Today on "The friendly face of the guests of Heidy " we will have the opportunity to learn about the history of a Guatemalan, born in the village of El Chicał, Morazán Departamento of El Progreso and it will be himspeaking to us about of how the interest arose in whathe iscurrently working on and also will discuss his book, "El Lustrador". He is René Corado, who currently resides in Oxnard, Ventura County. Ourguest traveled to California in the early 1980s and suffered discrimination, but that was no obstacle to dream to transcend and succeeded.
I welcome René to this space where you can say what you want and in other media cannot.
To start the interview,I want you to tell us about the place where were you born, how do you remember it?
Was and still is a very pretty village with only 13 houses. Very close to the village runs the Rio Motagua which at that time provided food for the people of the village and I was very happy when my grandma Mama Fina went to wash clothes. I bathed in the river and bothered the Orioles’ nests (birds that make their nests as bags) (Icterus gularis),by which my grandmother always scolded me. I think that the interest in biology started as a child. The most I remember is when I went to hunt iguanas, rabbits or armadillos with my two dogs who were sons of a wild dog that my brothers and I found in a cave, also when I climbed up to the jocote and mango trees to enjoy its fruits.
A poor child, in a very poor village, but with all the mountains around him to enjoy them as a garden. The nests of Orioles that I’vedisturbed before, are now being collected for analysis of all pesticides that affect the Motagua River and birds that feed on it somehow.
How many siblings were you, and how do you remember them?
We were 8 siblings. 4 boys and 4 girls, but a sister died of days of being born. The one I shared a lotof time with was my brother Miguel. He is5 years older than me. Hewas always playing tricks on me. He pretended to drown in the Motagua River, or cutting a tree when I was all the way on top after I had climbed it. But we also enjoyed very much our time together hunting rabbits, iguanas, armadillos and cutting cactus fruit. And also being troublemakers together.
How was your childhood? At what age did you come with your family to settle in the city?
My dad started his day at 5 in the morning and we all had to help. I was lucky to live with my grandmother Mama Fina who lived very near my house, my dad "lent" me to her because she lived alone, she spoiled me a lot. I had to help bring the cows down from the mountain to give them a drink at the River, all this at the age of 6-7 years and barefoot and sometimes very large cactus thorns introduced in my feet. I came to the city at the age of 8 years.
How did you surroundyourself with so much courage at such a young age and going to a distant land without speaking English and with little money?
I worked at a newspaper and the political situation the same as the economic was very hard. I got married very young, and at the age of 20 years I already had a daughter. I didn’t want my young wife (17 yrs. old) and newborn go through what I had suffered. I thought that life in the United States would be easier because I did not believe that I would suffer more than I already had suffered in Guatemala. That was very far from the truth.
You suffered discrimination in that country? How were you able to overcome it?
Yes. In 1981 when I came to California there was a lot of discrimination and I suffered it in my own flesh. I overcame it for the love of my daughter and my wife,who I promised that we were all going to go forward no matter how much I had to fight and they would meet with me as soon as possible. 8 months later, we were all reunited in California.
Why study biology, was it something that you wanted at a young age?
I studied biology by accident, I wanted to be a journalist. I came to California with the sixth grade only.
At what stage of your life do you feel the inclination to support the neediest?
After having suffered much in Guatemala and in USA, I promised if someday I made it, I would make someone’s life easier,so they won’t have to suffer what I suffered.
Recently you wrote "El Lustrador" which is a text that you want to be a motivator. Whatwould you say in this regard?
El Lustrador is my own life. Since my parents took me from the village without warning, leaving my beloved Grandma and my two friends, my wild dogs, they cut me completely from the only life I knew, to take me to a jungle of cement where nobody knows you or caresabout you. In the village I was poor but had fruit and wild animals to eat and they were free! In the city I had to eat from the garbage.
I came undocumented to USA not knowing anybody or speaking the native language which is English, simply with NOTHING!!! Only with my sixth grade education and with a heart full of dreams and hope. I always say that dreams and action are a good combination.
