Our Community - Rene Guerra - "Creating colorful memories in San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 37            September 20, 2001

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Rene Guerra

The kaleidoscope of colors found in Belize along with the magnificent flora and fauna have provided an abundance of material for many artists. Whether adorning canvas, design imprints on T-shirts or decorating local hardwoods and other materials native to our country, wonderful works of art have emerged from this beautiful jewel. This week we are pleased to introduce a humble artist who has built a unique business using nature's gifts and all-natural materials - Rene Guerra.

    Rene was born with the gift of creativity in the quaint village of San Roman in the Corozal District to Bertha and Patricio Guerra. When he was only a young child, Rene's family moved to Orange Walk where he would spend much of his time molding old pieces of wood or other materials into toys for himself and his two brothers and six sisters. At La Immaculada Roman Catholic School and also at Muffles College, Rene excelled in arts and crafts. His first real work of art was fabricating wooden trucks, tractors and graders which he decorated using oil paint. The end result was an array of  colorful, magnificent children's toys which he sold in Orange Walk. Although his work was high quality, it did not pay the bills, so Rene was forced to work in the sawmill and sugar factory to help with the family's financial expenses.

    When he was twenty-two years old, a group of friends invited him to travel to San Pedro in search of a better living. Rene was soon hired to work as a caretaker and maintenance worker in the Tres Cocos area on North Ambergris Caye. It was there that he met Lindsey Hackston of Belizean Arts. She offered Rene a part-time job painting chairs, wall decorations (using coconut shells) and even a few T-shirts. "I gained a lot of experience there," commented Rene. "Walter Castillo, a well-known artist, taught me how to combine and use colors," he continued. Combining his childhood knowledge and this new experience Rene felt confident in exploring more of his own ideas. Using innovative and original designs, Rene started making his own Mahogany chairs and coconut shell wall decorations. These items soon became fast selling souvenirs sought by tourists. The chairs, specifically, are a novelty and  worthy of display in famous galleries and also used as furniture in the most modern offices. In time, Rene's creations expanded to include photo frames, fish ornaments made from coconut shells, napkin holders, manta rays (using the front part of the coconut leaf), and coffee tables. All of Rene's works depict the diverse fauna found in Belize and are enhanced by the brilliant colors he uses.

    It has been four years since Rene has been on his own and his business only seems to improve. With increased demand for his work, Rene acquired the assistance of his brother, Gilberto. From the smallest to the largest, each handmade piece of art is a reflection of Rene's great talent. He explained that his small pieces, the stingray ornaments, take him fifteen minutes to complete while the most elaborate ones, the chairs, take him two full days. When asked which of his pieces sell the best, Mr. Guerra smiled and said, "There is really not a best seller, fortunately, everything goes." Rene even goes the extra mile of packing and shipping the Mahogany chairs and coffee tables to alleviate the inconvenience to customers needing to carry them back home. Rene is committed to his work and says he spends seven days-a-week doing what he enjoys the most-painting. Mr. Guerra told the San Pedro Sun, "When I am at home, I get anxious to return to my shop to continue painting. Every so often I come up with new ideas. So far they all seem to be liked by the customers and this makes me very happy." 

    Besides being an exemplary artist, Mr. Rene Guerra is the proud father of three children: Nelson 15, Nestor 11 and Nelsey 10. Rene also boasts being a title holder of  Pier Lounge's 1993 "King of the Beach."

     Through his creations, Mr. Guerra promotes our country in his own right. Always inventive and creative, Rene provides a special souvenir to the many visitors who take home with them a "colorful piece" of "Our Community."

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