- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - Roberto Ramos considers himself a simple craftsman, but each Christmas his capable hands restore the splendor to antique baby Jesus figurines.

At his tiny workshop, inside an old house in the center of La Paz, dozens of figurines with mangled fingers, dead eyes, haggard faces and dusty hair arrive from the United States, Italy, Spain and Peru for him to revive.

The Bolivian artist inherited the job from his grandfather and studied in Argentina’s School of Fine Arts. At 65, he still has the steady hands of watchmaker to replace eyelashes, restore hair and polish the wax skin of old figures of plaster, and wood, some 300 years old.

“The baby Jesuses they bring me here are from families that don’t want to lose them, they don’t want to change them because of the faith they have in them,” Ramos said, surrounded by half-naked saints in mid-restoration beside his bed. “They are mischievous, some days when I wake up their hair is uncombed,” he said showing off some that he has repaired so they can be with their owners on Dec. 25.

“Restoring them is more difficult than making a new one because you have to work on them respecting the form, the color that their creator gave them,” he said.

His daughter Maria, 45, learned the skills and now is his assistant.

“These babies have sentimental value for their owners, they’re family relics,” she said.

Leyla Fuentes, a client who inherited a Jesus figure from her grandparents, said she was happy with how hers came out.

“Without baby Jesus there is no Christmas,” she said.

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