I am pleased to be here today for the performance of this extraordinary Colombian group in such a magnificent and inspiring museum, one which honors the achievements, wisdom and arts of our ancestors. On behalf of the Colombian embassy, I would like to thank the Smithsonian Institution for co-sponsoring this event. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who worked with us to bring this group to Washington.
In addition to the beauty of the music and dance they bring us, Viento Teatro offers us the opportunity to experience elements of indigenous oral traditions, myths and rituals, and share these with a broad audience. This cultural exchange reminds us that the close relationship between the United State and Colombia encompasses not only political and economic issues, but also cultural and social dimensions that bring us together as people with a shared history.
The performance you will see today is a result of a long process of artistic research by members of Viento Teatro and their collaboration with indigenous colleagues. It is both a creation and a rediscovery. It addresses Colombian indigenous heritage, but goes beyond it to express the very definition of the rich Colombian spirit.
Colombia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the Americas. We are home to about 85 different ethnic groups, creating a true melting pot of European, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous communities. We greatly respect this wealth of diversity. It gives us both strength and unity as a people, as well as a rich and proud cultural heritage.
Across this great mall, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, a beautiful exhibit of ancient Colombian gold and copper artifacts is currently on display. This exhibit, entitled “The Spirit of Ancient Colombian Gold,” showcases the artistry of the earliest Colombians and their cultural traditions – some pieces date back to 2,500 B.C. It is on loan from the renown Museo del Oro in Bogotá.
While art sustains our spirits, Colombians and Americans are on the political front working together every day to advance peace and development in Colombia. I would like to thank the American people for their continued support and involvement in my country. I feel strong pride for the commitment of both of our nations to promote peace, democracy and cultural exchange throughout the hemisphere.
Geography and history have made Colombia and the United States neighbors. But it is our shared values – our mutual love of democracy, freedom and opportunity for all our citizens – that makes us friends.
The arts are deeply rooted in Colombian culture. I am pleased to share with U.S. audiences this artistic endeavor that sheds light on the strength of the performing arts tradition in my country. You will experience here today a fine example of how our diverse Colombian arts community is thriving and eager to communicate with the world.