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Happy 30th Birthday ONIC!

February 26, 2012

Friday was a big day for us at the office. It was the 30th birthday celebration for our organization, the National Organization of Indigenous Persons of Colombia (ONIC).  A shaman started off the celebration with blessing each one of us with a “bath” of blessed water and a shot of aguardiente or “fiery water” , a (very) hard liquor, made from sugarcane.

Offerings before the celebration.

The shaman with offerings of tobacco and alcohol before our "baths".

Part One of my bath-blessing.

And Part Two (aguardiente) was a bit harder to swallow.

Elders and VIPs being blessed, including the founder of ONIC (centre) and current Consejero Mayor (right).

Next on the agenda was hours of requisite speeches from VIPs, including the current Consejero Mayor (the Boss), many important elders, and others from the community who wanted to share their memories of ONIC.

The current head of ONIC, Luis Evelis Andrade, addressing the crowd.

Attendees, including the British Ambassador to Colombia (front-centre).

The founder of ONIC, Trino Morales, imparting some wisdom.

Sharing some memories of ONIC through the years.

Leader of the Afro-Colombian community thanking ONIC for being a "lighthouse" for other minority groups.

There were also more traditional components of the evening, including traditional music and dance by various indigenous groups, and of course, the drinking of “chicha”, the more traditional beverage of Colombia, a homemade alcoholic drink made from maize. (Check out this 12 second video of the music and dancing I shot from my camera Video)

A woman with traditional face tattoos during the musical presentation.

One of the musicians, playing traditional Embera music.

Traditional dancing.

As much as my experience working in the field this year has shown me just how far we have to go in the struggle for human rights for all, on days like this when I see so many faces of people that I have met along the way who fight this battle everyday, and the more I hear their inspiring words, my faith is renewed and I once again, have hope.

Parting shot of the elders.

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