Friday, November 28, 2008

Good News Out Of Colombia: Medellín

The metropolitan area of Medellín is settled within the Aburrá Valley.

The work of civil-society and human-rights groups is helping a Colombian city to reach beyond conflict and notoriety, finds Andrew Stroehlein.

The locals in Medellin march for peace in Colombia.

"This city used to be the murder capital of the world, but now look around Medellín", Mauricio Mosquera tells me with a smile. The director of the community TV TeleMedellín has a point: there are so many visible improvements here, it is impossible to deny things are looking up for Colombia's second city.

Santo Domingo cable cars provide affordable transportation in Medellin

You can see it all around as you travel in the cable car that takes you up the mountain to the neighbourhood of Santo Domingo Savio. The high-wire ride is not a tourist attraction; it is a part of the public-transport system that moves people from the metro train at the river up to what was once one of the most violent parts of the country. The bustling neighbourhood is still poor, but it is safe to wander around, and it exudes an unmistakable pride: there is almost no litter anywhere, and none of the cable-car stations, not even the posts supporting the line up and down the mountain, have the tiniest tag of graffiti.

El Poblado neighborhood in Medellin

This system, built in 2004, is just one symbol of Medellín's renaissance. Regeneration projects are improving the city landscape everywhere, and - from the new administrative and university buildings to the shopping centres to the public libraries in the popular neighbourhoods to the interactive museum - offer something for everyone. People are out and about in huge numbers in all the revitalised public spaces: lovers wandering amongst the Fernando Botero statues near the old townhall and children jumping through the pools and fountains across the river from the new one.

In fact, a few days in Medellín makes it hard to believe that this city's name was once synonymous with the local-boy-turned-bad Pablo Escobar. By Andrew Stroehlein.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Paragliding Above Medellin, Colombia

Travel Adventures in Medellin, Colombia.

Medellin is regarded as the main centre for paragliding in Colombia thanks to the rugged topography and favorable winds, the city and region provides great conditions for paragliding.

Medellin is home to some of the best national paragliding pilots in all of Colombia.

A great view of Medellin, Colombia.

Paragliding is perhaps often viewed as a higher-risk sport than it actually is. Nonetheless, there is great potential for injury for the reckless or ill-prepared.

The safety of the sport is directly proportional to the skill and sense of the pilot. It's important to note that almost all paragliding accidents are the result of pilot error. Paragliding equipment is very well built and, if properly cared for, will never fail. As an example, the average paraglider has around 30 lines connected to the risers, yet each one is strong enough to support the full weight of a pilot individually.

Aerodynamically, newer paragliders that are not within advanced or competition categories are rated for safety and will tend to recover from most incidents on their own (without pilot intervention).

Given that equipment failure of properly certified paragliding equipment can be considered a non-issue, it is accurate to say that paragliding can be a very safe sport. The individual pilot is the ultimate indicator of his or her personal safety level.

In general:

The safe pilot will not fly at sites that pose an unreasonable challenge to his/her flying skills.

The safe pilot will not be influenced by the possibly negative examples set by others.

The safe pilot will only fly on days in which the weather is conducive to safe flight. Turbulence in all its forms is enemy #1 for a flying paraglider wing. Because paragliders have no solid support, their shape (and ability to fly) can be ruined by an errant down draft or the like. Therefore, turbulence or conditions conducive to turbulence generation is a primary factor in determining whether the weather is safe.

Pargliding trips available in Medellin

The following weather is to be avoided:

Excessive wind speed or gustiness. 15mph wind is fairly windy for a paraglider, and most pilots won't take off in much more wind than that. High winds will also increase the effect of mechanical turbulence. Gusty conditions will make take-offs and landings more dangerous and will make collapses more likely while in flight.

A wind direction that will not allow a take-off (or landing) into the wind, or at least generally so. Tail-wind take-offs are to be avoided at all cost. Assurance that an [apparent] headwind is not actually a 'rotor' is also critical (rotors comprise a form of mechanical turbulence).

