. Costa Rica was on his list and he commanded his cohort Colonel Schlessinger to invade Costa Rica with four companies of men. President Juan Rafael Mora, only the second president of this young, free Republic, received word of Walker's plan through the Costa Rican envoy to Washington. President Mora went to the people to raise an army with which he could repel the impending invasion. Among these volunteers was young Juan Santamaria, a drummer boy from Alajuela.
During the two week march to Guanacaste, the rag tag army, led by President Mora and his brother in law General Jose Cañas, dwindled to 2500 determined patriots armed with machetes, farm implements and a few old rifles. On March 19, 1856, they encountered a group of about 300 of Walker's freebooters at the Casona on Santa Rosa Ranch. A 14-minute battle the next day resulted in the freebooters fleeing back across the border to safe haven in Nicaragua.
Two thousand Costa Rican soldiers followed Walker's men across the border to his stronghold in "Meson de Guerra" at Rivas. Joined along the way by a number of Nicaraguan freedom fighters, Mora's men confronted Walker's band again on April 11. This was a bloody battle half the Costa Rican forces eventually fell. In order to extricate Walker and his gang, General Cañas decided to try and burn them out. In what had to have been a suicide mission, two courageous volunteers, one Costa Rican, the young drummer boy Juan Santamaria, and one Nicaraguan, died in their successful attempt to set fire to the Rivas stronghold. Walker's troops retreated once more.