Persistence Over Judgment

By: Paola B. Rodríguez Borrés

Engineering over music, that was Francis life choice. Unfortunately, not one he took, but taken for him. Francis Quiles Ojeda, 28, is an Industrial Engineer, but he wanted to be a musician.

Even though every day we hear the cliché stories about how parents force their kids to study what they thinks its right, this is a story very hard to believe for most people according to him. Even though Francis lived in Jayuya, his parents drove him for many years to Ponce and San Juan where he studied in music specialized schools throughout middle school and high school . His parent was also a musician, although it wasn’t his principal job but musicians always surrounded him.

As a child he was competing is “trova” contests and became the local infant champion, which was a family tradition. Regardless of the evident musical offspring in the family, his parents always emphasized how “musicians starve to death” in order to pressure him to study industrial or mechanical engineering.

“Plena music is very emotional, its brave, it's the voice of the boricua and it should never die.” said Francis.

“Plena music is very emotional, its brave, it’s the voice of the boricua and it should never die,” said Francis.

Francis confirms that all the decisions in the course of his life has influenced by his parents “the religious point of view, my conviction in politics, my desire to be a car racer, my music knowledge, my volunteer work for the community and all other kinds of expressions of myself are strongly influenced by them.” Even the choice of started studying in a music school he was the precision leader in the marching and concert band.

When he was kid he wanted to become a fireman, “who doesn’t?” he exclaims smiling. As a child he never dreamed he could be a famous singer, he said proudly, “seeing my dad from the backstage made me think that I could also become a musician, not the one front signing autographs and posters, but a humble one like my father.” He always knew engineering was not for him, “I like the designs ad working with plains, but I knew from the start that the only way I could make engineering as a living was canalizing it in the automotive side,” he clarified firmly.

Francis decided to study Industrial Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón, when he mentioned his music aspiration to his parents they reacted with sarcastic and negative comments.

After he finished he went to study music at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico at San Germán. “Why do you insist so much with the same?” was his parents’ response to his decision. Despite their disagreement, they attended his recitals and concerts to support him. He downsized his excitement sitting back on the chair to explain how after a while he had no scholarship left to pay the tuition to finish, his only options were to make a student loan or to save enough money to pay for the remaining classes, so he quit studying and started working.

Raised by music but driven to engineering Francis still feels accomplished because he has done everything he has planned. “By now, I am the singer and second guitarist in Sonora Rustica which is a rock band, the other project is, Pleneros del Paseo, which is a plena group. I sing, play the pandero, and I also am the director of the nine musicians” he gracefully explained with  joyful eyes.

“Go-kart leaded me to dream about making my own race car, so, then I thought maybe it was a nice idea to study engineering.”

“Go-karts led me to dream about making my own race car, so then I thought maybe it was a nice idea to study engineering.” Francis said.

Francis, with animated hand gestures explained how he see himself growing in the automotive business and how it was the only reason to study engineering. He eagerly expressed how he wants to continue working in his shop, doing mechanics but still he plans to keep his music projects. He now feels that he has all the things that he has dreamed about, “I am preparing my own race car, and it’s ready to roll, it will be running the championship next season.” With a self-satisfied smirk and showing the racer pictures he expressed how he wants to study auto mechanics and that his inspiration for that decision was his race car.

Francis wants to be able to open a speed shop specialized in automotive setups he needs to be certified the College of Mechanics of Puerto Rico.“I can’t say that I like more than music, it’s another kind of passion, it’s another dream.” If he had to choose again he would’ve choose music, “no doubt about it,” he said with determination.

His parents changed his life but on the other hand it could have been worse like for example a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies “lists three elements that must be present in people’s lives for them to be happy: feeling autonomous, competent and connected to other people”. That did not happen to Francis, which is why he is an admirable young man who refused to give up. At the age of 28 Francis Quiles Ojeda owns the Saioku Motorsport Workshop and works in sales and marketing for IFCC Consultant Group.

His struggle and aspiration right now are to keep his projects running, but his parents support him and give him indirect support, adviseand push he needs in order to continue.

