Feature | Sep 08 2016

LONG READ The rise of Roman Gonzalez

Roman Gonzalez speaks to George Gigney about Arguello, religion and being a role model
Roman Gonzalez
Roman-Gonzalez  |  Chris Farina/K2

A FEW years ago, in an interview BN conducted with Roman Gonzalez, the diminutive Nicaraguan said he lived by the “law of the jungle” while growing up in Barrio La Esperanza, a poverty-stricken suburb of Managua.

The dead-end streets are filled with crime but lack a decent level of sanitation. Flooding is frequent, and the rising waters attract a swarm of bugs and rodents. Gonzalez’ father opportunistically used this rather bleak context to ply his trade – door-to-door sales of cleaning supplies and insecticides. His employment record was patchy at best, meaning the Gonzalez household struggled to make ends meet and little Roman, just a child at the time, would frequently join his father on sales trips around their community of roughly 1,000 souls.

That’s a fairly steep learning curve for a young lad in the balmy climate of Nicaragua, though even when Roman merely wanted to play with his friends outside, he would have to adopt the sort of warrior mentality that has helped him rise to the top of the toughest of sports.