San Jacinto Day Celebrated in Nicaragua
September 14, 2010San Jacinto Day is a public holiday in Nicaragua.
On May 3, 1855, American filibuster William Walker set sail with 58 men from San Francisco, California to the coast of Nicaragua to aid Francisco Castellón Sanabria, a Liberal Party candidate that lost a highly contested election the year before. Eventually Walker would go on to proclaim himself President of the country and rule until his surrender on May 1, 1857.
The downward turning point for Walker was the Battle of San Jacinto on September 14, 1856. Walker’s decisive loss at San Jacinto is still celebrated as a victory against Western arrogance and dominance in the form of San Jacinto Day.
History of San Jacinto Day in NicaraguaAfter Liberal Party candidate Francisco Castellón Sanabria suffered a contentious election loss to Conservative Party candidate Fruto Chamorro, the political atmosphere was tense in Nicaragua. Chamorro moved the capital from the town of León to Granada and set about implementing a controversial constitution in the absence of Liberal Party representation. Francisco Castellón Sanabria was president of “Democratic” Nicaragua from 1854-1855 during the Granada-León civil war. Castellón was a lawyer from León. He was prime minister (ministro general) under Patricio Rivas, but was removed in 1841 by Pablo Buitrago, and reappointed in 1843 by Manuel Perez. In 1844 he served as Nicaragua’s minister to England and later as Nicaragua’s minister to France. He was again a government minister under José Laureano Pineda 1851-1853. This led many officials in the Liberal Party to gather and strike back against the Chamorro government, setting up their own government in León, led by Castellón. After many unsuccessful sieges of Granada, Castellón hired William Walker to bring men into the country to fight for the Liberalists. Walker had mixed success at the beginning, suffering a defeat during the First Battle of Rivas but attaining a victory at the Battle of the Virgin on September 4, 1855. Four days later, Castellón died of cholera, leaving Walker somewhat on his own. Walker would go on to capture Granada and later rule though a puppet government. On July 12, 1856, Walker proclaimed himself President of Nicaragua. On September 12, 1956, Loyalists laid plans to expel Walker and his group from Granada. Walker’s group had been stealing cattle from ranches in the area to supply food to their troops. The San Jacinto Ranch was the target of one of these raids and also a stronghold for the Loyalists that Walker was fighting against. On the dawn of September 14, Walker and his filibusters raided the San Jacinto Ranch. There was news that a group of 300 reinforcements were on the way to San Jacinto, so Walker had to act quickly. The resulting battle was extremely violent and bloody. The Loyalist defenses of the left flank broke around 9 a.m., forcing a regroup. Lacking ammunition, the Loyalists at times were forced to throw stones at Walker’s forces. At 10 a.m., loyalists managed to send a small group of defenders to attack the rear of Walker’s group. The attack riled horses at neighboring ranches so much that Walker mistook them for the Loyalist reinforcements. Walker ordered a retreat to another ranch, but the Loyalists took chase. In the end, the Loyalists killed 27 of the filibusters including army leader Byron Cole and confiscated many weapons. The Loyalists lost 10 in the four-hour fight. The loss marked the beginning of the end for Walker who eventually would surrender on May 1, 1857. On the 100 year anniversary of the battle, a huge celebration was held in Nicaragua to commemorate the event. Since then, San Jacinto Day has received attention as a day to celebrate Nicaragua’s history and culture as an independent country.