To continue with the interviews with Hondurans about Honduras, I would like to bring Joselino to the foil, who was my private student at Academia Europea. He was one of the brightest sparks in the school, and probably the brightest. I have met in my time in Honduras, with a wonderful ability for dissecting the frustrating irrationalities of the English language in a simple and clear structure, which probably most native English speakers would fail at doing. In some ways, there was a reversal of roles; I became the pupil. A great engineer and problem-solver, he is also very funny, works hard, reads a lot and does his homework, which is a joy for a teacher here in Honduras. I won’t say much more now and let him be revealed in the transcript below. The interview took place 5th June 2013 in Hotel Marriott, it took about three hours and three bottles of Port Royal beer. I enjoyed it immensely. I hope you do too.
Name: Joselino Rivera
Job: Professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa, import and sells oils to supermarkets, creator of FUAMA (Fundación Amigos del Ambiente)
Lives in: Tegucigalpa
So Joselino, tell me about yourself.
Well, I was born in the centre of Tegucigalpa. Honduras was very different to how it is now. There wasn’t the violence that you see today, nor the social problems. I used to play in the streets and walk to school and nothing would happen. You could go to the park and relax, or go places with your friends and not worry. I went to the Uruguay school, which isn’t actually in Uruguay by the way. But I used to walk there when I was 7 years old and my mother wouldn’t have to worry about me. I have an older brother. He’s now a manager in Hondutel (the national telephone and electrics company). My father died when I was 7.
He died in the operating room. It wasn’t very consciously aware what was going on at the time. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time.
I understand. You were very young.
Yes. You know, it was a moment that marked the rest of my life. I had to take on all types of responsibility around the house and I had to grow up fast. It also meant to I had to go to work at an early age. My mother cared for us very well. It was hard work for her. The problem came later in life, when I was a bit older. I missed a father figure.
Understandably. But I guess that it must be beautiful for you being a father for three daughters now. And you’re doing a great job, it seems, since they are all doing well at school. Then again, I suppose, without wanting to add salt to the wound, it can be painful thinking about what you missed out on by not having a father figure from a young age.
Yes, I guess so.
(We then moved over to the bar and started on our first of a few beers).
Anyway, regardless, I did well at school. I learned from a young age about how to fix things and work things out. I had an analytical mind and I was good at mathematics. So I graduated from school with an accounting qualification when I was 15.
You must have grown up in the 60s and 70s then.
Yes. I used to go to parties with friends, chase girls and have fun. It was a great age. I liked listening to Bee Gees and Queen. They were really big at the time. I remember the film, with John Travolta, and the song Night Fever. It was played a lot at parties.
You told me in a class exercise that one of your favourite songs was Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd.
Yes. Another English group!! It was at a time of many protests against the military. I was part of one.
I remember you saying. Tell me what you did after school.
Well, there were two choices: work or go to high school. As I said, I liked fixing devices and mathematics, so accounting was great for me. It was rational. Mathematics is rational. Also with accounting, it was easier to get jobs in a wide range of places, pretty much anywhere. So I got a job in Hondutel, where my brother works, when I was 15. I was there 11 years. Most of the people working with me were engineers, so it inspired me to study engineering. I saw a great future in telecommunication. However, I didn’t like it at Hondutel. There was too much corruption. To be promoted or have a high position, it wasn’t what you knew, it was who you knew. It’s like that everywhere. It was hard. Also, because the military controlled the Hondutel, they could turn the power off or listen to conversations whenever they wanted, so it was very controlling. They controlled the electricity.
What was it like living under military rule?
They were there at the time because all the countries around us were having revolutions or were at war. They were there to stop the communists. Because Honduras is in the centre of Central America, they feared revolutionists entering. They came to attack the system, but the military stopped them. The people are passive and tranquil here, but still the military killed a lot of young people. It was frightening, to an extent, because you couldn’t say anything against the military. If you did, you just disappeared. Simple. But if you left the military alone, they left you alone. But it was repressive, and it’s why the way we are today.
What impact does it have on the country today?
Because we lived in a repressed way, we were taught not to be critical or creative, it has stopped my generation from being just that: creative and critical! It repressed everything about us. We are tranquil and passive people because of it. We aren’t progressive. It has harmed us in that way, because it has slowed down the progression of our country. We need our children, this generation, to be progressive and forward thinking. If you look at Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, they are all in better economic situations than ourselves. We never had a war, but the repression has prevented us from being progressive like in those countries.
How long were you at Hondutel?
I was for 11 or 12 years. A long time. I then did my university studies and got a job at Comtelca, which was a telecommunications company that provided all the equipment to telecommunication organisations across Central America. It was a fascinating job which I enjoyed immensely. I developed a lot and I was there for five years. But then came the job as professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. That was in 1997. It was one of the best things that I ever did.
It’s not just the place, but the job – to inform, to teach, to educate. It is satisfying, to transmit this information, this knowledge I have learned, to develop them, young people who are eager to learn. It is a proud moment to see them get jobs; it is a feeling that only comes to those who teach, something special. I do all sorts of activities that not only take place in the classroom, but also field trips to different parts of Honduras, to see different structures and examples of good engineering. I give classes in the faculty of engineering. I give three classes; one is economic engineering, the other is system engineering, and the last is research, where the students do investigative research, such as a dissertation.
It has opened up many opportunities for me. For example, between 2003-2006, it allowed me to do a MBA at UPM – Polytechnic University of Madrid. Much of it was long distance learning, so I had many classes online and sometimes I had to be there. Madrid is an amazing city; so much to do, so much life. I really, really enjoyed it – a very important moment in life.
The only thing about this job, it pays 24, ooo Lempiras a month, which is not enough if you want to have a particular life-style, if you want to give your children a good education and live in a nice house. For example, it costs half of your salary to put your children into a bilingual school, and I believe the bilingual schools are usually the best schools in Honduras. So, this is why I do different activities.
I noticed. You’re a busy man.
Yes. I have to be.
You know, I believe I am a pioneer in internet technology in Honduras. In 1998, I started a company that brought the internet to Honduras called Cybertel. Before, no one knew anything about the internet. They were scared about it or didn’t trust it. It was hard but a great experience. I not only had to sell the product, but also the idea, that they needed the internet, that the internet was going to change the world, teaching about the benefits of the internet, trying to convince them that it was essential for business and communication. I remember having the modems and cables. Imagine Hondutel, the biggest telecommunications business in Honduras. They had all the equipment to have the internet, but they had no idea about how to use it. I had to teach them the basic things. We were one of the first internet providers in Honduras. It was a challenge, but it was an interesting time.
Imagine Hondutel, the biggest telecommunications business in Honduras. They had all the equipment to have the internet, but they had no idea about how to use it. I had to teach them the basic things. We were one of the first internet providers in Honduras. It was a challenge, but it was an interesting time.
The mistake we made was selling the products to the cable companies, because once they bought the idea, they took it and made their own company, and from there they took over.
They were great days though. It as a wonderful challenge. After the company was finished, I became an advisor, a consultant, especially for the government and their BEAT programmes, as well as things to do with the environment. I then founded the NGO.
So there you go, it is good to have different activities taking place, in case something happens, you have something else to back it up. But it also helps you lead the lifestyle that you wish to lead. But also, this is Honduras. You have to do what you can to defend yourself.
TO BE CONTINUED…..