Once the main form of transportation across a mountainous country that depended on agriculture for its survival, oxcarts in Costa Rica today are mostly used for celebrations and are considered a traditional and cultural icon in the country.
The colorfully-painted wooden oxcarts (called carretas in Spanish), their teams of matched oxen, and their oxcart drivers are known around the world. In 2005, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) proclaimed Costa Rica’s vibrantly painted, traditional oxcarts to be an Intangible World Cultural Heritage. Since 1988, the oxcart has been the National Labor Symbol for Costa Rica.
Oxcarts are not only used in Costa Rica but in many rural areas around the world. However, the Costa Rican kind are famous for their unique and colorful painted designs on the cart, wheels and oxen yoke that include geometric patterns, flowers, animals, landscapes, and even sometimes portraits.
No two oxcarts in Costa Rica are painted exactly the same. The fine art of oxcart painting has been passed down in families from generation to generation, especially in the Central Valley town of Sarchi – located west of San Jose. In that town’s central park, you can also see the “World’s Largest Oxcart” – built in 2006.
It was in Sarchi that the tradition of painting oxcarts in Costa Rica all began.
When in Costa Rica, be sure to visit Sarchi and enjoy yourself!
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