Mourning for the death of Salvadoran and Guatemalan journalists in Canada

Arturo Gutierrez.
Néstor Hernández-Marroquín.
Oscar Vigil

Toronto, Glen. The community of Latin American origin in Canada is in mourning. Among its thousands of victims, COVID-19 took two of its great representatives in the media: Canadians Arturo Gutiérrez, Salvadoran origin, and Néstor Hernández-Marroquín, of Guatemalan origin.

For all those lovers of conspiracy theories who still believe that COVID-19 is just an invention of governments and large corporations, and it really doesn't exist, let me tell you that when death knocks on your doors is when those unsubstantiated theories end.

And the pandemic has knocked on the doors of the Latino community with insistence for the past three months, attacking especially the elderly and those with medical conditions. But it has also affected young people, dynamic and healthy, regardless of nationality, religion, race, sex or political affiliation.

Two very well-known people in the community of Latin American origin in Canada have recently perished because of this terrible virus. It's about the social communicators Arturo Gutiérrez, Salvadoran origin, and Néstor Hernández-Marroquín, of Guatemalan origin. Gutiérrez passed away in Toronto several weeks ago, while Hernández-Marroquín died in New Jersey, U.S, two weeks before.

Arturo Gutiérrez arrived in Canada at the beginning of the decade of the 90 as a political refugee after working on radio and television in his native El Salvador and receiving death threats. He was an announcer and presenter on Radio YSU and on Canal 10 of TV, among other local media. His friends there still remember him, because some of them flooded the networks with photographs of the time and condolences to their family.

I met Arturo in January of 2002, on the radio Ondas Hispanas Canal 2, where he had a radio show that, if my memory doesn't fail me, it was called “Here Central America”. Arturo and my wife, who before coming to Canada was teaching radio production at the Jesuit University UCA and worked as a reporter for YSUCA radio, they understood each other perfectly and worked together until Arturo got rid of the program due to lack of time.

I remember it was he who helped us move to the first apartment we rented in Toronto we just arrived, And that all our belongings fit in your van! Arturo was a great person, honest, helpful, trustworthy, but above all also a great radio broadcasting professional who stood out throughout his life for his powerful voice and passion for what he did..

Many years later, along with another journalist, We produced a CD of Christmas stories in Spanish that was left with an impeccable lyrical quality and technique, because in the professional life of Arturo Gutiérrez, mediocrity had no room.

Convinced Christian, and more important, real practitioner, Arturo Gutiérrez left an indelible mark on the Hispanic-Canadian community, a footprint that luckily many other radio professionals have been trying to follow for decades.

Before his death he worked at the Ondas FM radio station, and on Radio Voces Latinas, in addition to managing his own recording studio and commercial and program production, as well as an online Christian music station.

The last time we talked was in September last year, since he was going to be one of the main voices of the “Latin Parade and Fall Fiesta” that we were organizing to inaugurate Hispanic Heritage Month / Latin American 2019. Unfortunately some health problems in his family were crossed on the way and we agreed to work together this year.

Meanwhile, Néstor Hernández-Marroquín had 56 years at the time of his death, and in this pandemic crisis he carried out humanitarian activities in the city where he had recently moved. Helped deliver food, transported patients to hospitals, I was, as usual, ready to lend a hand to whoever needs it. So was his whole life and so were his last days.

Humble, simple, good people, never had a desire for the protagonists, unless these were with his name as a writer of some story in the media. Because his passion was always journalism, and in recent years he worked for the newspaper El Centro News, and as a Toronto correspondent for Major League Soccer (MLS), writing about another of his passions: football. Previously he had worked in Diario El Popular and later in the newspaper Correo Canadiense.

Native to Guatemala, survived the military, to the guerrillas and the fearsome death squads in the decade of the years 80. He was a reporter for the newspaper Prensa Libre, from Guatemala, and came to Canada as a political exile in the 1990. He had to exercise journalism in his country of origin when doing so was a risk, and so he had to leave his beloved land.

I met him in January of 2002, when he had just arrived in Canada and the Canadian Post had opened a place as a reporter. We become very good friends, with many differences, but with a genuine affection between us that allowed us to keep in touch despite the distances, especially after his wife Elizabeth died exactly five years ago..

Once installed in New Jersey, in the U.S, after getting married again and living for a time in his native Guatemala, In September of last year, Nestor came to Toronto and we met. Not to vary, He chose a seedy bar in which he said they sold "the richest chicken wings in the world".

A few minutes after the scheduled time he told me that he was late and that we move the appointment for another day. But a week passed, one month, several months and we never coordinate it again.

Rest in peace these two great Central Americans worthy representatives of the media in Canada, who have died due to the pandemic of the century.