National Labor Symbol
The oxcart, designated National Labor Symbol on March 22, 1988, is a rustic strong vehicle with two compact wheels moved by two oxen. It can easily pass through muddy places, swamps, beaches, hills, curves, rocky mountains, and deep small rivers.
The oxcart integrated Costa Rica into international commerce by becoming the main means of export transportation after 1840. The first shipment of coffee to London was transported from the coffee plantations to Costa Rica's main ports by oxcart in 1843. Oxcarts transported coffee to Puntarenas on a small road between 1844 and 1846.
After World War II, the oxcart became obsolete due to new inventions. It has been used since then as an ornamental object although some farmers still use it during the coffee harvest season to carry coffee to processing plants in rural areas.
Painting oxcarts developed into a form of original Costa Rican art in the early 20th century. Cowherds decided to add life to oxcarts by hand-painting them with bright colors and geometrical figures. There are never two oxcarts painted the same. All of them contain changes in color tones and figures. This art has been passed from generation to generation up to the present time.
The painted oxcart has become a Costa Rican symbol throughout the world and has promoted economic development through the production of handicrafts in the Costa Rican cities of Sarchí and Puriscal.
Oxcarts portray the peaceful tradition of Costa Rica and the arduous and fervent labor of its people. They are perceived as a window to Costa Rica's optimistic vision of life, humility, patience, sacrifice, and endurance to pursue goals in a pacific and progressive manner.
Oxcarts are the vehicles that brought economic wealth and original art to Costa Rica. They represent the simplicity and aspirations of rural Costa Rican people who in turn have become artisans willing to fulfill their destiny.
The Oxherd: (El Boyero)
The oxherd, the person who guides the oxen, is a remarkable worker who played a role in the history of Costa Rica. Oxherds worked under the rain, the sun, in swamps, in mud, day and night, in their effort to bring exports to the main ports of Costa Rica.
The oxherds represent the unwavering will of Costa Rican people of the early 1900s, who pursued their goals and success with persistence, a value that has proved essential for the development of democracy throughout the history of Costa Rica.