Honduran President to Visit Scott Cowen

This article was published on April 23, 2010 in The Hullabaloo.

President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa of Honduras is set to meet with Tulane President Scott Cowen this weekend.

It is estimated that more than 120,000 Hondurans live in the New Orleans area, making the Crescent City the fourth most populous Honduran community in the world.

Mayra Pineda, former Consul General and current liason between the Honduran government and New Orleans city officials, said there is a broad range of issues on Lobo’s agenda, including education, healthcare, security, infrastructure and tourism.

“He’s coming to learn many things from New Orleans,” Pineda said. “[Lobo wants] to emulate how New Orleans became a tourist destination and how New Orleans recently developed a film industry.”

The politically conservative Lobo, whose term began Jan. 27, was elected in November amid political turmoil following the country’s coup d’etat ousting former democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Criticized for attempting to amend the Constitution to stay in power past the legal single term, Zelaya was marched out of his home at gunpoint by the Honduran military June 29 just before dawn.

Though no foreign governments recognized the de-facto rulers following Zelaya’s ousting, Roberto Micheletti took control of the country until Lobo was sworn in.

“He will hold a roundtable discussion on Saturday with all of the university presidents in the area, such as Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, Dillard and University of New Orleans,” Pineda said. “Education is a top priority for President Lobo.”

“Because we’re dealing with a head of state, there’s a lot of demand, and so it’s not exactly the easiest thing to schedule,” Tulane Public Relations Director Mike Strecker said.

Hundreds of Hondurans come to New Orleans to go to college each year.

“You get a ridiculous amount of Hondurans here because of the large community that’s already established,” said Hector Pastor, a Honduran who came to study at Loyola University. “We feel more comfortable and closer to home.”

Rocio Valdiviezo, a student at UNO, said that many Hondurans come to the United States for the educational opportunities the country offers.
“For Latin Americans, a college degree from the United States is a huge advantage and opens many more opportunities,” Valdiviezo said. “Knowing English really sets you apart from the competition.”

New Orleans offers students a home and tuition at an affordable price.
“[Hondurans come to New Orleans because] a lot of our parents studied in New Orleans,” Valdiviezo said. “The climate is so similar to Honduras’s. Plus, the amount of scholarships from schools like Loyola and UNO especially are a big help.”

A college degree from the United States can be indispensable for students planning to return to Honduras.

“My uncle, who is now the Honduran Minister of Public Works and Transportation, studied at UNO, and President Lobo studied at University of Miami,” Pastor said. “The university over there is all right, but if you have the opportunity, like connections or a scholarship, you come here for college.”

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