There are many places in Havana that sell ceramic products from El Cano, but most people don’t know how those items are produced, or how the life of the town revolves around that industry.
The foundation of El Cano dates back to May 10, 1587. It was a cattle breeding area first, and then the sugar industry expanded through the region. The search for new sources of income, and the availability of clay in the area led to the emergence of a local ceramic industry.
In 1858, the number of small factories in the area amounted to 15. Today, there are 63 of them, all of them privately owned.
These factories are engaged in the production of one of two kinds of products: construction materials or decoration items.
Each workshop, no matter how small, needs to have a good amount of space available. The space is distributed among a furnace fueled by scrap wood that the locals get from sawmills, or from collapsed buildings and public tree trimming works.
It is almost impossible to find clay in the area, so now they bring it from Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s westernmost province.
“Everything starts when we get a delivery of clay. The material comes in different colors and with different levels of granularity every time,” says Feliz Pulido.
It’s tough work. The clay blocks must be taken to a pond to be moistened, and then subject to a process to make the color and the grain even. They use makeshift machines for the process.
Furnaces are built in all sizes, depending on the volume and type of production.