Know Your Neigh­bor: Roberto J. Martinez

The Taos News - - VECINOS - By Kathy Cór­dova

Not ev­ery­thing one sees on tele­vi­sion oc­curs as sim­ply in real life as an hour­long time slot al­lows. Shows such as CSI and NCIS solve cases quite eas­ily while at-home au­di­ences have time to eat a bowl of pop­corn. How­ever, in real life, the process of solv­ing some­one’s cause of death is much slower. Dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view, Los Cor­dovas res­i­dent Roberto J. Martinez shared his work at the Of­fice of the Med­i­cal In­ves­ti­ga­tor in Al­bu­querque.

“I’m the re­cip­i­ent of Daniel’s Fund, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that of­fers schol­ar­ships to col­lege stu­dents,” Martinez said re­cently of how he first went to work for the med­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor in Al­bu­querque. “As part of this process, I’m re­quired to work a cer­tain num­ber of hours. I heard of an open­ing in the Of­fice of the Med­i­cal In­ves­ti­ga­tor, and I ap­plied. I was for­tu­nate enough to be­gin my job the last week of Fe­bru­ary this year.

“Orig­i­nally, I was hired as a dry tech, but be­cause of a staff short­age, I also be­came a wet tech. These des­ig­na­tions de­ter­mine how a tech works on the body,” said Martinez, a crim­i­nal jus­tice student at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico.

The work­day be­gins early with an 8 a.m. meet­ing to dis­cuss the cases of the day. Techs re­move a body from the re­frig­er­a­tor, take a com­put­er­ized to­mog­ra­phy, or CT scan, of it and pre­pare it for an au­topsy. They iden­tify and doc­u­ment each case, in­clud­ing cloth­ing and jew­elry. Then, the la­bo­ri­ous task to ex­am­ine a body be­gins.

Be­cause this of­fice re­mains the only one in New Mex­ico, it serves com­mu­ni­ties through­out the state deals with a high vol­ume of cases. Martinez es­ti­mates an av­er­age of 20 bod­ies are pro­cessed at the lab in one the day. Ac­cord­ing to Martinez, the new lab fa­cil­ity is one of the best in the coun­try, with of­fi­cials from other states and Canada vis­it­ing and ob­serv­ing the New Mex­ico OMI. “It’s awe­some to work there,” he said.

Martinez added that staff “of­fer an ex­tra hand when it’s needed. Some­times, we see some­thing in the news, and it’s a case we worked on first­hand, so it feels kind of cool.”

Martinez is not al­lowed un­der his schol­ar­ship to work in the OMI more than 28 hours a week, thus en­abling him to main­tain his grades and avoid high stress. Martinez cred­its his boss for a high de­gree of un­der­stand­ing.

Martinez grew up at the fam­ily home in Los Cor­dovas. His par­ents, Fran­cisco Leroy Martinez and Pam Tru­jillo Martinez, taught their chil­dren the value of hard work and ed­u­ca­tion. Roberto Martinez’s el­dest sis­ter Vic­to­ria and her hus­band Ivan Vil­lareal raise their sons, Joaquin and Ti­ago, in Al­bu­querque. The sec­ond-born si­b­ling, Amo­gene and her hus­band Craig Wil­liams raise daugh­ter Lara-Belle in Al­bu­querque and await the birth of a new baby in a few months. Older brother Fran­cisco (Kiko) Martinez at­tends the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico and works at the Zim­mer­man Li­brary.

Roberto, along with his brother Kiko, be­longed to the Taos High Mari­achi and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Spanish Choir in Taos. In high school, Roberto Martinez par­tic­i­pated in ath­let­ics, science-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties and robotics. The fam­ily owns chick­ens, dogs, and some­times cows, pigs and lambs. “There’s noth­ing like Taos. It’s a clean, quiet place,” said Martinez.

His job and col­lege sched­ule gives him the flex­i­bil­ity to see his fam­ily. His par­ents live two and a half hours away, close enough to see him of­ten. When he vis­its his sis­ters and broth­ers-in-law, he en­joys “play­ing un­cle.” Fran­cisco lives “a few build­ings away,” from Roberto and the close sib­lings see each other of­ten.

Roberto Martinez ac­cu­mu­lated dual credit cour­ses in Taos High School, help­ing him qual­ify as a sec­ond-se­mes­ter ju­nior after only a year in the univer­sity. “The high school of­fers a lot to get us through. Stu­dents should take ad­van­tage of these op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Martinez.

Be­cause of the heav­ier aca­demic load at col­lege, Martinez re­cently dropped some of his ac­tiv­i­ties. He changed his me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing ma­jor in fa­vor of crim­i­nal jus­tice. Still, he has plenty of in­ter­ests and ac­tiv­i­ties out­side of his cour­ses and his job.

As an Ara­bic lan­guage mi­nor, Roberto be­longs to the Ara­bic Club and also stud­ies Spanish and Rus­sian and hopes to use the lan­guages for a use­ful ca­reer. He plays the gui­tar­ron for Mari­achi Univer­si­dad de Nuevo Me­jico.

An­other af­fil­i­a­tion in­cludes SEP, a col­lege en­rich­ment pro­gram. As an in­di­vid­ual and when­ever pos­si­ble, Martinez vol­un­teers with or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as clean­ing ditches at the Ron­ald McDon­ald House. He at­tends both Demo­crat and Repub­li­can meet­ings to lis­ten to speak­ers and does not claim af­fil­i­a­tion with ei­ther group. Martinez has con­sid­ered join­ing the Bee­keep­ing Club and the UNM Moun­taineer­ing Club be­cause he’s afraid of heights and thinks that mountain climb­ing might help him face his fears.

The OMI tech cited some of his phi­los­o­phy about ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view. “Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar (ac­tiv­ity) is im­por­tant,” he said. “Ev­ery­one is not the same person. Stu­dents should take ad­van­tage of what Taos has to of­fer... I’d like to con­trib­ute my­self, to make the Taos area and New Mex­ico a bet­ter place.”

Cour­tesy photo

Roberto J. Martinez

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