Dear Members, guests and friends
It was a pleasure welcoming you to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Room in the Houses of Parliament to celebrate our 30th Anniversary at an event sponsored by Baroness Hooper and Mark Menzies MP. We had a full house with nearly sixty people in attendance.
A fast-paced running order began with an overview of who we are and how we are connected not only with the broader Bolivian community in the UK, but also with partner groups in Bolivia like the Anglo Bolivian Committee in La Paz, Bolivian government Scholars and Chevening alumni. Although these relationships pre-date the pandemic, they were strengthened by the foundation of the British Bolivian Community in April 2020 to raise funds and engage with the British Embassy in the distribution of face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical doctors and laboratory technicians involved in front-line duties in La Paz, El Alto, Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando.
The early days of the A-BS and its founding members were recalled, notably Major General Gary Prado Salmon, the then Bolivian Ambassador to the Court of St James, Baroness Gloria Hooper and the first council members like Michael Elmer, Moisés Mendoza, and Michael Kirwan. Other important retired council members are Graham Minter and Bill Sinton, both former British Ambassadors to Bolivia, Dermot Murphy, Peter Corkill, Arthur and Maria Esther Wilkinson, Lucy Compton and Richard Snailham. We were delighted that so many of these were able to join us. General Gary Prado sent a “cordial abrazo” and a brief message praising the start of the A-BS/British Bolivian Community project, which has “become an important part of bilateral relations”.
Our first keynote event was the presentation of Honours Awards to four individuals “who made an outstanding contribution to the promotion, integration and welfare of members of the Bolivian community in the United Kingdom and members of the British or affiliated communities in Bolivia”. We intend our Honours Awards to:
- raise the profile of Anglo-Bolivian Community role models;
- showcase examples of individual and group excellence;
- recognise mutually beneficial and successful models of community integration that maintain cultural heritage links; and
- mark outstanding solidarity, performance, inclusion, transparency and service provided by groups or individuals.
This year’s Honours Awards went to Marcela Montes, Annie Copponex, Peter Lewis-Crown OBE and the late Amaru Villanueva Rance.
Marcela was a pioneer of Bolivia’s London diaspora, and co-founder in 1983 of the charity Amigos de Bolivia (Friends of Bolivia) which raises funds for the disadvantaged and for disaster relief. With her late husband, the notable Bolivian artist Fernando Montes, Marcela joined the A-BS in 1993, a year after it had been founded to encourage interest in Bolivia among non-Bolivians.
The second Award went to Annie Copponex, who sadly was unexpectedly unable to attend the event. Since arriving in London in the mid-60s Annie has been a tireless promotor of Bolivian culture and has offered a home from home to young visiting Bolivians. She joined the A-BS in 1992, the year of our foundation and since 1996 has been the London representative of APAC, the Santa Cruz-based host association of the biennial alternating music/drama festivals that take place in the ex-Mission to the Chiquitos churches.
The third Award went to Peter Lewis-Crown OBE, former Vice Chair and a permanent Honorary Member. Peter joined the A-BS in 1994. An unlikely but dedicated Bolivianista, he spent his entire working life at the London coûture house Lachasse, as well as being involved in countless charitable works for which he was awarded an OBE in 1998. A great party lover, his presence was missed.
The fourth Award was posthumously bestowed on Amaru Villanueva Rance whose mother Susana and sister Nina Wara collected it on his behalf. Thirty-six-year-old Amaru inspired us as a true Anglo-Bolivian, given his outstanding academic performance and influence, professional achievements and exceptional human qualities. Amaru’s passing on 18 September was deeply felt by the Anglo-Bolivian Society, and in the Bolivian and Latin American community in the UK.
Moving on, Baroness Hooper kindly agreed to present the British Bolivian Community Honours Award certificates to Dr. Ricardo Ramos and Dr. Rita Revollo who joined us via Zoom from Bolivia. The Awards marked each recipient’s distinguished service and outstanding front-line support of the BB Community campaign to distribute PPE during the pandemic. Both recipients spoke a few words of thanks.
Eleven other certificates of distinguished service were presented to notable players in the BB Community’s campaign to reach front-line medical staff and its formation as an international institution with a communications hub. Cristina Loma Aragonés, a Chevening Alumnus currently in London, received the award in person and assisted in announcing the other ten recipients. The presentation of these certificates was followed by an inspiring closing speech by Baroness Hooper.
A highlight of the evening was the presence of seven of the eight recently-arrived Chevening scholars who were starting their post-graduate studies at universities in the UK. ABS Secretary Zihan Jin welcomed this year’s group and invited each of its members to introduce themselves: who they were, what they were going to study in the UK and their career plans when they returned to Bolivia. Members of the cohort are:
- Juliana Choque Apaza, MSc in Education (Leadership and Policy) at the University of Bristol
- Leydi Aydee Cruz Torrico, MSc in Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex
- Morelia Eróstegui Navia, MA in Political Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London
- Adriana Emma Fernandez Pereyra, LLM in International Human Rights Law at University of Essex
- Mary Arteaga Gomez Garcia, MSc in Environment and International Development at the University of East Anglia
- Alejandra Gonzales Rocabado, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change at the London School of Economics and Political Science
- Angela Cielito Saravia Gutierrez, MFA in Art and Humanities at the University of Dundee
- Luis Sirpa Machaca, MSc in Energy Transition Systems and Technologies at the University of Aberdeen
Perhaps the most technologically challenging and innovative moment in our evening was the on-line live closing speech from La Paz made by Jeff Glekin, the British Ambassador to Bolivia.
Our Digital Media and Communications team, Alberto Souviron and Edward Guzman, spent most of the day in the IPU Room, forestalling every conceivable glitch with the help of technicians from Bow Tie TV, the parliamentary AV department.
Winston Moore proposed a toast – ”brindis” – to complete the formal anniversary celebrations, before the evening moved to a more informal ambience with music from La Sagrada Familia ensemble and delicious Bolivian food prepared by Jose Vito Yawata.
Members of Council hope you will join us (or hopefully our successors!) in ten years’ time as the Anglo-Bolivian Society celebrates its 40th anniversary.
With best wishes from current Council members,
Winston Moore, Kate Ford, Edward Guzman, Alberto Souviron, Magaly Charlier and Zihan Jin