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Cuban Yoe

By: Mónica B. Ocasio Vega

More than 10 people came into Galaxy Video Store in Cabo Rojo looking for movie rentals between 7:00 and 7:30 pm on a recent Friday night. They all share a common denominator: Yoemir assisted them.

During that evening, in a store full of movies, Yoemir Rodríguez greeted everyone with an ample smile and a cheerful “good evening.” He knew most of the people that came in because they frequent his video store. He knew even the children that came in with their parents to rent their regular Friday night movie.

But they might not know him as well. They might not even know that he’s a Cuban immigrant.

“I left Cuba when I was 21-years-old,” says Yoemir Rodríguez now 32. “I left mainly because of the lack of freedom of speech and I wanted to see a different lifestyle.”

When clients look at Yoemir, they might only see a tall, dark-hair young man who enjoys triathlons, works late and has an “average Joe” daytime job. But beneath that surface appearance stands a man whose life has been full of adventure.

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Yoemir Rodríguez, 32, thinks back to his days living in Cuba.

“When I first left Cuba, I moved to Spain. Then I went on to live a couple of months in the city of lights, France,” says Yoemir. After France he moved to Miami, “the second Cuba,” and then finally arrived in Puerto Rico in 2005. He currently works for the city of Cabo Rojo as its Federal Programs Office Director. He also owns Galaxy Video Store in Cabo Rojo.

The journey that predated these accomplishments is not ordinary. Rodríguez left Cuba without any higher education degrees. However, his current job with the city of Cabo Rojo challenged him to further his studies. He attended Interamerican University in San Germán, where he obtained an accounting degree and graduated Magna Cum laude.

Moving from Cuba to Spain was a significant transition in his life. Moreover, relocating in Puerto Rico entailed confronting new challenges. “Coming from big cities I came to find out the contrast between the citizen treatments here in the island and the places I lived in. In Europe I could walk everywhere; here I had to have a car if I wanted to get anywhere,” says Yoemir. “I did like the warmth of the  people in the island and also their humbleness.”

Yoemir’s life has also been marked by discrimination, even in a fellow Caribbean island like Puerto Rico. When he lived in France people discriminated against him for speaking Spanish, but when he moved to Puerto Rico people discriminated him for being Cuban.

His first job in the island was in a factory. He recalls noticing that his co-workers kept him at bay, so he asked a friend about it. “They’re mad because a close relative of them could have the job you have,” his friend said.

He also struggled to challenge people’s stereotypes about Cubans. “There is this idea that all Cubans are proud and loud, sometimes people see me this way even though I’m not.”

As all people, he has missed his home in Cuba, especially his family. “I grew up in Holguín, which is on the oriental part of Cuba, opposite to La Habana,” said Yoemir as he remembered a very special occasion while living there. He also said there will be memories of times he will probably never live again.

One such memory is of a family holiday party at his grandmother’s house.“She had a “burén” in which cassava could be made. It was a tradition, the roasting of a pig manually, and all of us playing dominoes. Our deal was that whoever lost at the game had to take a turn at roasting the pig.”

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Rodríguez Rodríguez practiced swimming in Cuba, and now practices triathlons in Puerto Rico.

Even if he is away from Cuba, he still cultivates some of the disciplines he learned in his dearest motherland, for nowadays Yoemir is a triathlon athlete. “When I lived in Cuba I went to the sports school where I practiced swimming until the twelfth grade,” he says. “Now I run triathlons.” With this sporting practice Yoemir has been able to create strong friendships and meet people that make him grow closer to his new home. René Torres, a fellow friend and athlete regards Yoemir as a “unique person.”

After his unusual journey, at t 32, Yoemir still has goals to accomplish in his professional and personal life. “I would like to continue on growing in my job and find more ways to challenge myself,” he says.

“Yoemir is an example of perseverance and he’s a good man,” says close friend and town worker Enrique Maíz. He’s indeed a persevering person. He has been able to live in various places, all different from one another, with no one to look over him or anyone for him to rely on for help and has still been able to become a successful business owner that looks constantly for ways to improve professionally and personally.