The Road to San Bartolome

14 Mar

Near San Bartolome is the home of Santiago Uyaguari and his family. His guitar workshop sits right by the rough road to town. The artisans of the Uyaguari family go back five generations or more. How long, “No one really knows.” And Santiago is carrying on that tradition working with his father, surrounded by his wife, his children, and the smell of fresh-cut woods.

Guitars take years to craft. The drying of the raw wood alone can take two to three years. Local woods of black cherry, walnut, cedar and rosewood with Canadian white pine for the body and soundboard and African ebony for the neck comprise the guitar’s structure.

Santiago is known for the incrustation (rosette) inlays for the trim encircling the guitar sound hole. Varied fine woods are lacquered and glued together in long strips, cut into tiny geometrics then placed individually and by hand in painstaking detail. Musicians and collectors from all over the world prize guitars made by the Uyaguaris.

 

Beyond the design of the guitar soundboard, back and sides, is the need for a fine instrument that has a unique sound. Each guitar is built to create a chamber producing a range of tones from deep and rich to bright and light. The refinement and exact placement of the wood grain is critical to the guitar’s timbre.

Each guitar is played, tested and adjusted to produce the finest instrument. Santiago played different guitars for us so that we could hear the tones of each.

We were surprised and delighted when Santiago brought out armadillo backs that had been dried and shaped into a more whimsical instrument called a “charango.”

What I loved most about this visit was the feeling in the workshop. Santiago works in a place where his kids play and his wife weaves baskets on a bench by the door. The feeling was warmth and love, for family, heritage and the traditions of his art…most simply, a meaningful life.