More than 200 carretas due at boyero parade Sunday

Tourism officials estimate that there will be more than 200 teams of oxen in the parade Sunday in Escazú.

But the party really begins Friday when the food tents open at noon in the plaza of San Antonio de Escazú. On the menu will be a host of traditional dishes, including pozol and tamales.

Saturday is a day for games and folk dances at the same location. The whole weekend will be great material for amateur photographers. The official designation is the national day of the boyero or oxcart driver.

Escazú is the origin of the brightly painted ox carts that are pulled by the bueyes or oxen.

Although ox carts have been painted since colonial times, the delicate artwork that sets the Costa Rican carreta apart from others, originated in Escazú in the first third of the 20th century. An Italian immigrant came up with the idea of adorning the carts with intricate colorings in the style that was typical of the Sicilian carts of his home. Although some geometric designs could be seen on earlier carts, historians generally place the flowering of the more ornate vehicles in the 1930s. Best known are the highly decorated wheels.

The ox cart even has entered the supernatural realm. The carreta sin bueyes is said to be heard rolling down the street at night carrying its damned ox cart driver. The story is that the driver cursed a priest and tried to drive his oxen and cart into a church. The oxen or bueyes would not enter holy ground and, thus, were spared damnation. Not so for the driver who rolls through the night in a vehicle that could only be propelled by the Devil.

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