Guillermo, a voice we should listen to

Martín Meléndez   

I met Guillermo (William) Chavarría in the mid nineties on a visit to Salama, Guatemala, to observe adobe houses. My first impression was that I was before a man of firm judgement, a man who knew what he wanted for him, for his family and for his its town.

Some years later, we were lucky to be able to receive Guillermo here in Nicaragua. He manages a successful microconcrete (MCR) tile workshop, which is able to produce more than 300 tiles daily and sell more than 2000 units a week.

When asked why he liked the microconcreto tile so much, he replied with a clinching answer: "there are many reasons to use the tile, but, for me, there are three main ones:

  • it is a good alternative for roofs among needy people.
  • MCR is superior to all the light covers that I know.
  • A house with MCR looks "prettier."

His two main concerns are his people and how to help them improve their quality of living. This, in fact, was the objective of Guillermo in Nicaragua. He was interested in expanding his workshop and diversifying production with puzzolanic cement and vibro-compacted concrete blocks with puzzolanic cement as well (CP-40).

I admit that we were very much surprised by this since we considered Guillermo an unconditional advocate of adobe. Then, why such a sudden change?

He says that acceptance of adobe in Guatemala has decreased a lot. Its sloppy application has been the cause for such a bad reputation. Consequently, people go to the large cities to get concrete blocks, and sometimes these are not of good quality either.

This is why he prefers to manufacture CP-40 blocks, to decrease transportation expenses, and to offer a cheaper and higher quality product than that on the market. His interest is to give poor people a chance to build their houses.

In another moment of our conversation, I asked him about a comparison between adobe and the block, and this was the result:

Advantages

Disadvantages

ADOBE

Local material
No machinery needed
Skilled workers not needed
More resistant if well made
More difficult to make
A lot of time
People work as they please and bad adobes result
Many insects lodge in walls

CONCRETE BLOCKS

Includes steel bars, the house is more sturdy
More attractive houses
Insects do not live in walls
It is fashionable
More expensive
Needs bricklayer to build house

In short, Guillermo tells us that adobe houses are as good as those of concrete blocks, but they need more education for the families living in them. While concrete blocks may not be the best alternative, it has great demand.

Another clear advantage for him in producing blocks with CP-40, is that it can provide additional profits to start other projects that can help the majority of the people, such as beekeeping, a daycare center, teaching materials for adult literacy or to improve the quality of life at home.

Guillermo assured us that he was positively impressed by the ecomaterials workshop in Diriamba. We were pleased to hear his expression that: "Everybody here works harmoniously, hard, and as one". From here he is taking the form to make a ridge tiles of 90 degree angle or verge tiles, to produce in Guatemala.

To conclude, he wanted to send a message to all the members of the ECOSUR Network:

"EcoSouth is a great alternative that should be extended to all Latin American countries and poor towns. If it ever does, it would play an important role and would improve the quality of life of all. EcoSouth has been able to focus upon some of the main aspects of human life. We wish its presence were greater in Guatemala. “

“EcoSouth, he stated, “talks little but does a lot. It should make it self more known." And, perhaps, this phrase also defines Guillermo as an EcoSur´s member: "He does more than he says."

We thank Guillermo for his visit to Nicaragua and we expect to receive again him with open arms to share his wisdom and experience with us.

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