If you are in Cuba, and mention the Santander last name, people will immediately think of four things: Trinidad, clay, handicraft and family tradition. Undoubtedly, this Trinidad family knows better than anybody the secrets of clay and thanks to a tradition that has been passed from one generation to the next in this family since the end of the XIX century. Today, they are considered maestros in a beautiful and hard trade which is molding clay to turn it into a masterpiece.
Under the positive influence of the first Santander, Modesto, who learnt the trade from a Spanish immigrant, they founded the first pottery named El Alfarero (The Potter). From it other potteries were opened with the passing of time. Today, all the men in the family: Rogelito, Tomás and Juan Alberto, and the new generation Daniel, Oscar and José Asariel produce their magic in those potteries. Neidis, who everyone calls Coki, is the only female seduced by this art in this family.
What at the beginning was a trade to provide bricks for the city, later started diversifying their productions, which then included jars, pots, wine bottles, water filters and other items whose demand was growing along the village.
As time went by, the Santander family productions were not only of utilitarian use, but they also had great artistic and decorative value. Every member of the family has created very personal pieces that are added to their pottery tradition. Here you can find lamps, ashtrays, rattles, dishes decorated with the Trinidad landscape with their indisputable trademark. This creative process involves the grandfathers, fathers and sons.
The work of Neidis Santander deserves at least one more comment. In her pottery La Casita de Barro, she produces clay murals in relief, dishes decorated with aboriginal art that are polished with metallic oxides, reproductions of Trinidad streets and facades. All of them are unique and in several formats.
The Santanders have kept their tradition alive. Today’s ovens don’t resemble at all the first one their ancestor had, which he built using the wood of a wine casket. Even so, they use very old techniques, passed along among them, which they combine with the newest ones to keep their unmistakable quality.
That’s why, a visitor to Trinidad won’t have to make a big effort to find this family of potters. In the city, everyone knows where their potteries are and give exact directions to those asking so they won’t get lost.