A tradition honored by the UNESCO world heritage organization, the oxcart festival in San Jose is a depiction of the most prominent craft of Costa Rica.
Carretas as oxcarts are referred to in Costa Rica have been a symbol and craft of Costa Rican people for more than one hundred and sixty years. In December, the oxcarts are paraded in the downtown of San Jose, and this year the president was there to honor the great tradition. Oxcarts were categorized as a proclamation of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005.
The oxcarts, for the most part, were originally built to carry coffee from the Central Valley region to Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast, and were a sign of wealth for the people of earlier generations. Oxcarts were painted with colors specific to their region on their spokeless wheels, and the designs painted on the carts changed a lot over the years.
The tradition is not practiced as prolifically as it once was. The declining need for oxcarts has placed the custom in the hands of fewer and fewer artisans. There are, however, still contests and festivals held throughout Costa Rica. Of these annual oxcart contests and festivals, some are upwards of a century old.
The oxcart may have had some grander days in the past, but its history is still continued today. Moreover, carretas will always hold a place in the annals of history thanks to UNESCO, and the hard work of Costa Rican artisans over many years.