Like many El Pasoans, Juan Pablo Martinez Hernandez grew up on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, often visiting Juarez to go shopping for the day. But for Hernandez, there was one part of his visits that made a mark on him that serves him even now.
“I remember my Grandma taking us (to Juarez],” Hernandez says. “We would always stop at the mercado, where there would be the glass blowers – the sopladores – and they would be making these huge bowls, clowns and other stuff. I was just always marveled by it. … I had no idea that I was going to be able to do that (later on) in life.”
Now, Martinez is owner of Milintica Glassworks and creates handblown glassware, jewelry, pendants, glass ornaments and more in his converted garage in Central El Paso. He learned the art of glassblowing from his brother, who was living in San Diego, more than 20 years ago and perfected his craft on and off throughout the years. It was not until 2020 that he opened his business, selling his work at local farmers markets.
According to some sources, glassblowing is a popular tradition handed down among generations of Mexican artisans. Brought over by Spanish artisans, the first glass pieces produced in North America were made around 1535 in Puebla, Mexico.
Carrying on these traditions, Hernandez decided to name his company after an Aztec-inspired word.
“I just wanted to kind of keep it to a native name. And I stumbled across ‘milintica,’ which means ‘He who waves fire.’ And I thought it just went hand in hand,” he says.
Hernandez started out making smoking apparatuses but then transitioned his offerings to the items he makes today. From cactus-shaped earrings to glassware with desert-inspired motifs, each of his creations is slightly different due to its hand blown nature.
Hernandez says he is just as intrigued by glassblowing as anyone who watches the skillful process.
“I just love working with fire – melting, sculpting, stretching the glass – and just trying to do the impossible at times,” he says.
You can find Hernandez’s work at local farmers markets and through Instagram: @milinticaglassworks.