Costa Rica

The influence of body image in our society

In many societies, people associate the perfect body image with success. Their perception of what a person should look like in order to be successful is heavily influenced by the media. Some of our contributors share how important body image is perceived to be in their countries and what that perception is influenced by.

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August 20, 2013 Comments disabled

Picture Postcards: Sky over Costa Rica

Costa Rica Sky

Today’s sky photo was taken by our contributor in Costa Rica, Nuria.

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The Costa Rican Colorful Ox Cart
5 Interesting Facts About Costa Rica
Costa Rican Lunch

August 19, 2013 Comments disabled

What are you listening to? Our contributors share their favourite music from around the world

Last summer it seemed like Gangnam Style was everywhere. Here in Turkey the crazy dancer from Korea was on the tv, the radio, playing in the shopping mall. On Facebook I saw a Gangnam flash mob in Bishkek. My niece and nephew spent the summer holidays watching a Dutch remake which their dad decided was more child friendly.

Since music crosses borders so easily these days, it’s no surprise that many PocketCultures contributors are listening to something from another country. Others are listening to music from their own country. Read on to learn who is listening to what, and then tell us what you’re listening to.

Simona Morachioli (Italy / Germany)

Here is my obsession at the moment: Lana del Rey with “Young and Beautiful”. It is part of the Great Gatsby soundtrack (which was stunning, more stunning than the movie itself in my opinion).

Lana is American and I went to listen to her live a month ago here in Germany. She is even greater live than on radio.

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June 21, 2013 2 comments

The Costa Rican Colorful Oxcart

Costa Rican oxcarts (Photo by Manu Martin)

La Carreta, “The oxcart” in English, was designated National Labor Symbol on March 22nd, 1988. During the nineteenth century, with extensive coffee plantations around the country, it was necessary to have a vehicle that could actually pass through muddy places, beaches, hills, curves, rocky mountains and deep small rivers. That’s when this rustic, wooden, strong cart was created.

As the coffee industry of Costa Rica increased, so did the need to use the oxcart to produce and export the coffee beans. Thus, the first shipment of coffee to London was transported from the coffee plantations to Costa Rica’s main ports by oxcart in 1843. Oxcarts carried coffee to the province of Puntarenas on a small road between 1844 and 1846. A curious fact is that oxcarts were originally pulled by people, not oxen. However, as the need for transporting goods grew, the loads became too heavy and the people were replaced by oxen.

"Coffee and sugarcane gave birth to our oxcart" (Photo by Manu Martin)

The oxcart also served as an ideal transportation for family trips and other types of social activities such as weddings and funerals, and even for medical assistance. It is interesting to know that before the railway was built, which connected San José with Puntarenas, many families used the oxcarts to spend summer days in the coast. The round trip consisted of 4 ½ days to get there, 2 days in the beach and other 4 ½ days to return!

The golden age of oxcarts is said to go from 1850 to 1935. The custom of originally decorating and painting these carts began in the early twentieth century, when cowherds decided to add life to oxcarts by hand painting them with bright colors and geometrical figures.  In 1903, people decided to start enhancing the carts by decorating the circle wheels, and in 1915, the entire wheels were painted and decorated to create a distinct look among families. After World War II, the oxcart became obsolete due to new inventions; being replaced by trains, tractors and trucks. It has been used since then as an ornamental object.

Oxcarts in the past (Photo by Manu Martin)

The oxcart is not only used in Costa Rica, but also in Central America. However, the Costa Rican oxcart is unique because it is the only one decorated in such an original way with colorful patterns and shapes, and even flowers, stars and animals. Although the oxcarts can present evident similarities, there are never two oxcarts painted exactly the same since all of them contain changes in color tones and figures. This art has been passed from generation to generation up to the present time.

