Oxen parade will be a tourism draw in Escazú Sunday

Boyeros and their teams of oxen take over the streets of Escazú Sunday as they travel from the plaza of San Rafael uphill to San Antonio de Escazú.

This is an annual and very photogenic event. This year the boyeros are celebrating the 10th anniversary of being declared intangible human heritage along with their animals and brightly painted carts.

The march of oxen and carts begins at 8:30 a.m., and motorists will not want to share the roadway with the parade. The route is a long, uphill walk, but the placid oxen probably will not mind. There will be a blessing in front of the Catholic church in San Antonio, and there will be a lot of other activities and food.

Maintaining a team of oxen, bueyes, is not a part-time job. These are the broad-shouldered animals that built Costa Rica. The surgery that turned young bulls into oxen also improved their demeanor, so some teams will be led by drivers as young as 8.

For tourists, a big hat and sunscreen is obligatory. Any who miss the Escazú event Sunday will have a second chance.

The Municipalidad de San José has scheduled the annual Entrada de los Santos for Nov. 29.

This is a similar parade of oxen and carts from Parque la Sabana up Paseo Colón and Avenida Segunda starting at 9 a.m. The oxen parade ends at the Plaza de la Democracia.

The carts carry life-sized wooden statutes of Roman Catholic saints, hence the name. Boyeros camp out the night before in the park.

The San José event is considered the official start of the Christmas season.

San Antonio is the home of boyeros, and a statute honoring them is here. There are oxen parades all over the country throughout the year because Costa Ricans love their boyeros and bueyes.

The Museo Nacional maintains an online collection of information connected to the craft.

The oxen and their drivers built the country and still are used daily in places where machinery cannot reach.  They also pull plows.

Raising a team of oxen represents a major effort on the part of the owners. Some of the critters end up being taller at the shoulders than a man.

The bueyes made their mark delivering coffee to the Pacific ports before the railroad took over. What is now the Interamericana Norte used to be filled with bueyes and their carretas as they lumbered from the Central Valley to the port in Caldera.

The oxen also pulled years and years of the sugar harvest.

The craft even has created its own vocabulary. For example, sesteo is what the La Sabana overnight campout is called. And there are songs and poems honoring the boyeros and bueyes.

Today the carts are brightly painted, but that was not always the case. This is an early 20th century innovation modeled after similar carts in Italy.

Still, the colorful cart wheel is the icon of the country.

Photo from the 1920s shows a time when carts were not painted.

Photo from the 1920s shows a time when carts were not painted.

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