Excessively high atmospheric instability, indicated in part by overdeveloped cumulus clouds, or in worse situations by cumulo-nimbus cloud formation. Such conditions will contribute to turbulence. If cumulo-nimbus (thunderstorm) clouds are anywhere in sight, the effect of severe atmospheric instability may exist where you are.

Rain or snow. Because a paraglider wing is made from fabric, it has the ability to absorb moisture. Moreover, the weight (or lack thereof) of a paraglider wing is critical to its performance. Flying into heavy rain or snow will weigh the wing down and may terminate a flight quickly. A wet wing is also less controllable, less stable (more prone to collapse) and will exhibit less tendency to recover into normal flight.

High above Medellin Colombia

General safety precautions include pre-flight checks, helmets, harnesses with back protection (foam or air-bag), reserve parachutes, and careful pre-launch observation of other pilots in the air to evaluate conditions.

For pilots who want to stretch themselves into more challenging conditions, advanced ‘SIV’ (simulation d’incidents en vol, or simulation of flying incidents) courses are available to teach pilots how to cope with hazardous situations which can arise in flight. Through instruction over radio (above a lake), pilots deliberately induce major collapses, stalls, spins, etc, in order to learn procedures for recovering from them. (As mentioned above, modern recreational wings will recover from minor collapses without intervention).

For more info on paragliding in Medellin; Paragliding in Medellin

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Death And Destruction Results From Heavy Rainfall In Medellin

The flooded streets of Medellin.

The northern industrial city, like much of the rest of Colombia, has been hit by seasonal rains that have saturated the earth, leading to deadly avalanches in hilly areas.

The mudslide in El Poblado, Medellin's most affluent district, swept away houses as their occupants slept early on Sunday morning, local police told reporters.

The home of Carlos Sanchez, who for 37 years promoted Colombian coffee as the mustachioed character Juan Valdez familiar from advertising campaigns, is located next to the destroyed area.

At least 15 people feared dead, as workers work around the clock to locate any survivors.

Mudslides also partially cut off the highway linking Manizales, the capital of Caldas province, to Bogota on the stretch through Tolima.

After weeks of torrential rains, the mudslides in the mountainous region of Antioquia's barrio Belen, Rincon has affected residents in this shanytown district of Medellin.

A couple of buses are precariously hanging off the side of the road as a local resident recovers personal property swept away in the rainfall.

The heavy rainfall swepted into a local church in Antioquia.

Many residents were left without homes after the heavy rainfall contributed to the collapsing of many homes.

Many residents lost everything they owned in the floods destructive path.

Friends and neighbors look on helplessly as people search through the wreckage trying to salvage any little bit of their personal belongings.

A simple photo recovered in the search would make a world of a difference, especially for those who lost everything.

The heavy rainfall in Novemeber has dampened many local residents spirits but the Paisas are a strong and resilent people. They have the strength to keep the faith in times like this as they look forward to the day when they can put this horrible experience behind them.

Even in times like these, the Paisas always manage to keep a smile on their face, true Paisa fashion.

The proud spirit of the Paisa's is something that makes them see beyond the tragedies and hardships created by the heavy rains destructive path.

Mayor of Medellin, Alfonso Salazaar, is out on scene as workers continue the search for those lost in the mudslide, praying for a miracle.

The rainfall continues...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Juan Pablo Angel has a career full of goals

New York Red Bulls forward Juan Pablos Angel, right, celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against Columbus on Oct. 18.

The New York Red Bulls' star forward has put up high numbers in a 16-year career that's spanned three continents. He is MLS' best foreign acquisition by far.

When Major League Soccer decided a couple of years ago to allow its teams to circumvent the salary cap if they so desired, it opened up a whole new world.

England's David Beckham came to the Galaxy and showed how clubs that choose celebrity over substance don't necessarily prosper.

