It’s a sad day for anyone who has been involved with this program, as we’ve learned of the death of Enrique Martinez, affectionately known as “Kike” to the many friends that he encountered over a life lived to its fullest, but cut too short.

Here’s a little excerpt from the My Itinerary section of this site:
“The first picture above is our bus with Kike, our driver and friend, in the back.
Kike is one of the most genuinely kind and wonderful people that you will ever meet. On top of that, he’s also the best driver you will ever meet. See a street that looks tight for a Mini Cooper? Kike will fit a bus through it. Bumpy mountain road that Jeeps would struggle with? Kike will get the bus up there while you sip a cup of coffee without spilling a drop. This guy should seriously be competing in rally races somewhere, because I would bet on him to win every time.”

Kike was more than a driver and a guide… he was a friend. When you spend enough time with someone, you get close to them. Kike made that process easy, as his gentle nature, kind heart, and warm spirit made him someone that was easy to be around.

I still remember wondering how we were going to communicate, with my limited Spanish, as Kike and I sat next to each other at dinner one evening. Despite my lack of language skills, he very soon felt like an old friend. We talked about history, we talked about travel, and we talked about family. I remember showing him pictures of my family, including my daughter, who had turned one year old during our trip. I told Kike that my daughter’s name is Gabriela, and that we call her Gaby. His face lit up, as he pulled out his own phone and started showing me pictures of his family, including his daughter, also named Gabriela. We talked about “our Gabys”, our families, and life.

Even after the trip ended, I stayed in touch with Kike through Facebook. This is the one benefit of social media that I’ll preach to anyone who criticizes it. Social media allowed us to stay in touch in a way that would have otherwise been extremely difficult. It’s been four years since I’ve been to El Salvador, but I would still get a happy birthday message from Kike every year. He even wished me a happy father’s day this past year, and I fondly remembered the conversation that we had that night in El Salvador. Just two fathers bragging on their families. I loved seeing the pictures that he posted of his travels and of the family that he loved and cherished so very much. My heart goes out to them.

Kike’s smile is burned into the memory of everyone who knew him. That kind of infectious smile that makes you laugh just thinking about it. It’s one that I’ll never forget, and if you knew him, I know that you won’t forget it, either. Rest in peace, Kike. The world is a better place because you were part of it.