Our Community: Making Belize a “Safe Dive” Destination: Eleazar Portillo

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 27            July 12, 2007

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Belize boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world. With its underwater beauty and amazing sites, it offers many spectacular dive escapades for adventure seekers. Recreational diving offers a wonderful escape from everyday life, but even though it is considered a relatively safe sport, it poses certain risks to those who choose to participate in it. Fortunately, aside from its wonderful scenery, Belize also has the only recompression chamber in the region (the next closest chambers are in Mexico and Honduras). Since the chamber provides such a priceless service, keeping and maintaining it in “top-notch” shape is of great importance. This week, The San Pedro Sun is proud to introduce a man responsible for “making Belize a safe dive destination” – Eleazar Portillo of Subaquatics of Belize Limited.

    Eleazar was born on July 15th, 1973 to Inez (deceased) and Victoriano Portillo in Flores, Guatemala. In search of safety and tranquility, his family immigrated to Belize, relocating just across the border in Santa Elena, Cayo, Belize.

    Eleazar first attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and later enrolled in Mount Carmel High School. After graduating in 1994, Eleazar entered Muffles College where he acquired an Associate’s Degree in Business Science in 1996. “I chose to pursue this administrative career because I always had an interest in management,” he mentioned.

    Eleazar was first employed as an accounts clerk at Owen Codd and Associates’ accounting firm. He performed this job to the best of his abilities and was soon promoted to the auditing department where he held the position of senior auditor for three years. Unfortunately, because of varied corporate interests, the firm began restructuring and downsizing its staff and Eleazar found himself without a job. Owen Codd and Associates was kind enough to seek other job opportunities for its staff, and Eleazar was soon offered a management position at Subaquatics of Belize Limited.

    In early 2000, Eleazar made the move to San Pedro Town where as manager of the Subaquatics of Belize Limited (recompression chamber), he handles the books and overall day-to-day supervision of the entire operation. A gratifying experience, Eleazar began interacting with patients as well and discovered he had an interest in the medical and technical aspects of the business. To increase his potential, he chose to enroll in various international courses and conferences in hyperbaric medicine offered by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) Divers Alert Network (DAN).

    Eleazar has participated in as many courses as the chamber would allow, and is now a Diver Medic, certified by the internationally recognized Diving Disease Research Center (DDRC) in the United Kingdom. He is also preparing to undergo one of the most prestigious certifications in the field – Hyperbaric Chamber Technologist (HCT). As a Diver Medic, Eleazar has hands-on experience in operating the chamber, and with patients - from admitting them to the ward to carrying out neurological examinations. He is the official technical and safety officer for the facility, and is trained to maintain and repair chamber equipment. Eleazar has traveled to different parts of the world for certification courses in the field and also travels for the company to cross train staff in other parts of the world. Although he never thought that he would someday take a dive course, today, Eleazar is a certified Scuba Diving International (SDI) dive instructor. “It took me a while to adapt to life here on the island, but always being on the move has made the change a lot smoother,” he commented.

    In his free time, Eleazar enjoys recreational diving, hiking and exploring, both under and above water. “I love being in touch with nature and having traveled many places, I can tell you that Belize sure has a lot to offer,” he said.

    Of all the things he has studied, Eleazar has learned how important the recompression chamber is to Belize. “Because diving is such an integral part of our tourism industry, Belize is most fortunate to have a recompression chamber,” he said. Providing an invaluable service to Belize, he is indeed a key service provider. Ensuring that there is always a reliable, efficient recompression chamber for divers on “La Isla Bonita,” Eleazar Portillo is helping people “under pressure” in “Our Belize Community.”

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