The Art of the Artisans By: Rita la vau

There are many issues around the border of Mexico these days. One of the main issues being immigration and the arrival of the caravan of immigrants in Tijuana. Still for some of the local businesses they thrive even through all the hardships they deal with on a daily basis.

Maria De Jesus - Owner of Ramírez Curios

One such business is in the Mercado de Artesnia. There you can find Ramirez Curios, a family business run by Maria de Jesus and her son Michael Ramirez for the past 25 years.

Maria has been in the business since her husband started it, he recently passed 9 years ago and that’s when her son took over operations that the father was in charge of. Maria said, “this is a family business my husband and I started, after he passed the business passed to our children but I still work with my children to make this business grow.”

She recalled the early years of the business and the troubles it faced, “When we first started we only sold small items that were made of terra-cotta clay and some Talavera pieces, as the business grew we started to get finer pieces and higher quality merchandise with a wider selection of Talavera.”

Ramirez Curios has many manufacturers they work hand in hand with to make their pieces and expedite the process of restocking. Many of these pieces come from many parts of Mexico. “We travel all over Mexico to get the best merchandise we can get for the store.” She said, “we go to Jalisco for terracotta, Guerrero for woodworking, Guanajuato for metalwork, and Puebla/Michoacán for the Talavera.”

Her son, Michael Ramirez, is known for building good rapport with customers and vendors alike. One customer Brian Brown is a regular and makes the journey to Tijuana specifically to restock his inventory for his store.

Brian Brown - Business Owner from Mojave Desert

Brown, who owns a gift shop and bakery in the Mojave Desert, will make the journey three to four times a year. “We get a lot of snowbirds that flock to the desert in the cold winter months coming from places like Canada, Wisconsin and the Northeastern coast of North America.” He recalled, “They don’t have the luxury of seeing this fine craftsmanship in those part, so for them seeing this stuff is a real treat and I stock my shop with them to save them the trip of coming down here.”

Brown who recently lost his wife recalled meeting Michael for the first time, “My wife, who passed 3 years ago, would come to this marcado she was looking around and found this store, Michael was very helpful and a genuinely nice person, so we established a working relationship and now he’s our biggest supplier.”

Michael Angel Ramírez

Michael Ramirez handles much of the finances for the store. He said, “This store is filled with goods from all over Mexico, we have a crew of 8 that works in the stores, and this will be our 25th year of business.” When asked about the business and how it’s changed he said, “we started really slow, and much of the merchandise we first sold is no longer here, but the Talavera has been a staple of the store, now we have quick turnarounds on merchandise and many suppliers.”

When asked how the finances work he said, “our last inventory we did was last December, and we had a value of goods around $80,000, however we have quick turnarounds so we could invest $10,000 today an that stock would gone in 3-4 days.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA has been one item that may change soon for the store. When asked about NAFTA Ramirez said, “Before NAFTA if you wanted to export goods to the US you had to pay duties, after NAFTA some of the things that our government alongside that of Canada and the US decided was to charge no duties for certain goods being exported, things like crafts were one such thing.”

When asked about duties he said, “duties are taxes in relation to importing and exporting goods, they are used to offset the financial burden of certain goods leaving a countries economy and the affect that has, so some countries will charge duties to even the playing field.”

Businesses like Ramírez Curious thrive on American indulgence, an insatiable hunger for creativity and unique designs that stand out. The talavera and other signature works sold here are highly sought after not just by customers but also by those who would resell these products. The Ramirez family has more than made due with what they were given and have thrived in the face of adversity.

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