Ever since he was 12, Don Manuel Velázquez has been making guitars. His first was crafted from a wooden cheese crate, abandoned outside a store in Puerto Rico. Velázquez’s later works are in the hands of world-renowned musicians José Rey de la Torre, Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte and Keith Richards. He’s considered a national treasure in his home country.
Now 92, Velázquez still carves out guitars at his studio in Winter Springs alongside his son, Alfredo. Regarded as one of the greatest classic guitar makers in the world, Don Manuel Velázquez was this year’s guest of honor at the UCF Latin American Cultural Festival of Orlando. The six-week festival began in September.
“It’s great for the whole Latin community,” said Nora Lee Garcia, a UCF flute professor who performed at the concert. “My goal is to bring music that the new generation might not know, and this festival will ensure that a variety of Latino cultures are involved in activities, celebrations and events.”