What Does “Annexation” Mean?

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The word anexión, or annexation, is synonymous with the traditional celebrations of July 25th, of the cry “Of the fatherland by our will,” when Guanacaste decided to become part of Costa Rica.

However, its use has been criticized by some academics and experts in folklore because they consider that the verb “to annex” is imprecise and suggests an idea that is contrary to the Partido de Nicoya’s voluntary integration to Costa Rica.

According to the philologist and creator of the program “Vivamos la Guanacastequidad” (Let’s Live Guanacasteness) Marco Tulio Gardela, in 1824 – when the act was signed that incorporated the Partido de Nicoya – the word annexation has another connotation: it refers to a country conquering a territory and demanding its submission through weapons.



There was no annexation because there was no submission to any country. The Partido de Nicoya freely agreed to join Costa Rica. It could be an addition, incorporation, or union. I think they chose the wrong word,” said Gardela.

Abdenago Torrez Meléndez, an expert in folklore, agrees.

The term ‘annexation’ is offensive because it disrespects what the Partido de Nicoya did. The correct word is ‘incorporation,’” said Torres.

Origin of the Term in Costa Rica

In order to better understand why the annexation was used, we have to go back to 1824. 

In those days, people used the terms “addition,” “union” or “incorporation” for the Partido de Nicoya coming to Costa Rica, according to the book Nicoya y su pasado colonial y su anexión o agregación a Costa Rica (Nicoya, Its Colonial Past and Annexation or Addition to Costa Rica), the the historians Fernando Sibaja and Chester Zelaya.


“The term annexation was not used in before the time in which the historic event we now call the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya to Costa Rica,” says the book.


Nor does the word “annexation” appear in the act signed in Nicoya in 1824. So, when and why did it start being used?


According to the book, in 1848 the Costa Rican diplomats Felipe Molina and Lorenzo Montúfar first used the term anexación, which was derived from the English-language word annexation.


A historical use of the term could have influenced the adoption of the new term. According to Sibaja and Zelaya, the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 brought the term into political use.


More recently, in 1956, the decree that declared July 25 as a National Festival (2034) refers to both the terms “incorporation” and “annexation” of the Partido de Nicoya.


Should It Be Changed?


According to the Royal Spanish Academy (the governing body of the Spanish language), in Spanish the word anexionar means “to join or incorporate something, especially a country or a part of its territory, with another.”


Marco Tulio Gardela recognizes that the Academy’s current definition corresponds to what happened on July 25, 1824, but he maintains that the correct term, in honor of the essence of the process, should be “union.”