🎓Colombian Street Scholar

September 11, 2019

▶Dr. Raúl Cuero grew up in Buenaventura before finding his destiny in science. With numerous inventions to his name and years advising NASA, the molecular and astro-biologist was recently named Hispanic Scientist of the Year. He spoke with The City Paper.

Dr. Raúl Cuero is a soft-spoken man, precise with the words he chooses to describe a life dedicated to science and which began while observing the movement of roaches in the cracks of bamboo from which the family home was built.

Cuero’s story also defies logic and the odds. If you are a firm believer in “the harsher the conditions, the more resilient the people,” you couldn’t pick a more defining place to grow up than in Buenaventura in the 1950s.

During this decade, 30 percent of all children died before the age of ten, due to parasites, malaria and tuberculosis. Of those who did survive, only a third would learn to read or write. “The only black people who left Buenaventura were chauffeurs and truck drivers,” states Cuero.

Buenaventura, like many other parts of Latin America, depended on humanitarian aid from the United States. School children like Raúl Cuero enjoyed the daily ration of cheese sent to his household by the Alliance for Progress program. Then he would walk down to the docks and rummage through the donations of clothes and books to see which paperback novels he could take home to read. The piers at Buenaventura introduced this young boy to the adventures of Oliver Twist, the Man in the Iron Mask and a sack of European classics. There were “days” when his father had gone to buy single bricks for the new home that the money simply ran out. The inquisitive student would search the teeming forest behind the house to fetch guava, mangos, coconut and a stalk of plantain. Not wanting to miss out on chocolate treats, Raúl did the homework for other students in exchange for their sweet “bonbons.”

When school was out Raúl spent time with an Indigenous auto mechanic who saw promise in the boy and taught him to work on carburetors and weld radiators. He was 12. Despite holding down two jobs, Raúl still didn’t have money to go to the movies or buy comic books. Instead, he spent his afternoons in the hut of his great grandmother, Petrona. Despite there being not much money around, the house was always filled with Raúl’s aunties who provided the laughs.

Everyday objects became “toys” for the young boy and useful in their own right. He would observe roaches on the floor as a way to try and understand the natural world. During the hottest times of the day, from 11 am to 3 pm, the roaches would disappear then emerge again, almost to the minute in the late afternoon, in pairs. Although there is a chemical process with roaches pairing, Raúl was fascinated by the underlying science of all animals, but had no formal education in biology.

Raúl’s family was very similar to many others in Buenaventura. His father worked the docks, loading and unloading cargo from ships. Despite a meager income, Raúl’s father was the first black man in Buenaventura to have a home made from brick. It took 40 years to build. Then there was more than one night when Raúl didn’t eat because his father used the grocery money to buy more bricks. Determination and resiliency are qualities Raúl learned on an empty stomach.

As a 7-year old, Raúl would wake up in the morning at 4 am to study, play some basketball and bring the family bread from the baker. But it was the long walks with his great grandmother to pick herbs to be used as remedies for many different ailments which stimulated Raúl’s interest in plants and the idea that one could invent things so people could be healthier.

During a visit to the dock he found a symbolic and enduring memento of the United States, in the form a dime. He couldn’t believe his luck. In a town as poor as Buenaventura, not many people had the luxury of misplacing ten cents. He held on to this coin and made a plan to one day spend it in the USA.

When not observing crickets and lizards, searching through the discarded donations for books or welding radiators, Raúl played soccer with the neighborhood kids, until one day his brother was kicked in the leg and suffered a deep cut from a metal soccer cleat. Tragically the soccer cleat was tainted with tetanus and Raúl’s brother died shortly thereafter. It was at this point that his family banned Raúl from playing soccer. Instead he switched to basketball and due to his height, he excelled. At age 17, he became a member of the Colombian National Basketball Team.

To the bewilderment of many who knew him, Raúl made the decision to focus on academics rather than sports. He decided to study at Universidad del Valle in Cali, which at that time was one of the best universities in Latin America. It was there that Raúl met the visiting Rockefeller Foundation professor of plant physiology, Dr. Percy Lilly. Lilly was so impressed by Raúl’s first discovery of growing a parasitic plant without a host – that he offered him a full scholarship to Heidelberg University in Ohio. He would finally be able to reunite his American coin with its original home, but more importantly he would be able to continue his studies in plant pathology and show his coaches that a poor Afro-Colombian basketball player from an obscure South American city could be a valuable part of the scientific community. Or as Raúl Cuero says: “It is good to be good.”

