"More than eight decades ago, our grandfather Jose Alarcon began working in wood. He crafted toys, yokes, and decorative pieces for local children. This became a family woodworking tradition."
"I'm Dagoberto Gómez. Together with my family in 2010, I set up a wood workshop that is a family initiative. We call it Artesanos de Madera de Zaragoza. We brought together several generations of artisans from one single family, and there are carpenters, cabinet makers and decorators among us.
"Our goal s to create innovative designs in home décor that are crafted by hand to convey the identity of southern El Salvador. In this way, we've been able to offer work to our neighbors and keep our community's artisan legacy alive.
"We create quality designs of fine wood, and this has made it a bit difficult to sell our work locally. We are located away from the capital and our prices are a bit higher. However, over time, our designs have opened up a market in different tourist destinations here.
"Our greatest challenge has been finding points of sale, as our products are new and, at first, the shops didn't want to offer them. This was really tough, but we've been making our way into the handicraft market.
"Our workshop has helped change the lives of people in our town as our sales increase, and this has resulted in a greater demand for skilled artisans, generating more jobs and income for people in the area. We've also been able to creative pieces that distinguish the town culturally. Our greatest commitment is to training young people who are willing to learn this craft. We want to form a permanent team that will keep the tradition alive.
"Creating and managing an independent project like this has shown us new horizons in the professional, administrative, economic and creative world. We've discovered the need for constant innovation, creating new designs based on our cultural heritage. We've been able generate a job source in the region that is more stable and pays better than others, to such an extent that we've been named to the town's business council.
"One of our most interesting moments was when we were selected to take part in a very selective crafts exhibition for President Barack Obama's visit to El Salvador in 2011. It was a new experience, with all the security personnel in the hotel where we stayed for two days. In any case, toward the end of the president's visit, a number of Secret Service agents bought some of our little wooden angels and asked us to paint them with their names.
"More than eight decades ago, when the only people here were residents of the Hacienda Merida, Hacienda Veracruz and Hacienda Yucatan, our grandfather Jose Alarcon began working in wood. He crafted toys, yokes, and decorative pieces for local children. This became a family woodworking tradition.
"Today, our designs are inspired by this legacy as we rescue the colors used back then. We also add bright hues and the motifs that characterize our town's handicrafts.
"We work mainly with cedar, laurel and conacaste woods, which are native to the area and easy to obtain. These hardwoods are excellent for carving and woodworking, and are resistant to insects and the humid climate conditions. We also use stains and paints to add a touch of elegant color to our designs."