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198 Years Ago Cartago Ceased to be the Capital of Costa Rica After the Battle of Ochomogo

Written by Marisol

When Costa Rica still did not reach two years of independent life, it registered its first civil war that had as its main consequence the transfer of the capital from Cartago to San José. The political differences left the nascent country unstable for months. On the one hand there were those who promoted joining the Mexican Empire -Cartago and Heredia- and on the other the bloc that opted for autonomy -San José and Alajuela-.

The final decision corresponded to the Governing Board that then had the country. The delay and doubts motivated the wealthy Carthaginian and Heredian groups to stage a coup. Thus, on March 29th, 1823, the group led by Joaquín de Oreamuno y Muñoz took the military barracks. At the same time, decreed the union with Mexico.

Civil War

It was a matter of days before the municipalities of San José and Alajuela declared war. The following week, just on April 5th, both blocks collided at Cerro de Ochomogo. It was a quick battle that left 20 dead and the Josefino victory.

The victory validated the intentions to generate its own government and with it San José, which already had an incipient political power, also concentrated the political authorities. Thus, April 5th is the date that Cartago went from capital to “old metropolis.” Gone are the 260 years when the city was the administrative head of the country; first under Spanish rule and then as a new state.

The history of the Battle of Ochomogo is also marked by two particular details:

The Mexican Empire that Cartago and Heredia wanted to join had disintegrated on March 19th of the same year, with the overthrow of the emperor Agustín de Iturbide. The news had not yet reached Costa Rica.

While Joséphinos and Carthage fought in Ochomogo, Heredians and Alajuelans did the same in the area known as Arroyo. In that case, it was the “annexationists” of Heredia who won the clash and occupied Alajuela, which was later liberated once power was established in San José. The capital continued to oscilate and was even in Tibás. The establishment of the capital in San José did not settle the differences nor calm the spirits, reason why a solution was necessary.

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To distribute the power quotas, in 1834 the Ambulance Law was created. This established that the capital would rotate every 4 years between the four main cities.That same year the three powers of the State were transferred to Alajuela without the Government being practical from there. In addition, a reform was promoted so that the capital also took Esparza, one of the oldest towns founded by the Spanish.

With the arrival of Braulio Carillo as head of State, this law was abolished and San Juan de Murcielago -now Tibás- was set as the new capital. The measure generated a new war, where now Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia were united to fight against San José.

The conflict was called the War of the League and between September and October of that year and it had several battles won by San José. 12 years later, Costa Rica finally managed to settle the capital in the city that houses it until now.

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