Despite the fact that the United States was suffering from racial violence, due in part to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Raúl never felt segregated while studying at a prestigious college.To the contrary, there were many Goodwill Hunting moments where Raúl was actually able to entertain and impress his fellow American students and teachers with his vast knowledge. He found that many of the students were very respectful and even more willing to make friends and interact with him than what he expected.

One day, while at Heidelberg University, his entire class was given a tough mathematical equation to solve. It had to do with the concentration of a molecule. Raúl looked around the room as his fellow students took out calculators and began working. Raúl didn’t have a calculator because he couldn’t afford one, so he sat there wondering what to do. Finally the teacher looked over at Raúl and asked, “Cuero, do you understand?”

Raúl explained to the teacher that he usually did such problems on paper. His teacher then handed him a piece of chalk and invited him to work the problem on the board in front of the class without the use of a calculator. When he was finished, the rest of the class sat dumb-founded, wondering how he correctly solved the problem. The next day his classmates went out to buy a calculator.

–>Open Your Wings To Speak And Colombia Will Let You In

🇨🇴

Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch

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After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Biology, Cuero obtained a scholarship to study his Master of Science in plant pathology at Ohio State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. During the pursuit of his doctorate, he developed an invention related to the containment of solid-state fermentation, and with it, the praise of faculty and fellow classmates. He went on to develop 26 inventions, 12 of which have been patented.

Dr. Cuero has had the privilege to travel to China and South Africa and lecture on biotechnology. He has published more than 110 peer-reviewed papers in different international journals in the fields of biology, microbiology, molecular biology, environmental biotechnology, food and synthetic biology. He is the author of the books ‘Between Triumph and Survival’ and ‘De Buenaventura a la NASA.’

Cuero joined the faculty of Prairie View A&M University in Houston, where he worked with a team of researchers on numerous projects that ended up in the hands of the NASA astrobiology department. As a NASA scientific researcher, he discovered a molecule that protects astronauts from the effects of UV radiation. This new technology has opened up an entire field of study for scientists looking at how to nurture life beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Part of Cuero’s current research looks at the possibility of setting up a greenhouse on Mars, thanks to private funding. The UV protection that works for astronauts might also be applied to any form of life, including plants in harsh environments like the Martian landscape.

In 2008, Dr. Cuero became one of the first Hispanic scientists to receive the NASA Brief Tech Award and was recently nominated for a second award. He also received the Texas A&M Invention Award in 2008 and the 2012 Colombian Leadership Award for outstanding performance in science and technology.

Published May 2013, edition 61 of The City Paper.

*****Editor’s note: The scientific accomplishments of Dr.Raúl Cuero were questioned October 24th 2013 in a column published on pages 20-21 of El Espectador newspaper by Colombian scientist Rodrigo Bernal. The article titled “El dudoso ídolo de Cuero” (The doubtful idol of Cuero) challenges the number of patents attributed to Dr.Cuero. According to Professor Bernal, only 2 of Cuero’s inventions have been patented in the U.S. (5830459 of 1998 and 7309437 of 2007), others were abandoned or remain in process of patenting. We regret any confusion these discrepancies may cause our readers.

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Colombia’s Equalizer Persistent Slip-On Lifestyle

August 15, 2019

Colombia is a country filled with people not living in the shadow of their ancestors; this country has a large number of English academies desperate for gringo teachers and youth hostels that charge $10USD per night. This is where B Ward takes the stakes to a new level as he pursues a Colombian woman he met online.

Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch

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Hiding From Life

August 15, 2019

🗻Many people dream of going on a great travel adventure. Most keep dreaming, you make it happen! 🇨🇴Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch#natgeo #booklarderauthortalk #usatoday #bbctravel #WritingCommunity @bbctravel #bookstagram
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3 Rules of the Road Scholar

August 13, 2019

1) Less baggage = less worry
2) Don’t plan everything – You’ll be more relaxed and less worried
3) Be polite, nobody wants to cheat/rob a nice Road Scholar

🇨🇴

Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.

Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch

#natgeo #colombiatravel #usatoday #bbctravel #blogtravel @bbctravel #Disney
#passportlife #facebook #redboxprojectuk

30 Minute Colombian Biceps

July 31, 2019

As the gringo stumbles through life in Colombia, he’ll have to navigate an increasingly complex world of twitter feeds, a 31% body mass index, neck beards, mood swings, people with smoker’s coughs, call waiting, Facebook friend requests, lack of tipping in restaurants…….all of this while covering his wallet!😉Dwarfed by Colombia’s superior way of living, an albino observer pauses during a journey back from the brink…
🇨🇴Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch#natgeo #colombiancupid #hulu #foxtv #colombiatravel #usatoday #getaway #blogtravel #wanderluster #Disney
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International Film Star in Colombia

July 27, 2019

I went to another audition for a movie and just happened to run into Manning. There was some good news for the kid, he finally got a girlfriend. I pressed him for details. He originally met her at a party but never got her number. “When she saw me on the other side of the street a month later, she recognized me but forgot my name. So, instead of yelling Manning, she yelled across the street, ‘Tanning.’ We then went on a few dates and she confessed that she had been denied a US visa and was almost 20 years older than me. I then moved into her apartment that was being used as a kennel for Bogota’s most neglected dogs. Neither us of have any money, so we eat hot dogs and rice for every meal. She is probably disappointed she picked the one American with less money than here to start a relationship.”Before the audition we talked about other crazy Americans who were in Bogota.“Did you meet Martin from New Jersey?” I asked Manning.“No, who is he?”“This guy is a monster truck driver in the United States. Martin met a guy in Vegas who convinced him to bring his trucks down and race in Colombia. So, he shipped four trucks down here to Colombia to join the racing circuit down here. The problem is when he got down here he realized the guy who shipped the trucks down put them in his own name and refused to give them up. So, what Martin did was he went to court and won. He got back the title to the trucks but had to pay $40,000USD worth of storage and shipping charges to get the trucks back. When he got back to the US he realized only two of the trucks had actually been shipped back so he came back to Colombia to get the other two trucks. When he went to file a claim he was shown a shipping receipt verifying that all 4 trucks had been received at La Guardia Airport. He has been down here for over a year and is trying to find his trucks. I think he is considering vigilante justice.”“Where did you meet this guy?”“Last week we did a taping of the Parabola of Pablo Escobar, and he had several stories to tell ranging from the time his brother climbed an electrical tower, getting seriously electrocuted and thrown off the tower, to the fourteen years he worked as a male stripper and gigolo. My favorite story was the time when he was emptying his motor home’s septic system and the valve sprung a leak and he got covered in a mess and then had to get about 30 vaccination shots afterwards. Nowadays he says he lives on $50USD a week and only eats once a day.”Not wanting to be outdone, Manning started to tell me about a former work partner of his who had gone on trial for the murder of his wife and Manning had been summoned back to Alabama to testify against him.“Is he guilty?”“He actually told me he was planning on killing his wife. I went with him to buy several tons of concrete. He told me it was for a new driveway but it turns out the police excavated the driveway and found his wife’s body underneath the driveway,” replied Manning.“Why did he do it?”“My work partner was really old, fat and stayed at home all day. His wife was ten years younger than him and beautiful. His wife talked him into them both having an open relationship. He agreed. The next thing he knows she met some guy from Mississippi on Craigslist and moved in with the guy. He went down to her new boyfriend’s house and brought her back and then killed her.”“You have to go back to Alabama and testify?”“They are offering me a free ticket for a week if I go back, but I don’t really want to testify against my old work partner. It is a small town and he has some friends that might come for me. I guess moving to Colombia was the best thing that could have happened to me. I also have a business idea for you. Do you know how hard it would be for me to get a new passport?”“Why, are you thinking about selling yours?”“Yeah, a friend down here says he will buy my passport from me for $5,000USD.”“What did you tell him?”“I told him I would …… 🇨🇴Middle-aged and reckless, this passionate blogger shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a Dimestore Shrink who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch#natgeo #coffee #hulu #foxtv #20thcentury #usatoday #getaway #blogtravel @90daydumpsterfire #wanderluster #Disney
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The Sun Is Touching Me

July 18, 2019
My 1 experience with this band was in 1998 in Chico, Ca at the Brick Works. I was 21 and had never been to a bar before. As soon as the band came on, people started punching the walls and dub-stepping. I hid underneath a staircase for the next 2 hours, while a 50 year old lady tried to buy me beers. 20 years later, I listened to this CD all the way thru and can finally appreciate having been at that concert.