I wrote the book to share and to motivate people to achieve their dreams. If YOU really want it YOU can achieve it and if you think that life is too hard, you can see my example of life; eating from the garbage, to being the gardener of the Museum, which now I am the Manager and biologist in charge. I’ve also written a couple of books in English and now the first in Spanish. If the Shoeshine boy who ate from the garbage could achieve his dream, why don’t you?
How many chapters does your book have and where can you buy it?
It has14 chapters. You can purchase it at any of these addresses:
By the way,how was the idea born of writing a book and how many have you already published?
The idea of writing my book camefrom my friend, the Executive Director of the museum, Dr. Linnea Hall. A month after she took the post as Director of the Museum, we traveled to a conference of ornithologists in Louisiana and the plane could not land because a tremendous storm and with fear I told her the story of my life, just in case the plane crash at least someone knew about my story because even my closest family as my wife and my children knew nothing of my shoeshine stage, and that I even ate from the trash. She told me that I had to write a book, so my family could appreciate life a little bit more.I also want to let my Latino brothers know that there is hope and that dreams can be achieved.
This is my third book but the first in Spanish. I alsoedited one which was published originally in Japanese.
Part of the book sales will be used to give scholarships to children from villages around my village so they could continue studyingJr high in Morazán.
There are approximately 10,000 species of birds in the world. Between eggs, nests, and birds we have half of the species. We have more than one million eggs, over 20,000 nests and 60,000 Study skins. The collection of eggs and nests is the largest in the world. And they are used for studies of conservation of species, also by artists, teachers, students and the public in general visit the Museum to learn more about how to help in conservation.
Who influences you for the love of birds?
I worked with an Ecuadorian doing any kind of work.One day we went to Hollywood to build a House for 10,000 orchids, the Ecuadorian left me working alone and the Anglo owner of the plants spoke a bit of Spanish and also had 80 live birds for photography and when I told him that I saw almost all those birds in my village he rejoiced and offered to pay me one dollar more per hour, the Ecuadorian paid me $2 per hour.
He died after two years I started working for him and left all his capital to the Museum where I work now. The new owner was a biologist and hired me to work in the garden and at my lunch time or after work I liked to see the work that agroup of biologists there did. When my new boss saw the interest, he asked me if I wanted to be a biologist and I said yes because it seemed to me that what they were doing for the conservation of the species was a work to emulate. So the founder of the Museum gave me the opportunity and trusted me. That’s how the love for birds began.Although,I already had the lovesince I was a child, being a biologist can help protect them.
How long have you shared in this atmosphere full of birds and how many are we talking about?
I've been working with birds for 30 years and as I said earlier we have 60,000 study skins but I am also field biologist and almost 30 years traveling to different countries, I worked many years in the Amazon jungle where I transported by helicopter and left me for 3 months at a time, then I switched to the waterfalls of Costa Rica. All of this I describe it in my book. We speak of thousands of birds in different forests, Islands, swamps, caves, beach walk, horseback riding, canoeing, helicopter and car etc.
Can you tell us about the foundation that you currently manage?
It is a non-profit foundation that focuses on education and also a museum which is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats. We teach classes of bird identification, Ornithology and Oology at the Museum for a local University and the public in general.
In the coming months I will begin to work with the Central American children who are undocumented in Ventura County and are part of the group that recently arrived this year and have no family. I will serve as a connection between them, and teachers have asked me to help and I will gladly give a hand to these innocent small immigrants.
We have computerized our entire museum holding in order to serveanybody,anywhere in the world without having to visit us. We planned to take photos of all the eggs and by now we photographed 90,000 egg clutches.
How has your life changed since you left at the beginning of the 1980s?
When I arrived in 1981, I was full of hopes, without knowing that it would be so hard. A challenge. I arrived without documents and a sixth grade education. I was about to give up on my dreams several times but I decided to give everything to achieve them. No one knew me. I was discriminated. I knocked at many doors and didn’t open. 32 years later. I am a citizen of two countries. I graduated with more than two professions. I'm respected in the community, in the USA and also in Guatemala. You ask me if my life has changed?Yes friends, I achieved my dreams!
What are your short term goals?
