Peruvian Panthers meet in Lima

In an effort led by former FIU Magazine associate editor Martin Haro ’05, a small group of Peru-based FIU grads met in Lima on Aug. 23. Here is his account of the evening. 

Meeting up with FIU Panthers is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I returned to Lima earlier this year. We’ve already met FIU’s 200,000th grad, so we are numbers strong. We just have to get organized. Having worked at the university for almost seven years, I know that our alumni come from everywhere in the world. As Torchbearers, we Panthers are responsible for talking up FIU and reaching out to our fellow Panthers.

So there we were, six perfect strangers on an oh-so-cool Lima night with this significant, cool thing in common: FIU.

Panther Pride definitely was in the air, but I’ll be honest: I felt a little outnumbered as the only alumnus from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication among these five men, all College of Business grads. But I instantly felt that blue-and-gold bond; this connection…. For months I’ve wanted to be able to talk to someone about that long walk between PC and GC on a rainy Miami afternoon (the one that takes you through DM and by the library). Because no one else who has heard my college stories here gets it.

These guys did.

FIU Panthers in Peru

Panthers in Peru (from left): Hector Janampa, Martin Haro, Juan Manuel Mejia, Eduardo Pecol, Alfredo Escudero, Victor Monteverde.

One of them was Victor Monteverde ’77, a project manager for MyM Inmobiliaria. How cool that the Peru-FIU relationship dates back to the university’s early years! I overheard him tell Eduardo Pecol ’02, a financial manager for American Airlines, about how he has an FIU frame for his license plate. “FIU is always with me on the road out here in Lima,” said Monteverde.

You know what’s also pretty awesome? That Juan Manuel Mejia ’06, an entrepreneur trained at FIU, is about to start exporting pima cotton products to Switzerland, and that Hector Janampa ’10 works as a logistics assistant manager for Peruvian construction company SSK.

Since none of us was there to sell anyone else anything, we all reminisced freely about what it was like for each of us to take the leap and go study in Miami, at FIU.

Like me, Pecol, for instance, had already started university here in Lima, but then his parents decided he should go finish his studies in the United States. “I wasn’t doing all that well,” he said, “so that was sort of my punishment.”

While we weren’t together all that long – just long enough for a few after-work Friday-evening cups of coffee (note to self: people in Lima prefer meeting up earlier in the week), we were quick to agree on two things: FIU rocks, and we are definitely getting back together. Monteverde, in fact, already has offered to host our next meeting, which will hopefully involve a larger number of FIU Panthers in Peru.

When I wasn’t letting the group know how they can stay in touch with the university via FIU News or FIU Magazine, or how they will be able to see a lifestream of TEDxFIU in November, I was encouraging them to invite any other Panthers they may know who live in Peru to join the conversation on Facebook.

But encouragement to get organized this group did not need.

“I have had this in mind for a while now, to set up an alumni chapter in Peru,” Alfredo Escudero MS’07 told me in the weeks after I moved back to Lima last December. “I think it’s a great idea. Let’s do it.”

I think that this first reunion in Peru has laid a nice foundation. Our hope is that this will inspire other Panthers in the world to light a Torch wherever they may be.

— Martin Haro ’05