Mexico's Cuauhtemoc Blanco came to Chicago and taught his fellow Fire players the fine art of diving and feigning injury, along with some genuine soccer skills.

Brazil's Denilson came to Dallas and showed how a few rubes in Texas can be taken for a lot of money.

And Colombia's Juan Pablo Angel came to New York and proved that the MLS designated player rule isn't all bad.

Angel (pronounced "AHN-hell") has been far and away the best of the league's foreign acquisitions under the so-called "Beckham rule," at least in terms of on-field performance.

Juan Pablo Angel #9 of the New York Red Bulls and Bobby Burling #14 of the Chivas USA battle for the ball at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on June 6, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey The Red Bulls defeat the Chivas USA 1-0

The 33-year-old from Medellin, Colombia, is the prime reason why the Red Bulls will be playing in Sunday's MLS Cup final against the Columbus Crew in Carson.

Beckham and Blanco might put people in the seats, but Angel puts the ball in the net -- without all the histrionics -- and he earns his $1.6 million a year.

"His presence in the locker room is invaluable to this team," said New York goalkeeper Danny Cepero. "I think if you were to come in and not know who Juan Pablo was, really you wouldn't think of him as a superstar. He's just like one of the regular guys."

Acquired in April 2007, the forward has played in 47 MLS regular-season games and has scored 33 goals -- numbers that are consistent with his entire 16-year professional career.

Even Crew Coach Sigi Schmid can't help but sing his praises.

"I think they have, in my opinion, one of the premier strikers in this league, if not the premier striker in Juan Pablo Angel," Schmid said. "He's a classic center forward. Good in the air, can hold the ball. He's lethal with his finishing. He's certainly an important weapon to have."

In his debut season, Angel bagged 19 goals in 24 games, finishing only one goal behind MLS golden boot winner Luciano Emilio, D.C. United's Brazilian striker.

This season Angel was dogged by lower-back and hamstring injuries, but he still scored 14 goals in 23 games, fourth-best in the league.

"If Juan Pablo was healthy [all season], he probably would have had more goals for us and we probably would have won more games," said Juan Carlos Osorio, New York's coach and a fellow Colombian. "But, again, when you have adversity and when he wasn't in the starting lineup, there was a time for other players to step up and bring their level of playing higher and score some goals."
The Red Bulls are Angel's fourth club, a remarkably small number for such a lengthy career.

After turning pro at age 17, he spent five seasons with Atletico Nacional in his home town of Medellin. The goals he scored there caught the eye of River Plate in Argentina, the next stop on his soccer journey.

The goals continued to flow and the money move came in 2001, when he swapped the Argentine league for the English Premier League, joining Aston Villa for a then club-record $19-million transfer fee.

Again, the Colombian international found that putting the ball in the back of the net was no more difficult in Europe than it had been in South America (he scored nine goals in 33 games for his country), and he quickly became a Villa fan favorite.

Add it all up and Angel has played more than 400 games on three continents and scored almost 200 goals. Those are just statistics, however, and do not explain the how and why of his soccer talent.

Strikers need teammates who can put the ball on their foot or on their head at precisely the right place and time. Angel has Dutch winger Dave van den Bergh. That pair, working individually or in combination, has powered the Red Bulls, Schmid said, accounting for fully half their goals in 2008.

"Every team has good players, every team has players you need to be concerned and worried about," Schmid said. "Obviously, those are two key players for New York. They're not the only ones, but they're two of the key guys.

". . . But [Angel] is also like a lot of good forwards. Sometimes, they disappear for a little, and that's often when they become the most dangerous."

Angel has not disappeared, although he and Osorio did duck out for a private strategy session Thursday night after the Red Bulls' charter flight had landed in Long Beach.

Two Colombians plotting the downfall of Columbus.

