A Taller Tale

One day Joe was walking through the Historic Center of Cartagena with Louis, a university student who was attempting (in vain) to teach Joe Spanish and also help him find interesting photographs in the city.  As they wandered through the Plaza de San Pedro, Louis pointed to a neatly dressed man seated under a tree.  “See that gentleman over there?  That is how all business keepers use to dress — what we would call business casual now.”  The man had well pressed clothes — a dress shirt and dress trousers.



“Think we can go over and talk to him?” Joe asked.

“Don’t see why not,” Lucas replied.

The shop keeper was very willing to talk.  Señor Tobias Menaszaz is an extraordinary gentleman.  At 87 years old, he had 61 years of experience as a fabricante de llaves, or key maker.  He has had a shop at this location in the Plaza de San Pedro for over 40 years.  Still active at the business daily, he works with manual locks and keys, but doesn’t really care for the new electronic locks.  We would have talked more, but a customer arrived and needed a lock fixed.

A few days later, both halves of Two Who Trek returned to the key shop.  This time Joe brought along the keys to his home back in the United States.  Although Señor Menaszaz had several family members sitting under the tree, he excused himself from the group and went to work making some new keys.

First, he looked in a small box for blanks to make the two different keys Joe requested.


Looking for the correct key blanks.  Even though it is 2015, a 2011 calendar graces the back wall of the shop

He then took the blanks and the original keys to an old cutting machine and set to work.


Cutting the blanks

After he finished cutting both keys, he took a hand file to file off the rough edges.  In the past with a cutting machine in the past a locksmith would simply use a polishing wheel on the machine to remove the burr.  But not Señor Menaszaz.


A couple passes with the flat file and he was satisfied with his work.  With a smile he handed the keys to Joe.


The end of the job

The entire process took less than 5 minutes.  Each key cost about $1.20 in US dollars (we paid with Chilean currency).  We expressed our thanks and took our leave.

A few weeks later, we returned to Michigan.  Joe wondered if the keys would actually work.  But when he slipped the keys in the lock, the keys functioned perfectly — better than the ones made by a local, top-rated lock shop.  No resistance or problems whatsoever.

One of the keys is shown above. Since our return three years ago, Joe has carried and used the keys consistently.  Thank you, Señor Menaszaz, for your craftsmanship and for such a delightful souvenir of our Cartagena adventure!

2018 Update:

In December 2018, we were on a cruise through the southern Caribbean.  The ship docked at Cartagena for a far-too-short 5 hours.  We quickly grabbed an overpriced cab and headed to the Clock Tower.  One of our first stops was to see if Señor Menaszaz was still in business.  Sure enough, he was outside his shop as he was when we first met him.  Now at least 90, he was wrapped in a blanket with a large number of relatives around him.  Through our faulty Spanish and with the help of what appeared to be great-grandchildren,  we showed him Joe’s keys, told him of our 2015 experience, and thanked him again for his fine craftsmanship.  He was genuinely pleased and gave us a hearty handshake.  We peeked into his shop as we left, but it seemed to be only storage, with the calendars gone.  We’re thinking he may no longer be working, but still greets people there.

Much later in the day, we realized we forgot to take a picture of him or his shop.  Guess we were too busy being tourists!

Categories: art, artisan, blog, Cartagena, Colombia, manufacturing, people, photos, shop, store, tallar, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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