Atlantic Council and USAID Host Colombian Superstar Carlos Vives

Intimate Lunch Highlights Work on Afro-Colombian Inclusion

The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), hosted a private lunch with Carlos Vives, the Grammy-award-winning Colombian rock and vallenato fusion superstar, at its headquarters in Washington on September 17. Corporate, government, and civil society leaders joined Vives to discuss the social and economic inclusion of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia.

“I have a debt of gratitude to Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples because I owe all this fame to their music. It is an indelible part of our heritage and tradition,” said Vives during the 90-minute working lunch. He added, “We should remember every day the prejudice that still exists towards marginalized populations.”

In partnership with USAID, Carlos Vives is using his trademark voice to promote awareness of the problems facing disadvantaged groups in Colombian society. He was recently names as USAID’s first Inclusion Ambassador, working to increase understanding of diversity, minority rights, and rich cultural heritage throughout Colombia. Vives recently featured Afro-Colombian musicians and actors in the music video for his hit single, El Mar de Sus Ojos, which he featured at the luncheon.

“In Colombia’s commitment to an inclusive, democratic society, the efforts of Carlos Vives and his signature sound play a vital role in demonstrating the diversity of Colombia’s cultural fabric,” said Arsht Center Director Peter Schechter, “The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center is committed to bringing attention to the myriad of voices that will shape the region for years to come.” Deputy Director Jason Marczak added, “Vives has the unmatched ability to show Colombians and non-Colombians alike that the future of his country is one that embraces all ethnicities across all sectors. That is the path forward for real social progress.”

Wednesday’s luncheon included remarks from Mark Feierstein, USAID associate administrator, and John Feeley, principal deputy assistant secretary in the US Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Participants had the opportunity to ask Vives about his views on Afro-Colombian inclusion and the role of arts and culture in bringing Colombians together. Vives also outlined his efforts to bring Afro-Colombian musicians and artists into the international spotlight.

The luncheon was the latest in the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s ongoing work surrounding political, economic, and social issues in Colombia. The previous event was a panel discussion of Colombia’s presidential election in June. In December 2013, the center hosted Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos for a high-level salon dinner.

Related Experts: Jason Marczak and Peter Schechter