Every July 20, Colombians in Calgary celebrate the anniversary of their independence from Spanish rule in 1810. This nation that has suffered from political divisiveness and violence saw some 8 million victims of that violence, and numerous thousands who fled the country, many of whom landed in Calgary. Each July 20, the denizens of the Colombia diaspora celebrate their freedom.
Despite the hard times, Colombians are known for hard work, drive, professionalism, and family values–all visible in the Colombian populations living in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba.
A few decades ago, refugees from Colombia arrived in Canada, taking advantage of opportunities for work, education, quality of life, and freedom from violence. Many professionals have integrated into different sectors of the local economy.
Today, the Colombian population of Calgary (and Canada, in general) focuses on supporting one another in their new land with new opportunities, and attempting to defray any differences of opinion, political ideology, and culture that would re-ignite the conflicts from which they originally fled.
As one of two Latin nations with a consulate in Calgary (the other being Mexico), the Colombians have embraced the populations present in Calgary from other Latin American countries, to foster a sense of unity and support for those from similar culture and history.
Tom and I were invited again this year to the Independence Day celebration, along with other representatives from the consulate corps of Calgary. Along with the speeches, we enjoyed Colombian music and dance, and delicious traditional food and drink.
Being among this Latin contingent, we became instantly nostalgic for Brazil. The Colombians are similarly gracious, welcoming, and beautiful. Saudades for Brazil.
The weekend before this event, we had been guests of the French Consulate of Calgary for the celebration of Bastille Day, and the next day we were guests of the Japanese Consulate of Calgary for a photographic exhibition of Tokyo before World War Two and after 2010. These are among the moments that make me proud to be part of the diplomatic corps of the United States. This is what diplomacy is all about: sharing culture, values, and dreams of the future humankind.