L.A. Times By Grahame L. Jones November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sergio Fajardo Public Speaking Event

Former mayor of Medellin, Sergio Fajardo

Sergio Fajardo's Speaking Engagement
When: Saturday, November 22
Location: Plaza Major
Time: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Contact: 448 6048 / 216 3633

Newsweek - Archive Article Q/A
"The Mathematician of Medellín"

Sergio Fajardo has presided over a transformation of Medellín in recent years.

Newsweek Web Exclusive | Nov 11, 2007
By Daniel Kurtz-Phelan

Medellín, Colombia, has struggled to shed its notoriety, well earned in the days of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel, as "the most dangerous city in the world." But in fact the city has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years—presided over, since 2003, by Mayor Sergio Fajardo. Not only has the murder rate fallen below that of Washington, D.C. (from a high of more than 500 homicides a month in the early 1990s), but Medellín has also become a showcase for innovative urban planning and social policies. Fajardo, a mathematician, will leave office at the end of this year, succeeded as mayor by his former chief of staff, and speculation about his future in national politics has already begun. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Daniel Kurtz-Phelan. Excerpts:

When you took over as mayor in 2004, what were the most critical problems facing the city?

Sergio Fajardo: I walked Medellín from end to end to get a clear conception of its problems, going house to house and talking to people. The first problem was inequality, and to start working toward equality you must improve education—public education. Public education must be the motor of social transformation. The second problem was violence. Everyone in Colombia today has lived in a violent society, but in Medellín we had a particular kind of violence because of drug trafficking. It is a violence with deep roots, and it has profound effects on a society, and it is a kind of violence that no other place in the world has the same experience of. But we have had results here. In 1991 there were about 6,500 murders in Medellín—381 per 100,000 inhabitants. Last year, 2006, approximately 700 murders—about 29 or 30 per 100,000 inhabitants. That is less than all other comparable cities in Latin America. My approach was to treat these challenges like math problems.

Sergio Fajardo out on the streets of Medellin

What was your formula?

Pragmatism built on basic principles, like math. We had to reduce violence, but every reduction in violence we had to follow immediately—and immediately is a key word—with social interventions. The order is important. Social interventions require time and resources to work, so they will have little effect in the midst of such profound violence. It is true that you must have effective social interventions to make sure violence does not return, but first you must do something about violence. I never before in my life thought that I would work closely with the police or that I would call for more police on the streets. But you need security for democracy, and for that we needed more police—as long as they were police who respected human rights, and out of conviction, not just because Human Rights Watch tells them to. Now the police force is the pride of Medellín.

Everyone in Medellín seems to disagree about where you fall on the ideological spectrum—left, right, center. How do you describe your governing philosophy?

We have broken the traditional structure of politics here. In 1999 I got together with 50 people, friends, from different arenas—academia, cultural organizations, social organizations, NGOs, business—all of whom were, in one way or another, interested in working for the city. We realized that we could work, talk, dream, but to really do anything we had to go into politics, because politicians are the ones who have power. So after many years of being outside of traditional politics, we built an independent civic movement. As a mathematician, I think in terms of axioms on which we can construct everything else. And that is how I came up with a proposal for the city. I don't define myself as liberal or conservative, left or right. Those old classifications don't mean anything today in Colombia. Now I can explain why public education must be the engine of social transformation, or why we have to work for equality in order to improve growth, and a conservative person can listen to me and see a lot of reason in what I say. That is what we have achieved: creating a new space to work together. It is a civic philosophy for the 21st century.

Biblioteca España in Medellin's barrio Santo Domingo

How did you go about improving education in the city?

We had to have a comprehensive approach. It is not just about schools. It is about the whole life of a society. And I should emphasize: it is about making public education good, not privatizing education. We went school to school, classroom to classroom, designing and carrying out "quality pacts." We mobilized everyone—business leaders, universities, private schools—to start working in the public education system. We increased spending on education to 40 percent of the municipal budget. We also built a lot of new schools and five "library parks" in the poorest neighborhoods in the city. These are not just libraries; they are community centers, the new axis of the neighborhood. And we made sure that they were beautiful, with spectacular architecture.

