By: Thoughts of a Random Citizen Podcast
I have an in-person interview today with Fernando Pujalt, a resident of Spain with a crazy background ranging from Peru to South Africa over to the US. With a degree and a corporate job, and now an entrepreneur here in Spain.
Welcome, Fernando. How do you pronounce your last name?
It's called Pujalt, a Catalan last name, and a pretty old one too. It dates back to about the year 900, something that in Catalonia is well-taken. You've got Catalan last names, many of them being derivative from a French last name or a Castilian last name or derivative from another language. Then you've got the old last names, your parents' last names, or the ones that end in T tend to be pretty old. My last name comes from Puig Alt, which means high point, and you can actually go to a town that is less than an hour away and has one of the observatories of Catalonia. The area is called the Anoia, and the town is called Pujalt, spelled verbatim as my last name.
It has a very strong connection in my family. My dad's side has Catalan descent, even though none of us spoke Catalan, and on my mom's side, Italians from Genoa. So I've got these two very high, very strong, very proud, very productive self-sustained cultures, which are very alike. People from Genoa are called the Italian Catalans, and the people from Catalonia are called the Genevese Spaniards. They're a little more centered, more conservative, hard workers, more serious, than, when you go to Andalucia and, or to Naples, or to Sicily; it's a party. You know, people are having fun in the south. So, it's funny that I have a family from two very different sides that are so
Speaking of that, I know you're based now in Spain, in Sitges, but you're from Peru, and you lived a long time in the US. Can you elaborate on those for us?
Right, and in the middle, I grew up in Southern Africa, in Swaziland and Mozambique where I stayed there for about eight years.
How did you find those places?
I didn't, my father took me there. I was a child, and when he first told me I was going to Mozambique, I had to look it up on a map. It was very exciting, starting to travel at the age of eight. I always tell people I got on the plane at the age of eight, and I never got off. I got more miles than most pilots, and it kind of started there, but I'm Peruvian born. I was born in Jesus Maria, Lima, in the hospital El Empleado, which was kind of the people's hospital in 1979. So I really grew up in Lima but I would spend three to four months a year in a beach town called Punta Hermosa, which is where most of my family from my mom's side lives today.
Then, when I was eight years old, my father got a really good job in the United Nations International Labor Office, and we moved to Mozambique. We flew through Brazil to get to Southern Africa, from there we got to Mozambique. We arrived there in 1988, so there was still Apartheid, you know, when they would separate the people. It was legal segregation. Southern Africa went through legal segregation until the early nineties when Nelson Mandela got elected. War was declared, there was a lot of pressure from the world, something very similar to what's happening to Russia today. It just did not become sustainable for Southern Africa, but they pulled that change, and lived through all that.
That was an interesting paradigm in my life, and it changed me very quickly. When I arrived there, I felt I was coming to another world, another planet, a totally different culture, but with time, I realized that we're not that different after all. Some kid growing up in Peru and some kid growing up in Southern Africa, we're very similar, we're 98% similar, and 2% ego.
That's a good way to put it. Do you have much diversity in places like Peru, or is it less than it would be in places like Sitges?
Well, Sitges is a special place, it's an anomaly of the world. I would say in Peru you have a lot of European embedded culture, a lot of Spanis, Northern Italian as well. Of course, it was a Spanish colony. Most of the population is Mestizo, a Native-American mixed with a white would be the higher percentage of the population, some more than others. In my case, I am about 10% Native-American. Then you do have some African culture in Peru. Still, it's a small population, mostly located in certain areas, like Chincha, an area in Peru that descents very strongly from African-Americans, slaves in the16th, 17th, 18th centuries.
Peru also has a big Japanese culture, big Chinese culture, they came over for the fishing, the railroads, and so on, just like they did in many countries. So there is an international presence of people, but the culture is very much Peruvian centered. We love food, and that's because it's such a fertile country, things grow in Peru that don't grow anywhere else in the world. We're very proud of that. There's a lot of folklore, the Incas are mostly from Peru, and of course, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia in a smaller facet part. So you do have a lot of international influence, but I would say the highest percentage of the population will be Mestizo.
Well, at this point in the world, the way that everything's going, an international influence is kind of hard to kick out.
