“I still remember the nights I spent beneath a sky illuminated by starlight. It wasn’t exactly a privileged view. They were very hard nights. My siblings and I would walk together with my mother for hours, barefoot, crossing fields, bare earth, and wide open meadows. During each long walk, the day was uncertain, and the nights often found us in the middle of nowhere. We had only one thing in mind —hope and the conviction this could change our lives.
“These were difficult times. With five children, my mother had to deal daily with destiny as she made each decision. When we finally reached Lima and I moved in with my grandmother there, my mother looked at me and said, ‘Marcos, I’m doing this so you’ll grow up to be a man of good.’ She gave me a kiss on the forehead and left to work in the country outside Lima.
“After a couple of years, my mother returned to the capital. When she saw that my grandmother wasn’t looking after me, she decided to take me with her and look for a place to live. We didn’t have money to rent a room, much less a house. But with an uncle’s help, we found a small half-finished house in an irregular settlement at the foot of a mountain where the living conditions were extremely austere.
“The winter was very tough. Cold rain leaked through the asbestos sheets on the roof, and in summer, the heat was unbearable — the house felt like an oven. Everything around us was rocky dirt. My mother washed clothes near the house and with this, we could eat. Fortunately, we were able to fill our water buckets from a cistern truck for a few coins.
“Although Mother tried to hide her weariness, I could feel it in my own body. She insisted I go to school but I just wanted to find a way to help her. When I was only 15, I went to work at a wholesale market, carrying bundles and heavy crates. I’d leave the house very early to get to the market by 4:00 a.m. I would meet the fruit and vegetable trucks, unload them and distribute the merchandise to the different market stalls. I worked until 1:00 p.m. for only a single coin a day. Fortunately, they often gave me fruit to take home.
“I walked the five kilometers home each day alongside the railroad tracks in a rural setting. I’d be covered with dust when I arrived but I felt like a superhero bringing some money to my mom. I was exhausted. One day I went out to knock on doors looking for a job that would pay a bit more. In this way, at 17, I came to work at a little shop where they made small-scale mirrors. It was one of the jobs I most enjoyed learning. I knew it then; this was a sign.
“During the day, I worked hard to do my job better than anyone. At night, I’d practice, which led me to perfect my technique. I felt like I could begin crafting my own designs with the few tools I had struggled to obtain and I made a crucial decision. I’d take a leap of faith and leave the workshop after a little less than a year. I set out, alone, on a path unknown to me.
“On the streets of downtown Lima, I offered my small designs for sale, never imagining that they’d catch people’s attention. Luckily, local business people were curious about the beautiful colonial finish I gave my mirrors. Today, I’m so proud I made that decision. What surprises life holds! Without a doubt, this one was the best.
“Little by little, the way became clear to me. I was able to sell my mirrors in a gallery in Lima, which brought me a lot of orders and this provided me with support for my family and children. I work to build a better future for them. I remember that around this time, my best friend asked me to be godfather to his son. I accepted but I was worried because I had never dressed up in my life. I’ll never forget how I went from store to store, selling my mirrors to get the money for my first suit and tie.
“Along the way, I met a group of people from NOVICA, who showed me that there are no limits to our dreams and that we can always go a bit farther. With NOVICA, I learned to trust others and to believe in myself. I realized my art was more highly valued than I could have hoped for, and that after the fear and uncertainty, it’s still possible to believe. I perfected my designs and quality, and am so happy to have a window where I can show my work to the world.
“In retrospect, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. Every moment has left its mark on my life forever. Today, I’m 66 with more than 40 years dedicated to this art. It feels like only yesterday when my family and I walked barefoot through those cold nights carrying our possessions in a bag on our backs. Every obstacle I faced taught me to work hard. Perseverance and, above all, passion for what you do makes the difference.
“These days, I can help others in need – single moms, fathers and enterprising young people. I tell them, ‘There are no requirements when you really want to get ahead in life. The doors to my workshop are always open to learn and share our Andean art.’
“If I had to start over, I’d choose this wonderful art of working in wood and gold leaf.”
Interview with Marcos Luzalde conducted on the 1st of June, 2018 in San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru, by NOVICA correspondent, Mavi Sabas.