Tico legends are depicted in stamp issue in time for Halloween

A grandfather tells the Tico version of a ghost story to youngsters in an illustration accompanying the Mitos y Leyendas stamp issue. Framed, the stamp set would make an interesting present for those who need a little encouragement to stay away from strong drink, strange women or profane drivers of carretas. Illustrations by Heriberto Barrientos A.

Halloween is not really a Costa Rican tradition even though youngsters go wild that night, block streets and set trash afire.

So maybe it is just coincidence that the national postal service has come out with a set of scary stamps.

The issue is designed to mark U.N. World Post Day, the anniversary of the Universal Postal Union. Correos de Costa Rica chose two legends to immortalize on stamps. The are La Segua and La Carreta sin Bueyes.

Both legends are at least from the 18th century but the theme is universal: To terrify those who would drink, pick up strange women or curse God.

La Segua is the beautiful woman whose face changes at a key moment from that of a damsel to that of a female horse. The legend is so well known that there even is a local beer named after her.

The Carreta sin Bueyes is not the taxi an expat wants. One popular version takes place in Escazú where the driver of an oxcart, a carreta, has a running feud with the local priest. To emphasize his point, the oxcart driver prods his oxen orbueyes onto the church steps with the goal of barging into the holy place. The well-brought-up bueys balk and eventually end up in buey heaven. The profane driver of the carreta is turned over to Satan Lucifer and must spend the nights traveling through the streets of the Central Valley with a self-propelled ox cart. One image of this phantom cart shows a giant hand in the place where the oxen should be, and that is the propulsion system. The driver remains in a casket in back.

Correos de Costa Rica stopped short of recreating this grim picture. The 485-colon stamp shows an empty cart scaring the wits out of a Tico as it patrols the streets.

The set of stamps, illustrated by Heriberto Barrientos A., shows a grandfather recounting the legends to enthralled youngsters. The horse-faced Segua is pictured along with Cadejos, a demon dog that is the subject of yet another legend. Each of the two stamps is placed near a short explanation of its legend. The La Segua stamp carries a value of 385, so the set is worth 870 colons or about $1.76.

The postal service made 15,000 stamp sets with 500 first-day covers. The demon dog shows up again on the special cancelation.

Just about every Costa Rican knows these legends. The stamp set is available at local post offices or the special collector’s window downtown. The stamps also are available online.

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