ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Mauricio Riveros has quite the story to tell.
His titles are impressive enough: President of LECESSE Construction and Chief Innovation Officer for Pike Company.
But it’s the road he paved himself to get them that inspires.
He talked with Adam Chodak about that journey as part of News 8’s Hispanic Heritage Month coverage.
Adam Chodak: Obviously you have a giant job here in Rochester, but it wasn’t all that long ago you were in Bolivia.
Mauricio Riveros: Let’s start in Bolivia. I grew up in La Paz. La Paz is the highest capital in South America. It’s a city that is very unique because around the city you have a lot of the neighborhoods and poor people and in the middle of the city you have the middle class and then you have the south people who have a little bit more resources. I grew up in the middle class, I was able to connect with a lot of people and then I started to be a lawyer, did a Master’s degree in economic law and get in the public sector working at very high level, so that was a very interesting experience working in the public sector in an undeveloped country and that has helped me develop strategies and help people and then I was able to work for a not-for-profit organization and the mission of that organization was to help with public sector reforms in Bolivia in critical aspects. Then in 2004 revolution hit us. I was married at that time to my wife who came from Rochester, N.Y. She went as a Peace Corps volunteer. We got married in the U.S. we went back to Bolivia and we were in Bolivia and when the revolution hit us we decided to come to Rochester, N.Y. and start in a concrete business, a small business, part of the Pike companies and start in a completely different world. I was working with governments and not-for-profits and I started working the concrete business. A majority of the workers were Hispanic so I was able to, at that time I didn’t really speak English, so I was kind of the translator and that led me into this business of construction. So that’s a little bit of my background and I’m in the Pike Company and started working in the chain of command and started working with my mentor Bill Ketchen, he invested a lot in me and he just retired a year ago. And was somebody who helped me a lot to really understand this industry and help with each project step by step, project by project … I then moved up the latter at Pike and LECESSE.
AC: What was that like for you to have helped to move the country forward then that happens?
MR: It was very hard. The moment I was in the plane leaving the country and to leave the nation where you have the dream ambition to help with change because these countries need huge change and transformation was heartbreaking, was very hard, but I always thought that I could be more help to my country if I could be in another place where I can then connect with them again and this happened about 3 or 4 years ago where through my church we go and do missions and we are helping to transform the country. We just started a hot line in Bolivia to help with the COVID-19 situation. We have a church in Bolivia and people can call and receive the help that they need so that has been an incredible experience to me. So you can reconnect with your community in my case.
AC: What was it like to move to a place you had no idea about, didn’t speak the language, that must have been challenging.
MR: When you move to a country and you cannot communicate, you have 3 things. You have frustration and the second things is that frustration can take you to depression or opportunity and I decided that that would be an opportunity for me and the third thing was, OK, now that I speak a little bit of English and I can have a heavy accent, how can that be used for good? So I started learning and God helped me a lot and I’m still learning. But the reality is I’ve found that that weakness is my strength. I’m able to do public speaking and people listen more to me because with this heavy accent people actually said, What he saying? Let me try to understand better. And that brings a great opportunity for me to get people to listen so I’ve found that you can take something that in the beginning has been hard and difficult to an opportunity that today is taking me to the next level.
AC:What message do you want to share about the Latino community?
MR: By nature Hispanics, we are very family oriented. I did a TEDx speech called Mi casa es su casa. And right now with COVID-19, this is very difficult. We are huggers, we love to have community. We love to help each other, I love the innovation and creativity of the Hispanic people and I have the opportunity to interview a lot of business owners who came here with nothing, literally nothing and now they have businesses and they’re developing and great opportunities. I think the Hispanic community brings new love to this nation, to inject hope and a new perspective on the United States. You see the opportunity and you start working and identifying how you can get to the next level and it’s every single case of a business owner who came here as a migrant who don’t even understand the language, they figure out how to navigate here and find success. I believe the United States is an amazing land, I believe this nation brings huge opportunities and that’s why everybody wants to come here so let’s appreciate what we have in the United States. And the Hispanic community with the African-Americans, the Caucasians, everybody all together we can continue to build an incredible nation.
AC: When you talk about economics and building Rochester there’s so much emphasis on that. You obviously work for Pike/LeCesse. What’s the answer in your eyes?
MR: I think it’s fundamental for our community to start taking about reconciliation, forgiveness and building together a new perspective. What would be Rochester in 10 years from now? In all sectors coming together in a common dialogue and identifying those structural changes that need to happen in any aspect, in the private sector, in the private sector and we have an incredible amount of technology and we have people with incredible capacity, we have a great lifestyle. We can be a center of tourism, we can be a center of innovation. We can be a place where people come and have incredible education and healthcare. We have a lot of strengths so if we can focus on those strengths and build an element of reconciliation, which is I think is fundamental to building a vision. I think that is essential to promote more investment in terms of the city. I still believe that developing the city in terms of allowing businesses to come and invest in Rochester, the only way to fight poverty is to create jobs and I think we have a lot of advantages with technology and we have a lot advantage with people who have been working in Kodak and B&L and all that with an incredible brain power so this. When we interviewed people for Be Inspired we found there is an incredible amount of talent in this community that can take us to the next level.