Almost 30 years ago, José came to Bogotá from his hometown of Guateque during a school vacation. He decided to stay in the big city, having grown tired of the small-town life. José found jobs here and there in construction and then a bakery, until the day when a mutual friend introduced him to César 14 years ago. He tells me that he used to braid bread, and now he braids leather handles for bags.
"I've always loved working with my hands. It's more a pastime than work, time passes quickly. I love my friendships with the people here at the workshop, I value our relationships."
Like a good Colombian, José listens to music while he works and takes breaks to watch telenovelas, Latin American soap operas. When I ask him why he likes making things entirely by hand, he says, "I love the act of concentration. It's a delicate matter to make something good. You have to put a lot of yourself into the pieces in order for them to turn out well. The quality is higher when you work by hand with good leather. A lot of bags these days aren't made with real leather, they're made with synthetic materials and with a machine. They're not going to have the same durability as one of our bags."
"I feel good creating these great products. It makes me feel like I'm contributing to the development of my country. What I'm doing, it's going to be sent to other parts of the world. What I make is actually useful for other people; it makes me feel really satisfied to know that people use what I make."