Around thirty hardy souls braved a chilly Tuesday morning last week to celebrate Colombian Independence Day for the first time at Southern Institute of Technology’s Invercargill campus; they were suitably rewarded with a warm, heartfelt ceremony and authentic Colombian food to combat the cold.
Held in the courtyard beside SIT’s café, the event, organised by SIT’s Colombian staff and students, was attended by current and former Colombian students and their families, Red Cross refugee resettlement programme staff, locals and SIT staff.
The ceremony began with a patriotic speech from SIT Master of Applied Management student, Jorge Jiménez, who spoke of the need to have love and respect for all humanity, mentioning there were countries still fighting for their freedom, and the importance of “the free expression of people’s ideas, speech, love, and dreams.” He also acknowledged the appreciation the local Colombian community felt towards their new home, New Zealand.
“Finally, we also raise the Colombian flag as an expression of gratitude to New Zealand, for offering us so much, for opening its doors to us and giving us the opportunity to call it our second home.”
The flag was raised alongside the singing of the Colombian National Anthem, and was followed by SIT Chief Executive Onno Mulder, who thanked the Colombian students and staff for choosing SIT as their place of study.
“It’s a special day for our (Colombian) students and we are delighted to take part in the ceremony that marks 211 years of independence for Colombia. We are lucky to have 44 Colombians studying with us this year. You bring diversity and sharing your culture and traditions enriches us all.”
SIT staff member Adriana Rincon, who opened and closed the ceremony, said it was a “moving” celebration, and when the flag was raised as they sang the national anthem, “it was an iconic moment for our community – it was really special to see our flag next to the New Zealand flag, here in the southernmost city.”
The ceremony was completed with morning tea, community members had made traditional Colombian food, which was a hit, said Ms Rincon. “The empanadas disappeared in a second! We also had churros and pandebonos. It was a nice moment and the cherry on top of our celebration being able to share our food as well.”