My name is Nani, I am from Uruguay and I run an NGO dedicated to the memory of my brother, Gonzalo “Gonchi” Rodriguez, which seeks to improve the quality of children’s lives. When I was born, my brother was four years old and instead of calling me Maria Fernanda, he straightaway gave me the nickname, Nanny, which, I believe, marked my destiny forever.
When he was fourteen, my brother really wanted to ride a motorbike, but my mother told him she'd rather something with four wheels; which is why my father, who was a great Rally driver in Uruguay, got him a Kart. He started off with a distinct lack of enthusiasm and, without making much of an effort, he won. It was there that he learned just how much fun it is and how exciting it can be, to stand on the podium. He was hooked for life. Year after year he rose through the categories achieving very good results along the way. I was a witness to his success as I traveled to almost all of his races with him.
When he left for Europe, something very strange happened to him. So strange that he decided to have it inscribed on the helmet which he used until his last day. After joining his new team in Italy for the Karting World Championship in Laval, France, a somewhat surprised mechanic admitted that he had expected to see someone more like a Native American. Gonchi found this very amusing and from then on, he decided to play the part of a Charrua, the Indians who once lived in Uruguay and were renowned for their ability to endure and overcome hardships to the point of death. He said, that from that moment on, he would wear feathers on his head just like a true Indian and embrace that same warrior spirit. As he ascended to higher categories, he added more feathers to his helmet.
In 1998, my brother asked me to leave Uruguay and go and live with him in Europe. He wanted me to accompany him to all of the F3000 races which, at the time, was the last category before F1. One day in 1999, he received an invitation to join one of the most prestigious KART teams in the United States. It was one of the happiest moments of his life. In just his second race, however, he lost his life. It was Saturday, September 11. He was only twenty-eight years old and his whole life lay ahead of him. I felt I was going to collapse – I never realized I loved my brother so much. In that state of mind, I decided to do something for him, taking his legacy to places where it would impact the lives of other people. Almost like something out of Japanese culture, my brother ended up marking my destiny as a "Nanny.” I left everything behind to dedicate my whole life to caring for thousands of children. I do this in memory of him, whom I believe to be one of the "greats."
Thanks to this decision, I overcame my grief in a productive way. The Fundación Gonzalo Rodriguez has allowed me to meet thousands of extraordinary people of remarkable sensitivity, who have given me a purpose in life. Then, from within that infinite sea of people surrounding me, I received an email from the United States last year telling me about a new venture, Dovert, paying homage to the legends of world motor sport. Its founder, Neil Korf, knew of our story thanks to the movie Gonchi and wondered if he could include my brother as one of the legacies celebrated in his upcoming brand. I began to laugh out loud, alone at home, and I asked myself, “Will Gonchi’s energy never stop?” There are no limits to how far we can go and how much we can achieve when we touch people’s hearts. Perhaps this is the way in which we develop as human beings, where recognizing others and remembering the good in them, are the cornerstones which accompany us on this beautiful journey we call “life.”
Neil, I am happy to see your project grow. It is an excellent idea and I am most excited to wear all the Dovert clothing and be a part of this journey.
Nani Rodríguez is the Founder and President of Fundación Gonzalo Rodriguez.
Photography © Sutton Images