By Alfredo Patiño
The question I’ve frequently been asked is, “how do you feel about the development of Huatulco?” My response is that there are good things, like schools, hospitals, jobs, business opportunities etc., and I listed the bad things as drugs, poverty, crime, etc., until lately. Since my wife’s observation that as a community we are not preparing our children to be in high position jobs, I started looking back at things. Jobs such as director of FONATUR, or general manager of a big hotel for example, are positions that are filled mostly by people from other parts of Mexico or even other parts of the world.
We were not given the proper educational tools to make the change from a sleepy fishing village to a world class tourist destination. Our educational system can definitely be improved. Most Huatulqueños work as taxi drivers, hotel maintenance, and boat captains. Or they open seasonal businesses, and many of those businesses have to close due to the lack of managing knowledge and financial problems, leaving opportunities for outsiders to start businesses. Most of the businesses in Huatulco are owned by people from other parts of Mexico and foreigners.
So you can imagine my happiness when I heard that the Resident Manager at Secrets Hotel was a kid who’s older brother was my best friend growing up in Santa Cruz. Casildo Martinez is a 35-year-old Huatulqueño that grew up at Santa Cruz Beach, where the gas station at the marina is now. When he was in his last year of secundaria (junior high school) people from the CONALEP (State Technical School) in Puerto Escondido came to enroll students to continue education for low-level careers focusing on tourism, with the promise that at the end of the schooling they would have decent jobs in the Hotels in Tangolunda. He went and finished the schooling but there were no jobs waiting for him, so he had to compete to get the bell boy position at the Royal Maeva (now Dreams Huatulco) where he started his career in the industry and quickly was moved up to receptionist. There he learned the hard way how to deal with demanding guests. When he had a situation with a guest with a problem, he talked back to the guest in a disagreeable way and was fired. Later he learned that his boss observed the incident and didn’t do anything, something that he knows now he would never do in his current position. He said he has learned that you have to make sure the guest is treated in the best possible way. In other words, in any given case of complaint, always deal with the problem immediately even if the boss has to step in.
After Maeva he went to work at Quinta Real Huatulco, acquiring more experience in the reception area and taking all the courses and training available. After the manager he worked for at Quinta Real was moved to Puerto Vallarta, he offered him a job as a night reception manager; a job he took without hesitation and where he met his future wife. Later he moved to Mexico City to have the experience working at a non-beach resort. With the connections he had by then, he was soon offered a job to work at the opening of a hotel in the Mayan Riviera where he stayed for a while and then was sent to Jamaica to open a second hotel there.
When Angelica Angon offered him the opportunity to come and work on the opening of the Dreams in Tangolunda (due to his experience in opening hotels) he gladly took the job with the hope to stay in his hometown and where he always hoped to raise a family. After the opening of the hotel he stayed, and the big opportunity came with the announcement of the new Secrets. He knew he had the experience opening new hotels, a job that is very different than working in an already running hotel. He approached the management to let them know he was interested in being the resident manager at this hotel, and they gave him the position.
When I asked Casildo what a student coming out of the Universidad del Mar (UMAR-Huatulco) needs to have to get to where he is right now, “Attitude” was his immediate response. “You can have a degree from the best tourism/hotel school, but without good attitude you won’t make it. That degree will get you a job, but it won’t get you up to better positions.”
The future looks bright for Casildo. He plans to work some more time in the hotel industry and then someday he would love to start a small organic vegetable farm. “Food is the business of the future,” he said.
We only hope that there will be more Huatulqueños with the attitude and mentality to make Huatulco a better place for everyone, residents and tourists alike. There are many benefits to good education, but hard work, experience and a good attitude can make up for some missing educational availability. You can surely build a house with an architect, power tools and heavy equipment, but a smart Mexican with a little experience and a good attitude can build a fine house with a hammer, a shovel, and a machete.
Alfredo Patiño was born and raised in Huatulco. He is the owner of Hemingway’s Restaurant.