My short term goals are to continue promoting my book“El Lustrador” and make a second printing this year hoping to reach people who need a push to go forward. I'm also already working on “El Lustrador” illustrated for children and then come“El Lustrador” in English.I also have a book signing Saturday, October 25 in my Museum at our annual open house.
How often do you come to Guatemala and what is the reason for your travel?
In the year 2000 I began a program of conservation and census of birds in Guatemala. In 2006, I followed the project banding and monitoring birds which I'm still working it so far. I'm going to Guatemala twice a year and I give free classes of how to prepare birds and eggs in USAC and the U. del Valle.
At the moment I am working in the village where I was born, I amalso trying to clean up the Río Motagua which has become a sewer and people still using water and small fish to eat, the fight has been tough and nobody listens to me and helps clean the river but by my experience in life Idon’t give up and think that my dream to clean the Rio Motagua is going to be achieved even if I have that fight another 30 years for it.
What advice would you give the people in order to achieve their goals?
I think everybody has the ability to achieve their dreams if you fight for it.The first thing we have to do is go to school/college, there we find many people who are fighting for their dreams and the dreams of someone else's hand are accomplished more easily.
Hold your dreams close to your heart and remember this shoeshine boy that left his little village barefoot and years later returned to try to lend a hand to his beloved village. In California I was discriminated and abused in the area of the McArthur Park which I left 25 years ago.OnSeptember 14 of this year I returned in an allegorical float for the independence, invited by my community to conquer and forget that past that humiliated me.
By the way, are you involved in cultural activities?
I just started this year, someone found out about my book the “El Lustrador”and I was invited to present it during the "Week of the Guatemalan" for the first time in the USA. Previously I only participated as volunteer in recovering houses for alcoholics and drug addicts, as well as in hospitals and juveniles and adults jails because I also have a degree in addictionsdisorders studies.
In relation to the activities where Guatemalans gather, what do you think of the Feria Chapina?
The Feria Chapina was another activity where I was invited by CONAMIGUA where I presented my book. It is the first time that I participate in the Feria Chapina and seemed incredible and very well organized, with a bit of taste of Guatemala in Los Angeles, I think it was a success and I am looking forward to continuing to participate.
Another activity that I was invited by CONAMIGUA was Central American independence parade where I participated in the float of Guatemala and really had a good time, at the end in its latest chapter“El Lustrador is picking many years of planting!
With how busy you are, tell us what do you do in your free time?
In my free time I am a volunteer in hospitals, homes of recovery for drug and alcohol addicts and also visited prisons. But in my spare timeI go to see my grandchildren play soccer, work in my garden (I love orchids) and go to the gym, take walks and read at the beach. I enjoy reading in my hammock on the patio of my garden next to my tank with Koi fish;I read at least one book per month.
Can you share a message to those who read the "Entrevistas de Heidy"?
3 or 4 months ago, I found "Entrevistas de Heidy" on the internet and I said "Heidy issuch a talented woman, hopefully one day she interviews me". So it was, I never contacted her because I didn’t think it was appropriate. Suddenly I get a message from her asking for an interview, I was open-mouthed. Doesn’t that sound like a movie? That's life friends, everything isto start building a dream and if we want it, it becomes reality, and then everything comes in addition. Thank you very much to Heidy for taking me into account to tell my humble history.
Never give up; if we are tired of fighting, sit and rest a while, tired will make it harder to achieve the goal. Ask and ask again to whom have already traveled that road so that it shows you where the dangerous curves are. We all have the right to a piece of this earth because we are not less than insects or birds. Never say I can't without trying, don't listen to somebody whohas nevertried when they tell you that you cannot do it, the important thing isn't to reach the finish line first but having participated. What matters is not how many times you fall but how many you did get up. In my book there is anemail address where you can contact me, ask.
I am grateful to René Corado having shared his story so full of positivism and congratulate him because it is one of those people who has managed to achieve and is also admirable the work he has done to help people in need.
The video is in Spanish but I think it is interesting and you want to watch it.
You can read the interviews on these links:
Interview conducted by Heidy Sandoval Ruiz
Translations by René Corado
Translations by René Corado