The Colorful Oxcart, Costa Rica’s “National Symbol of Labor”

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The Colorful Oxcart, Costa Rica’s “National Symbol of Labor”

The Christmas season in Costa Rica is welcomed each year by the Entrada de Santos y Boyeros (the entrance of saints and oxcarts drivers)  to the city of San Jose.   Approximately two hundred colorful hand painted oxcarts with their bueyes (team of oxen)  participate.  Each oxcart carries a santo (saint) made  of wood as a symbol of blessings to the oxcart, oxen, and the driver. This parade, a powerful symbol of Costa Rica’s rural heritage,  is a traditional Christmas holiday event and attended by thousands of Costa Ricans as well as tourist from around the world.
Oxcarts once were the principal means of transportation, starting around 1840,  carrying coffee from the central valley over the mountains to the Pacific port of Puntarenas, and today is Costa Rica’s  “National Labor Symbol” portraying  Costa Rica’s peaceful traditions and the arduous labor of it’s people and the simplicity and aspirations of rural Costa Ricans.

The colorful painted designs on the oxcarts we see today was the inspiration of an Italian artist who immigrated to Costa Rica.  His paintings on the oxcart’s wheels quickly caught on and today the colorful geometric designs are hand painted on all the oxcarts, with no two designs exactly alike.

If you are traveling to Costa Rica be sure to visit the small hillside village of Sarchi.  Stop by the Fabrica de Carrettas Sarchi (oxcart factory) and see how the Chaverri family has continued the tradition of oxcart painting.  You can purchase you own miniature oxcart to take home.

Also the first week of March, the hillside town of San Antonio de Escazu  hosts its own folkloric  “Oxcart Parade”  for the blessing of the oxen.  Be sure not to miss it if you are in Costa Rica this time of the year and bring your camera! There is typical Costa Rican food, marimba music to compliment the beautiful oxcarts and their boyeros.

Around 1850 in San Jose

Around 1850 in San Jose

oxcart wheel

oxcart wheel

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