The education of Medellin.

Some of your critics accuse you of wasting money on fancy new buildings that do more for your image than for poor communities or poor students.

People who say that a beautiful building doesn't improve education don't understand something critical. We have to build Medellín's most beautiful buildings in the places where there has never been a real state. The first step toward quality education is the dignity of the space. When the poorest kid in Medellín arrives in the best classroom in the city, there is a powerful message of social inclusion. That kid has a newfound self-esteem, and he learns math more easily. If you give the most humble neighborhoods beautiful libraries, you make those communities proud of the libraries. That is powerful. We are saying that that library or school, with its spectacular architecture, is the most important building in the neighborhood. And it is sending the rest of society a very clear message of social transformation, but of social transformation without rage. This is our revolution. The most powerful people see us focusing on the most humble, and they are supporting us—that is an important achievement. (continued)

The Transformation of Medellin, Colombia

Michael Paul reports from Plaza Mayor in Medellin, Saturday 21, 2008
The Fajardo team is youthful and Obama like in its youth and enthusiasm. Fajardo spoke to an exuberant crowd, and he was cheered throughout. At the end, many got up on stage and the took photos with the popular former mayor of Medellin.

Sergio Fajardo is expected to announce his official candidacy for President of Colombia in May or June, but today's speech was to enunciate his platform and organize and structure his movement.

The theatre space was nearly packed to capacity and people lined the walls. They were displaying orange and green balloons and waving them about.

Sergio Fajardo speaks at Plaza Mayor in Medellin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Michelle Rouillard Crowned As Miss Colombia

Colombian Michelle Rouillard, a candidate from the Cauca province, greets the public after being elected Miss Colombia during the annual beauty contest in Cartagena, November 17, 2008

Michelle Rouillard, O' Miss Colombia!

Michelle Rouillard, a 22-year old student of international business at Concord University in Canada, stands 1.74 m tall and will represent Colombia at the Miss Universe 2009 contest in July.

Monday, November 17, 2008

25 Beautiful Candidates of Miss Colombia!

Miss Colombia Competition; November 17, 2008.

Colombians are cazy for beauty pageants and have hundreds of competitions for titles such as; Miss Coffee, Miss Banana, Miss Petroleum, and Miss Flower.

The first Miss Colombia pageant was held in Cartagena to welcome U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934.

Since television was intruduced to Colombia, it has fixed its gimlet eye every November on the beauties gathered in Cartagena to vie for the crown.

The Miss Colombia competition is more popular there than the Academy Awards are in the United States and draws half of the available television viewership on the competition's final day.

Colombian woman can be spectacular.

During the Miss Colombia pageant, the lovelist among them parade on beaches, besides pools, as well as hanging out in restaurants.

The country's largest TV networks send dozens of its staff to cover the three-week long event. Each day is tightly scripted and there is rarely any unplanned surprises.

Meet the 25 beautiful contestants in tonights Miss Colombia 2008 competition.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Acclaimed Colombian Institution Has 4,800 Books and 10 Legs: “Biblioburro”

Luis Soriano, a teacher from La Gloria, Colombia, traveled to the village of El Brasil with his Biblioburro on Oct. 11. The donkeys are named Alfa and Beto

LA GLORIA, Colombia — In a ritual repeated nearly every weekend for the past decade here in Colombia’s war-weary Caribbean hinterland, Luis Soriano gathered his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, in front of his home on a recent Saturday afternoon.

Sweating already under the unforgiving sun, he strapped pouches with the word “Biblioburro” painted in blue letters to the donkeys’ backs and loaded them with an eclectic cargo of books destined for people living in the small villages beyond.

His choices included “Anaconda,” the animal fable by the Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga that evokes Kipling’s “Jungle Book”; some Time-Life picture books (on Scandinavia, Japan and the Antilles); and the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.

