La Pulperia: The Small Tico Grocery Store

” La Pulperia” ( Small tico  grocery store) is a typical commercial establishment in Latin America . Its origin dates from the mid sixteenth century in South America, and provided basis groceries for everyday life: food, drinks, candles , coal, medicine, textiles, and  others.

No one knows the real origin of its particular name, however  the most accepted version from Central America is that in these establishments sold all sorts of things, shopkeeper had to reach the groceries like an octopus to sell what the client have been requested.

It was the social center of the middle and lower classes of the population,  a kind of social meeting space for the people in each region to discuss and see what’s new.  ” Las Pulperias”  were places where locals could drink alcohol, a rin where cock-fight were  held , dice play , cards, for trade and conversations, etc.. a vivid expression of local culture.

Pulperia El jicaro, Liberia
Pulperia El jicaro, Liberia
Photo by

Also it was used as a reference and as a resting place along the way. Always full of posters  full of ingenuity and creativity of each owner. “El Pulpero” (The shopkeeper) always known and well-informed. ” La Pulperia” contain countless of stories and memories for many people.

” La Pulperia” came to Central America in the early twentieth century with the same concept of shops and bars.
In the past, most of them had a door to ” La Pulpe” and another to to the bar.

In South America, the grocery stores have been gradually disappearing , while in Costa Rica have been giving way to the “convenience store” under a concept of the big supermarkets but on a smaller scale.

The Pulperia identity.

A messy places where seems like everything is misplacing, but the true just El Pulpero knows where are they, and with a patient and easy way can sell you a big variety of stuff.

Lienzo de Carla Castiñeira
La Pulperia , Guanacaste

A tour of the Pulperia’s  names is a fascinating subject, many of them refer to their geographical location, the surname of the owners, the type of product sold and other conditions. Some specific names in Liberia City  : Pulperia Los Nipote, El Jicaro, La Cartaginesa, Miriam, Los Chomes, San Martin….

Who doesn’t remember go at La Puperia in street corner and buy a kilo of rice, 2 eggs, and then request to the shopkeeper ( Pulpero) a credit to be  payed at the end of the month (Fiar o fiado).

Anyone can come here, from the boy who does not know what to buy with five colones to the rich man in a big car to get cigarettes . A good ” Pulpero”  must   treat all with the same courtesy.  What a awesome country is this!!!





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