Original oxcart with painted animals and flowers (Photo by Manu Martin)

The town of Sarchí, located in the province of Alajuela, is the great traditional center for manufacturing and decorating carretas. That’s why it is common to see beautifully painted oxcarts in gardens and in the more than 200 stores, where a wonderful variety of oxcarts can be found, offering all kinds of sizes and colors. The largest and oldest oxcart factory is also found in this place: the Joaquín Chaverri Oxcart Factory was built in 1902 and is considered to be the birthplace of oxcart handicrafts in Costa Rica. In front of the church of Sarchí you can also see the world’s largest painted oxcart, which was built in 2006 in order to get the name of the town into The Guinness Book of World Records. It is an amazingly beautiful oxcart!

One of the many stores in Sarchí (Photo by Nuria Villalobos)

Corridor in Sarchí where oxcarts get painted (Photo by Manu Martin)

The World's Largest Painted Oxcart

The oxcarts are nowadays used in parades and festivals around the country. The most famous one takes place on the second Sunday of every March in San Antonio de Escazú, a town in San José. The Oxcart Drivers Day, Día de los Boyeros in Spanish, has been celebrated for 30 years. This year, over 200 yuntas (sets) of oxen and beautifully decorated and colorful oxcarts participated in the event. The boyeros or oxcart men use a traditional prod or chuzo to keep the oxen moving and under control as they climb uphill to San Antonio. Besides the parade, where the priest blesses the oxcarts, the festival also offers visitors a good variety of typical food and traditional music.

The Oxcart Drivers Day in Escazú (Photo by ticoindex.com)

After learning so much about the oxcart, it is easy to understand its importance in the Costa Rican culture. As María Alvarado says in her article about the typical oxcart, it is one of the most genuine folkloric manifestations of the country as it represents the simplicity and aspirations of rural Costa Rican people, who have become artisans thanks to it. La carreta symbolizes humility, patience, sacrifice and endurance in an effort to pursue goals in a pacific manner. The national progress is linked to the oxcart, which imposes respect in virtue of its glorious past. The typical oxcart was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO on November 24th, 2005.

Oxcart with boyero (Photo by Manu Martin)

Beautiful oxen with cart (Photo by Nuria Villalobos)

So, if you are ever in Costa Rica, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Sarchí or Escazú, get on an oxcart to take a picture or buy a miniature oxcart somewhere. It will always remind you of how the Costa Rica you know today was forged.

Tourists on oxcart (Photo by Manu Martin)

The Oxcart: National Symbol of Costa Rica (Photo by Manu Martin)

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March 29, 2013 8 comments

Picture Postcards: Sunset in Costa Rica


This lovely scene was captured by our contributor from Costa Rica, Nuria. She says,
“That photo was taken in the town of San Rafael in Heredia, Costa Rica. From that place you can see all the Central Valley, which includes the provinces of Alajuela, Heredia, San José and Cartago. The view is beautiful, especially with such a wonderful sunset like that one. I was at a party with some friends, and we took the time to enjoy the sunset and take pics. A pretty normal activity for us Costa Ricans!”

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Nuria from Costa Rica: Living the pura vida
Polish Man Loves Costa Rica
5 Interesting Facts About Costa Rica

October 28, 2012 Comments disabled

My first trip

It’s summer in the Northern hemisphere, so probably many of you are thinking about holidays, or at least escaping outside now and again. So for this month’s collaborative post we’ve been thinking about travel. If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, well, maybe you will read this and dream of the summer that’s coming up.

Colombia, the USA, India, Bulgaria… PocketCultures contributors from around the world write about their first trip abroad (or – since we haven’t all had the chance to travel abroad – their first big trip). Read on to find out where they went and what they did!

Nuria (Costa Rica)

I took my first trip abroad when I turned 15 years old. My parents and sisters celebrated this special birthday, Quince Años in Spanish, with me in San Andres Island, Colombia. It was the first time I was ever on a plane, so the trip was really exciting although it was only about an hour! I remember the day before leaving, I did not feel so good and I had a rash, so I went to the drugstore but they told me it was only an allergy. So, I did not pay that much attention to it. But the next day when we were at the airport, I had a fever and did not feel that good the following days. Since I thought what I had was a simple allergy, once I noticed some itchy, red dots on my legs, I just scratched them all.

Getting my hair braided

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August 15, 2012 2 comments