In March, Afro-Colombian singers from the northwestern Chocó region captivated audiences with their alabaos, or sacred burial songs, at the Ibero-American Theater Festival, one of Colombia’s most important cultural events. The singers’ participation highlighted the ongoing work of the five-year, USAID-funded Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Program (ACIP). ACIP works with local groups to preserve the cultural heritage of Afro-Colombians in Chocó and Cali as well as that of the Wayuu indigenous people in Guajira.

Over the course of two weeks, the festival attracted theater companies from 25 countries. The Afro-Colombians’ performance “Singing to Not Forget”—a tribute to deaths resulting from the armed conflict in Chocó—drew national attention to an ancestral Afro-Colombian tradition that is disappearing due to cultural fragmentation and a loss of ethnic identity.

Additionally, thanks to the technical assistance ACIP provided to festival organizers, 100 Afro-Colombian youth—chosen for their outstanding leadership and artistic abilities—participated in workshops with renowned actors, directors, and screenwriters.

Of the festival, Chocó singer Jesusita Mosquera says “[it] has opened doors for us, allowing us to share our musical traditions with the rest of the country. We are affirming that Bogotá is not the only place where one finds culture.”

Read more about our work in Colombia here.

Read more ACIP here.