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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Return of the artisans

41st Annual Crafts Fair at Plaza Las Américas is stronger than ever

Three Kings by Awilda Figueroa

By Richard Gutiérrez

The COVID-19 pandemic hindered many activities in Puerto Rico that involved large groups of people, what with the strict regulations regarding the numbers of people allowed in closed spaces.

One of the events that was limited significantly by social distancing rules was the annual Crafts Fair at Plaza Las Américas in Hato Rey. Zulma Santiago, the director of cultural projects at Plaza who has been taking part in cultural activities in the mall for 26 years, said this year’s fair, which began this week and runs through July 2, is the first since the pandemic to approach the numbers of craftspeople -- 155 this time -- seen at the event prior to 2020.

“We always held the fair, even throughout the pandemic, but it was not done at the grand size and scope of today, because we had to follow strict regulations, so I would say that today marks the true return of the Plaza Las Américas Crafts Fair,” Santiago told the STAR on Wednesday. “The fair has been great; so far, the artisans are happy, the people are supporting them and there are already two craftspeople who are already leaving today because they’ve sold all of their product, which means their respective businesses have been doing well. On Sunday there will be a new group of artisans who will come in for the “second round.”

When asked if the event has returned to its status as a vitally important fair for craftspeople from around the island, Santiago responded with an enthusiastic “2,000 percent, yes!”

Jaime Fonalledas, the president of Plaza Las Américas added: “We have been at this for 41 years, and I am extremely happy to see so many people from Puerto Rico supporting the local economy and especially craftsmen through this event.”

Married couple Awilda Figueroa and Carlos L. Camacho of Bayamón were two of the many artisans participating in this year’s fair.

“I’ve been a craftsman for nearly 20 years; my passion is in wood sculptures,” Camacho said. “All thanks to my teachers in craftsmanship, I have been able to build my own business as a craftsman. I make many saints and angels, while my wife focuses on the three kings sculptures, which are sold all year round. I am very grateful to the Fonalledas family and Ms. Zulma for allowing us to share with so many people and propel our business even further. We have been coming to these [fairs] for many years and we will continue to do so.”

The couple said that even though the artisan’s life can be difficult, activities like this one help a great deal when it comes to their work gaining popularity with the public and their ability to sell more of their pieces.

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