Chuck Post '64 and Rodrigo Martinez '64 sail the Caribbean
Excerpts from "Flight Reports", Chuck Post's journal of his sailing adventures in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, winter 2001
Tuesday, April 10
Rodrigo Martinez, classmate from YC '64 and Y Med '68, was waiting to meet us as we stepped off the Cessna Caravan in San Pedro Sula, Honduras this afternoon. Good to see an old friend, and flattered to be met at the airport by a busy doctor. Slowly, under his keen tutelage, the geographic, political, historic, economic and social (whew) pieces of the Central American puzzle began to fall into place.
What an interesting life he has led. His father, a Honduran, obtained his medical degree at Tulane, and became the medical director for United Fruit. Rod thus grew up as a "zone kid", in the community created by United Fruit to meet the needs of its workers, and I mean all the needs: house including furniture and silverware, education, medical care, commissary, golf course, transportation, etc. United Fruit, in fact, created much of the infrastructure of these countries, including hospitals, schools and railroads, over the better part of a century, until recent years, when this system fell apart under Chiquita ownership and changing times.
As a kid, Rod tells of DC-3s, landing on dirt runways, as being the major form of intercity transportation in C.A., since there were no paved roads. A "banana boat" used to bring these kids up to the states for boarding school and college, and created a whole network of friends continuing until this day. Rod went to Hackley, and Yale where I first met him, and then on to Yale Medical School. He specialized in internal medicine, and rose to the rank of "Chief Resident" in medicine at Yale, one of the most competitive and prestigious positions a young doctor can achieve in our country, followed by a cardiology fellowship at Scripts in San Diego. Such achievement would normally lead straight into academic medicine, or a lucrative practice, but Rod chose instead to return to his native Honduras with its comparatively primitive medical system at the time. He brought Joan Leary, a pediatric fellow at Yale, back with him, and together they have raised four kids, all of whom are bright and successful.
As we walked around Cemesa Hospital, of which he is now vice president, with responsibilities for administrative oversight and technology, I was amazed at his achievements. They are now installing (here comes some technology, hang on) the first digital mammography scanner in C.A., as well as a third generation GE Tesla phased array MRI, one of the first in Latin America. They already have in place a DENA Lunar Densitometer for bone studies, and a helical CT scanner, and are building a cardiac catheterization lab. This is all being done in a system where there is no medical insurance, and fees (and incomes, I might add) are a fraction of those in the U.S. Cemesa Hospital has become a showcase for medicine in Latin America.
As I rounded with Rod, I observed that has still has retained a relaxed and caring manner with his patients. I coerced him into a photo next to the plaque bearing his father's name, who was a founder of this hospital, and as we walked back out thru the lobby I felt a real sense of pride in my classmate Rodrigo. Wow!
Wednesday, April 11
The other really neat part of our visit with Ron and Joan was an all day excursion to Copan, "the Paris of Mayan ruins", and a source of tremendous national pride for Hondurans. The two-hour drive coming and going, through the agricultural valleys and Mayan mountains and little villages, was a special treat, with Rodrigo narrating the whole way, while fending off a barrage of questions from me. Copan is particularly fascinating because of the extensive archeological work which has been done. The Mayan hieroglyphic code has been almost completely broken now, a CIA-like story in itself, and so a great deal is known about how these people lived. They had a very hierarchical society, and rulers with names like "18 Rabbit" and "Smoke Jaguar!" These Native Americans, as well as the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incas in Peru, had art and architecture, engineering and astronomy, and even a coherent religion, at a time when the vaunted Europeans had "nothin for cultcha". Their society dates back to 2000 BC (!), flourished between 300 and 900 AD, and then withered from forces unknown, with any remnants being extinguished by the Spanish Conquistadors about 1550. Imagine if they had carried on, where we might be today!