The indoors of the churches of the Colonial City are true works of art admired by both nationals and foreigners. These master creations, however, would not exist if it not were be for the hands of the artisans who preserve, repair, and make the replicas that the public take pleasure in.
Antigua Guatemala preserves the great architectural legacy that, along with its rich history, let us know what life was like during the Spanish Colonial times. Some of the structures remaining are just a hazy memory due to earthquakes and the ravages of time.
Without a doubt, the fabulous facades of houses, museums, and temples reflect the extraordinary indoors: true works of genius for which time has not gone by.
The work of many artists stands behind each detail, especially the original creator, who is frequently credited. The labor of the restorers, artists as well, remains incognito.
Not far from the ruins of Santa Clara and the Unión Laundry Tank, on 2nd Avenue South #10, you will find 'El Renacimiento' workshop, property of two artists who, for the last 30 years, have been restoring, making, and producing replicas of altars, wood images, and furniture of churches and museums, as well as ancient houses that preserve their original style.
Harold Rojas and Miguel González became partners 17 years ago. Between both of them, they have almost 35 years of work experience, especially with wood. They have restored collectibles exhibited in museums of Antigua Guatemala and Guatemala City. They have also created exact replicas of works that cannot be exhibited due to their value or other specifics.
Many collectors, antique owners, and persons of refined taste visit Gonzalez and Rojas often to request that they make exact replicas of stylized Colonial furniture.
The artists state that it takes them almost a month to make a copy, depending on the details. Some furniture has very intricate and minute details.
It takes them almost two months to restore a work of art, depending on the degree of deterioration and the material, because they try not to overly alter the original piece.
New nails damage the structures and they represent a major alteration. For this reason, the artists try not to use them.
Termites, humidity, and, oftentimes, plain abandonment are the culprits of most of the damages suffered by the wooden images and furniture. The artists say, with a grin, that they have been given pieces that are so deteriorated that they are light as paper.
Very often, customers request the artists to restore or make carved gold frames.
The frames are made with cedar and are laminated with imitation or pure gold, whatever the owner fancies. They take up to two months to make a frame 1.50 x 1.50 mt. After applying the delicate gold leaf, they cover it with oil that gives them an aged appearance.
Such frames deserve to showcase valuable pictures because they do not come cheap: an imitation gold frame goes for Q10,000 and pure gold costs over Q20,000.
Many workshops produce and restore pieces. Almost all of the workshops are located just outside of Antigua Guatemala or in Ciudad Vieja. El Renacimiento is the exception, because it is located in downtown Antigua.
Text and photos: Héctor Roldán