Latin American Art in Vitacura: An Understated Beauty

Artisans from all over Latin America filled the Civic Center in the Vitacura neighbourhood of Santiago for the thirty-sixth Muestra Internacional de Artesanía Tradicional (International Show of Traditional Artisanship).

Santiago Chile
Photo by Ingerid Salvesen (click for more photos)

Held from October 30 to November 15, the show boasted displays of pottery, glasswork, traditional instruments and other crafts; there was even an entertainer who played the accordion whilst selling popcorn from a cart topped by a lively parakeet. This unique, eclectic mix of art, people, food and market is the backbone of Santiago’s distinctive cultural scene, the Vitacura municipality serving as a key centerpiece.

The entrance to the Civic Center proudly displayed the flags of nations from all corners of Latin America. Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and even Cuba were just a handful of the countries represented by vendors at the fair. An understated and peaceful atmosphere characterized the open-air market; the vendors let their pieces speak for themselves, observing patiently as admirers examined their work instead of harassing would-be customers with sales pitches.

Santiago Chile
Pablo Carancini. Photo by Ingerid Salvesen

Pablo Carancini, from Argentine Patagonia, sells his jewelry in fairs like the one in Vitacura. His demeanor is quiet but his eyes light up and he speaks with an unassuming enthusiasm as he describes the stones that are the focal point of his jewelry. He maintains the “actual color” of the rocks through the process of unearthing them in Patagonia, cutting them in the small room of his family business, and carrying the finished jewelry product to local fairs. Carancini obviously finds joy in the fact that his business is based on “all local artisanship.”

Another artisan, Frank David Perez, travelled all the way from Cuba to sell his collection of typical instruments from Latin American and Caribbean culture at the fair. Like Carancini, Perez is quiet at first but quickly becomes eager to share his craft once you show genuine interest. One of the instruments Perez brought to the fair was a drum, called a batá, which is typically used in the conga, a dance originally from Cuba.

Santiago Chile
Luis Lorca. Photo by Ingerid Salvesen

Traveling from somewhere more local, Luis Lorca and his wife are glassworkers from Quinta Normal, Santiago. Their products range from vases to bowls to decorative items. Similar to other artisans at the fair, the Lorcas run a small family business based out of a one-room workshop. Lorca speaks with passion about how his business has grown in the past seven years that his family has participated in the Muestra Internacional, yet he regretfully admits that the increase of imports into Chile has led to competition that challenges small businesses.

A quiet appreciation for a more personal form of art was manifest in every piece of art presented at the fair. This is the gift of Latin American artisan culture: the ability to portray beauty in a simple and humble way. Though these artisans have already packed up and gone home, Vitacura hosts similar fairs on a regular basis. A Christmas fair with seasonal food and artisan stalls is planned for December 18-19 – further information about upcoming events can be found on their website.

Centro Cívico de Vitacura
Avenida Bicentenario 3800

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