Atlas Shrugged statue proudly displayed at Francisco Marroquin University

From a new article in the business section of the LA Times about a school that “now ranks among the finest in Central America”:

Leftist ideology may be gaining ground in Latin America. But it will never set foot on the manicured lawns of Francisco Marroquin University.

For nearly 40 years, this private college has been a citadel of laissez-faire economics. Here, banners quoting “The Wealth of Nations” author Adam Smith — he of the powdered wig and invisible hand — flutter over the campus food court.

Every undergraduate, regardless of major, must study market economics and the philosophy of individual rights embraced by the U.S. founding fathers, including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

A sculpture commemorating Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is affixed to the school of business. Students celebrated the novel’s 50th anniversary last year with an essay contest. The $200 cash prize reinforced the book’s message that society should reward capitalist go-getters who create wealth and jobs, not punish them with taxes and regulations.

“The poor are not poor just because others are rich,” said Manuel Francisco Ayau Cordon, a feisty octogenarian businessman, staunch anti-communist and founder of the school. “It’s not a zero-sum game.”

Welcome to Guatemala’s Libertarian U. Ayau opened the college in 1972, fed up with what he viewed as the “socialist” instruction being imparted at San Carlos University of Guatemala, the nation’s largest institution of higher learning. He named the new school for a colonial-era priest who worked to liberate native Guatemalans from exploitation by Spanish overlords.

From later in the article:

Born into a middle-class family in Guatemala, [school founder] Ayau spent much of his youth in the United States, where his mother moved for a time after his father’s death. He attended Catholic high school in Belmont, Calif., then headed to the University of Toronto, where he studied chemical engineering.

He dropped out after reading Rand’s “Fountainhead.” The novel’s protagonist, Howard Roark, is expelled from architecture school after refusing to conform to its tired standards.

“I realized when I read Rand … that I was starting out my life all wrong,” Ayau said. He said he concluded that “I have to study something that I like, otherwise I’ll never be any good.”

See the full article for much more about this school and its fascinating founder.