“I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” said Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings.

“This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained, squinting at the hills undulating into the horizon. “Now,” he said, “it is an institution.”

A whimsical riff on the bookmobile, Mr. Soriano’s Biblioburro is a small institution: one man and two donkeys. He created it out of the simple belief that the act of taking books to people who do not have them can somehow improve this impoverished region, and perhaps Colombia.

In doing so, Mr. Soriano has emerged as the best-known resident of La Gloria, a town that feels even farther removed from the rhythms of the wider world than is Aracataca, the inspiration for the setting of the epic “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez, another of the region’s native sons.

Unlike Mr. García Márquez, who lives in Mexico City, Mr. Soriano has never traveled outside Colombia — but he remains dedicated to bringing its people a touch of the outside world. His project has won acclaim from the nation’s literacy specialists and is the subject of a new documentary by a Colombian filmmaker, Carlos Rendón Zipaguata.

The idea came to him, he said, after he witnessed as a young teacher the transformative power of reading among his pupils, who were born into conflict even more intense than when he was a child.

The violence by bandit groups was so bad when he was young that his parents sent him to live with his grandmother in the nearby city of Valledupar, near the Venezuelan border. He returned at age 16 with a high school degree and got a job teaching reading to schoolchildren.

By the time he was in his 20s, Colombia’s long internal war had drawn paramilitary bands to the lawless marshlands and hills surrounding La Gloria, leading to clashes with guerrillas and intimidation of the local population by both groups.

Into that violence, which has since ebbed, Mr. Soriano ventured with his donkeys, taking with him a few reading textbooks, encyclopedia volumes and novels from his small personal library. At stops along the way, children still await the teacher in groups, to hear him read from the books he brings before they can borrow them.

A breakthrough came several years ago when he heard excerpts over the radio of a novel, “The Ballad of Maria Abdala,” by Juan Gossaín, a Colombian journalist and writer. Mr. Soriano wrote a letter to the author, asking him to lend a copy of the book to the Biblioburro.

After Mr. Gossaín broadcast details of Mr. Soriano’s project on his radio program, book donations poured in from throughout Colombia. A local financial institution, Cajamag, provided some financing for the construction of a small library next to his home, but the project remains only half-finished for lack of funds.

There is little money left over for such luxuries on his teacher’s salary of $350 a month. Already the family’s budget is so tight that he and his wife, Diana, opened a small restaurant, La Cosa Política, two years ago to help make ends meet.

Even among the restaurant’s clientele, mainly ranch hands and truck drivers with little formal education, the bespectacled Mr. Soriano sees potential bibliophiles. On the wall above tables laid out with grilled meat and fried plantains, he posts pages from Hoy Diario, the region’s daily newspaper, and prods diners into discussions about current events.

“We can take political talk only so far, of course,” he said, referring to the looming threat of retaliation from the paramilitary groups, which have effectively defeated the guerrillas in this part of northern Colombia. “I learned that if I interest just one person in reading a mundane news item — say, about the rising price of rice — then that’s a step forward.”

Such victories keep Mr. Soriano going, despite the challenges that come with running the Biblioburro.

He fractured his left leg in a fall from one of his burros in July, leaving him with a limp. And some of his readers like the books they borrow so much that they fail to return them.

Two books that vanished not long ago: an illustrated sex education manual, and a copy of “Like Water for Chocolate,” the Mexican writer Laura Esquivel’s novel about food and love in a traditional Mexican family.

And there are dangers inherent to venturing into the backlands around La Gloria. Two years ago, Mr. Soriano said, bandits surprised him at a river crossing, found that he carried almost no money, and tied him to a tree. They stole one item from his book pouch: “Brida,” the story of an Irish girl and her search for knowledge, by the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho.

