Museo Nacional creates a virtual tribute to boyeros and bueyes

This scene from the 1920s shows an oxcart passing under the Avenida Tercera bridge that is directly south of what is today Parque España. A horse-drawn rig is on the bridge. Museo Nacional photo

The Museo Nacional has put together an Internet slide that could be titled “Everything you always wanted to know about bueyes but were afraid to ask.”

Bueyes, of course, are those big, well-muscled oxen that have been the engine of agriculture for centuries. They still are used in the countryside for plowing and moving heavy loads over muddy trails. The man in charge of the oxen is called a boyero, That’s a legendary character akin to the U.S. cowboy.

Keeping oxen is more of a hobby for some people, although plenty are at work every day in the countryside. A banker or a lawyer might leave the jacket an tie in the closet and don the garb of a boyero for weekend parades.

The museum Internet display, titled “El Boyeo y la Caretta,” includes a section on language specific to the oxcarts and their creatures. The oxen are guided from the front with words and
also a steel-tipped stick. In parades one can see a boy guiding the docile beasts that are 20 times the lad’s weight.

Unlike gasoline-powered tractors, oxen have some ability to follow commands.

The museum online exhibit also discusses the economic impact that the animals have had on Costa Rica. And, of course, there are plenty of photos of the brightly painted oxcarts, something that began in the early part of the 20th century in Escazú.

It was an Italian expat who started the trend because that was the way they did it in Italy. Now the brightly painted oxcart is a cultural icon, and the Ox and the Oxcart driver were named an intangible heritage of humanity in 2005 by the United Nations.

The slide show also contains some sketches and old photos of the historic use of the oxen, such as hauling bananas.

The exhibit is HERE!

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