Artisan Organization: Alex Mermao
"I was born in San Juan, Iquitos and my mother, to whom I owe all my craft knowledge, was from Yurimaguas. Both cities belong to the department of Loreto. She is not in the physical plane; however, she is with me in the memory of the mind, hands and heart. I carry ancestral wisdom that I love to show through art. I am a dedicated craftsman, always giving my best and preparing very good quality products for export. It really is my passion to see my clients happy and confident that any product that comes from my hands is a product that was made with great care and love for nature.
"One of the biggest challenges has been spending two years locked up by the pandemic; we lost materials and had to transport our workshop home. However, I must say that despite the whole situation we have not stopped making crafts. In one way or another we supported ourselves in the community by buying from each other. I have a friend who lives in the department of San MartÃn, who helped us by making large purchases during the pandemic and thanks to this we have been able to emerge little by little. Sometimes it is difficult to get materials for a large order, to the point that I myself have to go to the mountains and deep in the jungle to get them. Nothing stops me from achieving my goals and objectives.
"I have a dream and life goal of setting up a workshop that is fully equipped, with power tools such as wood cutters and shapers that streamline production. I can say that I have loved moving my workshop to my home. I am happy to be close to my family; it gives me peace of mind. And you know what? It is an opportunity for clients to know how I live and to give them more insight into my experiences as an Amazonian artisan.
"I dedicated myself to crafts thanks to my mother and my older brothers. She worked with huingos, which is a fruit that grows a lot in the Amazon regions of Peru, Colombia and Brazil. This fruit is used for crafts of all kinds, home decoration and musical instruments. The large huingos are even cut in half and used to make plates. We have worked with other typical materials from our region, including seeds, chambira, local wood and fruits. Since I was 13 years old I have wanted to be in this world, and I decide to improve myself every day.
"I really enjoy teaching my children to work with materials, and I see that they are very talented as craftsmen. They are currently studying at the university; however, in one way or another they help with the administration of the workshop and it is something that makes me extremely proud.
"Both me and the people who help me in the workshop work with quality products and we specialize in that. I love to focus on bringing out the best in myself and the best in the people around me. It makes me happy that my products stand out for their excellent quality.
"What I like most about living in the jungle is the collaboration between our community and neighboring communities. For me, it is important to support the local economy; that is why I buy the materials I use directly from indigenous and native communities of the Amazon, always at fair prices. Many of these materials come from the depths of the Amazon, crossing the jungle on a raft. They are worked by women, mothers of families from those same communities. In addition, I must point out that in my workshop, it is possible to reuse "discarded" materials in one way or another; all materials are used for the development of new products.
"My inspiration comes from animals and nature. I saw a lot of wonder during the paths I traveled with my mother, visiting the neighboring indigenous communities. It is impossible not to marvel at our green surroundings. The sounds of the cicadas at dusk that sound like songs to the moon, the sounds that the rain produces when it touches the clay soil and the fresh smell of the Amazon are sensations that many people do not have the joy of experiencing." "