Manuel Ayau Cordon changed countless lives, including mine.
In 1959, while I was still in grade school, Muso, and his lovely wife Olga, extended their fabled hospitality to our family. Muso invited us to his wonderful place outside of Guatemala City where he and my father discussed the affairs of the world for hours while all the kids swam went swimming. He had already assembled an amazing library of liberty there on Lake Amatitlan, but I was out of the loop. Little did I know that my father was at that very moment working with Barry Goldwater to put together a little political manifesto, which my father would later name, and then publish himself when no other publisher would accept it. Dad called it “The Conscience of a Conservative.” So Muso and dad had a lot to talk about.
That stay in Guatemala half a century ago motivated me to learn Spanish. In later years I returned to Guatemala again and again. The Ayaus and their cousin Corodons became our lifelong friends. They always received us with warmth, embellished by Muso’s hilarious sense of humor.
Forty years ago Muso founded Universidad Francisco Marroquin, mysteriously naming me a fideicomisario, the least worthy of an otherwise eminent and very ambitious founding board of trustees. At first, Marroquin was nothing more than a few buildings in what we would today call a primitive strip mall. But Marroquin grew quickly, becoming Central America’s university of choice for serious students of economics and business and more. Muso’s constant message was libertad. libertad, libertad. Guatemala had its ups and downs (dare I say, more downs than ups), but Marroquin steadily rose to become not only the preeminent university in Guatemala, but a stunningly beautiful one. I still remember Muso taking me to the current site when it was just a series of steep barrancos – precipitous ravines – at the end of a street in the city’s Zona 10. When our family visited a couple of years ago, he took us on a tour of the completed campus that was simply dazzling. He knew everyone, explained the purpose of every nook and cranny, and loved it all.
Muso was one of a kind. He was the picture of motivation and drive. He saved time by cutting his own hair, a few clips at a time, when he had a spare moment – waiting for an elevator, or watching the news. His children and grandchildren were never far away, and every week his children and grandchildren luxuriated n that wonderful Latin American custom of an all-day extended-family reunion on Sunday. Guests were always welcome (thanks goodness!). Through it all, he was a quiet, gentle, loving, brilliant man.
Muso’s passing brings to mind the musing of Pip, in Great Expectations. I didn’t know it at our first meeting 51years ago, but I know it now: I owe Muso, and our family cherishes his memory. May he rest in peace, and may his dear wife and family be assured of our gratitude and prayers. Muso gave his all, many times over.
"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different it's course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for the moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."