Located in the Central Mountain Range, not far from Costa Rica's capital city of San Jóse, the town of Sarchí is the center of Costa Rica's painted oxcart industry.
to legend, around 1910 a farmer was suddenly inspired to spruce up the
appearance of his oxcart. He painted the wheels with multi-colored designs.
Others copied his designs and oxcart painting became a uniquely Costa
Rican art form. At one time each district in the country had its own
special design, and people could tell by looking at an oxcart what region
it came from.
Until about thirty years ago, oxcarts were the principal means of transporting
coffee beans and other agricultural products to market. Today some farmers
still rely on this traditional method of transporting their goods. The
father of former president Oscar Arias Sánchez made his fortune
hauling coffee in oxcarts to the port of Puntarenas.
Today, the painted oxcarts are produced mainly for decorative purposes.
In addition to the full-size carts, replicas are available for sale ranging
from small, inexpensive table top models to larger carts that are designed
to be used as planters or living room cocktail carts. Regardless of size
and price, all of the oxcarts are beautifully handpainted in bright colors
featuring motifs of butterflies, flowers and fruits, as well as traditional
design patterns whose origin can be traced to designs brought to Spain
from North Africa by the Moors.
The gift shops in Sarchí are also filled with other woodcrafts
including furniture, chairs, desks, coffee tables, and polished wood
serving dishes, as well as leather items, ceramic crafts, and jewelry.
Exploring the arts and crafts of a country offers travelers another way
to learn about its people and culture. Costa Rica has a wide spectrum
of art objects ranging from the inexpensive to museum-quality collector's
items. Goods offered for sale include wood crafts, ceramics, reproductions
of pre-Colombian figurines and masks, leather accessories, hammocks,
woven baskets, jewelry made of woods, silver, gold and jade, embroidered
dresses, blouses, table linens, and, of course, replicas of the famous
In San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, almost every craft item is available.
However, as travelers visit the beautiful and diverse provinces of Costa
Rica, they can purchase products reflecting the particular traditions
and culture of the surrounding countryside.
One item that most visitors bring home is a bag or more of Costa Rican
coffee beans. Sipping the rich flavor, and inhaling the wonderful aroma
weeks after returning home helps recapture some of the adventures and
sights of a Costa Rican vacation.
So how about it? Wan’na buy an oxcart?
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