LIVING IN COSTA RICA – During the Christmas season in Costa Rica Gringo retirees and tourists, who are traveling west along the Pan-American Highway about kilometer form the Naranjo toll, cannot miss the giant figure of a reindeer at the edge of the road .
What those who stop will see is an unusual collection of different size figures made of burucha (Costa Rica word for wood shavings) which comes from the poró tree. There over 25 types of different figures of which reindeer are by far the most popular. All of these designs are the unique work of local artisan, Venancio Cordero.
A little over 20 years ago Venancio was working at a roadside business that made and sold Costa Rican handicrafts. He noticed that a lot of burchaca was leftover from the wood products that were being made. Since Christmas was approaching he decided to make reindeer out of the scraps of burchaca.
Thus, a business was born. Venancio sold 500 reindeer the first year. He says that “Se vendieron como pan caliente” (sold like hotcakes). This year he expects to sell 24 thousand of his creations.
To make this product he first builds a wood frame with the feet and neck attacher to a ticker piece of wood (tuco) to give the deer shape and make it more sturdy.
Then he fills its body with burchaca using a type of string to hold it together and shape it. The last step is to make the deer’s antlers and attach them to the head.
These reindeer have become so popular that they are now a tradition and many Costa Ricans now include them as part of their Christmas decorations. While conducting one of my monthly relocation/retirement tours a few years ago I stop at Venancio’s roadside store and bought two medium-size deer to adorn my home.
Article by Christopher Howard, Live in Costa Rica Blog.