San Pedro Artisans
by Hilary Kilpatric
“I love what I do. I have acquired considerable experience, and it is rewarding to see people appreciate my work. We work with sustainable woods, and everything we do is entirely done by hand. It is our way of preserving the environment,” explains lead carpenter Teo Hernández.
The carpentry team consists of five, who work just outside of La Antigua Guatemala, modeling various woods into functional creations, but they mainly work with teak. Hernández is the head carpenter of the workshop, and the others look to him as a strong leader.
Teak wood is harvested in the Río Dulce area in Guatemala’s Caribbean region. Grown on sustainable plantations, the trees are thinned out to encourage the growth of larger trees, and the trees cut down in this process would usually be discarded or burned. Instead, skilled carpenters in Antigua expertly hand shape this wood into hard-wearing, beautiful and strong cutting and serving boards.
“I lead a workshop that specializes in Guatemalan handicrafts, but the story of how I got to do this is not what you’d expect,” explains Hernández. “In 1995 my father was asked to build this workshop, and I tagged along as a bricklayer’s assistant working alongside family members. I loved the kind of work they were doing at the workshop, and realized I wanted to work in woodcarving rather than in construction. The workshop owner taught me all the basics, and with time and a lot of patience I’ve developed my own style and now I carve high-quality pieces. I feel very proud of what I have achieved considering I never had any formal training. Now not only am I designing, but I lead a team of talented woodcarvers and our main medium is teak wood.”
Hernández´s story is magical because not only did he accidentally stumble into this profession, but also he suffered from polio as a child and almost lost a leg, which would have made it nearly impossible for him to do the type of work that he now does.
“I had polio when I was a kid, and it is truly a miracle that the good Lord healed me because I was about to lose my left leg, so it is the thing I am most grateful in life,” he says.
Hernández promises: “Our customers can be sure that what they’re holding in their hand is entirely crafted by hand with a lot of care and dedication. I would like to express my thanks to the Casa de los Gigantes customers for welcoming our culture into their lives and I hope that through my story you get a little idea of what life in Guatemala is like.”
The teak products made by the San Pedro Artisan Group can be found in Antigua at Casa de los Gigantes, 7a calle oriente #18, across the street from the San Francisco Church.