Ox Carts, Artifacts and Amistoso in San Jose, Costa Rica

No one seems to think very highly of Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, even though everyone seems to agree that the rest of the country is full of wonders. My own first impression is that San Jose is gritty and lacking in charm, and I haven’t found anything that seems distinctively Costa Rican. But, like everywhere else I have visited, San Jose has its attractions.

The people here are friendly, “amistoso.” I have found it very easy to stop and talk to strangers about this or that. And there is lots of music, most of which sounds like a variation of Mexican music. But some of it sounds like rap and reggae. Because it’s rap and reggae.

This amigo makes and sells tiny ceramic instruments called ocarinas,. When he plays them, they sound like flutes.

He may have a tough look but he loves that rooster named “Chato.”










Avocado vendor sharing his political views with former United States President.

I was lucky to be here on the day of the big Ox Cart Parade, which was held a block from my hotel. It featured dancers, clowns and a lot of music.  Dozens of teams of oxen pulled colorful hand-painted carts. Once used to haul farm produce and coffee to market, the ox cart is an important national symbol in Costa Rica, representing labor, art and optimism.

I also loved the city’s new Jade Museum  — which presents the story of  pre-Colombian Costa Rica, with incredible pottery, stone work and jewelry. All of the exhibits have interactive features and are presented in very atmospheric displays with a lot of good information.  Although Costa Rica is not considered one of the most important places in Central America for archaeologists, its ancient art is among the most diverse, probably because the region was along a trading route.  Historians speculate ancient Costa Rican tribes did not leave behind major cities (like Tikal or Machu Piccu) because the population here was small. I especially loved the room about Shamanism, a practice of medicinal healing and spirituality.

My favorites in the pottery displays were the many vessels that integrated animals as legs or handles.

A sculpture from the Jade Museum that I assume is modern.

Tribal warriors placed a high value on the heads of their enemies, which might explain the many stone heads found by archaeologists.

Tomorrow — the jungle!

Not all those who wander are lost.
             β€“ J.R.R. Tolkien
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
            – Anonymous


  1. Love the pic of our former Prez checking out the avocados. Sounds as if you have gotten off to a great start on your new adventure Kim. Keep the blog posts coming! The photos and narrative are great!

  2. I love the oxcarts and Chato, too! Even though I’ve never been to Costa Rica, I have a field guide to its birds. I am envious of your journey. Β‘Buen viaje!

  3. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of (people) and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
    Mark Twain

  4. Thanks for sharing a link to this. I love the article. It helps me greater understand the significance of the ox cart in Costa Rican culture.

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