Rafael Bello González continues to build wire cars and carts because “San Pedro doesn’t want it”. He says that he wrote him a letter “and he replied that he was very sorry but that now everything was full and he did not have any extra beds, so he asked me if I was still teaching the children in Pinolere, on Canary Islands Day, I answered yes. , and he told me to leave things as they are, to reach the age of one hundred and if at that moment he had a bed left over, he would send for me”, jokes this octogenarian craftsman to justify that he will continue transforming wire into handicrafts “until the body endurance”.
His age – on October 17 at five in the afternoon he will be 89 – and the great precision required by his work do not prevent him from building cars and wire cars with the same passion with which he began, at the age of 17, and with which has earned its nickname: ‘El Verga’.
Rafael taught himself. “Little by little, thinking with my head, because I haven’t needed any photos or anyone to teach me how to make the cars. Before, the cocks were stolen from the banana plantation, the other stole the rods, the other took them from the chicken coops, and that’s how we started.” It was the boys from his neighborhood, from the area of El Botánico, in Puerto de la Cruz, the municipality where he was born, who brought him the material to build them a car, the most precious toy of the time.
He forges the wire little by little until he gets what he wants. Depending on the model and size it may take a day, two or even three. The smaller ones or “pets”, as he calls them, take more time and more material.
“You have to really itch your hands to do this because it is a very meticulous job. Do you know how much I’ve spent on glasses?”, He tells me.
Now he buys the dick at the hardware store and complains about the price increase. “Four years ago a two and a half kilo, which is the one I work with, cost 1.50 euros and today, 4 euros”. And that amount “doesn’t amount to anything” because many cuts have to be made and material is wasted.
He started doing an Umbe, continued with a fotingo (an old and dilapidated car), then he dared with a truck and did not stop. He was followed by a bus from Titsa (it has the 101 which is the one he takes frequently, and the 363), a tow truck from the Juanele company, a motorhome with all the compartments and the necessary elements to go camping, planes and the gas cylinder truck. of butane. There are more than a dozen gas bottles that he made with the juice containers that Antonia drinks, his wife, his main admirer and with whom he has been married for 65 years. “He made it especially for me,” she proudly underlines.
Rafael not only maneuvers and braids the wire. He also paints all the cars and carts, builds the wheels out of wood, installs the lights and all the mechanism to open the doors, trunk and hood and move the seats. “As if they were real,” he notes. All license plates are real. “This is a Toyota and it’s in Santa Úrsula and that’s my car,” he says, pointing to a blue fiat cinquecento parked in the garage of his house, where many of his works, diplomas and awards are perfectly arranged on a giant shelf.
These small metal treasures join others also made by him, such as timples, an instrument that he played for 33 years in the Rondalla for the Third Age of the Center for the Elderly of the Town of Puerto de la Cruz, of which the couple was part .
In an adjoining room he has set up a kind of workshop. It is his space, the place where he works and where, in addition to materials, boxes with hundreds of cars and packed cars are accumulated to take to the Pinolere Fair, in La Orotava, which is celebrated on September 2, 3 and 4. “If the fair has been organizing for 36 years, I have been with them for 35,” he underlines.
Rafael worked for 42 years as a truck driver and when he retired his friends encouraged him to appear at fairs and since then he has not stopped.
“The problem is that there is a lot of little machine”
However, he regrets that his craft is not bought by many people. “This hardly sells. In the past it sold more. The problem is that now there are a lot of little machines that take away time from the kids. You see it on the streets.”
That is why he has adapted his work to capture more attention from the public and potential buyers. He has put a stick with wheels on the cars and planes so that the little ones can drag them “so they make noise and attract them more. Older people buy it as a souvenir, to have it on a shelf or hang it up”.
Rafael began working in the pools of San Telmo, in Puerto de la Cruz, and then continued with the trucks, loading bananas to Santa Cruz, when the roads were dirt and it took “three days and three nights” to get to the South. of the Island. For more than 50 years he has lived in Santa Úrsula, the municipality where he built his house and raised his family.
He has 6 children, 12 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. He has done some shit to all of them. “They are the kings,” he says, and he remembers that when he was little “I was waiting for the mother to buy a can of sardines to make the Kings and with the canvas we made the wheels and the mother put us two little pills that came in a can of two kilos, boxes of overripe figs and a kilo of small oranges and all that lasted us a month”.
With the exception of a grandson “who likes this a bit”, no member of his family has continued with his hobby, that is why his cars are little treasures, just like the timples he collects and that he has learned to make “by scraping the wood with a piece of glass until it is finished”.