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Jimenez Family

Artisan Organization: Jimenez Family

Country: Guatemala

Pedro and Esperanza took a huge chance when they decided to become jewelry artisans. They didn't know anything about it; in fact they both come from farming backgrounds. But along with their children Saira, Maribel and Luis Estuardo, they decided to venture into the world of silver and jade.

Pedro and Esperanza's story begins when on holiday in western Guatemala, Pedro – then 19 years old – met Esperanza, who was 17 years old. At the time, Esperanza washed and ironed clothes at the house of a woman whose son had a silversmith workshop. "One day I was busy carrying some corn when the silversmith’s wife called me over, and to my surprise told me she would like to offer Pedro a job!" recalls Esperanza.

"And that's how our journey into this wonderful world of jewelry began for us," says Pedro. "When I was 12 years old I had worked for a while with a weaver specializing on the pedal loom. We wove pieces to sell at the market in Antigua. It requires a lot of hard work and the rewards are few. So I gladly joined the silversmith for six years, during which time I learned a lot from him.

"Then we decided to set up our own workshop, where we could let our imagination and creativity run free, and we could work on our own designs."

Esperanza remembers that at first it wasn't easy. "Following your dreams can sometimes be difficult. In 1996 we managed to get a stand at an important fair in Peten, but we didn’t have that much money to get there. Pedro went anyway with very little money, which also had to do for room and food. Most of the time he ended up sleeping on the floor because he didn't have enough for a bed.

"I remember well another occasion, because it was my daughter’s birthday, when Pedro was on his way to deliver some products to a client and I'm not sure what happened, he either fell asleep or something, but the point is he got robbed. That was all the money we had and we were left with nothing, so I went back to washing and ironing for others, as well as looking after a private school in Antigua, where we lived there rent free. There was only one room and we were a family of five, and though it was cramped, it still felt like a palace. Previously we had lived in another place which didn't have a floor, so when it rained it would get very muddy and therefore uncomfortable.

"It's not all been bad. Through it all we've had a guardian angel looking after us and one day a gentleman offered us his little house. It had a room, a kitchen and a dining room, and it would be ours. The man didn’t know us, and yet he offered the house at a reasonable price which we could pay in installments. It took us eight years to pay for it, and it was a verbal agreement, without any lawyers or papers. We still live there, and little by little we have added to it so it's more comfortable and there's a place for the workshop.

"We are so proud to have provided our children with an education so they may grow up to be professionals and take our small family venture into new heights. We've developed a good working relationship in which everyone specializes in a different aspect and we complement each others' work:

"Luis Estuardo (now 20 years old) designs the jewelry, he is studying to become a graphic designer. Maribel (now 22) prefers to sell through our stand in the market, and Saira, who is 23, is about to graduate in business administration and she is already in charge of all things financial. Pedro refines our son’s designs to apply them specifically to jewelry, and I help with the administration and sales.

"We buy silver that has been recycled from different photographs, lithographs and films. They all have silver which is sensitive to light and it generates an image when exposed to light. However, since the image only uses part of the silver, the unexposed silver is removed and treated with a fixing solution. This is done for two reasons, it protects the environment and it is more economic. However, the silver obtained this way is fine silver (1000 rating), which is less firm and difficult to work with. So, we mix it with a copper alloy to obtain the sterling silver we all know, and we have the quality tested to prove it is of a .925 rating.

"All the jade we use, we are proud to say, is mined here in Guatemala, in the Zacapa region.

"We have managed to create a good team in which each of its members is extremely important to the proper functioning of our project.""