😉Dwarfed by a superior way of living, an albino observer pauses during a journey back from the brink…
🇨🇴Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch#natgeo #colombiancupid #hulu #foxtv #colombiatravel #usatoday #getaway #blogtravel #wanderluster #Disney
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Love In A Time of Facebook

June 27, 2019


TLC Network (@TLC) Tweeted:
Things are about to get a whole lot more unruly! The scandals and feuds continue when the first-ever #90DayFiance inspired book debuts on Amazon.com 🇨🇴Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch#natgeo #colombiancupid #hulu #foxtv #colombiatravel #usatoday #getaway #blogtravel #wanderluster #Disney
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Feelings and Dealings: The Snapchat Guide to Mastering Romance and Emotions in Colombia

June 26, 2019

Before coming to Colombia, I myself, decided to go online and look for a girlfriend.
“Our South American tour to Colombia is an unforgettable experience that may very well change your life forever. You will be introduced to literally hundreds of stunning women from Cartagena, as well as other surrounding Colombian cities. Why Colombian women? They just so happen to be some of the most beautiful, genuine, and sincere women in the world. These women are extremely friendly, warm and sincerely looking for someone with whom they can build a serious relationship. No matter how much we try to prepare the men who attend our Cartagena romance tours, they are always overwhelmed by these very special women.”
This is the hook introduction to the Colombian section of an internet site that specializes in romance tours all over the world. With tour packages starting at $1695USD, this might be a great way to justify taking a nine-day trip to Cartagena, or, this may be a south-of-the-border hail mary for middle-aged divorcees, who have been looking for love in all the wrong places. My personal opinion is, that if you are going to get into a serious relationship and possibly marriage, you might as well double down and come start a relationship in Colombia. With the divorce rate hovering around 50-60% in most of the English-speaking countries, it is probably a safer bet to search out a relationship with a foreign, non-English speaking person than risk marrying someone from your own national origin.
The $1,700USD tour is pretty impressive and well thought out. For your money, you are given two fully catered, special invitation, large socials. These are basically ballroom parties that take place in the same hotel that the tour has booked you into. Of course, there will be many intelligent and beautiful women there to meet, as well as probably a few women who fall into other categories. The tour also includes hotel accommodations in Cartagena, unlimited personal introductions, complimentary interpreters (provided at all socials), airport pickup as well as 24-hour hospitality and guidance from the website staff.
For the rest of us (people who don’t have $1,700USD to spend), there are dozens, if not hundreds, of websites specializing in meeting Colombian and Latin American singles. The one that is most familiar to me is ColombianCupid.com. This website is free to use if you just want to see who is on the website. If you click on “advanced search,” on the portal page, you are instantly presented with a two-paged form that helps you best search for romance, based on your own criteria. Say for example, you would like to meet a 30 to 35-year old woman, living in Bogota, with a profile photo, who is searching for romance/dating/marriage, speaks some English, has a bachelor’s degree and is willing to relocate to another country. After hitting search, there are over 1,000 profiles that come cascading down your screen (in order of which members are most active on the site).
I wanted a girl who lived in Bogota, because I figured that Bogota would have the highest concentration of women who had a good education, spoke neutral Spanish and had were most used to dealing with foreigners.
After viewing several hundred profiles of girls online, I decided to spend the $25 for one month and start emailing the girls I was attracted to. I was careful to upload of photo of me with a hat on, covering up my high forehead.
Once I got registered, a standard question I was asked by the female members on ColombianCupid.com was, “What is your job?”
I always made a point of answering this question the following way, “I paint fences for a living.” No matter what your employment status is, the best strategy is to never to make yourself sound rich or important. This is a highly effective way to reduce the number women emailing you who are just looking for a sugar daddy.
If the girl was still emailing me after she found out I was a fence painter, I would start asking her questions about herself. My opening line to all the girls was pretty bad. I asked them all the same question, “How do you like Shakira?” If the girl responded, “What kind of crazy question was that?” I figured I would have to scratch her from the list. If the girl responded, “I really like Shakira,” I figured we were off to a good start. I would then ask more random questions like, “Tell me about a time in your life when you did something embarrassing,” and, once again if the girl asked, “What kind of question is this?” I would scratch her from the list. I ended up chatting with a lot of interesting girls who told great stories about getting dumped in elevators or falling down stairs at church. I quickly had a group of about 10 girls from Bogota, who I was chatting with five times a week. And, because there were so many Bogota profiles of single women, I could also eliminate all the women who weren’t smiling in their photos, had visible tattoos, had their underwear showing, too much cleavage hanging out (this means that they are either overeager or possibly using someone else’s photo) or were on the verge of black-out drunk. I spent probably a solid 80 hours on the site during my first month of membership. I soon had a solid list of three girls I was emailing at least five times a week.
There was one girl in particular (let’s call her Ms. Barragan), who I really wanted to chat with, but, she didn’t respond to any of my emails. I was nervous about one specific email I sent which I went into some pretty specific details of my obsession with Shakira. This email, might have made me sound like a stalker. This infamous email went as follows:
“Since seeing her 2004 DVD entitled Live and Off the Record I have been an admirer and have had a crush on Shakira. In this DVD, not only did she speak for the rights of 3,000,000 children in Colombia who don’t attend school, she also gave a great concert for her fans in Rotterdam. Shakira doesn’t see herself as being above her band, so she actually tours on the same bus with her group and hangs out with the other band members, even though she could have her own bus if she wanted one. She also held true to her fans in Colombia by insisting on doing a concert in Baranquilla, Colombia, even though it wouldn’t make her any money. Her promoters also warned her about talking about politics in her concert, but she held true to her values and put up a puppet show of Bush and Saddam fighting over the world oil supply on the projection screen while she performed on stage. Not only does Shakira refuse to be censored, she has also made it a priority by sticking up for the rights of people who can’t defend themselves (poor children).”
As luck would have it, after my fourth email to Ms. Barragan (and one marriage proposal) she finally responded. Her message seemed like probably she couldn’t understand any of my Spanish, which….

