‘My Mission to Jamaica was written in the skies’
Tastefully attired in a black skirt suit complemented by pearl accessories, light make-up, and a bright welcoming smile, Venezuelan Ambassador to Jamaica, Rocio Manerio Gonzalez walks into her office, not entirely prepared to talk about herself.
She has a busy day ahead. First on her agenda is an official funeral, then it’s business as usual as her diplomatic diary allows little time for anything else.
But, before her 10:00 am appointment, she must get this interview out of the way.
“It’s very difficult to talk about me,” she tells All Woman, “but I’ll give it a try”, she continues, poised and confident.
A career diplomat for the past 20 years, Gonzalez is just two months into what she hopes will be a long and fruitful mission here in Jamaica. Prior to this assignment, she has worked in many other countries in the Americas and Cuba.
“I am so thrilled of the honour of being assigned ambassador to Jamaica. I was here earlier in 1990 to prepare the official visit of president Hugo Chavez. After his visit, my government left me here for seven months as Chargé d’Affairés. I enjoyed it so much and now here I am, on a more permanent mission,” she says.
Gonzalez believes her posting here has been “written in the skies” the very day she started her career as a foreign diplomat. As Third Secretary within the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, she was assigned to study Jamaica, a project she says she immensely enjoyed.
“I learnt as much as I could about your country, its rich heritage and culture — reggae music and Rastafarianism — it was fascinating. I was not surprised at the warmth and love with which I was received,” Gonzalez shares with All Woman.
Her desire to enter the foreign mission began quite early in life. Born in Caracas to a family that travelled a lot, Gonzales grew to love and appreciate the unique cultures of people in different parts of the world. She was further motivated by a love of History.
“I always found history to be very interesting. Having studied the life and admired the work of our own liberator, Simon Bolivar, I wanted to be out there — in the international community, working,” she reflects.
Driven by this desire, Gonzalez worked hard at acquiring a high school diploma that would qualify her entry into university. But love intervened, and barely out of high school, she was married at age 15.
“He (my late husband) was a friend of my brother. He would come to the house to study; we fell in love, and decided to get married.
My parents were at first reluctant to allow this, but they consented. We had a beautiful wedding,” she recalls.
With no regrets, Gonzales says her marriage of eight years was a beautiful one up to the time her husband died in an accident. She has three sons who have “filled all the empty spaces” in her life.
Today, Gonzalez celebrates her 48th birthday and although she anticipates love and marriage the second time around, she now sits in a chair which demands lots of hard work and very little time for self.
Her focus right now is to rekindle diplomatic relations between Jamaica and Venezuela, and to push through a number of bilateral trade agreements being discussed.
With five years of tertiary training in diplomatic studies and international relations, Dr Gonzalez is equal to the task ahead of her, and is keen on forging linkages which are mutually beneficial.
“I am working on a big agenda, the success of which is important to both governments. The exchange of culture has always been strong.
Presently, there are over 300 Jamaican students in Venezuela on scholarship. Through the San Jose Accord, we have many projects on stream here including an energy plan. Other areas of co-operation involve tourism, commerce and the fight against drugs,” the Ambassador outlines.
Almost fully acclimatised, she enjoys reggae music, especially Bob Marley, and is quite eager to show off the local dance moves that “came naturally”. Apart from dancing and working out at the gym, Gonzalez loves the countryside and is captivated by the waterfalls that flow to the sea (in Venezuela they empty into rivers) and the stretch of shallow-water beaches in Negril.
She anticipates getting involved in charitable work, and is considering membership in a women’s group.
“In many ways, I can identify with the women in Jamaica. I admire their strength and courage, I have been a fighter myself and I know the struggles they have to face,” she offers as she makes her way through the door.