“For some reason, Paulo Coelho is at the top of everyone’s list of favorites,” said Mr. Soriano, hiding a grin under the shade of his sombrero vueltiao, the elaborately woven cowboy hat popular in Colombia’s interior.

On a trip this month into the rutted hills, where about 300 people regularly borrow books from him, he reminisced about a visit to the National Library in the capital, Bogotá, where he was stunned by the building’s immense collection and its Art Deco design.

“I felt so ordinary in Bogotá,” Mr. Soriano said. “My place is here.”

At times, on the remote landscape dotted with guayacán trees, it was hard to tell whether beast or man was in control. Once, Mr. Soriano lost his patience, trying to coax his stubborn donkeys to cross a stream.

Still, it was clear why Mr. Soriano does what he does.

In the village of El Brasil, Ingrid Ospina, 18, leafed through a copy of “Margarita,” the classic book of poetry by Rubén Darío of Nicaragua, and began to read aloud.

She went beyond where the heavens are

and to the moon said, au revoir.

How naughty to have flown so far

without the permission of Papa.

“That is so beautiful, Maestro,” Ms. Ospina said to the teacher. “When are you coming back?”

The New York Times - By SIMON ROMERO
Photos: Scott Dalton for The New York Times

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Colombia Brings Land of Flowers to New York City - November 17th.

100,000 Flowers to be Handed Out to New Yorkers - Foster Social Change in Colombia

Before the hustle and bustle of the holidays, New Yorkers may need a gentle reminder to stop and smell the roses. On November 17th, thousands will have the chance when more than 100,000 Colombian-grown, fresh-cut blooms will be handed out on city streets as part of the Colombia, Land of Flowers campaign.

Colombia flowers bloom in New York

The collaborative effort of Asocolflores (Association of Colombian Flower Exporters) and Florverde(R), USAID-Colombia and the Colombian Consulate will celebrate the beauty and success of the Colombian flower industry.

"We are thrilled to share the beauty of our flowers with New Yorkers," said Augusto Solano, President of Asocolflores. "The Colombia, Land of Flowers initiative is a wonderful opportunity to give others the chance to enjoy and appreciate Colombian flowers and learn more about how our growers are changing the lives of those they employ and their families." Asocolflores represents 317 flower growers.

Thousands of roses and carnations will be distributed by street teams located at Wall Street, Penn Station, Grand Central Station and Times Square. Other event activities include a Press Conference/breakfast to be held at the Colombian Consulate at 10 East 46th Street on Monday, November 17th at 8:30 a.m.

"Over the past several years, the Colombian flower industry has flourished, resulting in successful practices and programs changing the social landscape of our country," said Mr. Solano. Colombia is the largest supplier of fresh-cut flowers to the U.S. - exporting nearly $1 billion in 2007.

Colombian worker prepares flowers for shipment

The growth of the flower industry in Colombia has enabled social programs such as Florverde(R), a unique third-party certification program to ensure that flowers grown and harvested in Colombia meet stringent social and environmental standards. It was established more than twelve years ago by a progressive group of Colombian flower growers. As a result, today the program assists more than 45,000 Colombian workers and families through multiple initiatives ranging from continuing education and healthcare to housing and childcare.

The quality of Colombia-grown flowers and practices is also recognized globally. Last summer, GlobalG.A.P. (The Global Partnership for Good Agricultural Practice) awarded Florverde the GlobalG.A.P. International Seal for its socio-environmental practices. Most recently, the Russian Flower Show awarded 22 Colombian farms with gold and silver medals of distinction for flower quality.

To further demonstrate its leadership in corporate social responsibility, Asocolflores has joined together with the U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development in Colombia (USAID/Colombia). USAID supports job training in the cultivation and processing of flowers, job placement and social services to victims of the Colombian conflict.

"We are proud of our work with Asocolflores," said Susan Reichle, the Director of USAID/Colombia. "Together we are giving people the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and rebuild their lives.

Asocolflores (Association of Colombian Flower Exporters)