Our Community - Orlando Salazar - "Driven to succeed in San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 17            May 8, 2003

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Orlando Salazar

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 distributed cement.

    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 branches.

    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."

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