The bicycle, a Lifestyle in the Canton of Osa
Author: Carlos Humberto Morales Barrantes
Bicycles are more than a means of transportation in the canton of Osa. They are a tradition, an instrument of work, recreation, and, above all, a fundamental element in the area’s history. That is why we from the National Museum took on investigating and telling this story for the canton’s inhabitants and the visitors to the area.
In Osa, the first bicycles to enter were produced in Europe. The banana company, established between the 1930s and 1940s, imported bicycles for their workers, deducting these goods’ costs from their salaries. Later, bikes produced in Asia, the United States, and other regions of the world entered the area. Some merchants settled in the main urban centers founded around the banana enclaves sold these.
The first vehicles introduced in the canton, starting in the 1940s, were the roadster type bicycles (for men and women) and the light roadsters of the English brands Raleigh and Rudge, the Hero and the Phoenix from Asia, among others. Cruiser or beach cruiser bike models made in North America entered the region later.
English bicycles were initially imported into the United States from Europe. With North American capital, the banana company imported bicycles to Costa Rica and Panama. They were introduced in the country, the zone, and the banana districts where the company sold them.
In this initial stage, its importation and distribution in the banana districts were favored by the socioeconomic dynamics of the banana enclave. The banana company sold the bikes to the workers and reduced specific monthly quotes from their wages. Later, the banana company abandoned this practice when they began to sell bicycles in shops and towns built around the main urban centers of the banana enclave.
Bicycles were a cheap and practical means of transport; they were the vehicle par excellence of the farm employees who had to travel long distances along stone paths to their jobs and homes in the houses or quadrants. In this initial stage, cars were scarce in the area, and only a few buses and the railroad existed.
Many of the former banana workers and inhabitants of the Osa canton keep their old bicycles. It is still possible to see some older adults riding them in Palmar and Ciudad Puerto Cortés. Some have been modified, adding contemporary elements, and others have had their original systems replaced, mainly the rod brakes, handlebars, and saddles because these were scarce in the aftermarket.
If you want to know more, visit the temporary exhibition “In Osa, history travels by bicycle” at the Finca 6 Site Museum Visitor Center. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 2 pm. The entrance is temporarily free. It is located 8 km from the Palmar Sur park, on the road to Sierpe.
You can also visit the permanent exhibition “Diquís, a singular Region” and the archaeological site with stone spheres.
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