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Coco’s Lazzu in Maunabo Creates Artisanal Crafts Exclusively with Coconuts

José Manuel Lazzu has been working with coconuts for 50 years, creating everything from edible products such as coconut flour and horchata, to practical items such as plates and cookware

April 17, 2024 - 11:00 PM

The Lazzu-Hernández family uses every bit of the coconut to make plant pots, clothing, fertilizer for plants, and desserts. Pictured: Rosaura Hernández and José Lazzu in the plant nursery, with Christian and Juan behind. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

Lee la historia en español aquí.

Maunabo.- There is not a single part of the coconut that is wasted in the work made by artisan José Manuel-Lazzu of Maunabo.

From the tinder to the coconut water, Lazzu, has spent 50 of them working with coconuts. He has created everything from edible products such as coconut flour and horchata, to practical items such as plates, cookware, plant pots, compost for plants and handmade jewelry.

“We’re called Cocoʾs Lazzu. We’ve had that name for a year and a half, but I’ve been doing this for about 50. I’ve had several companies where we’ve dedicated ourselves to products made from coconuts. The basis of this idea is that we use all the raw material of the coconut. Nothing is thrown away and everything is transformed into something useful. How we recycle, in every sense of the word, is what stands out the most about Cocoʾs Lazzu,” explained the artist. He works in his family workshop with his wife Rosaura Hernández, his son Juan and his grandson Christian Lazzu.

The matriarch of the family creates handmade jewelry pieces such as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. But she also makes edible products such as flour, horchata, tembleque and other coconut-based desserts. Meanwhile, her son Juan and her grandson Christian are part of the production chain. They themselves recognize the importance of learning the family business to continue the legacy for many more years.

La familia Lazzu Hernandez utilizan el coco en todas sus partes, hacen tiestos, prendas, abono para plantas y postres. En la foto varias plantas con los tiestos hechos de coco.
Several plants in pots made of coconuts. (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

“My own grandfather has been doing this for more than 50 years. Whatever he teaches me I have to give it a couple of tries to learn because it requires a lot of processes. But, his specialty, which is the toughest part, I’m running it. We’re trying to learn at least half of what he knows,” said the 20-year-old. While Juan, 36 years old and with an artistic streak in painting, admitted in a few brief words that his father’s workshop is a “legacy that we have to continue.”

But Cocoʾs Lazzu is not the artisan’s first brand. He made his debut as a merchant in the 70s with his “King Coco” business, which he had established in the town of Yabucoa.

There, he made cups, plates, coffee pots and household items from coconut shells. However, the business came to an end in 1973.

But his entrepreneurial spirit prevented him from giving up. So, two years later, he established “Coco Arte de Puerto Rico” in Humacao. It was then that he created fertilizer based on coconut tinder. It is a material that is usually thrown away, but Lazzu found a way to use it. “We’re lucky we have no competition. There’s a lot of things others do, but specialty products like ours, they don’t make them. It’s a unique type of craft,” said the artisan. He also stated that it fills him with pride to know that his company has helped create jobs for his people.

La familia Lazzu Hernandez utilizan el coco en todas sus partes, hacen tiestos, prendas, abono para plantas y postres. En la foto: la joyería confeccionada por Rosaura Hernandez.
Jewelry made by Rosaura Hernández.  (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

José Manuel is also the creator of Corporación Artesanal de Impedidos y Envejecientes de Maunabo (Artisanal Corporation for the Disabled and Elderly of Maunabo, CAIEM, by its Spanish initials), founded in 1990. The project integrates workshops aimed at functionally diverse people and the elderly.

“We train many groups with elderly folk and those with functional diversity, and we teach them how to sow their plants. We give them [a type of] therapy so that they learn the process, from taking out the tinder until we transform it into a product,” commented the artisan.

New projects

The stability of the artisanal company has motivated the Lazzu family to embark on an adventure through a new project. “We’re going to be moving to the Escuela Calzada [Calzada School]. We’re negotiating with the group of farmers who’ll be in charge of that school and who want us to develop our products there. It’s where we hope to create all of our coconut products: jewelry, plant pots, sweets, desserts, foods, and ornamental plants,” said Hernández. In addition, the family rented about 10 acres of land where they hope to cultivate coconut palms and a very dynamic recreational project. Something that is completely different from what they have worked on before. “Of the 10 acres we rent, about three face the sea, where the black sand beach in Maunabo is. We have already started planting palms, and the farm has a pipe that flows into the river. We have plans to develop aquatic sports, kayaks and all that stuff with it, because the farm lends itself to that,” the artisan said.

Containers made with coconuts. 
Containers made with coconuts.  (WANDA LIZ VEGA)

The patriarch of the family said that he started this new project “out of faith.” It represents a legacy of his work both for his family and his people. “I’m 81 years old now, and I’d like this to be built because it’s going to impact the community since there’s a lot of unemployment. But we need help. And what I’m asking is for the state government and the government here [of Maunabo] to study this project and see if it’s viable,” requested the renowned artisan.

To get Cocoʾs Lazzu items and products, you can write to them through their Facebook page: Cocoʾs Lazzu, or call 787-920-6840.

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