City Living

Happy Labor Day from the Municipal Street Sweeper

May 1st is El día del trabajador, or Worker’s Day, in Costa Rica. Most businesses outside of essential services and tourism will be closed.

Costa Rica has a long tradition of honoring workers. The country adopted Worker’s Day as a national holiday in 1913, and today no worker is obligated to work on May 1st; anyone working today receives double pay.

For travelers in San José, Costa Rica’s respect for hard work can be found in the Parque Central, in the heart of the city. There you’ll see Barrendero Municipal, or Municipal Street Sweeper, a sculpture by the Costa Rican artist Édgar Zúñiga. The artist immortalized these city workers in the midst of their daily labors.

The piece is a simple yet touching tribute to the scores of men and women who use elbow grease to keep their beloved Chepe clean. It’s one of several installations of public art in the capital that pay tribute to oftentimes overlooked people without whom the city would be an entirely different place.

Instead, the Municipality has decided to add these elements of human warmth to the urban fabric, dressing the capital humbly and humanely. Whereas other places might erect grand monuments to generals, politicians, or sports stars, in San José, Costa Rica, you’ll find works that pay homage to women from the countryside, mutts, street musicians, and laborers.

Get out and walk the city, and enjoy the fruits of generations of Costa Rican’s labors.

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