Typical Guanacaste dance
Typical Guanacaste dance

If anyone knows how to party, it’s my brothers and sisters in Costa Rica. Ticos are known for their inherent ability to have a great time no matter what. Annual celebrations of the country’s history are one of the places where Tico’s can really show off how happy they are, with all of their friends and family. There are many holidays and celebrations throughout the year where Ticos can showcase their nation pride. These celebrations include Palmares Fiestas, Semana Santa, Vírgen de los Angeles Day, Puntarenas Carnival, and Limón Carnival. One of my favorite celebrations, however, is Guanacaste Day. This event is a perfect example of Tico’s having national pride and commemorating their country’s history and endearing spirit.

Guanacaste Day is held annually on July 25th, and commemorates the annexation of Guanacaste. This holiday is one of the most important celebrations for my home country. Each year, Ticos gather and get together to celebrate the momentous occasion of the annexation of province of Guanacaste with festivals that show tourists a whole new side of the locals. Shows will be put on all across the country, throughout all of the towns and cities, including bullfighting, street fiestas, folk dancing, flamboyant parades, horse pageants, and cattle shows. Ticos of every race, gender, and age will be out celebrating and joining in the revelry. In typical Tico fashion, we don’t just celebrate for one day. Though the official anniversary of the annexation is on July 25th, we celebrate for several days. What can I say, we just catch that holiday spirit and we can’t let it go!

Traditional Costa Rican Dancing in Guanacaste
Traditional Costa Rican Dancing in Guanacaste

What to Expect

If you’re going to be traveling within Costa Rica during Guanacaste day, you’re in for a real treat that you aren’t likely to forget! One of my favorite things to see are the school children having parades. They dress up in costumes and spend the days leading up to July 25th celebrating the upcoming holiday. If you’re around during the celebrations, you’ll want to make sure you have your camera so you can capture all the fun! You’ll see kids in masks that resemble angels and monsters, walking on stilts (it’s a talent for sure!), and dressed up in colorful apparel. If you’re looking for souvenirs to take back to your friends and family, you’ll definitely want to stop by some of the craft booths that will be lining the streets. There will also be, what else, food booths! Skip lunch and dinner that day, because you’re going to want to get all your food from the booths. You’ll be able to choose from delicious carne asada to hot, fresh tamales.

And what Costa Rican celebration would be complete without live music? You can count on having tons of concerts happening all across the country. The live music is a great chance to practice your dancing skills! Watch the locals closely and you might learn a thing or two about how Tico’s dance! You’re bound to run across some of the folk dance shows that will be happening, as well. These professionals might be barefoot, and sometimes you’ll see a performance between female and male that resembles a cattle chase. As a bonus, once the sun sets, you can count on seeing a fabulous display of nighttime fireworks. These shows are a great way to end a fun day and night of celebrating. The entire breathtaking celebration that you can be a part of is the locals’ way of displaying their spirit and showcasing their history of creativity and imagination.

Central Park in Liberia, Guanacaste
Central Park in Liberia, Guanacaste

Why We Celebrate?

Guanacaste day is mostly celebrated to commemorate a defining moment in the history of Costa Rica. The province of Guanacaste is, today, the northwestern province of Costa Rica, but it was once part of Nicaragua. Guanacaste Day is the day that the province officially became a part of Costa Rica, back in 1824. It was the year 1821 and Central America had declared its independence from Spain, leaving several of the colonies in conflict. They weren’t sure how to govern themselves effectively with their newfound independence. Nicoya citizens found themselves identifying more and more with Costa Rica over Guatemala or Nicaragua. One of the driving factors that gave these citizens a connection to the peaceful Costa Rica was the political strife in Nicaragua. These citizens sent an ambassador to Costa Rica with a goal of approaching the government with the idea of being able to officially join the country. Since the process of having those citizens join the country of Costa Rica became official on July 25th in 1824, the celebration that started in Guanacaste’s capital of Liberia has spread around the entire country. The people of Guanacaste were, and continue to be, proud members of the country of Costa Rica, and we’re happy to have them. In fact, the citizens of Guanacaste have a slogan that, when translated, speaks of how they are part of their country by their own choice.

Guanacaste Region Map
Guanacaste Region Map

Why You Should Participate?

The Guanacaste Day celebration is something that helps Ticos and tourists connect to and define their core beliefs and the values that drive them in their daily lives. Don’t be fooled by the celebratory spirit and fun­-loving nature of the Ticos – this holiday has a deep and important meaning. While my brothers and sisters are gathering for fun, and they are enjoying themselves, they are also remembering their past, and celebrating with a purpose. They know that their celebration is a way to symbolize their beliefs, and a chance to spread and teach the societal values that they hold so dearly. The Costa Rican culture, while light hearted and laid back, is not one to be taken lightly. The events of each and every celebration, including Guanacaste Day, are a way for the locals to reflect on all the things that brought them their peaceful and natural country. The citizens of Costa Rica take their historical celebrations seriously – but that sure doesn’t stop them from having a ton of fun while they’re at it!