While researching the local restaurants and bars offering music in Melaque and Barra, I had a conversation with Dr. Roberto Pimienta Woo, owner of Viva Maria 1910 in Melaque.
Meeting with Dr. Woo on a lazy Tuesday afternoon, our conversation drifted to his early days, his family, his studies, his passion to help those less fortunate and his love of music and food.
Raised in Guadalajara by a father who had a small loncheria selling sandwiches and juice across from El Informador newspaper and a mother who ran a rooming house for university students, Woo, one of seven siblings, described his family as “very poor.”
A musician in his high school days, playing guitar in a Latin band, he was a stellar student and, based on his marks, was accepted into the school of medicine at the University of Guadalajara. Unable to afford money for textbooks, Woo would study in the library until 8 p.m. when it closed. After a time, he befriended one of the librarians who allowed him to take books home at night and return them by morning.
Eager to be the best he could be, Woo began studying texts from U.S. medical schools. His knowledge began to surpass what was taught in Guadalajara and for the first and only time, he failed an exam. Woo was clearly ahead of his time.
Graduating 13th out of 400 students, most would boast of their academic accomplishments, but Woo seems most proud of the fact that he and several peers put an end to the cruel initiations that were common in medical school at that time. Too many students were seriously injured and Woo found nothing funny about it.
After six years of university, graduate students were required to donate a year of social service in medical clinics and hospitals of their choice. Many of Woo’s peers stayed in the big city hospitals but he chose to go where his services were most needed, taking on the position of “pasante,” or intern, in a small Melaque clinic.