A postage stamp showing an ox cart still in use.
Ox carts are an important part of Costa Rica’s cultural history. Each year, in March, there is a large parade of ox carts in Escazú, on the outskirts of San José. Last Sunday was Ox Driver’s Day and I was able to watch the parade for the first time in quite a few years. There must have been around 250 carts, some very old, some very ornate. I think I enjoy the bullocks more than the carts themselves; some are huge and very beautiful.
I didn’t have my camera with me but a friend did and I’m hoping he will send me some good photos of the parade. In the meantime, I found some on another website (here).
During the parade, the carts climb the hill to San Antonio de Escazú (a distance of several kilometers), where they assemble in front of the church and prizes are awarded in several categories.
A friend showed me a book on the history of these carts in Costa Rica that I would like to read more of at some point. It contains interesting information – like the fact that the main towns, in the highlands, are set roughly 20 kilometers apart because that was the distance that an ox cart could travel in one day. In the 19th century, long trains of carts transported coffee to the Pacific coast port of Puntarenas. As he traveled up to San José, writer Anthony Trollope noted the endless column of carts trundling past in the opposite direction.
This is the type of ox cart that appears on postcards and websites.
While this is a more realistic example of a working cart.
Earlier this summer, two of my daughters ran into a working cart in Nicoya, in Guanacaste province.