"When I'd have a piece of jewelry in my hands, I felt amazed. I convinced myself that, if I enjoyed an activity so much, I should learn as much as I could… jewelry would become my life."
"I was born in Juliaca in southern Peru. It's also known as the 'City of Wind' and the 'Pearl of the Highland Plain.' I grew up with my family in this beautiful city. Thanks to my parents' hard work, I was able to finish school.
"Even so, times were tough. The weather varied greatly and the winters were so cold. The future was uncertain and unpromising, and my parents were worried. Then things got even worse and we had to make a difficult choice. I couldn't keep living there so, shortly after my 18th birthday, I started my journey to the capital. I had only the clothes I was wearing and 300 soles in my pocket. That was the family's savings.
"I knew some people in Lima and had lined out a few part-time jobs to survive. I looked up my friends as soon as I arrived. I felt sad and lost away from home and far from my family but I knew I had to do something to make it in life. So I worked in a thousand temporary jobs and worked in stores and workshops by the hour, as a messenger boy, in whatever I could to make a few coins for my daily expenses.
"This is how I came to a jewelry workshop very close to where I lived. They crafted jewelry and hired me for a while. In fact, I imagined it was only for the season and that this was just another temporary job. This was the first time I was in contact with silver and my only task was to polish the finished jewelry or help the craftspeople put the pieces together.
"But I was very curious and silverwork attracted me. When I'd have a piece of jewelry in my hands while working, I felt amazed. I began to wonder day and night if I could create something like that. Finally, I said, 'I want to learn to work in silver and specialize in jewelry crafting.' I convinced myself that, if I enjoyed an activity so much, I should learn as much as I could. I decided that jewelry would become my life. So I got going.
"Little by little, I began involving myself in the process. Now I not only polished a piece of jewelry. I assembled it, sanded it and polished it. But I felt like there was never enough time and I had to finish my shift. I wanted to stay late to be able to practice. At work, I paid close attention to everything that was being done. If someone was needed to work overtime, I volunteered to be able to use the tools there.
"The owner never let me set gemstones and would never teach me the entire process, but my curiosity and willingness to learn won in the end. When I'd stay for overtime in the workshop, I'd practice with scraps of leftover metal. I learned to melt the metal, to solder, to create silver strands.
"I couldn't believe I was becoming a jeweler. But there were people with bad intentions and the workshop also faced some hard times when they had to lay off part-time help. They let a lot of people go and I was one of them.
"I took with me a great experience and made some good friends there. Without a doubt, this stage of my life left its mark on me and I realized I wanted to spend my life creating art with silver.
"Clearly, I faced an adverse situation but I continued working to save up for some used tools. With great faith and much effort, I went on with my life, hoping to have my own workshop in the near future.
"I dream of a promising future for my daughters. I want them to receive a university education and become professionals. I want them to love what they do.
"I dream that my small workshop will become recognized in the world of jewelry and be able to give jobs to others so they, too, can better their lifestyle.
"What I like best is to shape silver into a design I've made or one I've imagined until I create a finished piece of jewelry. I find inspiration in nature, in paintings, in sketches.
"I decided to take the risk of working on my own because I found myself out of work. So I decided to set up my own workshop with very little money and only a few tools. It was really difficult at first and I sold my work in artisan fairs. But my own workshop has given me the opportunity of teaching this beautiful art to others and be able to offer them jobs so that more households can have an income.
"The Coronavirus pandemic had a huge effect for us, and many of my friends and colleagues died as a result. Even so, I'm trying to stay afloat and continue to follow my dreams. I won't give up. I am grateful to all of you."