Friday, December 2, 2022

Reinaldo de Jesús, the man behind the charamico business on Winston Churchill Avenue

In a country where the heat of the sun is a constant throughout the year, it is the decorations that mark the beginning of the Christmas season. Buildings, streets and sidewalks overflow with the color of the lights and decorations typical of the time that beautify the entire city.

On Winston Churchill Avenue, Reinaldo de Jesús has been contributing to this task for more than 35 years through the sale of charamicos. “I was the first to arrive on the avenue. There are many who say it. I don’t, because there is no prize for that, ”he says, letting a humble smile show on his face.

The 68-year-old craftsman began his profession with his father, who he says was the first to sell these decorative items on Avenida Independencia. Then it would be his turn to start his business, settling on the land where Multicentro Sirena is now located. Urban growth gradually displaced it, until it was located almost on the corner of Francisco Carias Lavander street, next to the National Police detachment.

There, on the land of what is known as La Laguna, he multiplied his pieces of wood together with three of his children and 12 other employees, turning that improvised settlement into a colorful obligatory stop for dozens of clients who wanted to stop the march of their vehicle to buy angels, reindeer, garlands and palm trees.

Reinaldo de Jesús, the artisan behind the business that began more than 35 years ago at Churchill with Francisco Carias Lavander. | Lesther Alvarez

From across the street, de Jesús and his eldest son, who shares the same name, observe the land that housed their famed makeshift workshop for decades, now behind zinc and billboards, since the staff of the Mayor of the National District informed them that they would have to evict the lands, property of the State.

“They informed us that, on that side, supposedly – ​​and I say that because they are not working on it yet – that they are going to set up a park. And those from the City Council arrived and gave us little time to evict us, ”says Reinaldo de Jesús Alcántara, the son, with his eyes fixed on what was his old place.

He assures that, although his father was previously informed by the authorities, he had less than 15 days to mobilize the merchandise. “It’s more: what was there was not removed even in three months. We had to find and expedite borrowed trucks and money on credit to be able to withdraw it, ”she laments.

The family, who during the Christmas season knew how to raise up to RD$700,000 with their items, estimates that they have losses this year amounting to RD$450,000 due to the eviction, money that they are trying to recover with the sale of the charamicos that they were able to save and that they transferred to the across the street, waiting for their buyers to turn their heads in the other direction and catch a glimpse of them.

“For everyone, that was the specific point. There were old, new and even unknown customers who stopped to ask the prices to buy something out of curiosity. But it’s not the same on this side anymore,” says de Jesús Alcántara, who, although he understands the City Council’s decision, still does not understand why they ignored his and his father’s request to suspend the eviction until after the season.

“The permit for the use of public spaces ends every year on January 7. They should have given me the opportunity to finish selling there for the year because that (the eviction) was in September, and on October 15 they gave us permission to sell.”

Losses

Reinaldo de Jesús Padre stated that, as a compensatory measure, the Mayor’s Office gave the family a check for about RD$50,000. However, the amount was barely enough to pay for the transportation of all the charamicos to the municipality of Pedro Brand, where the family’s residence is located.

The handicrafts, placed in the contiguous wait, wait for the passers-by and vehicles interested in acquiring them. | Lesther Alvarez

Until then, resuming the business has been difficult because his health has deteriorated after, weeks after his business was torn down, the man suffered a pre-infarction. “Many people tell me, I cannot say that it is because of that, but that it (the pre-infarct) started there (because of the incident).”

Although she feels better now, she controls cardiovascular imbalances with three pills, only one of which costs RD$2,800. To this new investment, another one is added: the permit for public spaces granted by the council for the number of meters used on the sidewalk in front, having to pay RD$20,000 for the provision of 20 meters.

“For next year, I will have to find another space. The formalization of what was already the small company of mine and my children no longer compensates for this business alone ”, explains the artisan who, in reality, has not yet considered taking this important step for his business.

“Maybe later,” says the son, who hopes to open his own workshop soon, focused on working with polished wood to make tables for restaurants.

manufacture of charamicos

Reindeers, baskets, garlands, stars, balls, cones, angels and donkeys are some of the varieties in the decorations that the family makes. Depending on the size, they have prices ranging from 500 onwards.

The manufacture of Christmas trees is done from branch to branch, until completing pieces that exceed 12 feet in height, in a process that, depending on the height, can take a craftsman from one to four hours. After having the piece ready, it is painted on a canvas, emptying cans of paint and glitter into them, until the entire surface is covered.

The bojucos, branches and wood are purchased from Pedro Brand and Villa Altagracia. The family pays RD$8,000 for the transport of a truck full of bouquets for charamicos.

From a sawmill, a staff is in charge of cutting each piece of wood in the sun. Once this process is finished, the wood is polished so that the artisans only have to finish with sanding and varnishing.

In the case of the tables, items in high demand by both decorators and restaurants, the wooden pieces are embedded and screwed onto a fixed iron base. Prices may vary by size, but one of the smaller tables costs RD$16,000.

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