Exactly, when people call me a globalist I think, "I'm sorry, I did not know the world came with borders." Suppose the world did come with borders, then every single house, and within every house, every room should have a border, because we can break down the individual. So, that's one of the things that I do see myself as a born globalist. It just makes no sense, when there is not that fun competition like the world cup or sports, or the guys playing against the girls on a monopoly game or some fun. If you're not happy, if there's competition and no fun, then you're just walking backward.
So you're saying that you like things like the world cup, right?
I love the world cup, because we're having fun, and if your team is winning is pretty fun.
Ok. I'm wondering you have some perspective with the Romanian situation as you just got back from there. Did you hear what was going on over there?
Yeah. I've been following it. I'm a history buff. Part of what I studied was geopolitics and political science, and understanding the history of Ukraine and Russia you have to go back to when the initial Vikings -actually called the Rus Vikings- moved into Kyiv, then you've got the Cossacks, and the Tatars, and the Mongols, and it's just all this diverse group of people. Most people think of Russia as a monogenic type of people, but they're not, they're very different. You have Mongolian looking Russians, blonde, blue eyes; you've got the Chechen Muslims, brown hair, dark skin, brown eyes. So when you understand the collective of what the Russian states were, you understand a little bit better what's going on.
If you look at Ukraine, which name means "the border state", it's a mixture between the Polish Lithuanian, with the Cossacks and the Tatars, as well as some other Russian tribes. So, anything that somebody could say about Ukraine, most probably, in one way or another, they're right. Like when Putin says, "let's go in there to take care of neo-Nazis," that doesn't make sense, but if you read about Barrera, who was a nationalist from World War II, he allied with the Nazis, to be arrested by the Nazis later on, of course; he allied to generate more Ukrainian nationalism. Then you've got the partisans, they were mostly connected with the Russians, with the Soviet Union at the time. Then you had the more moderate side, connected with the Polish, the Lithuanians, more of the Western Orthodox religious; even though the Orthodox religion in Ukraine is the only Orthodox church that is aligned with the Vatican.
So you've got lots of different groups of people, lots of different philosophies. You could say they're Catholics, they're Nazis, they're communists, and I'm sure you'll find them, but when you look at the party, the actual national neo-Nazi so called party, they want two parliament seats; in 2015 that's a joke, it's like saying that the guys that rated the white house on January 6th, that's most Americans.
Yeah, when you were just saying that, I was thinking, the more that I travel and go around, the more I see that no government is really the face of the people. All governments don't even remotely incorporate what the people of their country are like. They try, and some are better than others, but for example, Putin can't just say, "There's Nazis over there. We gotta take care of the problem." Because you could say the same thing with the US, but if you go to California as opposed to a deep Arkansas, and you're going to get a bit of a different demographic.
Absolutely, and a different philosophy, and you've got people that tend to incline more liberal, more conservative, more religious, less religious, they go for the Knicks or the Lakers, and it's very tribalistic, and that's the problem, that politics today have become a professional sport. People thinks, "This is my team, and no matter how wrong they are, I'll stick with them. I know that he did murder the child, but that kid was pretty bad."
So they tie up their livelihood in it not just like a government in which you volunteer or give back out of the goodness of your heart. It becomes your livelihood, life, career, money, and status. So when you get that ingrained, if you get in a situation where you're running up for reelection, and think you're about to be out of a job and out of all this other stuff, well, I guess you can't blame them, but you can, because that's what their position is. Also it blows my mind that it's called public office, yet they're the most like private, and you're not allowed to see what's going on with them.
Anyways, before we haven't even really dove in yet, we were talking about how this friend of mine just got back from Romania and how he was asked to join the army because there was a drone that was down. Russia was wondering if Romania did that as Romania is a NATO, and militias were going crazy. So, being a world citizen could you share your thoughts about all of this?
This is a proxy war. Unfortunately, when a proxy war is in a country so close to us, we connect much more. If this would have happened 40 years ago, nobody would be talking about it. It'd be on page number three of the New York times, but now war is seen as a sickness. It always has been, but now we know about it, e hear about it, we're living that war. If somebody comes with some bullshit statement that it's not happening, we're just not buying it. So I think that's what's happening is that we are just being as cautious as possible, and it's a good time to be cautious. I think Romania, just like every other border country of Ukraine, is thinking we already have to prepare ourselves for one of the biggest humanitarian crises since WWII, it's much bigger than what happened in Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Croatia, at the time with Yugoslavia in its moment, because we are talking to a much larger population. It's also affecting the world economy and world trade a lot more, so I think it's more about cautiousness. It's more about letting Russia know that the world is watching and it's better to be safe than sorry.
