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Spotlight On: Rodolfo Robles, Guatemala’s Original House MD

By Elena Alvarado

Rodolfo Robles is the name of the avenue that marks the crossing over from Zona 1 to Zona 3.  While cries of “Robles, Robles” are common on the microbuses, what caused so many buildings, schools and roads to be named for the man?

Long before becoming a street, Rodolfo Robles was one of the most well-known doctors in the early 1900’s, as well as a brilliant researcher and the namesake of Guatemala’s Order of Rodolfo Robles, which honors doctors who have made achievements in public health.

A native son of Quetzaltenango, Rodolfo Robles was born in 1878 to Francisco Robles and Trinidad Valverde.  He grew up in Xela, and studied here through high school. Upon graduation Robles moved to France where he studied medicine, eventually graduating from the Sarbonne. He continued on in France for a few more years, doing research in microbiology at the Pasteur Institute.

Robles then returned to Guatemala, spending a year at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City before returning to Xela to start his own research institute also named the Pasteur Institute.

Internationally, Robles is best known for being the first to describe the illness of Onchocerciasis which is also known as Robles Disease. For this discovery he was named to the National Legion of Honor in France and eventually honored by the creation of the Order of Rodolfo Robles.

On a national level Robles is that rare hero that everyone in the country can support. As an international symbol who was largely non-controversial, he is a man that all Guatemalans can admire and all governments have pointed to as an exemplary citizen of the republic.

Within  Quetzaltenango there is also the pride of being the city of Rodolfo Robles’s origin, as well as the fact that he returned here to work after he earned his university degree as opposed to living the rest of his life in France.

An extremely talented man, Rodolfo Robles is Guatemala’s original House MD and deservedly so the namesake of many a landmark not only within Quetzaltenango, but the rest of the country as well.

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