Many of us complain about the day-to-day work grind. “A poor works man quarrels with his tools” is a common proverb used to depict lazy people who find excuses not to do their work. Some of us are just happy to be able to perform everyday tasks. This week’s personality, although he was left blind by an unfortunate incident, continues to carry on with his daily life – Ricardo “Rick” Lopez.
Ricardo was born on May 27th, 1976 to Ada Rosa Tut and Jose Lopez in Orange Walk but was raised in San Narciso Village in the Corozal District. There, he attended elementary school and completed one year of high school. When he was only fourteen years old, Rick moved to San Pedro to get a taste of the island life he had heard so much about. In San Pedro, this ambitious young man tried his hand at a variety of occupations at numerous establishments, including Ramon’s Village, Island Air, Tropic Air, as an electrician’s helper to Wally Nuñez, and as a laborer for Emeterio Sansorez, a well-known contractor on the island. After he saved some money, Rick decided to travel to Orange Walk in the summer of 1996 for what he thought would be a short vacation. While in “Sugar City” he met a girl and decided to stay longer than he had anticipated. To support himself, he made a living in the sugar cane industry and also as a construction worker. Rick was very happy and felt ready to settle down in this area, but fate had an atrocious plan for this hardworking and honest individual.
In the early hours of June 1st, 1997, Ricardo Lopez was attacked by an unknown assailant who struck him across the eyes with a machete. Ricardo says he does not have any recollection of this terrible incident but when he gained consciousness he found himself in a hospital. What he once knew as a colorful world was now pitch black. Rick had lost both of his eyes due to this attack. “At first I wanted to die,” Rick told The San Pedro Sun, “I felt that because I could not see, it would be difficult to move ahead. The only thing I had in mind was to die. Not to kill myself, but probably get in an accident to end my life.”
During his stay in the hospital, Rick met a person who changed his “dark” world around, Ms. Romualda Cal from the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI). She invited Rick to participate in BCVI’s Rehabilitation Program which includes providing services for visually impaired persons and teaches them the skills needed to cope with their new challenges. As a result of these services, Rick was able to travel to El Salvador where he attended a school for disabled persons. It was there that he was first introduced to Braille, the written language of the visually impaired.
Since his return from El Salvador, Rick travels back and forth from San Pedro to his hometown of San Narciso. In San Pedro you can see Ricardo six-days-a-week on the streets pulling his red and blue coolers selling hot tamales, tamalitos (dukunu) and tortillas. He devotes Saturday to his Adventist faith. For Rick, the fact that he is visually challenged has not been a set back, except for those first days of devastation after the attack. He now feels that life has to go on and continues a normal daily life by following a routine, selling his homemade products which come directly from San Narciso. These tasty treats and Rick’s great sense of humor have gained him a large number of customers on the island. Rick recognizes his customers by the tone of their voice and sometimes even by a whistle. The money he receives from his business, Ricardo explained, is used to pay half the rent of an apartment which he shares with his younger brother. He saves the balance and hopes to use this to continue his studies.