Chilo Botes, The Art in the Craft.
The Personality of the Month
By Sandra Ríos
Chilo Botes, a craftsman, a proud father, and a singer who passionate about his artistic work, is an emblematic figure in San Miguel de Allende. He shares us some of his life and his beginnings as craftsman.
Sandra Rios: Which is your real name and where were you born?
Chilo Botes: My name is Cecilio Hernández, and I am from San Miguel de Allende.
SR: How did your interest for crafts emerge?
CHB: It came mostly out of necessity—a lack of mom and dad who were not with me forced me to earn my own money. I have worked crafts for 55 years. I started at 8. My teacher was Lucio, known as “El Coyotito,” who gave me my first job. We worked with the Llamas brothers on the corner of Zacateros and Umarán.
SR: What kind of crafts did you work in those days?
CHB: At that time we made a lot glass boxes, which were in great demand. They were made of alpaca, brass, and copper. They were then hand-made; currently we use a die-cut.
SR: How did you became independent and set up your own shop?
CHB: In 1971, I worked for Rosalio and Juan, “El Quemador,” in the neighborhood of El Tecolote. I became independent by making a few simple frames with copper finish on every corner. At that time Efren Hoyos usually purchased all our crafts. Hoyos worked for an American company, Balos International, and he bought thousands of pieces from. We sold everything: cabinets, jewelry boxes, ashtrays. From that time I had the desire to do different things, so I started doing napkin rings, frames, and cans.
SR: Why do people call you “Chilo Botes?”
CHB: Children started calling me that because I used to make many trash cans. Usually we made over 4,000 to 5,000 cans per week. Also, 25 years ago I started singing, and I became very popular in San Miguel for both my cans and my singing. Kids followed me a lot, and they nicknamed me regarding my music, saying, “Today Chilo Botes is going to sing.”
SR: What is your creative process?
CHB: I can decorate any house in a minute because I work with many designers. And now I´m a designer myself. I can draw and design a lamp, a frame or any detail for your home. My two sons work with me. Jesus helps me with the design. We have worked for Rosewood at their hotel in Los Cabos since they bought a few tables from us. We have decorated 11 different villas for that hotel. The best houses in San Miguel also contain my products.
SR: How do you develop your work? What inspires you?
CHB: First, I do a drawing on cardboard and then cut it out. I put it on the sheet, which is my pattern, and then work it on copper, brass, or alpaca. I then start to make the frame. Now the frames have many garlands. I am very passionate about what I do. When I was a boxer, I trained for long hours. I started at 6am and quit at 8pm. I fought a lot in Dolores, Leon, and Villagran. I did it only because I liked to fight; I never did it professionally. Then I became a soccer player when I was 33 and found it very easy. I used to score three to five goals per game. For playing soccer I had to be fast, so I jogged every day. I played with the teams Aurora, Mexico 86, San Diego, and Juventus. Now I have music, I am the happiest man when I’m invited to sing.
SR: How many people work with you?
CHB: We have between 10 and 12 people. My workshop is at home.I work a lot, and sometimes I don’t have money, not even to buy meals, and that is sad. I feel that I am valued, and I am very creative. This is not only me, but also my workers, because we are a team, and I would be nothing without them. Ito is a great decorator. So are Rolando and Niconan, and Martin that is an excellent tinsmith.
SR: You have lived though different periods in San Miguel. Tell us a little about this.
CHB: Stirling Dickinson stimulated crafts in San Miguel 70 years ago. I have participated in almost everything related to craftsmanship. I was on the board of La Lana y El Latón 40 years ago. I was also president of the Craft Market 29 years ago. That market was supposed to help us to have a place to sell our products. They built 29 stores. At that time, we did not sell much. Now it is easy because we have some credibility.
SR: How do you see the current crafts situation in San Miguel?
CHB: I see that the crafts here have dropped 75 percent There are very few craftsmen. If we used to be 1,000, now we are 250. The artisan needs to be supported, yet the government has never supported me.
SR: Do you have any message for your colleagues?
CHB: I ask that my fellow artisans be diligent to be better, to be responsible, make their work better every day, raise their voices and do not remain silent.
SR: How many children do you have?
CHB: Four daughters and two sons; I have four grandchildren.