Ox Cart Artisan

img_9040 Today  (June 16th) I went on an early morning excursion with the UNC Charlotte group. We were driven to the mountains to the east of San Jose, and we stopped at a place where traditional Costa Rican ox carts (which for years have transported coffee, various other exports grown in the fertile soil of Costa Rica, and materials to build churches) are painted.

It was fascinating watching the men who were there painting, paint these carts with such bright, brilliant colors, and always with a symmetrical pattern! The ox carts usually have a background color of bright orange or white, and the rest is hand-painted.

img_9078 There was one man who was painting there, whose name was Ricardo, who was mute. I spent most of the time with him in the paint shop, sitting and standing, watching him paint, taking pictures and talking with him. It was an amazing experience, as I have never spoken to, let alone met, a mute person. He could hear perfectly, but when he spoke, he sounded as if he were a deaf person. He could put sound to his voice and enunciate ´m´s and ‘uhs’, but nothing more.

He taught Carolynne and me how to say “God bless you” in sign language (at least the sign language that he knew). Later, while Carolynne was shopping at the souvenir store there, he wanted to know where I lived. Ricardo took his paintbrush and pointed enthusiastically to me, and then wrote in dark green paint, right on the orange drawer of the desk in front of him, “U.S.A.”, and then pointed back at me. I nodded and said, “Sí, vivo allá!”, meaning “Yes! I live there!”. Then he nodded, groaned loudly, smiled big and stood up, motioning me to stay put, as he eagerly walked over to the other side of the paint shop.

He pulled an atlas out of another drawer, brought it over to me and opened it up to the map of the United States and wanted me to show him where I lived. I smiled and pointed to Charlotte, North Carolina, and he was so thrilled! Then he motioned me to stay put again and, pulling a notebook loaded with scribbling and short phrases, he flipped to a blank page, handed me a pen and motioned me to write down “Charlotte”, even though he saw it and read it in the map. He also wrote down his name for me, and I wrote down mine.

img_9057 After that, he thanked me (motioning), closed the notebook and put it back, closed the atlas and put it back, and sat back down to paint. He seemed satisfied and just wanted me to stay with him and watch. He even motioned to my camera and grunted, communicating “You can take pictures or film! Watch closely,” as he skillfully created this beautiful design by hand on one of the ox cart drawers.

After about ten minutes, he got up, pointed to the souvenir shop, groaned enthusiastically. I responded, saying, “Yes, I´m going to go there and buy something later. Thank you.” Then grabbed me by the arm and led me to the shop. img_9045 When we were in there, I asked him if there was anything there that he had painted himself. He acknowledged that there was, and he led me to a place where there were varnished wooden plaques on which he had painted colorful orchids (which is the national flower of Costa Rica). “Oh, how beautiful they are! Great work!” I said in Spanish, and then he took one off the rack they were on and gave it to me emphatically, as a gift. I thanked him much, and he then left to go paint again, while motioning me to stay and buy. What an awesome experience!

It was fascinating watching the men who were there painting, paint these carts with such bright, brilliant colors, and always with a symmetrical pattern! The ox carts usually have a background color of bright orange or white, and the rest is hand-painted.

 

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