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Parties, piñatas and penguins: Independence Day, Central America style

September 13, 2013 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
"In Costa Rica we proudly celebrate our independence throughout September which we call 'the Homeland's Month'," said Pablo Avilés, who took this photo in 2012. "We are proud to be a country with no army, but we say that<a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1033715' target='_blank'> our army is our children</a> in schools and high schools. I think this is one of the most beautiful moments, because you can see the kids reflecting the ethnic mix of Costa Rica," said the 41-year-old web developer from San José, Costa Rica. "In Costa Rica we proudly celebrate our independence throughout September which we call 'the Homeland's Month'," said Pablo Avilés, who took this photo in 2012. "We are proud to be a country with no army, but we say that our army is our children in schools and high schools. I think this is one of the most beautiful moments, because you can see the kids reflecting the ethnic mix of Costa Rica," said the 41-year-old web developer from San José, Costa Rica.
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Peaceful Costa Rica
Red, white and blue
Mexico City lights
A trip down memory lane
Guatemala's motley crew
Banging the drum for Honduras
Love, peace, justice and liberty
Fire of Freedom
Charros in Chicago
El Salvador's peace bands
Military parade
We are family
Reflecting on solidarity
Piñatas of Tijuana
Week-long celebrations in Nicaragua
She nailed it!
Viva Las Vegas
Proud parading in Guatemala
The battle of the marching bands
The beauty of buildings
On a mission
The ox and cart of Costa Rica
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica celebrate on September 15
  • Mexico celebrate its Independence Day, sometimes referred to as El Grito, on September 16
  • iReporters from all six countries shared their best Independence photos

(CNN) -- For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries in one continent pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.

Five Central American countries -- Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica -- kick off their Independence Day celebrations on September 15, the date when, in 1821, they declared independence from Spain, while the following day Mexico holds its own independence celebrations.

We asked people from each country to send in their best images from past and present Independence Day celebrations. From masked revelers in Guatemala to elaborately costumed dance troupes in Honduras, we received stunning images from nations proud to celebrate their beginnings.

More Celebrates: The world's best firework displays

Like the best birthday celebrations, the events are marked with glorious parades, street parties, festivals and family gatherings.

During an Eid spent in India, Laurens Meulman, 35, from the Netherlands, spotted an irresistible photo-opportunity after she'd been invited to share food with a family in a square behind the Taj Mahal. "The henna-painted hands of one of the women in the group caught my eye and I asked her if I could to take a photo," she said. During an Eid spent in India, Laurens Meulman, 35, from the Netherlands, spotted an irresistible photo-opportunity after she'd been invited to share food with a family in a square behind the Taj Mahal. "The henna-painted hands of one of the women in the group caught my eye and I asked her if I could to take a photo," she said.
Hands on at Taj Mahal
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Summer solstice, the longest day of the year, arrives in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21. It's a time when bonfires are lit, traditional songs are sung and more often than not, clothes come off. Robban Kanto and his friends, who celebrated the longest day in Zinkgruvan in Sweden last year, couldn't resist a quick skinny-dip before the night was up. Summer solstice, the longest day of the year, arrives in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21. It's a time when bonfires are lit, traditional songs are sung and more often than not, clothes come off. Robban Kanto and his friends, who celebrated the longest day in Zinkgruvan in Sweden last year, couldn't resist a quick skinny-dip before the night was up.
Solstice celebrations around the world
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Underwear brand Freshpair coined National Underwear Day (August 5) to market their brand of panties. The company celebrates by hiring models to parade in their underthings at New York's Time Square. Civilians are welcome to join the fun as well. Underwear brand Freshpair coined National Underwear Day (August 5) to market their brand of panties. The company celebrates by hiring models to parade in their underthings at New York's Time Square. Civilians are welcome to join the fun as well.
Weird and wonderful DIY holidays
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TV producer Brad Cordeiro was in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, when he captured stunning images of young women in beautiful flowing blue dresses performing in a parade held for the country's Independence Day.

"The feel of the parade was of a lot of proud parents watching their kids participate," he said. "The celebration was a week long, and as San Juan del Sur is a resort town people from all over the country came to town, it felt like the whole country was there," he said.

Sometimes the celebrations can provide the most eye-opening of visuals. In Guatemala City, anthropologist Lucas de Soto captured this image of a rather motley crew of soldiers, worker and, yes, a man dressed in a bird suit during the country's celebrations in 2011.

"It's ... sort of a fun side to the military that they wanted to present with the festive atmosphere, despite how ambivalent the general public is about them," he said. "They were dressing up as bears, and wrestlers, and handing out candy."

More Celebrates: The world's messiest festivals

Elsewhere on the continent, in Honduras, Independence day for U.S. photographer Hunter Johnson means a chance to give the orphans who live in the homes his organization houses the opportunity to take part in the many parades held to honor the day.

His beautiful image captures several young girls from one of the organization's centers proudly dressed in their dancing finery ahead of a parade in Talanga, Honduras.

"The parade I witnessed in Honduras was certainly simpler from a materialistic perspective, but it did not lack whatsoever in energy and passion among its participants," he said.

"They were proud to don colorful outfits and march in unison as they honored their country in music and dance."

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