Colombian students at Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) are counting down the days to celebrate and show their patriotism on Colombian Independence Day, July 20th, because this year they are having their first ever ceremony at the Invercargill campus.
SIT staff member Adriana Rincón, who is originally from Colombia, says there is a great deal of excitement building for the day. It will be observed with a flag-raising ceremony, the playing of the Colombian national anthem - "¡Oh Gloria Inmarcesible!" (Oh Unfading Glory!), followed by a morning tea with traditional Colombian food, from 8.30 - 9.00am on Tuesday 20th July.
Attendees will be Colombian students and their families, SIT staff and students, and invited guests.
Numbers of Colombian students attending SIT have reached the threshold of being able to acknowledge them as a community, says Ms Rincon, with more than a dozen Colombians currently enrolled in mainstream programmes – usually master’s, postgraduate and diploma qualifications, as well as English language programmes.
Ms Rincon said it meant a lot to the students to have SIT observe their national day with a flag- raising ceremony, “...we value SIT taking this opportunity to link and engage with the different nationalities studying here, and to promote and support and connect with our culture through these activities.”
“It’s really important when we see our flag raised at SIT, it’s even more important when you live overseas, away from your home country,” she said.
In Colombia the day is a public holiday, with Colombians usually celebrating by spending time with family and attending parades held in the larger cities. Main streets are closed off and people gather to watch the spectacle; all the military are involved, there are aircraft fly-pasts, dance and performances; traditional dress is worn in the colours of the flag, and the event is also televised so the whole population can join in.
“Traditionally everyone - every single house - puts a flag in their window or raises a flag to celebrate the pride we have in our nation, our flag and our culture - these moments are really special to us.”
The colours in their flag have significance to the Colombian people as well, said Ms Rincon. Yellow traditionally stands for gold and richness, “but the true wealth of our nation is our people.” Blue stands for water and the rich resource of the seas around them – the Pacific ocean and the Caribbean sea. And the colour red symbolises the blood of the people who lost their lives in Colombia’s journey as a nation.
Ms Rincon said a pleasantly surprising outcome of the Covid pandemic has seen Latin American international students already living in NZ, moving out of the bigger cities and venturing elsewhere, now willing to look at other opportunities.
“We don’t have internationals coming from overseas yet, but as a result of Covid, I think Latin American international students are more open now to different opportunities, and they are coming south when they see the lower living costs and study options here,” said Ms Rincon.
“I think they are looking at Southland as a place of new opportunities. At SIT this year alone, there have been at least five different Latin American countries represented at one time, with students enrolled from Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico and Argentina.”
The celebration also provides impetus for the wider Latin American community in Southland to connect again and Ms Rincon believes those connections are growing too.
“There are Colombian migrants – current and former students and their families - and also former refugees living here – its great they have the chance to join together as one,” she said