The main competent body in charge of coordinating and advising about safeguarding and revitalizing intangible cultural heritage is the National Commission for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage established in 2008 under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture and Youth. Safeguarding tasks are shared, through representatives of the Commission, with the Ministry of Education, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, public universities, ICOMOS of Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Popular Culture Groups and Performers. In terms of policy-making, the National Cultural Rights Protection and Promotion System has been created in 2014 and includes protection and management of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
With regard to training, the Cultural Administration of the Ministry of Culture and Youth carries out a Cultural Management Training Programme for young people to promote, among other things, organizational selfmanagement. Various institutions such as the Museum of Popular Culture, an institution of the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, Institute of Linguistic Research (INIL) of the University of Costa Rica and the Department of Museological Projection of the Costa Rican National Museum conduct research, teaching, training, dissemination and cultural management activities related to intangible cultural heritage. The Museum of Popular Culture also has a thematic library that includes their research projects in the field of intangible cultural heritage.
The main body holding documentation related to intangible cultural heritage is the ‘Luis Ferrero’ Documentation Unit of the Center for the Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage (of the Ministry of Culture and Youth), which specializes in the field of cultural heritage. Also of interest is the Costa Rican Cultural Information System (SICultura), created in 2008 as an online file that gathers, organizes and contains cultural information from all over the country and includes a field on intangible cultural heritage. The Cultural Identity, Art and Technology Programme of the Centre for Artistic Research, Teaching and Extension (CIDEA Universidad Nacional) produces and collects a large amount of audio-visual documentation on the subject of cultural identity. The Centre for the Research of Latin American Identity and Culture (CIICLA) is a multidisciplinary academic unit of the University of Costa Rica that also generates related documentation, as does the Central American Institute for Cultural Extension (ICECU) – a non-profit, public welfare body. The Centre for the Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Youth has carried out research on traditional cultural expressions since 1979.
There are several inventories of which the National Inventory of Intangible Heritage (2004) is one, created with the support of the UNESCO Office in San Jose, containing 191 entries in a database gathered from community-based workshops, interviews with key informants and bibliographic searches and covering the following domains: beliefs/mythology, popular festivities, rituals, traditional gastronomy, languages, music, dance, oral tradition, medicine, handicraft traditions, songs, traditional games, etc. An inventory was also developed for the nomination in 2005 of the Oxherding and oxcart traditions in Costa Rica as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (including a specialized vocabulary, a database of ox-herding practitioners and organizations in the country, a photographic database and a two-hour-long audiovisual record). An inventory of popular festivities was developed in 2006 at the Centre for the Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage, containing 130 entries and reviews of religious, civic, commemorative and communal festivities. Furthermore, a National Representative List based on national declarations of intangible cultural heritage submitted by practitioners and community organizations to the National Commission of Intangible Cultural Heritage has generated information that constitutes a new inventory held by the Documentation Unit of the Centre for the Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage.
Among other safeguarding measures, promotion of living heritage is ensured through holding national contests (e.g. on traditional music and handicrafts) and, up until 2012, nine research projects on intangible cultural heritage had been completed and results published also in digital format on its website. The Cultural Heritage Centre has also collaborated on two audiovisual productions. The National Commission for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has cooperated with the National Communal Rural Tourism Chamber to hold two fairs, providing a space intended for expression of popular culture, such as music, dance, drama and traditional games while a third festival, including traditional handicrafts and foodways, was held in conjunction with the Costa Rican Popular Culture Groups and Performers Association.
Educational programmes include the ‘Workshops with bearers of intangible heritage’ project, in coordination with the Ministry of Public Education, for transmitting knowledge from bearers and practitioners to young people in schools. So far, 100 rural community workshops have been organised on handicrafts, music, traditional toys, medicine and foodways, nature and agriculture, indigenous education, etc. in nine regions of the country. In the Guarco canton, the workshop evolved from revitalizing cultural heritage in education centres to safeguarding measures for the transmission and reinvigorating of the pita fibre handicraft. Among the main activities of the Safeguarding Action Plan developed for the Oxherding element in 2006 are including oxherding and the oxcart traditions in the study programmes of the Ministry of Education and creating a teaching unit on the subject and implementing oxcart construction and decoration workshops and manuals at the National Learning Institute. In addition, ‘The Travelling Oxcart’ educational suitcase project was initiated, intergenerational encounters were set up for young oxherders and the Museum-school for oxcart making and decorating was established in the old Alfaro oxcart factory at Sarchi.
Formal recognition of cultural expressions as intangible cultural heritage (five since 2012) and recognition of the Alfaro Oxcart Factory as an Architectural Historical Heritage represent another means of raising awareness and safeguarding. Three elements of intangible cultural heritage have been declared of ‘public interest’ at national level. Furthermore, the National Traditional Popular Culture Award is granted annually since 1992, by the Ministry of Culture and Youth, to persons, folklore projection groups, craftspeople, artisans and popular interpreters, institutions and organisms or communities that have contributed significantly to the study, recovery, dissemination, projection and dignity of Costa Rican autochthonous cultural expressions (in 2009, it was granted to a maker and decorator of ox yokes).
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Costa Rica has participated actively since 2011 in the programmes of the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Latin America (CRESPIAL), including multinational projects (Safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage of the Latin American Afro-descendants), communications activities (e.g. photo and video bank) and training and networking. Representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Youth have also taken part in UNESCO capacity-building training workshops on implementing the Convention, one at the regional level and one nationally.
Costa Rica has one element inscribed on the Representative List, Oxherding and oxcart traditions in Costa Rica (2008), originally proclaimed in 2005 as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.