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History buffs can explore endless facets of Costa Rica’s military, cultural and artistic heritage through ever-changing exhibits and events at this fascinating attraction near San José. The Juan Santamaría Historical Cultural Museum is an initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Youth. Located in the city of Alajuela, facing the north side of Central Park, the museum occupies the community’s old army barracks and prison buildings dating back to the 1870s.

The museum occupies
the community’s old army
barracks and prison buildings.

The museum’s historical themes reflect the Costa Rican state’s formation, from becoming an independent nation in 1821, to political and military conflicts three decades later. Highlights of the Central American War are showcased, along with the 1856-1857 Filibuster War, which Costa Ricans regard as their true war of independence. A permanent exhibit is devoted to those landmark events and the national heroes involved: Juan Santamaría — for whom the museum is named — as well as Juan Rafael Mora Porras, Francisca “Pancha” Carrasco and Nicolás Aguilar Murillo, among others.


In addition, visitors can view temporary exhibitions of national and international artists. Rooms equipped for these loaned exhibits are on the museum’s second floor.

Guided educational tours are available upon request for students, government officials and groups as well as workshops for teachers. The museum also develops annual programs such as “On the Steps of Our Heroes,” consisting of walks and visits to historic Filibuster War sites.

The museum also features a wide range of cultural events, with concert band, theater and storytelling performances scheduled on a monthly calendar. Examples include the “Night of Stories”, “Music in the Museum with the Concert Bands of Alajuela” and “Youth and Music.”

The museum is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.


The Howler Magazine