P

lease view/share the book “Safety Third: Colombia” by Brian Ward on Amazon.

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🇨🇴

Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.

Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch

#natgeo #colombiancupid #hulu #foxtv #colombiatravel #usatoday #getaway #blogtravel #wanderluster #Disney
#passportlife #facebook #redboxprojectuk

Things best learned on an empty stomach…..

June 6, 2019


In the eyes of Raul Cuero’s high school basketball coach, everybody is born with one particular attribute. And, according to Raul Cuero’s coach, Raul would never be anything more than a big and burly guy who could play sports. Why would anyone expect anything else from a guy whose grandmother couldn’t even speak Spanish. Here was a 109-year old woman who had lived in Buenaventura, Colombia her whole life and still could only speak an African language that wasn’t spoken by many people in Buenaventura. The change of house and language did provide Raul with a break from the regimented household of his parents.
Living in Buenaventura in the 1950’s makes Steinbeck’s Oklahoma dust bowl in Grapes of Wrath set during the Great Depression look like Melrose Place. In Buenaventura, during the 1950’s, 30% of all children died before the age of 10, due to parasites, malaria and other tuberculosis. Of those who did survive, only 30% of them would ever learn how to read or write. The only black people who ever left Buenaventura were the coffers and truck drivers. Buenaventura, like many other parts of Latin America, depended on the assistance of the USA. So, school children like Raul enjoyed the cheese that was sent to Colombia by the Alliance for Progress program in the USA. In addition to the cheese, powered milk was also shipped to Buenaventura for the poor school children. Unfortunately, once the powered milk was mixed with the unsanitized local water, the milk became undrinkable. So the people adapted. Instead, the people would mix the USDA cheese with the powered milk and created a kind of “jungle yogurt,” called Kumis that school children like Raul enjoyed very much. Interesting enough, Kumis happened to be very nutritious and had a high protein content.
In addition to Kumis, many school children (including Raul) in Buenaventura, would eat natural products; such as guava, mangos, banana and others fruits that they collected from food markets (galleria) and/or from the nearby tropical forest. And the minority of the other kids with a slightly better economic situation used to buy a “bonbon” for their school break. Not wanting to miss out on a chocolate “bonbon,” Raul used to do the homework for the “rich” kinds in exchange for a “bonbon.”
When Raul finished school, he would hang out with a Pastuso auto mechanic who saw promise in the boy and taught him to work on carburetors and weld radiators.
Despite his two jobs, Raul still didn’t have extra money to go to the movies or buy comic books. Instead, Raul actually spent most of his afternoons in the hut of his great grandmother who was over 100. Raul’s great grandmother, Petrona, was even poorer than Raul’s mother and father. Despite there being not much food around, the house was always filled Raul’s aunties who provided plenty of laughs and happiness.
Instead of toys, Raul had to use his creativity to find something to occupy his time. So, instead of playing with toys, he observed the roaches on the floor in the hut of his great grandmother as a way to fill his time. He observed them so often that he learned that during the hottest times of the day 11am-3pm, the roaches would actually disappear into the holes in the hut. When they came back out at 4pm, Raul, full of joy would celebrate their arrival and continue observing them. Through observation, he learned that there were more roaches in his great grandma’s hut than in his wood and brick house. The reason for this, Raul learned one day while watching a roach eat the bamboo in his great grandmother’s hut. He learned that day that roaches need wood (which contains cellulose) to survive.
Raul’s family, seemingly, was very similar to the other families in Buenaventura. His father used to work on the docks, loading and unloading cargo from the ships. And later, he worked as a seamen for the main shipping company. Despite Raul’s father’s modest income, his father was able to build his own house in Buenaventura. Raul’s father was the first black man in Buenaventura to have his own house. At the beginning, the house was made of wood only, and was later made into a combination of brick and wood. The house took his father 40 years to build and there was more than one night when Raul didn’t eat because his father used the grocery money to buy bricks instead. Determination and resiliency are qualities Raul learned with any empty stomach.
