02 February 2017

An Interview with the APP Technician, Antonio Santos

Written by Erica Marroquin and Lilly Mendoza

Lilly and I sat on the concrete steps in front of an AguaClara plant in Cuatro Communidades, probably holding PVC pipe and discussing the new 1 L/s plant that was just placed there. Antonio, the long-time technician for Agua Para el Pueblo, passes us and says, "Paisanas!" The little boy Edgar that lives next door chuckles at us.

We look at each other with a kind of expression that says, "What did he just call us?" Lilly asked him what that meant, and he explained it as something like a native or someone who has ties to the country. We both have family from El Salvador; Antonio often chatted with Lilly about it and would endlessly make fun of me for not knowing how to speak Spanish.
Lilly and Antonio at the airport

As we all became more familiar with our new Honduran team members, conversations like this became more common, leading us to become more curious about them. We wanted to know more about their lives and how they ended up where they are. Lilly and I plopped ourselves in the (very comfy) backseat of Antonio's truck on the way to the airport and asked him questions from, "Where do you see APP going in the future?" to, "What is your favorite ice cream flavor?" (It's vanilla, by the way). He happily entertained all of our questions and gave us some valuable knowledge. Here is our interview translated from Spanish:

What drew you to work in water treatment with APP (Agua Para el Pueblo)?
I came with the necessity of a job. A friend introduced me to Jacobo in 1992 and came to APP at the age of 17. I ran errands and completed high school in the first years of being with APP. After, I went to be part of the AHJASA (Association of Honduras Group of Water) program to learn the administration, operation, and maintenance of water. After finishing, I came back to APP as a technician and trained in water systems. I have been with group for 33 years. In 2006, Ojohona was the first cemented integration of AguaClara with the objective to train the operators and build the water board. Now, I educate and train operators and serve as technical assistance to all AguaClara plants.

What is your favorite part about AguaClara?
To see the evolution and function of the plants. I enjoy capacitating operators and improving the efficiency of the plants.

Where do you see APP going? What about wastewater treatment?
I want AguaClara technology to be the solution for all of Central America. The need for clean water is there, and all the problems are similar. When theres a good solution, you can adopt it for almost all the similar situations. [As this happens] the university as an academy will need a special program in Central America that has AguaClara offices all over the region. The program will also need a director, maybe a Cornell engineer. I don’t think waste water will expand as much as water treatment since it does not have as much of a need/demand.

What do you think about the partnership with AguaClara Cornell?
The partnership is good so far, but with the frequent change of engineers in Honduras it creates a barrier (mostly language). The barrier is difficult, but the relationship is good and necessary for AguaClara in Honduras.

Tell us about your visit to Cornell?
I came in October 2012 to receive an award (technical award) and stayed for a week. I was able to see the AguaClara labs and what the students do, which was very nice for me to see. I was able to show the social aspect of what I do and not the technical part. I was able to display what is not seen by most.

Antonio, once a professional soccer player, helped lead our team to (kind of) victory