||José Herter thinks it took him a long time to start sculpting and carving wood because he never had an education. But life isn’t always easy, is it? Born in the town of Caibaté (RS) in 1961, he has worked in soy and corn plantations and as a bricklayer, and has been living in São Miguel das Missões for seven years. “I moved here because of the tourism. I used to make my things and the tourist organizations would invite me to take part in fairs. I realized that I earned more money with woodcarvings, furniture and sculptures. There was a drought and we had to make ends meet doing other things. Here in São Miguel I met Guarani Indians and the Mission people. They are part of our history.”
Rio Grande do Sul was home to the so called Seven Settlements of the Missions which at one time had a population of over 40.000 native Indians led by Spanish Jesuits. “I realized I could make reproductions of the saints that the priests used to get the Indians to make. These images are very popular, and I found I could identify with them. Everyone says my Virgin Mary has Guarani features, and I agree. I asked God to help me to meet them. Now I’m here and I don’t want to leave. These are themes of our land, of our people.” Not by chance, his house is at the Sepé Tiaraju Street, named after a Guarani hero, idolazed in the South but unknown in the others Brazilian states.