This date is the sesquicentennial of former Costa Rican president Juan Rafael Mora Porras’s death by firing squad, for attempting to retake that office from his brother-in-law after being ousted in a coup.
In the mid-19th century, coffee was king in Costa Rica — say, wouldn’t you enjoy a refreshing cup right now? — and Juan Rafael Mora was the young country’s wealthy leading exporter of the ground black gold.
Little wonder he held the presidency for most of the 1850s.
(Signal achievement: allied with American tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt to help drive filibuster William Walker out of neighboring Nicaragua. Unfortunately, Mora’s army returned home bearing something besides the enemy standards: a cholera epidemic that decimated — literally, killed 10% of — the Costa Rican populace.)
In 1859, while making unwelcome sounds about a national bank not controlled by the coffee barons, Mora was overthrown by another coffee baron — Jose Maria Montealegre.
Rather than leave well enough alone, Mora regrouped in exile and launched an 1860 bid to regain power.
While Juan Rafael Mora was introduced to a firing squad for his trouble, one of his party who was spared that indignity was Mora’s nephew Manuel Arguello Mora, a future novelist and Costa Rican Supreme Court justice.