If you knew Paz you know she didn’t like sad wakes with tears galore. If you knew Paz you do remember her perpetual smile, her good humor and her endless energy. If you knew Paz, you will have embedded in your memory a hand holding a cigarette and a new project in the making.
Why would I write a somber eulogy knowing her as I did?
No! I want to celebrate her life. I want to talk about the things she liked, knowing she is probably peeking from above with a mischievous grin and a watchful eye, ready to rebut whatever I say, especially if it’s against her beloved political party, the PRD.
We always agreed to disagree on that.
I met Paz right after I came to Belize. I had no recommendation or warning about what I was about to face, so my mind was open, but nothing would have prepared me for her. Right away she proved to be the most objective source of information about the Embassy’s staff, but she never told me anything bad about my predecessors.
She had incredibly numerous Belizean friends, from all origins, rich and poor, from every corner of the country, men and women, boys and girls.
She introduced me the life of Belize City, to the different aspects of society in her adopted country. Because of her I met politicians, merchants, historians, musicians, painters, writers, colorful characters and lovable misfits.
I remember we went to her house for a very memorable private dinner just after arriving here. I recall that night because it was my first feel of a Belizean home, surprisingly enough at the residence of a Mexican Diplomat; I also have a clear memory of that night because it was then that I met her good friend Said Musa. Paz was valiantly trying to disguise an open endorsement of the man she felt would be the next Prime Minister, and that could be constructed as undiplomatic, but we are talking about Paz, aren’t we?
She was always a friend first and a Diplomat second. Come to think of it, she was not very diplomatic at all.
Paz had a lot of trouble understanding where her native roots ended and her adopted ones begun. When I wrote my book about Belize, Paz was always looking over my shoulder making sure I didn’t insult our Belizean brothers and sisters. In fact, it was Paz who convinced me to let Said Musa read the manuscript in order to make sure no blunders were committed, and because of her I got to meet historian Assad Shoman, who give the book his blessing, and extended to me his kinship of hers.
Every time I think about a moment in time during those five years I spent in Belize, I remember Paz standing next to me. Even at the “bunker” of Belmopan when we took refuge from hurricane Mitch. At that time, we were divided between Belize City and the new capital, Belmopan. I tried to get the new Embassy working, but there were still a number of unsolved problems, among them the fact that the Cultural Institute would remain in Belize City. But I would go the capital and work there from Monday to Wednesday, which was coincidentally when the ministers worked from there.
During the time when we took refuge in the so called “bunker”, Paz was a force of nature there, forcefully making all the “refugees” comply with her instructions and establishing some sort of order among such a mixed bunch.
But undoubtedly her most precious achievement and the love of her life was the Cultural Institute.
She was always fighting to get the funds to fix this and that, permanently struggling to get better labor conditions for her teachers, bringing in the most famous artists and celebrities and representing the local talent as if they were her children.
I remember how she pestered me to approve the building of a perimeter fence, and how adamant she was about the right combination of security with esthetic style. It has to be strong, she would argue, but it also has to be beautiful.
That would describe Paz, a strong and beautiful person.
She was my friend, my collaborator, my assistant, my confidant, and sometimes even my accomplice. We planned and executed together many unorthodox deeds, always with the welfare of Mexico, written with an “X”, and Belize, written with a “Z”, in mind.
If anybody finds out what we have been up to, she would whisper, we are going to end up as tourist guides in Cancun.
So, let us remember her for her life, let us keep her memory alive, let us work as one and join me in proposing to our governments the naming of this Institute after her. Not because she craved that kind of recognition, but rather because without her, we would not be standing here today.
Thank you for that, Paz, and for everything. I will see you soon, dear friend.