I’ve been trying to find the time to write this new entry for a year now and today finally it’s the day!
I was able to travel back to Ecuador last summer and as always my homeland welcomed me with tons of great food, great views and last but not least the love of my family and friends. During my stay in the city of Cuenca at the south of Ecuador, I had the amazing opportunity to take a day-trip to some towns located near the city: Sigsig, Chordoleg and Gualaceo, the latter one is a usual trip for me and my sister as its a town where a lot people make their living by making shoes. Chordeleg is famous for its silver work on jewelry and Sigsig is mostly famous for making the worldly-known Panama hat or straw hat. The visit to these three towns is something I’d always recommend to my passengers on my travel agent days back in Ecuador and last year I got to experience it myself!
Local tour companies would offer this tour on private basis or on sharing basis and I’m sure there’s a specific day where everything is arrange for the tourists visiting each town, this time however it was a family trip so we went in my dad’s car, we decided to go near Sigsig to a place call San Bartolome where most of the families are experts in making guitars and they have inherit the trade (and passion) from their parents and their parents from their parents and so on. We decided to visit this little town near Sigsig as Steve, being a guitar technician and an amateur luthier himself, was very interested in seeing the type of work and specially how guitars are made in this hidden spot of Ecuador.
After about an hour of driving through mountains, we got to San Bartolome where a statue of Saint Bartholomew welcomes visitors and by the statue there is a map showing “The Guitar Route” where different workshops are located. After asking some questions to the locals regarding the best place to go the same name was brought to us: Jose Romero Uyaguari Quezada, so we got back in the car and we drove to a house/store located right next to the road, we could see the sign with the luthier’s name on it and of course some guitars hanging around this simple space where we were not sure if we were inside his house or his shop. Don Jose welcomed us with a big smile and explained the process of making the guitars and shared with us that he learned the trade from his father whose picture is hung up on a wall in the shop. Steve and Don Jose talked about the type of wood to use when making a guitar, and Don Jose explained that usually the wood is bought locally so Oak, Cedar, Alder, Walnut and Black Cheery Wood (locally known as “Capuli”). Steve and all of us were really amazed at Don Jose’s work and his openness to show us the way he works every detail to make a guitar from scratch. Steve and I vowed to come back and have Don Jose work on a personalized guitar for Steve and then we left the shop with an amazing feeling of seeing an artisan at its purest and we all agreed that his love and passion for the trade is what makes the finish product so beautiful and special.
We continued out trip to Chordeleg and eventually to Gualaceo for some shopping, but our definite high point of the trip was meeting Don Jose and learning about his amazing trade.
Steve’s Guitar Garage is located in Oshawa,Ontario: http://oshawaguitarrepair.com/