The Spanish Influence

The first European explorer to reach the shores of Costa Rica was Christopher Columbus in 1502. The Spanish quickly began to settle in Costa Rica. They brought with them their language, religion, culture, and customs.

Spain and other Europeans had many negative effects on the New World. They often took away the native peoples land and forced them into slavery. But, sometimes sharing new traditions and customs can be good. The carreta and the horse are two perfect examples of good cultural exchange!

In the 1500s, to help transport goods in the New World, the Spanish settlers brought blueprints to build ox carts. These ox carts are known as carretas and were used to help transport coffee from mountain plantations to the markets.

Beginning in the early 1900s, Costa Ricans began to paint the wheels of their carretas. This was unique to Costa Rica, because the Spanish ox carts were just plain wood. At first, each region had its own design – just like how each US state has its own license plate design. Soon, each oxcart owner had an original design covering the entire cart.

Today, the carreta is a symbol of Costa Rica. The tradition of making carretas is passed down from generation to generation.

The Spanish also brought horses to the New World. Those who settled in Costa Rica set up ranches. The northwest part of Costa Rica is similar to the landscape of Texas. It has open plains and a dry environment, which is perfect for cattle. Horses became an important part of these ranches, because ranchers rounded up their cattle on horseback.

With horses and cattle came cowboys. In Costa Rica, these cowboys are called sabaneros. Driving in Guanacaste, I see cowboys everyday. Sometimes, our car has to stop and wait for a sabanero and his herd of cattle to pass.