Costa Rican Oxcarts are a large part of Costa Rican history. They allowed for the expansion and increase of exports of many goods including Costa Rica's main export, coffee. It also is a huge part of Costa Rican culture today. Painting and decorating oxcarts began in the early 20th century, when each region in Costa Rica began creating its own design allowing for identification when in transportation.


Then, cow herders began hand-painting their own oxcarts in addition to their identification designs. Many of these paintings included bright colors, geometric figures, and even portraits of people and beautiful landscapes. In 1903, people began enhancing their oxcarts by adding designs to their wheels. In 1915, the entire wheels were painted and decorated to create a distinct look for each family.


Many times these designs would show the social status of the families. Although many oxcarts are similar, no two are painted exactly the same. The art of painting these oxcarts has been passed down from generation to generation.


On March 22, 1988, “La Carreta” was designated the National Labor Symbol for Costa Rica. In addition on November 24, 2005, the typical oxcart was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.


Take a look at our gallery of photos from our visit to the Eloy Alfaro Oxcart Factory in Sarchí, founded in 1903.


Pura Vida, a characteristic Costa Rican phrase, literally means pure life, with connotations that suggest translations such as "full of life", "this is living!", "going great", or "real living". 


The phrase can be used both as a greeting or a farewell, as an answer expressing that things are going well, as a way of giving thanks or showing appreciation.


In modern-day usage, the saying goes beyond its simple translation: it's a way of life. It is a perspective to life that evokes a spirit that is carefree, laid back and optimistic.

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