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Alberto Ayala

Artisan Organization: Alberto Ayala

Country: Peru

"With globalization, everything is becoming more modern. The people in smaller communities with our ancestral traditions and fiestas are migrating to the cities, and a great variety of religions are drawing people away from our old saints. Our ancient customs are in danger of disappearing or being forgotten. I’m trying to depict these traditions in my work so people realize that we should love our own culture first.

"I was born in Ayacucho in 1967. This region is known not only for its many churches and grand colonial homes. We are also recognized for the art of our hands, for our history and the traditions that reveal the deep faith of my people.

"I consider myself a loner, a constant and restless fighter. I am very happy with my work and with the people that surround me in everyday life.

"Although I was born in Ayacucho, when it was time for school, I went to Lima. Things were just too complicated back home due to the terrorism, political chaos and economic instability my country was facing. People, friends and family disappeared without a trace, or were killed if they didn't share an ideology. I had to work very hard and study at the same time and this was extremely difficult. However, I feel proud of making it despite all the obstacles. Today, when I think of my family, I know it was worth all the sacrifice and effort.

"When I finished sixth grade, I went back to my hometown to finish school there while working at what seemed like a thousand different jobs! The truth is that when a person wants to get ahead in life, there is no obstacle that can stop him, and this was the case for me.

"In one of my many jobs, I learned the art of Ayacucho retablos, or dioramas and also learned to play instruments like the guitar and harp. Back home, I met the love of my life. My wife and I have a lovely family with five children. I feel happy. We've been able to make a living and love has always been present in our home. I feel proud of my children and of my wonderful family.

"When I moved to Huamanga, I reencountered a childhood friend who told me that a master artisan he knows was looking for workers. I didn't think twice and went to Lima to take that job. I needed the money for school but, with time, I learned to love this art. It lets me express my feelings and helps me relax, because life always has its problems. I want the world to be aware of Ayacucho's traditions, and this is why most of my work illustrates them.

"My specialty is crafting miniatures. Detailing the figures is difficult and labor-intensive but it's a wonderful art. Sharing the traditions of my town and country is deeply satisfying. Creating new designs is my greatest challenge.

"When I visit my hometown, or sometimes when I'm alone and close my eyes and imagine, I am once again amid our landscapes with fields and villages, rivers and animals. Some things have changed with the passing of time but, in my mind, our traditions and local festivities remain unchanged.""