San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Past Meets Present

WORKING in a profession inheritedfrom his father, in a community where manyfarmers relied on boyeros (ox-drivers) untilrecently, William Chaverri tills farmers’land in La Guácima de Alajuela, northwestof San José, with the help of his twooxen, Perica and Generoso, and of hisnephew Juan Alberto Navarro.“The work of a boyero isn’t much. It’sonly for certain seasons,” William says.The month of May is the busiest of allbecause it marks the beginning of the rainyseason, when farmers must prepare theland for the annual harvest. During the restof the year, the oxen spend most of theirtime resting. On average, today’s boyerosreceive one job per week during the off-season,but sometimes there may be nowork for a month.A day’s work consists of six hours.Depending on the shift boss, the work paysapproximately ¢15,000 ($31.44).“We have to return to traditions,”Chaverri says, explaining that the cost ofrenting a chapulín (tractor) is much greaterthan that of hiring a boyero.Chaverri has worked for 30 years as acargo driver in the Juan SantamaríaInternational Airport in Alajuela. Hisboyero work is a “little extra” that helpshim stay afloat. On days when he has workas a boyero, he rises at 4 a.m. to yoke theoxen and depart for the farmland by 4:30at the latest. He and his nephew, whoalways accompanies him, work until 10a.m. At 2 p.m. he begins his work at theairport, which does not end until 9 p.m.For this hard-working man, being aboyero and farmer is a pleasure. Rising atdawn doesn’t matter so long as he is incontact with the land.–Photos and text by Mónica Quesada

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