Today Lazaro Herreras is a full-time artisan with a workshop in Tulum. Every day he wakes up and set his small wooden shop by the Cenote El Pit, where he sells the handcrafts he has been creating for nearly 40 years. But it was not always like that. A younger version of Lazaro did not dream of being an artisan; he dreamt of being an accountant.
This is his passion story
At the age of 17, Lazaro was studying accounting at Cavelti in the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto. He enjoyed his course, but something happened during the school holidays. Together with some friends, he went to Isla Mujeres for the first time. Standing on the island looking at the blue spectrum of the Caribbean changed everything. He felt the need to see more of it; he wanted to see the world underwater.
“The very same place tells me to move. Then, without resentment, I thank it for everything, pack my things, and say goodbye.”
Lazaro decided to extend his holiday in Isla Mujeres and get a job as a fisherman and as a boatman. There was nothing wrong with the school as he could go back to it later. Of course, as days went by that past idea of being an accountant stayed right where it was meant to be, in the past. Lazaro was learning new and exciting things every day. He attended a creative workshop and learnt how to work with black coral; he was hooked! The tree could turn into bracelets, necklaces, earrings; it could be anything. Lazaro learned that he could create.
There was no need to go back. This new path was so much more interesting. Lazaro just wanted to learn more and more. The more he did, the more he wanted to do. He returned to his hometown, Valladolid, and carried on learning more. Three years later, he moved to Playa del Carmen to sell his art at the beach. Then, slowly, he moved on from beach to beach: Santa Fé, Paraíso, Punta Allen, and many others.
“There is nothing worse than hanging on to something that is not for you anymore. It will not give you anything, whatever comes from that place will be poisonous.”
His beach trotting took him to Tulum, seven years after his first visit to Isla Mujeres. In Tulum, Lazaro met many other artisans and learned to work with coral in different ways and how to work with new materials. It was not so easy. Many other artisans did not want to share their knowledge, but young Lazaro was determined to learn regardless, even without a teacher. It was fun to find out what he could do and how to do it. Everything was very rustic. Only in recent years, artisans in Tulum had access to modern tools from Brazil or Germany.
At the time, it was hard not to fall in love with the simple life of Tulum. Electricity had just been installed, a van with ice came once per week, everyone was very respectful, people lived well, ate well, and he spent all his time making handcrafts. It was home.
Throughout his path as an artisan, his biggest challenge was learning how to work with new materials. Not every master wants to share his knowledge. He had to try over and over again until he learned it. Money was not a problem; it was always enough to live. As an artisan, he understood clearly that his little money was for new materials and tools; money was a tool to create more tools.