Hey Simple && Sweeties,
This is a post I have been so excited to share with you. CoroCoro is a store very close to my heart because it is run by values very dear to me.
While living in Austin, I quickly realized that the soul of the city lies with the smaller merchants that are passionate about something and make it their mission to let the rest of the public into their world. The east side is full of local art and fashion boutiques, cat themed bars, bike themed coffee houses, and breweries with soul NOLA could be proud of. One of my favorite spots is CoroCoro.
A little backstory on discovering this gem:
Everyday after work, I drove down Ceasar Chavez to get a coffee from the Quickie Pickie (another amazing spot I recommend you check out). This was the summer I had to get the next chapter of my life in order. I was constantly back and forth between Austin and San Antonio as I prepared for law school. One afternoon I was talking to my friend Esti, the barista, about not knowing which apartment to choose. The man standing next to me overheard my conversation. He gave a few recommendations and mentioned that he himself had attended St. Mary’s law school. “Come across the street to my shop sometime”.Raul said. He offered to go over my course schedule with me and impart some wisdom from his years as a prospective lawyer.
I was intrigued. How does one go from law school to owning an art gallery? At this point, the idea of law school was intimidating, and I wasn’t convinced it was for me. There was something fate-like about this whole coincidence that I had to see him again.
I ended up stopping by two weeks later and fell in love with his store.
If you visit the CoroCoro site here and browse around a little, you’ll find amazing and vibrant pieces as well as this under the Our Story tab in the store.
“Corocoro began in 2012 as an effort to promote South American fine art and fashion; particularly, social art and the struggle of the people it involves. “It’s fine art and fashion for THE People, by A People.” Once you understand that phrase, you too will understand that “Corocoro” is much more than people and things. It’s about how people come together and through things create conscience.”
Raul is deeply connected to South America, and it lives in him. The way he introduces new people to his shop is beautiful. He says his store is like a museum you are welcome to touch.
The pieces are unique in that they are handmade by artisans belonging to the native tribes of Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, and other South American nations.
What makes Raul’s version of Fair Trade different from the big business definition is in his relationship with the artisans.
If you have the fortune to hear this from him, have him tell you because it’s much better than the way I’ll struggle to explain the economics to you.
Essentially, larger businesses send their middle-men to go to these tribes and offer business to an individual. The individual and agent negotiate on a price. The business’s middle man will then find similar goods from an different individual of the same tribe. Ignoring the standards of fair trade the tribe has agreed upon, the middle man will negotiate and haggle with the individuals getting a lower price than is fair and resulting in a division in the harmony and brotherhood of the tribe.
Raul doesn’t partake in this game.
He has befriended the tribes and the artisans know him by name and face. He has pictures throughout the store with them in their workrooms. The pieces are sold at a reasonable price if you take into account the quality and effort the craftsman took to create it.
In addition to this, there are small cards on every piece which give credit to the individual who created it and to the cultural significance of the craft. There’s a very clear effort on his part to educate the public about the cultural beauty of these people he calls friends.
The paintings that are all over the store are Raul’s creations. He is very humble (especially for an artist who owns his own gallery, let’s extend that credit) and sometimes won’t even talk about his own art because he values the art of his friends equally. However, I highly, highly encourage you to ask him about the pieces because they represent deeper struggles and celebrations of his people. I really wish I had a proper home, so I can justify making one of his pieces my own. There is a passion and love uncomperable to any other art I’ve seen on canvas.
I copied a part of his artist biography you can find on his site here.
Raúl Peláez-Prada: Painter
Artist Raúl Peláez-Prada was born May 7, 1976 in Princeton, Illinois to Raúl Peláez-Antelo and Marta Prada-Plata. Life has offered him many journeys, and he has made homes of Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico and the United States. Academics and intellectual curiosity were always priorities in his family, and along that vein, Peláez-Prada received his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 2000 from The University of Texas at Austin. In 2009 he obtained his Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s School of Law.
Despite his extensive scholarly work, Raul always believed that the beauty of the world and its peoples could not be ignored. Raul followed his passions to become the dynamic and admired artist that he is today.
“My father urged me to think for a living rather than use my hands, but I am useless without my hands. It all comes out my fingertips. I can’t think without my hands.”
– Raúl Peláez-Prada
ORIGINS OF COROCORO
“Corocoro,” the name chosen for the work, finds its roots in legend, myth, folklore and personal experience:
Legend (Definition: Legend – An event, person, work so great that it staggers the imagination:
Corocoro was a village in the Rio Mar Valley of the Amazon where Ecuador, Peru and Brazil cradles
Colombia. Due to its distance from greater populations Corocoro succumbed to forget (“olvido“) and
became lost to greater populations. Corocoro’s existance was documented in La Realesa Expandida by Leopoldo Barrios .
Corocoro’s existance and ruin has been supported by eye-witness accounts. immortaized in folk music and folktales. There are people who claim to have journeyed there. There are people who claim to have seen its ruins.
Imagination was my friend’s everthing and all. He lived the spirit of what could be done now against a fantastic context of a place that existed. The name also finds its roots in both the “call and response“ traditions of South American music and the literary genre of magic realism. Visual calls for critical response generate a rhythmic dialogue that lead the viewer into unpredictably inspiring discourse. The sustained thematic travel between the realms of the “fantastic” and the “real” blur boundaries of compartmentalized imagination. Voices of critical exchange lead to those footpaths connecting actuality and the imaginary. It is there where artworks cease to be things and collectively assume the nature of a single place; Corocoro.
Thanks so much for the continued love and support my Simple && Sweet family.
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