HUMAN AND FISICAL LANDSCAPES BEHIND FURNITURE
We get very enthusiastic reactions from our guests at our hotel in Sucre about the furniture. Actually, it is interesting to give some background information and the, perhaps lucky but at least exigent, way we obtained it.
Every year, some weeks before Christmas, the Familia Artesanal Don Bosco (Family of Artisans of Don Bosco) organizes an exposition in Sucre with furniture made by young rural boys and girls from and in remote places. We visited one of their first expositions in 2006 just by accident, and were impressed by the original design and quality. We were just starting the renovation of the hotel and not thinking in furniture at all, but soon after we decided to look for the organization and see if it would be feasible for them to supply furniture for the whole hotel.
Only after some vain attempts to find the organization’s offices, we finally found one in the town of Cochabamba, more than 300 kms from our place in Sucre. We started negotiating, but for the ultimate details of the agreement they sent us to their workshop in Peña Colorada, in the middle of nowhere on the dirt road between Sucre and Santa Cruz, 5 hours drive from Sucre. We made it and had very interesting and instructive conversations about the history of the Familia Artisanal of Don Bosco, founded by the Salesian priest Ugo de Censi some three decades ago in Peru. Nowadays, the vocational training workshops count with more than 600 students and they are present in 5 Peruvian provinces and 6 Bolivian locations: Escoma, Carabuco, Peña Colorada, Bolivar, Ambana, Poster Valle, in the poorest parts of the country.
The trip to their workshops had to be repeated several times, like a way to get more involvement with the organization and the young artisans themselves. Apart from Peña Colorado, also Escoma and Carabuco, some 200 kms north of the city of La Paz, were visited, the main places of production.
The students receive free education, accommodation and food. The artisanal vocational training takes 7 years and is combined with regular education. When finishing their study, they receive a set of tools and can decide on staying with the Don Bosco artisans´ cooperative or looking for other horizons. The first option is encouraged, to maintain the experience and skills in benefit of the rural communities, but of course other temptations exist for the competent workers within or outside Bolivia.
The organization gets donations from local parishes of the Italian Catholic church, which are also invested in social infrastructure, but in the more recent years the sale of furniture is an important income source.
It was exciting to see the pride on the faces of the young artisans, which expresses itself also in the marks they leave on the furniture: several of the pieces in the hotel have the name of the artist at the bottom or backside. This gives the furniture an even more unique character, apart from the already very exclusive design which is a fusion resulting from Italian experienced designers working for free for the organization using Andean symbols and styles.
If you come to the hotel and you sleep in the hand-made carved beds or sit on one of the peculiar chairs, you will be able to feel the special radiation of this mix of religious motivation, individual dedication and Andes cosmovision. Come and have a try at Hotel Villa Antigua in Sucre.