Oxen take over the streets to mark Yule season start

Nearly as tall as a man and with spectacular horns, this team is one of the better known that particpates in boyero celebrations. A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

One of the oldest forms of machine known to mankind is not computer-operated but is run on pure oxen animal power.

The fixed male cattle are normally yoked together in pairs and put to agricultural work or used for transportation. They were used in early Costa Rica to pull carts containing coffee across the country.

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Boyeros start early as youngsters or even infants!

Today, according to ranch owner Alberto Esquivel, locals can purchase the animal, which can weigh more than 800 kilograms, nearly 1,800 pounds, for around $2.5 million colons. They are raised on country lands or ranches and left to roam free range until they are needed for training and use.

One such use happened Sunday, where the large animals were put on display and made available so citizens and tourists could take photos and see some of the nation’s history.

“It’s a tradition that goes back many years,” said Esquivel.

Boyeros or Costa Rican ox cart drivers traveled to San José from regions that ranged from Cartago to Guanacaste to show off their prized oxen in the annual Desfile de Santos y Boyeros hosted by the Municipalidad de San José.

It is the official start of the Christmas season.

Dressed in Wrangler and Levi jeans that were fitted with big buckled belts, button-down shirts, cowboy hats and cowboy boots, the men, women and children guided large oxen up Paseo Colon and down Avenida Segunda to the Plaza de la Democracia.

Some oxen, tired from standing in slow moving lines, became restless. At this point, the boyeros would shout commands such as Esa, and correct the animal’s behavior by gently patting the yoke with a pointed staff.

In the midst of the oxen, other farm animals such as ponies, calves and goats were allowed to shine. Most of these animals were led by future rancheros of the families, children.

Folklore groups danced to cimarrona or bands which were paraded around by persons dressed in large mascaradas or giant masks among the oxen. Light showers that came and went during the five-hour parade caused the crowd to appear and disappear.

However, nothing fazed the mighty beast adorned in leather headdresses. They continued to chew their cud, pull their fancy, hand-painted carretas containing wooden statutes of saints and waited for the end of the line when they could return to their home on the range.

Amid the oxen, the Ballet Folclórico Nayuribes performed. The group is an extension program of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The name is that of the wife of the famous native chief Nicoya and also that of a native flowering plant. A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.