Partnership to promote racial & ethnic diversity in Colombia

For Immediate Release

Friday, April 4, 2014

MIAMI, FL – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today named international Latin pop singer/song writer Carlos Vives as the Agency’s first Inclusion Ambassador. In this role, Vives will promote social and economic inclusion of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia, which is essential to overcome decades of conflict and move towards peace.

“The diversity of Colombia is part of our cultural richness that we need to recognize and value,” said Vives. “I am honored to be able to use music to highlight that our identity is tied to our racial and ethnic individuality in order to build a durable peace.

Vives, a Grammy and multi-Latin Grammy winner, is partnering with USAID to increase awareness and understanding about diversity, minority rights, and cultural heritage throughout Colombia. These ethnic communities, representing nearly 15% of Colombia’s 45 million people, are among the most marginalized in the country and suffer from exploitation, poverty, violence, discrimination, displacement, and exclusion. Four out of ten Afro-Colombians or indigenous persons are victims of the armed conflict, more than 60% live below the poverty line, and, in urban areas, unemployment levels for Afro-Colombians are five percent higher than those of the non-ethnic population.

“For Colombia to move towards prosperity and peace, the well-being and rights of all Colombians must be taken into account, especially Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups who have been historically marginalized,” said USAID’s Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein. “Partnering with Carlos Vives is an incredible opportunity to celebrate Colombia’s diverse population, raise the profile of these vulnerable groups, and create a more inclusive foundation upon which peace can be built.”

Through this partnership, Vives will:

  • Highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion throughout Colombia during the upcoming Corazón Profundo tour in August 2014.
  • Mentor 5-10 Afro-Colombian and indigenous music groups.
  • Host a music showcase for Colombia’s Afro-Colombian Day on May 21 at his restaurant, Gaira Cafe Cumbia House, in Bogota.
  • Appear in a series of public events with Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities to promote their rights and raise awareness of opportunities to rise out of poverty.

“We all deserve to have the same access to the benefits of development because in today’s world, diversity means business and development opportunities,” Vives added.

The partnership builds on USAID’s decade-long effort to support Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities to promote their inclusion, rights, and economic opportunities. Vives’s first single of his new album features ChoQuibTown, the acclaimed Afro-Colombian group.


About Carlos Vives
Born in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta, the third largest city of Colombia’s Caribbean Region, Vives has strong ties to the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. He has made them central characters in his lyrics and music videos, has sung in their ancient language and has invited them to participate in high-visibility events such as the Billboard Music Awards’ red carpet and his stage performances. He has also spoken frequently about the great influence that the Afro-descendant culture has had on his music. In his most recent hit album Corazón Profundo (Deep Heart), which won five Latin Grammys last year, Carlos Vives included the song "La Fantástica" (The Fantastic) which speaks about diversity and the influence of African culture in the city of Cartagena. He cast Afro-Colombian actors in the song’s video clip and in the clip to his new hit single “El Mar de Sus Ojos.”

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for over 50 years. In Colombia, USAID supports Colombian efforts to transition out of conflict and build the conditions for sustainable and inclusive peace. USAID works to foster respect for diversity and equal access to opportunities for Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations. In 2013, USAID’s work in this area included: the participation of 4,500 Afro-Colombian and indigenous people in workforce development programs; a partnership with the Colombian National Business Association to help 80 companies develop diversity protocols to recruit minorities; initiatives to promote food security and income opportunities for 5,000 families in rural areas; support to 50 ethnic organizations and nearly 5,700 Afro-Colombian and indigenous community leaders to promote inclusion and human rights; and 20 Fulbright and 110 Martin Luther King scholarships providing English language training and higher education opportunities to Afro-Colombian and indigenous students.

Last updated: April 04, 2014

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