September 19, 2019
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Blind artisan creates intricate works with his hands in southern Mexico

By Jose de Jesus Cortes

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Mexico, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- Jose Garcia, a 72-year-old artisan in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, has been creating works of art with his hands since losing his eyesight 17 years ago.

"My sight started to fade and I looked to medical science, but I did not respond, I went from one doctor to another and another and another, but I did not respond (to the treatment), I went to the ophthalmologists, but there was no solution, my eyesight faded more and more and more," Garcia, popularly known as Don Jose, said in an interview with EFE on Sunday.

The artisan began working with clay as a boy and even though he was completely blind by his 50s, he was able to continue working, thanks to the experience he had accumulated over the decades.

"The doctors say there are no medicines, just treatments to control this problem. I'm not the only one. But I'm not going to sit around because this happened," the artisan said.

Don Jose said giving up his craft and begging in the streets was also not an option.

"(I am not) going to change this face that I have for that of the sick, fallen, destroyed, and ask the public to toss a few coins my way. For my household needs, for my daily bread, no, I can't do that. I like to work," Don Jose said.

The artisan said his hands tell him what to make from the earth in his hometown of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, while his ears provide information on how moist the material is and on how the clay is taking shape.

His brain, Don Jose said, conceives the shape of the work based on memories formed when he could see.

"For me, it's not like a job, it's like a sport, it's entertainment, in which I take the clay and start drawing," the native of Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico, said.

Don Jose's wife, Santa Teresita Mendoza, and his two children help him produce his works.

The artisan's work has been exhibited in the United States and his unique view of the world via his hands has been shared with people in different corners of the world.

The family's studio is in downtown San Antonino Castillo Velasco, a Zapotec city located in central Oaxaca and about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Oaxaca city, the state capital.

Don Jose's daughter and fellow artisan, Sara Garcia, said she took up the trade after her father lost his eyesight.

"After that, I was really focused and I said, 'I'm from here and I like this.' From the time I was little, I liked to work with clay, because you can mold clay however you want, whatever you can imagine and want to do, you can do it with clay," Sara said.

Don Jose's wife said watching him lose his eyesight was difficult.

"I felt sad and cried ... He calls me Princess Magnolia ... And he would tell me, "Don't cry princess because I'm the man, I'm the head of the household and I have to work so you and the children can eat," Mendoza said. EFE

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