Carlos is a member of Mayatan's first class, which began school here 20 years ago. Today he is back in Copán Ruinas, where he makes an array of artisanal cheeses at San Rafael, a local café.
The young Copanecan got his start making cheese in the United States. First, he spent a year at the University of Arkansas, part of a study abroad course for his BA in food science from Zamorano in Honduras. Carlos followed up that experience with two years working at an artisanal cheese operation in southern Indiana. While there, he learned the ins and outs of cheesemaking, and he had the opportunity to meet chefs from top American restaurants.
A year ago, Carlos returned to Copán and started up shop behind his mother's restaurant. He has equipment that processes 1,000 liters of milk a day, enough to make 200 lbs of cheese. In addition to being a pioneering Mayataner, then, Carlos is a pioneer in his field in Honduras. His major sales are in Copán, but he also has customers in San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Tegucigalpa, and there are few other cheese makers like him around.
Carlos has a soft spot for Copán, which has made him one of the first of his classmates to settle here. He is in touch with most of them, however, and reports that all are getting married, pursuing higher education, or entering the workforce. He recalls that it felt natural learning English at Mayatan because it was incorporated into his entire education, and he loves speaking it to this day. The teachers he recalls most fondly include Mr. Bill Porter and Miss Beverly, who was strict but kind.
Carlos says that his favorite cheese to eat and make is King Rene's Royal Blue, which he named after his father. "It's easy to make and good to eat. You can start the process and forget about. I call it Royal Blue because, in the past, only queens and kings ate blue cheese." A taste of the creamy, slightly sweet, and tangy blue does indeed seem regal, especially surrounded by the relaxing gardens of Café San Rafael.
Looking back on his career thus far, Carlos sees an obvious connection between his current career and his time at Mayatan, learning the basics of English from "patient and gentle" teachers like Doña Nora. It was Carlos's English skills that allowed him such success in Arkansas at Indiana, and his command of the language ensures that he can welcome customers from all over the world who stop by the café for coffee and a bite to eat. He estimates that he spends his day speaking 50% Spanish and 50% English. English is a big part of his life, and we imagine that it will continue to be for a long time, as his cheeses are an invaluable resource for Hondurans with broad pallets, expatriates craving American- and European-style cheeses, and tourists seeking a treat.