Every job requires
specific qualifications to ensure an individual can best satisfy the
needs of his or her employer and serve the public. To become a dive
instructor you need to be certified at several levels of training; to
become a chef you need practical experience or professional schooling,
but surely a taxi driver needs more than merely a driver's license.
Orlando Salazar is one local taxi driver who believes his on-the-job
experiences have left him with a well-rounded perspective that allows him
to lead the Airstrip Taxi Association, and create a more tourist-friendly
atmosphere in San Pedro.
Orlando Salazar was born on June
10th, 1952, in Belize
City, one of ten children born to Victoria Reyes and Antonio Salazar.
Orlando attended St. Ignatius Middle School in Belize City, but after
Hurricane Haiti hit in 1961, his mother moved the family out to San Pablo
Village in the Orange Walk District. Orlando finished primary school in
Orange Walk Town, but was unable to further his education because of the
family's financial hardships.
In 1969, Orlando left home and began his
first job in Belmopan, Cayo District working for a British company called
Paulling Construction. He was initially hired as an assistant mason, but
eventually graduated to operate the cement mixer, or "boogie," which
Four years later, Orlando returned to the
Orange Walk District where he commenced driving truck for the Belize
Sugar Industry (BSI). In his absence, his mother had remarried a cane
farmer and this man sparked Orlando's interest in the sugar cane
business. It was during this period of time that Orlando met his future
wife Soccorro Aragon, a young lady from Orange Walk Town, whom he married
on December 23rd,
1981. To support his new family, Orlando began growing sugar cane and
continued to farm for the next 16 years. From years of interacting with a
variety of people, he developed a talent for dealing with the public.
Orlando earned such a reputation for his public relations skills, that in
1976 he was elected chairman of the Orange Walk Cane Farmers Association
where he represented the San Pablo, Douglas and San Juan Sugar Cane
During the six-month period that it took for the sugar
cane to grow, there was not much work to do, so Orlando was forced to
supplement his income. Two years after he joined BSI, he found a
part-time job as a cowboy on a cattle ranch in San Pablo Village, where
he was responsible for 285 head of cattle and 15 horses. Orlando worked
the ranch for two more years before being hired by the Ministry of Works
to drive transport trucks. Five years later he was transferred, and sent
to work with the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) and before he knew it another five years had passed.
In 1988, Orlando's people skills rose to the forefront
when he campaigned for and was elected San Pablo Village Chairman. He
happily served the people of his community until the fated day when his
cousin, Adelita Reyes invited him to a party in San Pedro Town. It was
during this trip Orlando met family members he never knew he had. After
he returned to the mainland, his cousin Adelita called to ask if he
wanted to drive a "little bus" transporting tourists from the airstrip
for Journey's End Resort.
So it was, that in 1989 Orlando agreed to move by
himself to San Pedro. For almost three years he earned a living, making
the best of life until he was able to have his family join him. After
three months at Journey's End, Orlando was hired by his uncle, Marciano
Salazar to drive taxi. In 1995, Orlando decided to venture out on his own
and purchased his own vehicle. Now self-employed, he discovered there
were many challenges associated with the taxi business. Taxi drivers were
becoming very competitive and this created problems with the tourist
industry. Orlando felt that all taxi drivers should be able to benefit
from the tourism market and in 1996, concluded that the best way to
accomplish this was to create the Airstrip Taxi Association (ATA).
Currently, Orlando lives on the island with his wife
and five children: daughters, Fatima, Norma, Yesenia, Mirian as well as
his only son, Ivan. The family also has two dogs, Iris and Yakkie.
Reflecting on the past eight years, Orlando commented, "I have made San
Pedro my home." His days are long and busy; every day from 6:30 a.m.
until midnight he works chairing the ATA and tinkering with his house in
the Escalante Subdivision. According to Orlando, "time is too short," and
he rarely gets out to relax. He prefers to live on the island, smelling
the sea breezes and "meeting with a variety of people from different
parts of the world." When he finally makes time to relax, he returns to
the little village of San Pablo in the Orange Walk District with his
family to find some peace and quiet.
Orlando feels that his life experiences have made him
a well-rounded individual and that the new people he meets every day only
help him to become a better person. He believes that San Pedro is an
island with immense opportunities where you can "go forward if you have a
positive attitude and work hard". Orlando hopes to ensure a solid future
for tourism on the island and does that by being a "driving" force behind
the people of "Our Community."