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Costa Rica: The Spanish Influence

Costa Rica: The Spanish Influence

The Spanish Influence

Unlike neighboring countries with their Maya, Inca, and Aztec Empires, Costa Rica never had a major indigenous culture. The native people, for the most part, survived on a simple agriculture-based economy.

When the Spanish arrived, many tribes moved from the valleys into the mountains in order to avoid slavery. The Spanish changed the area’s name to Costa Rica, which means “rich coast” in Spanish, and quickly began taking the local resources, and gaining complete control over the land and its people.

Like sharing customs and traditions today, sometimes cultural exchange can be good. The Spanish brought a rich artistic and agricultural heritage to the  New World.

One example of Spain’s influence on Costa Rica can be found in Sarchi, a small town known for its arts and crafts. Artists here are most famous for the carreta, or ox cart. Carretas were brought to Costa Rica by Spanish settlers in the mid 1800s to help transport coffee from mountain plantations to the markets or ports.

Local artists quickly changed the Spanish version of the carreta to create something uniquely Costa Rican. Beginning in the early 1900s, Costa Ricans began to paint and decorate the wheels of their carretas. At first, each region had its own original design – similar to a US state’s license plate. Eventually, each oxcart owner had his or her own unique design which covered the entire cart.

Today, the art of making and painting carretas is passed down from generation to generation. The detail put into each design is astounding – it takes days to paint just one cart. These painters are truly artists!




watch: learn about traditional Andean weaving

watch: learn how silk goes from worm to wear

Costa Rica: Exports

Costa Rica: Exports

Costa Rica: Biodiversity

Costa Rica: Biodiversity

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