From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive

From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive

From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive


The political crisis that intensified starting in 2014, widespread shortages and critical economic situation that worsened since 2015, the pandemic, the lack of fuel and the massive exodus of Venezuelans abroad, have been part of the obstacles that the artisans of the Jiménez Municipality of Lara State, cradle and reference of traditional arts and crafts in Venezuela, have had to sort out to survive.

By: Yanitza Martínez // Correspondent

With nostalgia, artisans remember the boom times when their hammocks and creations were exported, a time when tourism was still a dynamic sector in Venezuela.

The makeshift stands of these popular artists, set on the shoulders of the Central Western Highway, from the El Rodeo and El Avioncito sectors, were an obligatory stop for travelers until you reached the town of Tintorero, where the best artisanal looms in the country are located. Other visitors detoured to the town of Quíbor, where the Artisanal City or the La Tinaja market are located, a place where now only 30% of the artisans are currently active.

Resilience has been key for the still active artisans in this part of Venezuela to stay afloat. In the case of Tintorero, many of those popular artists managed to overcome difficult times thanks to the truckers, who were the ones who stopped to buy their hammocks.

Tintorero is still alive


From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive


Despite there being little government aid, the inhabitants and artisans of Tintorero have taken it upon themselves to overcome the difficulties, since nearly 50% of the stores located in the inner part of the town have shut down. Those near the highway are still standing thanks to the passage of travelers from different regions of Venezuela.

Mariluz Monsalve, who has been in the market for 15 years, mentioned that tourism is currently moving more and they is a slight rebirth, reiterating that in difficult times truckers were their “raft of salvation.”

She pointed out that during high seasons, long weekends, holidays and the Divina Pastora festival, they manage to “get a little oxygen,” since the number of seasonal visitors increases.

The hammock par excellence of Venezuela


From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive


The hammock has been the flagship product of the artisans of the Jiménez Municipality. The quality of its fabrics and designs have meant that every Venezuelan who has the opportunity to visit the Lara State leaves with at least one of these artisanal works. The hammocks are also distributed nationwide.

Arelis Ruiz has been working at Tintorero for more than 22 years and although she points out that sales have been weak, she sees this season as the “rebirth”, since since 2014 they have gone through many difficulties. However, with inventiveness and will, they have managed to stay afloat.

She points out that hammock sales have fallen considerably, even reaching 80%. Years ago they could sell about 300 hammocks a month with 12 looms in operation, a number that was reduced to four looms and they barely managed to sell five to twenty hammocks a week.

Its cost varies depending on the size. These can be single, double, queen or king, and prices range from $20 and up.

They support the town of Tintorero


From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive


Among the testimonies collected by in the town of Tintorero, it was learned that they receive little government aid, detailing that basically state support is reduced to a Lara Police checkpoint.

Everything else is provided by the merchants themselves, and it is the efforts of the artisans that has kept what remains of this town alive.

The Tintorero Fair, which traditionally takes place in August, was not held in 2023, apparently for political reasons. This affected them greatly, since that event was also a time to oxygenate sales.

Quibor in a dive

The La Tinaja Market or Artisanal City of Quíbor, built in 1999, has also suffered the blows of the complex economic situation that Venezuela is going through.

This artisanal space was also the obligatory stop for those visiting the ‘Lomas de Cubiro’. In this market, in addition to finding handicrafts, people had gastronomic options, sweet shops, baskets, musical instruments and carved wood pieces. The latter was the main item in this market and the manufactured pieces are part of thousands of Venezuelan homes.

Sustaining this market in Quibor became difficult, given the high prices of raw materials and low sales, artisans could not cover their cost structure. More than 435 artisans who were part of the market were reduced to about 60 artisans.

In Quíbor, the shortage of gasoline “has taken its toll,” since travelers are limited to visiting only ‘Tintorero’ or roadside vendors, while those from Quíbor, away from the main highway, are relegated.

These artisans have formed associations with which they have managed the acquisition of supplies, credits and gas supply to be able to bake and fire their products (pottery). Pottery is one of Quíbor’s great traditions.

Acemite market falls


From Venezuela’s splendor to decadence: Artisans from Tintorero and Quíbor barely manage to survive


Along Florencio Jiménez Avenue and the Centroccidental Highway, that crosses the Jiménez, Morán and Torres municipalities, it was common to see a whole range of artisanal bakeries typical of Lara State, which produced ‘tunja’ bread, Tocuyan ‘acemitas’, and goat’s milk ‘dulce de leche’, catalinas, among other delicacies of the region, also becoming a mandatory during visitor’s stops.

All that is in the past, and currently what can be found in the El Rodeo sector is the marketing of artisanal kitchen utensils such as pots, cauldrons, aluminum pots and straw hats.

The merchants on this national highway, residents of the Jiménez municipality, looked for different alternatives to face the crisis and survive, setting up makeshift stands along the highway, where they offer this type of products.

Esmari Vargas, who has a stand in El Rodeo sector, specified that this new alternative provides income at least to support their families. “There is always one or other car that stops to buy,” she said while arranging her merchandise.

She stressed that ‘budares’ (cooking flat plates) and ovens are the best-selling products. These range from $5 and up and are highly sought after by people who plan to emigrate or are going to visit their relatives abroad.

Although being by the side of the road can be dangerous and more cumbersome, they point out that with the little they earn, they can support their families. It is also convenient that the aluminum foundries are located in the same area.

The work of Lara artisans continues, and although they have experienced many difficulties during the last decade, some have managed to overcome them. Those who have survived the debacle feel that they are contributing to the development of Venezuela, producing artisanal products that are a reference at a national and international level.