“My name is Juan Miguel Verastegui Perales. I was born in 1974 and I come from the beautiful city of Huancayo, Peru, situated to the south of Montaro Valley. It is considered to be one of the most important areas of the country’s central sierra.
“I consider myself to be a leader with the capacity to influence others. I am reliable, because I fulfill all of my promises. I am traditional, because I cultivate my Andean roots, as well as the mystical part of my strong, just, and direct character.
“I am proud to have risen above the machismo that was ingrained in me, a product of my familial origin. I have also risen above my bad habits, like letting myself be dominated by my ego. I have continued to love myself, thanks to self-understanding. Now, I feel more free to talk about my feelings, recognizing them instead of feeling embarrassed about them. This is something that I learned while escaping machismo culture. I am proud to know more and to value life more, supporting the rights and freedom of women.
“I began this art for fun, copying the masks used in Huaconada de Mito, which is an ancestral dance that I promote. The tradition of my village, Mito, located in the region of Junin, requires that each dancer makes their own costume, especially the mask, which is carved from wood. At the age of 15, I created my first wooden mask for the Huaconada de Mito, since I had begun dancing myself. I am very proud of this.
“Starting on my own was difficult. At the beginning, I was doing something new and being independent, facing the new challenges of studying a second career in the National Superior Autonomous School of Fine Arts, Peru. I worked and studied when I could, developing an appreciation for art and a love for our culture, which led me to value the traditions, customs, and the legacy of my ancestors more.
“The mask is the principal element in the Huaconada de Mito dance. This dance is characterized by its morals, social control, and righteousness. The dancers have strong personalities that inspire respect. The masks are unique with distinct expressions of their character and a limitless amount of possible expressions.
“I learned with my brother Carlos. I took crafting courses in the Mito District in agreement with the municipality. In my workshop, I now teach groups that show interest in learning to create their own masks, like alumni of the Superior National School of Folklore Jose Maria Arguedas, dance associations, and people who are interested in the Huaconada de Mito dance.
“I believe that practice makes you a master. Because of this, I put my dedication, perseverance, and love for art and tradition to work so that my culture can thrive. I make all kinds of pieces, but I never stopped making the masks of Huacón,, who is a unique character from the Huaconada de Mito dance. The Huaconda de Mito dance is recognized by UNESCO in the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.’
“Now, I work with great enthusiasm and inspiration for my profession with a specialty in sculpture. I like the personality of dance, the mysticism that it radiates, and the variety of expressions that it can create without losing its identity. I am inspired by the effort to rescue antique masks that are no longer used. I am also interested in the gestures of each person in the different moments that they express. Because of this, I can make masks with happy, funny, angry, and sad faces. I love the versatility.
“My plans for the future are to design more works of art, such as pop art with a spiritual Andean identity after the legacy of my roots and ancestors. I dream to be a great artist of international renown. I want to achieve my personal objectives and to be known as a great man who is proud of his identity. My greatest challenge is introducing my art to national and international markets in order to transmit my culture.
“The benefit of my art is that I promote my culture to my community; I offer knowledge that my ancestors left, promoting the Huacon culture. This sums up my artistic and cultural knowledge, introducing various resources to my village, Mito. This also helps tourism, food culture, and the vibrant culture of Huacon. I am very fortunate to be a part of this great Novica family.”