Bolivian Embassy Celebrates Bonds of Friendship, FDC Founder Honored

Friends of Bolivia were honored with the “Jaime Escalante Medal” in a special ceremony organized by “Bolivianos en USA” and the Bolivian Embassy in Washington DC. The medal, in honor of the Bolivian educator, the late Jaime Escalante, was a fitting tribute to the heartfelt contributions that North Americans have made to extending the cultural ties between the United States and Bolivia.

The honorees included photographer and Founder of Festival DC, George Newcomb; Founder of Bolivia World Network, Chris Krueger; Outreach Community Leader of Arlington County Connie Freeman; author Kevin Healy; photographer Cary Averbook; cinematographer Steven Soderbergh and Director of the Virginia Foundation for Humanities, David Bearinger.

In his introductory remarks, David Marquez, Founder of “Bolivianos en USA” stated that this was a great occasion to recognize those who have worked to disseminate the unique cultural image of Bolivia.

HE Ambassador Pablo A Canedo presented each awardee with a medal thanking them for their support and their work in the Bolivian community. He spoke passionately about the role of civil society in creating bonds between nations and lauded the many Bolivian cultural organizations which have made “Bolivia a part of Washington and Washington a part of Bolivia.” He added, many diplomatic delegations spend great resources to share their artistic traditions in the US, but Bolivia has the unique gift of having Bolivian citizens who share their rich folkloric dance and musical traditions with great feeling in their day-to-day interactions. “We have a great heart in Washington.”

Awardee Chris Kruger spoke of the importance of people-to-people cultural relations which led her to the founding of Bolivia World Network, with the idea of forming a world network of Bolivians and friends of Bolivia.

Connie Freeman was also recognized for her role as Outreach Community Leader of Arlington County for providing crisis assistance to immigrant families and identifying translation and legal services for them. She commented that she had the honor of meeting Jaime Escalante many years ago and was honored to be the recipient of a medal given in his name.

Echoing the sentiments of Ambassador Canedo, honoree George Newcomb stated. “I fell in love with Bolivian culture, with the passion and energy with which the Bolivian community promoted their culture. Once I began making many friends within the Bolivian community, it was the generosity and warmth of everyone I met without exception that captured my heart and my soul.”

Julia Garcia, a Quechua language teacher stated that George Newcomb “won the hearts and trust of Bolivians in the farthest corners of Bolivia … He has been able to touch the hearts of our people, and for that I call you an adopted son of Bolivia.”

Oscar Ordenes also commented on George Newcomb’s talents as a photographer, “He has a divine hand, it is a gift that has come to him, he takes the photo in the precise moment in which you can see the beauty of the costumes and the expressions of the persons in a manner that is very difficult to duplicate and truly humanizing. That is why one can understand why Bolivia has been named the best cultural destination of the world.”

Symbolic of the diversity of Bolivia’s cultural identity, Minister Counselor Santiago Sauciri presented each of the awardees with a “chuspa,” a traditional Bolivian woven bag which represents the 36 unique communities that are recognized in Bolivia’s Consititution.

One of the highlights of the evening was a performance by the dance group Imasumaq Bloque, performing a beautiful rendition of the Morenada. The evening could not come to an end without the enjoyment of a traditional Bolivian pastry, the “saltena.”

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