Belize has grown immensely from the tiny country that survived on coconuts, Mahogany and chicle. Belize has grown and jobs that were never available in the country are now widely contested should a business place have an opening. His face is well known, his comments strike a chord and his questions leave burning marks when fired. He holds a job that 25 years ago, Belize did not have. This week, we feature reporter and director of Channel 7 News Jules Vasquez.
Born in Belize City, Jules recalls enjoying the feel of cool sand breaking beneath his toes. On July 8th, 1970, Nestor and Hazel welcomed their last bundle of joy to the family. Along with his two sisters and two brothers, he loved his family’s farm in Tropical Park.
Jules’ education began at St. Catherine’s Elementary which he successfully completed. The Vasquez family began broadcasting in 1981 when Jules was just 11-years-old. At the time, he was enrolled at St. John’s High School where he majored in business studies. Graduating in 1986, he moved on to St. John’s College Junior College. After majoring in General Studies and successfully completing, Jules moved to Florida where he attended Florida Atlantic for a year. After his junior year, he decided to receive an education from a television station and chose to return home.
Returning from Florida, USA, Jules began working at his family’s business, Tropical Vision Limited as a Master Control Operator. “As a Master Control Operator, I basically operated the master controls. My job was as a switcher and I basically switched the controls from program to program,” he explains.
Moving up and learning more, Jules began a daily live newscast in 1994. Prior to that year, Channel 7 got its news from local radio powerhouse Radio Belize. However, since February 14th, 1994 Jules has been manning the news. Their first piece included a story that featured Belizean artist and sculptor George Gabb who sadly passed away on March 1st, 2007. Since then the newscast has grown and has garnered much popularity. “News comes first and to me, that says it all. Here at Channel 7, we live, breath, and unfortunately dream the news. We resist puff, avoid tiny finishes, abhor cliché and simulated happy endings, and search out conflict, new inspiration and truth forged in the smoldering furnace of contention,” Jules explains so colorfully.
The same year that Jules began his daily newscast was the same year he tied the knot. On October 7th, he walked down the aisle and emerged a married man after having said, “yes” to his school sweetheart, Jumana Ponnambalam. The couple is the proud parents of Syon (8) and Sahar (11).
Tropical Vision Limited not only airs hardcore news but it also airs mostly American programs and the occasional Belizean program. Channel 7 also holds the local rights to the National Basketball Association (NBA) games, National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl, the Tour De France and most recently the FIFA World Cup. “Apart from the news we also air live local programs and talk shows, but not as much as we would like. Soon though,” he states.
Jules has been in the front line of many a crimes, political showdowns and various scandals. He has never shied from putting a microphone and camera in front of those people that everyone eagerly wants to question but never does. Channel 7 has been openly criticized by some viewers stating that they are “pursuing its own radical agenda.” However, in the beginning of 2007, Jules was honored to be the Independent Reformer Weekly’s Man of the Year. Their editorial board that chose him commented on his “apparent sociable and fearless journalist.” As per other awards, Jules exclaimed, “The biggest award I ever won, I keep on the towel rack in my bathroom, right above the toilet. It helps me to keep things in perspective; I know my ladders from my snakes. Awards, honored accomplishments, treasured achievements, all celebrate the past. What I wanna know is, ‘what’s next, what’s tomorrow, and always, always, as James Brown said, ‘you’re only as funky as your last cut.’”
Channel 7 owns cable affiliates in Belmopan and Orange Walk and their live broadcast go national or at least almost. “We are always expanding our vision, if not our budget. Trying to do more with less is sometimes difficult but we like the challenge. We are looking to expand our signal coverage through fiber optic transmission, looking to develop more local programming and trying to get our signal to San Pedro, Live.”
In his free time Jules enjoys playing basketball and loves to visit Caye Caulker Village. However, Jules does not intend to leave Belize City. “I plan to live and die in Belize City. Man, what a ride! I was born in the city and I feed off its frenetic spastic energy. I thrive on its chance operations, I feed off its sense of being, forever in transit, I vibe off of the flux; it is a place forever becoming … what? We don’t know,” he laughs.
Since 1981 when the Vasquez family first began it broadcasting business, Channel 7 stands as the longest operating broadcaster in the country. Because of his ruthlessness when it comes to asking the hard hitting questions, his guts to stand on the front line, and his ever comical but dry humor, Jules Vasquez has taken television reporting to a whole new level in the country and has forever made his imprint in “Our Belize Community.”