The skill of the carpenters of Carabuco, a town in the Bolivian province of Camacho, has transcended the Altiplano and their furniture is desired in cities like La Paz, with the component that these young artisans were trained in solidarity schools created by the Salesians as a contribution to local development.
The initiative was born from the Salesian priest Hugo De Censi and is part of the teachings of Saint John Bosco, who formed technical centers in Italy to teach a trade to low-income young people, the Italian Esteban Zordan, missionary and volunteer of the Don Bosco Family of Craftsmen association.
“Living for years in the province, we have realized that the problem in the Bolivian provinces, especially in the poorest areas, is that for young people there is no possibility of dreaming, there is no possibility of saying ‘I have a decent job , I earn my fair salary and with this I can build my house, I can buy a stroller, I can give my children a future, ‘”he explained.
Given this, it was thought about the possibility of helping these young people to have a job and those who want to stay and work in their land, thus helping them to prosper, he said.
The organization in charge of the Don Bosco schools came to Bolivia in the 1970s to do social work and in 1994 they began to work with young people from the provinces in the regions of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
This is how boarding schools were created so that the “most needy” young people attend the six years of secondary school for free with humanistic and other technical training in which they learn carpentry, sculpture and mosaics, as well as weaving and embroidery for girls, said Zordan.
At the end of school, the young people receive a toolbox and those who want to stay in the village join the Don Bosco Family of Craftsmen association, through which they can market their products.
Two of the schools are in the Camacho province, one in the municipality of Escoma and the other in Carabuco, the land of the artisans Víctor Luna and Gustavo Yujra, who are these days in La Paz with Zordan for the exhibition and sale of the furniture.
“If I hadn’t had the opportunity to be in this institution, I don’t know where I would have been. Maybe I would have gone, as some migrate to other countries, to Brazil, to Argentina, only God knows where I would have been at this time, but I am grateful to those in charge, “the 27-year-old Luna told Efe.
The school and the association have helped them “a lot” to train as artisans and as people, said Luna, who lives in Carabuco with his wife and two children.
Working with wood makes one feel like “someone”, an artist, confessed the craftsman, who said he was happy to know that his work is appreciated.
Yujra, 29, said that life at the boarding school has changed him because together with his classmates they grew up “like brothers” and until now they remain that way.
“For the Camacho province, for Carabuco, having this institution is a source of pride. Most of the people there tell us ‘they are from the Don Bosco Family of Artisans’, we are known and they feel proud there,” he said.
Yujra recalled that before, many boys migrated to the cities after finishing school, but now those who study at the Don Bosco school choose to stay to contribute to the development of Carabuco.
The furniture they make is in the Italian style with characteristics such as carvings, low and high reliefs, and the “plow” technique, with small openwork in the wood.
The artisans work in solid cedar wood with assembly techniques that do not require nails or “venesta” or plywood, Zordan explained.
The exhibition features dining tables, complete bedrooms, chairs and armchairs, desks, rocking chairs and pieces of sacred art, such as a relief of The Last Supper and effigies of the crucified Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as blankets, blankets and others. pieces woven by artisans.
The furniture is exhibited in the Catedral Castrense in the Irpavi neighborhood, in the south of La Paz, whose visitors are pleasantly surprised.
This is the case of Jorge Sarmiento, who claimed to be “impressed” and wanting to take more than one piece that has “nothing to envy” to imported furniture.
“It is a work worthy of admiration, done by Bolivian hands, by people who did not imagine that the place where they develop it could do such a beautiful job,” he said.
The exhibition will run until May 9 and there is also a website to appreciate their work and place orders.