Located next to the San Francisco De Asis church and the central market of Tenancingo, Mexico, is a leather shop own by Andres Lopez Rosas, one of the two local leather craftsmen. There Lopez holds many beautiful memories of his father who taught him how to work with leather. Throughout Lopez’s life, he has been surrounded by his loves: leather and family.
There have been bad times in Lopez’s life. He was an alcoholic and once, while intoxicated, ran over a woman with his car. He spent eight months in prison and 100 days in rehab. At the rock bottom of his life his wife, Edith, supported Lopez and helped him get back on his feet.
Twenty-five years later, Lopez ran over another woman, but this time he claims the woman was at fault. Lopez, determined to turn his life around, decided he would do his best to make amends. He agreed to pay MEX$ 1,000 to the woman’s family every two weeks. It’s not small sum and Lopez is strained to make the money he also needs to support his younger son who goes to university in Toluca, Mexico.
“When you are running out of money, the reality of life comes,” Lopez says.
Now he may need to sacrifice his lifetime passion for his beloved family. Lopez is leasing his leather shop in Tenancingo and hoping to find a job in Toluca.
Ulises and Christopher Aguacate Gonzalez are teenage brothers living by themselves in San Simon El Alto, Mexico. Ulises returns every day from high school, cleans the house, and sets down a large wooden sculpture. As his older brother returns from school, the two of them raise their hammers and chisels, and shape their sculptures for hours almost everyday.
Their grandmother cooks some of their food. If they do not sell woodcraft, they may go without eating for a day. Ulises’ parents are separated. They support him and his brother just enough to survive, as well as taxi fare to the town Malinalco for woodcraft workshops. Gary, Ulises’ woodcraft teacher, inspires him to care about the community around him; not just the art in front of him.
Ulises has to be a role model for his younger brother and work harder than his peers at school. He believes that if he can shape wood, then he will learn to shape his own life. Despite this, Ulises dreams of helping his community and someday supporting the parents that are not always there for him.
Paloma: The Matron Saint of Dogs
Produced by Sharie Vance
In Mexico, you don't have to look far to see a stray dog. Look closer and you can see dead ones, too. Machisimo ideology in regards to neutering males is partly responsible for the over population. For 15 years, Paloma, a very unconventional woman, has been doing what she can to help them in spite of financial hardships. "The gratitude I receive from the dog is worth it," she says.
The Protection of Cristo Rey
Produced by Samantha Guzman
In the small but bustling city of Tenancingo, Mexico, taxis zoom down the bumpy streets. Vendors selling tacos and fresh juices liven the corners. Above the city up 1800 stair steps, stands Cristo Rey, a large white statue of Jesus Christ, the iconic monument of Tenancingo. From this height, the people of Tenancingo look like tiny specs. Each day townspeople climb the steps to exercise or pray before the statue. Still, it is quiet up here. Time passes slowly. Only the wind blowing and roosters crowing can be heard at most times.
Here lives a man named Don Erasmo. He and his family of six asked to live near the statue six years ago after his house burned down. “We were left with only the clothes on our backs,” says his wife Humberta. Since the fire Don Erasmo has struggled to provide for his family. He cleans the area around the statue. In return the statue provides him with a home and small salary of $120 dollars a month. Living his life from one day to the next, Don Erasmo is unable to feel certain about his future. The relationship between Don Erasmo and the Cristo Rey Monument is special. Each gives and takes from the other. It’s hard to know who is protecting whom.
In the small Mexican city of Tenancingo people take pride in their local artisans and craftsmen and their workshops define the geography of the city. Among the most important of these is the ‘El Salto’ chair shop on what used to be the main street in Tenancingo. At the helm of the business is Luis Gallegos, a hard-working and equally easygoing person.
The ‘El Salto’ chair shop is deeply rooted in Tenancingo. Luis’ father started the business more than 50 years ago. Much like Luis, his father was a hard-working man, known to get up at 3 a.m. to start working. His father was just as hard with his kids, sometimes locking Luis and his brothers in a closet for entire days as punishment. Despite the poor treatment from his father, Luis was instilled with a passion for chair making and carries on the legacy and tradition of the shop.
Luis specializes in the traditional chair designs for which Tenancingo is well known. He still uses all the original diagrams and measurements for the furniture and can personally do everything needed to make a chair, aside from weaving the seats. Although Luis is just as industrious as his father, he treats his children much better and doesn’t want to force the family business on them. The shop has survived through tough times, but its future is unclear. Despite the possibility of the shop fading out of existence, it is still an important part of the city and is still close to the heart of Tenancingo’s identity.