Thank You — France?


Bunny ears -- the great unifier
Bunny ears — the great unifier

We had a blast yesterday watching our youngest (#2) participate in the Independence Day celebrations taking place here in Costa Rica — and across Central America. I missed the excuse to buy fireworks that is July 4th back in the United States, but I did very much enjoy the bands and the revelry.

Somewhere in the midst of yesterday’s activities, which celebrate the end of Spain’s lengthy rein over Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, it occurred to me that I’ve yet to hear an unkind word from a Tico regarding Spain. 

Just as present-day citizens of the United States are on quite friendly terms with their old overlord, England, Ticos don’t appear to have any issues with Spain. It is probably worth noting that Costa Rica escaped the special attention given to many other countries in this part of the former Spanish empire because it was too far away from the regional capital, Guatemala City, and lacked a sufficient quantity of natives for the slave labor that unfortunately fed that empire.

My nominal amount of reading on this topic left me with one mini-revelation: the United States and most of what we now call Central America could, and probably should, routinely thank another country we’ve yet to mention for their independence. That country is yet another colonial power that has more recently been more famous for rude waiters, stinky cheese and how quickly it can go from retreat to collaborate. That country is, of course, France.

Without the aid of France the United States likely never would have wrested itself away from England and achieved independence. Similarly, without the ongoing expense and chaos caused by the Napoleonic wars in the early portion of the 19th century Spain likely would have held on to Mexico. The independence declared by Costa Rica and many other Central American countries came — not coincentally — just a couple of months after Mexico fought for, and won, it’s independence from Spain.

It’s definitely a small world in which we live. A small world full of independence day celebrations where relations with the prior empire are in many cases surprisingly good, and at least in a couple of cases, the prior contributions of the French are under-appreciated — unless stinky cheese is present.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about Panama: Well, the United States kinda/sorta created Panama, which was previously part of Columbia, so Panamanians have a different independence day that has nothing to do with Spain, England or stinky cheese. And Belize: that’s an entirely different story that you probably don’t want to tell in front of anyone from Guatemala.



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