The completed house, actually caused quite a bit of resentment from his neighbors. So much so, the neighbors would actually walk up to the house at night and spit on the ground around the house as a way to curse the Raul’s family for having the nerve to build their own home.
As a 7-year old boy, Raul would wake up every morning at 4 am to study, play basketball and bring the family his its morning breakfast from the neighborhood bread maker. Raul would then go to school. It was during the times after school that Raul has his fondest memories, from his childhood. These times were spent walking with his elderly great grandmother and picking herbs to be used as remedies for many different ailments. These walks stimulated Raul’s interest in plants and inventing things that would make people more health.
On other afternoons, Raul would hang around the Buenaventura docks where he would search through the piles of rubbish looking for magazines and books. It was during one of these visits when he found his most enduring memento of the USA in the form a dime that was sitting on the dock. He couldn’t believe his luck, in a town as poor as Buenaventura, no many people had the luxury of misplacing ten cents. He held on to this coin and made a plan to one day spend it in the USA.
When not observing roaches, searching through the rubbish for books or welding radiators, Raul would play soccer with the neighborhood kids. Until one day when his brother was kicked in the leg and suffered a deep cut from a metal soccer cleat. Regrettably for Raul’s family, the soccer cleat was tainted with tetanus and Raul’s brother died shortly there after. It was at this point when his family banned Raul from playing soccer. Instead of playing soccer, he switched to basketball. And, due to his size and hard work he excelled. At age 17, he became a member of the Colombian National Basketball Team.
Raul then made the decision to then focus on academics instead of sports. He decided to study at Universidad del Valle in Cali, which at that time was one of the best universities in Latin America in academics. It was at the university where Raul met a visiting professor of plant physiology, Percy Lily. Lily was so impressed by Raul’s his first discovery, which was in plants. He successfully found a way to raise a parasitic plant without its host. Raul really didn’t have much time to sit around at home., that he offered Raul an academic scholarship to Heidelberg University in Ohio, USA. He would finally be able to reunite his American coin with its original home, but more importantly he would be able to continue his work in plant pathology (the study of plant diseases caused by infectious organisms and environmental factors) and show that a poor Afro-Colombian basketball player from a obscure South American city could be a valuable part of the scientific community. Or as Raul Cuero likes to put it, “It is good to be good.”
Despite the fact the United States was suffering from widespread racially-fueled violence due in part to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Raul never felt threatened by racism.
To the contrary, there were many Goodwill Hunting moments where Raul was actually able to entertain and impress his fellow students and teachers with his vast knowledge. He found that many of the students were very respectful and even more willing make friends and interact with him than what he expected.
Raul obtained his Bachelor of Science from Heidelberg University in Biology and “For the first time, I finally felt like I was going to make it,” recounts Raul. One day, while at Heidelberg University, his entire class was given a question to solve. The question had to do with the concentration of a molecule. As soon as the question was given, Raul looked around the room as all his fellow students took out their calculators and began working on the problem. Raul didn’t have a calculator because he couldn’t afford one. So he just sat there in a stupor, wondering what to do. Finally the teacher looked over at Raul and asked, “Cuero, do you understand?”

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Middle-aged and reckless, this dimestore shrink shakes up the Colombian dating scene with his provocative, pop-inspired tips on finding love in strange places. This is a true adventure story about a gringo who goes to Colombia in pursuit of a woman he met online.

Read Safety Third : Colombia, the book about a throwback tourist who rises from his emotional ashes and becomes Capitan Clutch

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