Honduras School Named After Southwestern Alumnus
The Honduran Ministry of Education has named a school after Southwestern alumnus Mariano Castillo '64. This is the first time the Central American country has named a school in honor of a living person. Prior to that, the only public education in San Jose de Colinas, a mountain town (population 14,000) in the Department of Santa Barbara, Honduras, was vocational training. The "Liceo Abogado Mariano Castillo Mercado" was established by a non-profit organization of business and civic leaders in the area, who petitioned the Honduran Ministry of Education to name the school after Mr. Castillo. The school, which began classes in February 2009, is funded completely by private capital (no government money has been used for it) and operates as a bi-lingual institution in Spanish and English. It has computers and internet access for its students, the best teachers and a very dedicated and committed board of trustees. An accomplished attorney who practices international, business and family law, Mr. Castillo is offering 10 scholarships, a national bank has offered five, and other businesses and individuals in Honduras, Mexico and the United States are providing scholarships to assist the deserving and academically qualified local students with the financial help they need.
"When I was told in October 2008 that the corporation had been created and that the school was to be named after me, I felt very excited and emotionally charged," Mr. Castillo said. "However, the idea was an abstraction to me, and I did not realize its full impact until I saw pictures of the buildings and school uniforms, and a copy of the official government decree naming the school "Liceo Abogado Mariano Castillo Mercado."
The official naming ceremony took place on March 7, 2009 in San Jose de Colinas. There were about 350 people in attendance, including the Catholic Bishop of the area, the presidential candidate for the National Party in the November 2009 national election, the mayor of San Jose de Colinas, the Minster of Education, diplomatic representatives from Chile, Argentina and Spain, and a personal emissary from President Felipe Calderon of Mexico. In addition, business leaders from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba in Honduras, as well as from Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and Argentina attended the ceremony.
Mr. Castillo was born in San Jose de Colinas and attended grade school there before leaving for Tegucigalpa, the nation's capital, where he graduated from high school. Mr. Castillo's parents then sent him to college in the United States. His undergraduate studies at UCLA were interrupted by his military service with the United States Army 4th Infantry Division. After earning a B.A. degree in Political Science and Public Administration, he earned his J.D. from Southwestern, passed the bar and began practicing law in 1965. He has developed an international practice involving governmental and private clients, mostly in the areas of business, probate, aviation, immigration and and family law. He serves as legal counsel for the Governments of Spain, Argentina, Chile and Honduras. He also has a large clientele in Mexico and operates a fully staffed office in Mexico City. Additionally, he has corresponding lawyers in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Panama, Honduras, Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, Spain. Mr. Castillo is also Of Counsel to the firm of Sanchez, Daniels & Hoffman in Chicago. He intends to travel to San Jose de Colinas at least three or four times a year and give the school all the support he can. He is also planning the creation of a non-profit California Corporation with tax exempt status to gather financial support for the school. He is thankful to be in a good position to help his hometown and appreciates the education he received at Southwestern.
"I have always been grateful to Southwestern for having given me the opportunity to receive a good legal education and to prepare me for a successful career in the law," Mr. Castillo said. "When I was a student at Southwestern, I never imagined returning to Honduras to my home town to create such a wonderful educational opportunity for the young people there. I am extremely happy that this opportunity has come my way. I am thankful to the support and cooperation that I have received from my wife Nancy Ellen Castillo, law office associates and staff in connection with this effort."