The following Op-Ed by Katherine Vargas was published in El País, and can be read in Spanish HERE.
Last week marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor the rich heritage of the Latino community and celebrate its countless achievements. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the familial, cultural and economic ties that so many Americans share with Latin America.
Latin America is booming; it is a region that is proudly carrying forward on a journey toward becoming middle-class, secure, and democratic for the first time in its history. The policies of the Obama Administration are designed to enhance and support this trend. Throughout the Americas, we are engaged in a common cause to strengthen citizen security and democratic institutions, expand economic opportunity and prosperity, promote social inclusion for all, including vulnerable populations, and develop a clean and secure energy future while working together to address climate change.
The Western Hemisphere holds enormous potential —economically, politically, and socially—and the United States remains committed to working with partners to seize upon shared opportunities and address common challenges, including through the active pace of engagement by the President and Vice President.
We’re also focused on deepening the connections between our people through initiatives like “100,000 Strong in the Americas”, which is focused on expanding educational opportunity and exchange to build connections between the people of the Americas, and to make our region more competitive. President Obama launched 100,000 Strong in the Americas to meet the target of bringing 100,000 students to the United States to study each year, while also increasing the number of Americans studying abroad in the hemisphere to 100,000. He did so out of a belief that greater educational opportunity and exchange will serve the interests of all our countries – developing new skills, increasing employment opportunities, building bridges across borders, and ultimately improving relations between the United States and our neighbors.
Just last week at the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, the White House hosted the first U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Inclusion Ambassador, Latin pop and vallenato singer/song writer Carlos Vives for a visit. In this role, Carlos works to promote social and economic inclusion of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia helping the country to overcome decades of conflict and move towards peace. The partnership builds on USAID’s decade-long effort to support Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities to promote their inclusion, rights, and economic opportunities.
Today, tens of millions of Americans trace their origins back to Latin America. Millions of workers are earning a living from good jobs made possible by the trade between our nations. The United States is a more prosperous and more diverse country thanks to our partnerships with our southern neighbors. The President, Vice President, and the entire Administration will continue to build on our common heritage, our economic relationship and our shared values to enrich the lives of all our people.