If somebody tells me this is unprecedented, I would say it's unexpected but not something that had no possibility of happening. This has been brewing since Russia took Crimea. They also did that to Georgia. They went into Chechnya as well, and the world didn't react. The world said, "bad Putin," and there were some light sanctions. Now, companies are shutting down for public relations, trust me, McDonald's doesn't really care about people's health; it's just being in Russia right now is a really bad public relations disaster, and I think it's the right response. I think the consumer has the power, not the people, the consumer, for example, babies, no power, the parents of the babies, big power, they buy diapers, they buy formula, they buy toilet paper, they buy baby wipes, that's power, the power of purchasing.
Today consumer power is so important that companies want to get out of Russia because it's a public relations nightmare, and it could actually boost the company's reputation. It's that cold, companies make money, lose money, and there's no morality in growing a business and feeding your stakeholder. On the other hand, getting out quickly and being the first to get out is like a pat on the back. Sure, it sounds hypocritical; none of them stopped selling stuff because of the Iraq war. So, it depends on the temperature of the world, and right now Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Moldavia are reacting; you're going to see a lot of the countries surrounding Ukraine being very cautious about the days to come.
Speaking of that corporate lifestyle, I know you have a great entrepreneurial background as of today. You grew up in Southern Africa, Peru, but then you got educated in a university in the US; you've read more than 30 encyclopedias about presidents and other stuff. Can you tell us about your background and the US side of things?
I arrived in Miami. My father was a great member of the United Nations, but not the greatest entrepreneur. Good heart, bad pocket. So we tried to open a business in Miami. When I was 16 years old, we moved there, and I started at a small Catholic university called St. Thomas university. I always loved history; I wanted to be a history teacher, but me being also a math fan, and when I saw how much they pay, I also did a degree in computer engineering and computer information system. So I did that, and I started history. Then, later on, I changed my major from history to sociology, but just because I couldn't be a history teacher, it didn't mean that I couldn't know history. So I added as many history classes as I could, but it was really a passion for me. I was passionate about the anthropology of human behavior. If you look at sociology, it's really the anthropology of human behavior. It's very hard to understand sociology if you don't understand history. Like math is the basis of science, history is the basis of social science.
Do you think that history affects not only sociology? How much do you think our history has been either changed or rewritten? How important is it to try to gather all sources? It's a famous quote that history is written by the winners, but is that something you see a lot in your studies, especially considering it's a passion?
I was just curious. When I learn about history, I try to avoid winners and losers. The best history is the one you get from archeologists and anthropologists because they tell you how people lived. Somebody tells you there was a huge war here, and thousands of people died, and then a guy tells you they scanned the whole ground and there was no war. Because we know where wars happened and we leave marks, like with dinosaurs and fossils. So, history and science are kind of mixed together. I really focus a lot on that.
Today we have DNA tests, carbon dating, it just confirms the history so we can hear a story. Most of the history that I studied in the eighties is wrong. I took a whole freaking class on the Saxon invasion of England, and they told this whole story about the Saxon invasion, and when analyses of the land were made, well, where are the battles? Now they say maybe it wasn't an invasion, maybe it was a migration. It's very different, having somebody breaking into your home and stealing your TV versus a friend walking in your house and watching the game with you. That's what we're talking about.
So, I was very passionate about history because whenever somebody told me something like mangoes are good for you, I'd ask where's the study, and people would just have gotten the information from Instagram. If someone told me Brazilian nuts are good for you, lower heart disease, and help with cholesterol control. We can talk about that; there was actually an article in a study done on 32,000 people for over 17 years. You could read the study if you have the time, you could read the 378-pages study or take my word for it, but I will give you the study. What I'm saying is that you actually have to have a follow-up question when somebody tells you things like these. Where do you get that information from?
Dude you belong in the "show me state," which is Missouri. You know how every state in the US has its state motto, like "a sunshine state" belongs to Florida. Well, Missouri is the "show me state," and it essentially means that you can say whatever you want, but show me because and I'm not going to believe you until you show me.
