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Porfirio Delgado; Guitar Maker for Stars of Latin Music

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Porfirio Delgado, co-founder of Candelas Guitars in East Los Angeles, whose clients over six decades included legendary Latin acts such as Los Panchos and Los Diamantes as well as classical guitarist Andres Segovia, has died. He was 85.

The shop--still operating on Cesar Chavez Avenue in the hands of two of Delgado’s grandsons--is known among musicians for handcrafted instruments made for clients from all over the world.

Los Lobos, Jose Feliciano and Ozomatli, among others, have bought guitars from Candelas, including special types used in Latin music.

“It’s an enormous loss,” said Lupe Delgado, Delgado’s youngest daughter. “He accomplished quite a bit in his life, considering he was an orphan. He was a mentor to his daughters and grandchildren.”

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Candelas Guitars is a family business with roots in Torreon, Mexico, where Delgado and his older brother, Candelario, were born and raised. Candelario died of cancer in 1983 at the age of 72.

As teenagers, the Delgado brothers repaired furniture, and they eventually took up making guitars. They established their first shop, Taller Candelas, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in 1928.

They also looked for clientele in El Paso and Los Angeles and eventually established shops in both cities.

In the 1930s, their first client in Los Angeles was a shop owner on Broadway who offered them $1 for each ukulele they made.

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They came to Los Angeles in 1945 and three years later opened their shop at 2718 Brooklyn Ave.--now Cesar Chavez--in what was then a mostly Jewish business district.

Later, the brothers also operated shops at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue and at Sunset and Figueroa Street, but they closed them in the 1980s to reduce their workload.

In the 1960s, Porfirio Delgado’s son, whom he named after his brother, joined him and the elder Candelario at the shop. The younger Candelario ran the East Los Angeles shop with Porfirio until his own son, Tomas, joined the team around 1990.

The younger Candelario died in 1995 of cancer at the age of 52. A few days later, his younger son, Manuel, came to work with Tomas.

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Earlier this year Tomas, 30, and Manuel, 28, moved the shop three doors up Cesar Chavez. The family hosted a fiesta in the backyard for a couple hundred friends and clients.

Porfirio Delgado, who had recently suffered a heart attack, attended and encouraged his grandsons to “continue the family tradition.”

Recently, Delgado had been in and out of the hospital with complications from the heart attack.

“Everyone who knew him lost a friend, a very intelligent man,” said Tomas. “He went through a lot of good and a lot of bad in life. He witnessed his son’s death, his oldest daughter’s death and his wife’s death.”

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Delgado is survived by three daughters--Lupe, Herminia Hipolito and Belia Marquez--12 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one sister. All of them live in Los Angeles.

Family members said he was a patriarch who died peacefully knowing he had fulfilled his duty of taking care of his family. “We told him that if it was time for him to rest, that we were ready,” Tomas said. “He acknowledged that, and 30 minutes later he stopped breathing. He deserves to rest in peace.”

Services are scheduled for 9 this morning at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in East Los Angeles, with burial in Resurrection Cemetery.


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