Multicolored carts line up on the streets outside the church in San Miguel de Escazú as the oxen that prepare to pull them stamp and snort. Real-life cowboys and cowgirls gear up for the parade up to San Antonio de Escazú. This is Costa Rica’s traditional showcase at its best. The Oxcart Parade on Sunday, March 12, is vibrant, festive and absolutely free.
Local cow herders drive their oxen down from the surrounding hillsides or bring their livestock in trucks into Escazú to participate in this annual affair, coming from as far away as Cartago and Grecia. These are the same oxen they use to plant and sow the fields and farm the land.
For the viewers who line the streets, this is a chance to get a glimpse at intricately painted carts made nearby in the mountain town of Sarchí. Be prepared to stand along the crowded sidewalks and enjoy the clanging and drumbeats of the marching bands and the larger-than-life, wildly dancing puppets that represent figures from local folklore.
Each year, my kids and I marvel at the majestic, matched sets of oxen that team up to pull the carts. Men, women and children drive the colorful and detailed wooden carretas. My family and I march up the hill behind the parade, giving the bulls a wide berth and watching out for the land mines of cow pies.
Inevitably, one of us ends up buying a cowboy hat off a street vendor and for a few minutes, we bask in the fantasy that we are all actually cowboys. Wear your plaid shirt to fit in.
The parade begins at 9 a.m. near the San Miguel central park and continues until the cows come home.
In this column, adventurer, author, teacher and parent Ilana Long explores fun things to do in Costa Rica that cost absolutely nada. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.