Absolutely, I want to understand, and I don't come from a skeptic point of view. If you want to know where things come from, ask. It doesn't come from a bad place; it's the opposite. If a person tells me, "Hey, I was able to slice a tomato with a spoon," I ask, "how were you able to do that?" I want some details. So if I have no interest about something, I will not ask questions, because I'm not trying to ridicule anyone, which I did in the past. I used that to hurt people, just to embarrass them or do things like that, but as you grow, as you mature, I'm really interested in what you have to say. I think there's a valid point in what you're saying, I just want to get a little more details on it. So it comes from a good place to question.
Yeah. I'll be out at a bar, and I will just get lost in as many conversations as possible; I'll find the most unique, odd people in the bar and just ask them a thousand questions just because I'm just curious. I just love to find information in more perspectives from as many people as possible because I think if they say something that I think is wrong, I just wanna know why they think that. That causes growth, and on top of that, at what point did we get from not trusting anything on the internet and verifying everything, to believing that if it's on Instagram and Facebook it's gotta be true. At what point did that flip? Because it flipped.
It's terrifying, but that's because people don't know history.
Exactly, and full circled. I love history too, and I'm not saying I have your knowledge.
Still, it's like watching Star Wars, or Lord of the rings. I have friends that are psychos; they will tell you the story of a story of a story of shit that was invented. I find that fascinating; I'm a non-fiction freak. I only care about non-fiction except when it comes to a Lord of the Rings, there's a story behind the story. It's pretty fascinating how a human can dedicate his life to creating such a fantastic story within a story, within a story. I think that's the beauty of creativity, which I personally do not have. I know where I'm good at, and I'm very clear at areas that I am not, and I stick to what I'm good at because if not, I'm not doing a service to the world.
I could not agree more, man. So, reeling back in. You've talked a bit about foods, and I wanted to highlight what you're trying to do in the entrepreneurial game, which is creating this natural food delivery. What is the entrepreneurial startup you're going through here in Spain?
When I was in the United States, I quickly realized there are healthy foods and unhealthy foods. That's easy. Now, figuring out the balance and how much and what it gives you is very difficult. So I get back to the anthropology of things, and one of the things that I say when somebody throws something at me, is, did we eat it 30,000 years ago? Because human evolution did not start to consume high fructose corn syrup until the early sixties, mid-seventies, and it started to increase and increase, and here we are today. Our bodies don't understand that consumption of sugar. We started consuming sugar in the 17th, 18th, 19th century, and then in the 20th century and 21st century, that peaked.
As humans, homo-sapiens, we've been walking the earth for over 200,000 years. I'd say it's a fully evolved precedence, and what have we been eating? Well, 99% of those years, we ate pretty basic shit. We had fruit and berries, and we did have some animals, not a lot because we did not have refrigeration. So we couldn't have cattle because you kill the cow, then what are you going to the whole damn cow? That came to salting around 8,000, maybe 9,000 years ago, maybe a little more. So you were able to preserve some foods. We did beef jerky and so on, but that's the latter part of human existence. Our digestive systems did not evolve in 50 years or in a hundred years; our digestive systems evolved in 200, 300, 4,000 years.
I went through history, understanding the anthropological part of the human body, and I asked myself, what do we need? What do we need to perform properly? What do we need for our bodies to go well? So you go back to some of the answers that we know; we have a pretty good idea of how many vitamins we have to consume, how many minerals we have to consume, and what phytochemicals are good for you. For that, we have done a lot of scientific research on food. Before they come up with a particular pill, every pharmaceutical study has researched some based product plant-based products or mineral products. Then arrived the medicine, so we have so much study on minerals, on vitamins and on plants.
I thought, if we need all these different things, why can't we just build a diet that covers those things? Why don't we have a diet where you eat your vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals every day? For many years, I started eating that way while not stopping drinking. It's my sin. Still, I started noticing skin changes, inflammation, body, energy, and stress levels. I feel better 10 years later. I feel better at 42 than I did at 32. I look better; my skin tone's better; I look fitter; I sleep better; I have more energy when I walk around; I have less pain in my body. That's not supposed to happen; it's supposed to work the other way. I did see the benefits of that.
I call this concept of eating: multitarian, a plant-based diet, mostly vegetarian, but it does include some animal foods, like eggs, which could be anti-inflammatory; fish, extremely high in nutrients; yogurt. It's anti-inflammatory animal food, and it's 10 to 15% of the recommendation of the diet itself, but you do require that to have your basic needs from natural foods. So I don't know where vegans will get their vitamin B12 from. They can take pills, but you ca