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The Story About the First Person in Europe With Down Syndrome Who Managed to Get an Education and Find a Job

In 2009, the Spanish film Me, Too was released. The main character of the film is a guy with Down syndrome. This disease did not prevent him from becoming a college graduate, a teacher, and a fan of art. The movie is fictional, but it could easily be a documentary. The thing is, the main part in the film about the only person in Europe with Down Syndrome that managed to get a college degree and find a job is really played by the only European man with Down syndrome and a college degree — Pablo Pineda.

After the film was released, he instantly became world-famous. However, in his hometown of Malaga, everyone already knew who he was. We at Bright Side have watched the film and we got so inspired by his personality that we decided to share what kind of life Pablo Pineda really lives.

Pablo was born on August 5, 1974. He was the fourth child in the family of a housewife and a theater director. The mother, who was busy with Pablo’s older brothers, didn’t notice that the baby was different from the others. 3 months later, the father, who understood everything from the very beginning, decided to tell her about their son’s diagnosis.

45 years ago, the world was a different place, and Pablo’s story could just as well have ended right there, but everything went down a different path. After crying non-stop for 3 days, his mother Maria Theresa decided that the fact that her son was genetically “different” shouldn’t influence his life at all.

So, his parents decided not to treat little Pablo any different than his brothers. They didn’t hover around him, they didn’t help him dress himself, they didn’t help him find friends, and they gave him as much love and support as they could. Maybe this was what defined the course of his future life.

Pablo’s father, the director of the Cervantes theater, was a very well-educated man, he read books to his son every day, and he even taught him foreign languages, including Latin. And his mother often talked to him about modern life in society.

As a result, at the age of 5, Pablo was able to go to school because he surprised his teachers with his sharp mind and deep knowledge.

It was actually in school that Pablo learned he was different from other children: at the age of 7, his teacher decided to tell him about it. When the boy heard he had Down syndrome, he just asked, “Does that mean I am stupid?” and when he heard a solid “No” he just decided to not pay attention to it.

Down syndrome is a disorder that stems from a person having one extra chromosome, but it is this chromosome that impacts a whole number of physiological features which include: a long tongue, slanted eyes, short stature, low muscle tone, thick fingers, and possible difficulties in learning new information. And Pablo Pineda was able to turn all of these things into advantages.

Low muscle tone gives him incredible flexibility: for example, he can get into a lotus position without any trouble whatsoever. His long tongue is just another reason for him to work on his pronunciation and his thick fingers were easy to train when he was doing homework for school. This was what Pablo did: he spent 6-7 hours a day learning new material. And in order to concentrate better, he turned on loud, rhythmic music.

Pablo has inspired other people and he was the first example, but now he is not the only one. After he finished school, people in Spain started to give their children with Down syndrome a chance to attend classes in regular school, and now 85% of children with Down syndrome go to regular schools.

But Pablo’s story became really well-known when he entered college. As a student with Down syndrome, he had a really tough time in the college environment. Other students ignored him until his second year, and professors were very skeptical about him. For the entire year, nobody even wanted to talk to him and everyone was scared to even touch him.

Pablo felt completely helpless and, at one point, he even wanted to drop out of college for good. But he found the power to stay and decided that other people’s opinions will never influence his decisions again.

In the end, his graduation ceremony was the happiest moment of his life. People were applauding him when he went up to receive his diploma. The students and the professors gave him a standing ovation and his mother couldn’t even get up from her chair — she was so worried!

Since that moment, Pablo became more and more popular. The word “the only” not only appeared on his school photo album. He was the only one in Europe among the people with Down syndrome, with a college degree, with several diplomas, including art and pedagogical psychology, the only professor with Down syndrome, and now the only Spanish person with Down syndrome to play the main role in a film.

In 2009, when the film Me, Too about Pablo Pineda was released, the entire world found out about this man and this actor. The viewers and critics were crying and hiding their tears and giving standing ovations. And the list of Pablo’s important awards was extended to include the Concha de Plata. The jury of the San Sebastián International Film Festival gave him the award for Best Actor.

The character of the film is almost completely based on Pablo. And the film is not just about studying. The story of the seemingly impossible love of a person with Down syndrome and a regular girl is also part of Pablo Pineda’s story.

According to Pablo, the love scene was the hardest one for him to do. He didn’t know what to do and decided: here goes nothing. Pablo is sure that girls will never come home and tell their parents, “Mom! Dad! I fell in love with a guy with Down syndrome!” They want stability. So, a plump, short, Spanish guy has to fight for love. And at this moment, he is losing that fight.

But Pablo Pineda hasn’t gotten discouraged. He says that he has fallen in love hundreds of times and he never thinks it’s a tragedy when a girl says she just wants to be friends with him. And having friends is actually even much more than he had dreamed of.

He is often recognized outside and every day he walks past a square named after him: after he returned from San Sebastián, the mayor of Malaga gave him an award and renamed the square after him. Pablo is now on the list of famous citizens of Malaga along with Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas, who were also born in this city. So, Pablo has a lot of chances to meet a nice girl.

Pablo is rich enough now to have plastic surgery. He could change his face and remove the noticeable signs of Down syndrome. But he doesn’t want to do it — he likes himself the way he is. And Pablo is trying to help other people with Down syndrome feel the same way.

At the moment, Pablo Pineda still lives in his hometown of Malaga. He teaches, he spends a lot of time doing charity work, he collaborates with the Adecco Foundation and the non-profit organization Lo que de verdad importa, he has meetings with people who have Down syndrome, and he helps them believe in themselves and find work.

But what about his movie career? Pablo decided to take a break because continuing it would mean he’d be telling someone else’s stories, and he wants to tell his own — about going against nature, breaking down stereotypes, and changing the world for the better.

What preconceived assumptions have you had to deal with in your life?

Preview photo credit Yo, también / Alicia Produce