The story takes place in either 1852 or 1853 (the actual year is disputed) when ambassadors from Great Britain and the United States arrived in San José. The president at the time, Juan Rafael Mora Porras, thought the dignitaries should be greeted with the country’s national anthem.
The problem was, Costa Rica didn’t have a national anthem. To overcome this slight hurdle, the president requested that the director of Costa Rica’s National Army Orchestra, Manuel Maria Gutierrez, compose the music for a national anthem.
However, when Gutierrez insisted that he knew nothing about musical composition, he was thrown in prison on the condition that he would only be released once he had produced the piece of music.
The resulting composition was first performed on June 11th – again either 1852 or 1853 – in the National Assembly in San José.
While the veracity of the story has been questioned by some due to the confusion as to which year the events occurred, it has nonetheless been adopted as the “creation story” of Costa Rica’s national anthem.
In 1903, a contest was held to compose lyrics for the anthem, which was won by José María Zeledón Brenes. The music and lyrics were officially declared as the national anthem in 1949.