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Nicario Jiménez

2012 Florida Folk Heritage Award


Nicario Jiménez was born in 1957 in the peasant village of Alcamenca, Ayacucho, Peru, high in the Andes. He has devoted his life to making traditional Andean retablos, which are small wooden boxes filled with figures, animals, and other objects that tell a story. Spanish priests originally used them to teach about Catholic saints. Mr. Jiménezis a fourth-generation retablo maker, having learned the tradition from his father and grandfather. He also studied sculpture at several universities in Peru. Nicario's retablos depict religious, historical, and everyday events. They can be humorous or political. His works draw on his family influences and pre-Hispanic Andean art. He crafts the figurines in his retablos by hand, from a doughy mixture of boiled potatoes and gypsum powder. His work has been featured in major museum exhibitions, including the Smithsonian Institution, where it is part of the permanent collection. Nicario has taught and lectured at international universities, and his work is included in numerous prestigious art collections. Mr. Jiménez now lives in Naples, Florida, where he creates retablos that tell diverse stories, from the struggles of Latino immigrants to scenes from Hispanic neighborhoods in South Florida. Through his works, Nicario Jiménez, the “Artist of the Andes,” has shared the sophisticated folk art form of the retablo with audiences worldwide.