August 9, 2013

0785 COSTA RICA - Oxherding and Oxcart Traditions in Costa Rica (UNESCO ICH)

The oxcart was a common means of transportation in many countries of the world for millennia, but only in very few has been given it so much importance as in Costa Rica. Considering it essential for the daily life but also for the commerce, the locals developed a unique construction and decoration of these carts, that is still being developed. The parades and traditional celebrations aren't complete without a oxcart parade. More than that, in 1988, the traditional oxcart was declared as National Symbol of Work by the Costa Rican government, and in 2005, the Oxherding and oxcart traditions in Costa Rica were included in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

From the mid 19th century, ox carts (carreta) were used to transport coffee beans from Costa Rica’s central valley over the mountains to Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, a journey requiring ten to fifteen days. The oxcarts used spokeless wheels, a hybrid between the disc used by the Aztec and the spoked wheel introduced by the Spaniards, to cut through the mud without getting stuck. The tradition of decorating oxcarts started in the early 20th century. Originally, each region of the country had its own particular design, enabling the identification of the driver’s origin.

On the other hand, each ox cart is designed to make its own 'song', a unique chime produced by a metal ring striking the hubnut of the wheel as the cart bumped along. Today’s colourful and richly decorated carretas bear little resemblance to the original rough-hewn, rectangular, caneframed vehicles. While in most regions of Costa Rica trucks and trains replaced oxcarts as the main means of transport, the carretas remain strong symbols of Costa Rica’s rural past.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting Alberto Marten - Founder of the Solidarism Movement, was issued on June 19, 2009. The second is part of a series dedicated to 80th Anniversary of Ministry of Labour and Social Security,  which contains four stamps with the same face value (240 CRC) issued on August 26, 2008.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday #180, hosted on Beth's blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy. Click on the button below to visit all the other participants.

Bullock cart - Wikipedia
Oxherding and oxcart traditions in Costa Rica - UNESCO official website

sender: Erick (direct swap)
sent from Heredia (Costa Rica), on 01.06.2013
photo: Jean Mercier / 1997

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