Who are some of Guatemala’s most inspiring men?

I wrote about a similar topic for women for May (Mother’s Day) and thought the gender issue might apply here toward men. Two men—perhaps more than others—have influenced my efforts toward the preservation and positive development of La Antigua Guatemala since 1969.

Mario Antonio Sandoval is one of Guatemala’s best-known journalists. He became a great friend in 1978 when we wrote articles about Antigua’s preservation for Prensa Libre, where he was editor-in-chief. His list of accomplishments is overwhelming as he began working at Prensa Libre as a reporter in 1966—his father was one of the five founders in 1951—and is currently the vice president. Since 1982, we have enjoyed getting the update on Guatemalan ethics in politics and economics through his column Catalejo. He created Guatenoticias, a newspaper for Guatemalans living abroad in the 1980s. He dedicated 24 years to teaching journalism at the Universidad Rafael Landívar where, in 1993, he became a professor in ethics and Guatemalan contemporary history. He was on the front lines during the 1993 protests against President Serrano’s censorship. Perhaps he is best known today as president of Guatevision, the most influential and reliable cable channel in the country—a forerunner in independent journalism. This has helped Guatemala’s birth of democracy tremendously. Mario Antonio has taken on countless topics nationally and internationally. Over the years, he has fought for just causes, including the freedom of the press, and making sense out of Guatemala’s politics and economy…no easy task.

Architect José María (Chema) Magaña Juárez has been at the helm of historic preservation for Antigua since 1979 when he became conservator of the city. After returning in 1976 from Rome, where he worked with an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage (ICCROM), his preservation efforts began with restoring the cathedral in Guatemala City after the 1976 earthquake. His work led to Pope John Paul I awarding him with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (1979). As conservator of Antigua (1979-86), his job was to keep Antigua from “falling down,” implement building permits, supervise the restoration of art, and set up children’s programs to guarantee the future of restoration efforts in Antigua. Next he reactivated Amigos de Antigua, encouraging the private sector to be more active in preservation. After working tirelessly for enactment of historic preservation laws, he co-founded Salvemos Antigua (1999), which has achieved tremendous success. After he founded the Asociación de Arquitectos e Ingenieros “Diego de Porres” (2000) as a group of professionals dedicated to Antigua’s preservation and Guatemala’s cultural heritage, the Guatemalan government awarded him with the “Orden Nacional del Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación.” One of his favorite awards, however, is the “Orden Roberto Aycinena” from the School of Architects of Guatemala (2005) for more than 25 years of defending the preservation of Antigua. These and other awards are well deserved, as Chema seems to be tireless when it comes to preserving Guatemala’s cultural heritage.

Both men refer to the importance of their strong fathers who gave them a great example. Happy Father’s Day!

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