A Spirited Valentine’s Celebration at the Colombian Ambassador’s Residence Supports the AAFSW Family Crisis Fund

On February 16, AAFSW members and guests enjoyed a spirited Valentine’s celebration in the elegant mansion of His Excellency Camilo Reyes, Ambassador of Colombia to the United States. AAFSW is grateful to Ambassador Reyes for hosting the event, and to his hardworking embassy staff for helping make it such a success, especially Minister Counselor Gladys SanMiguel.

The residence was built and designed in 1906 for Thomas T. Gaff by the renowned architect Jules Henri de Sibour, a descendant of Louis XVI and son of a Viscount, who studied at Yale and at École des Beaux Arts in Paris. The opulent residence remains an example of the late 18th and early 19th century eclecticism and is one of the highlights of Dupont Circle’s historical circuit.

All the rooms of the first floor were adorned by fresh roses and flowers, which are flown in weekly from Colombia, and striking paintings by Colombian artists. Colombian blooms also decorated every table of the grand Edwardian-style great white ballroom, which impressed guests with its large elliptical-skylight, vaulted ceiling, herringbone floor and musicians’ gallery.

Ambassador Reyes, a career diplomat and multilingual specialist in international negotiations, welcomed his guests, acknowledging the deep and strong relationship between the United States and Colombia, as well as both countries’ commitment to advance peace, prosperity, security and development in the region.

AAFSW President Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen thanked the patrons for their strong support of AAFSW’s Family Crisis Fund, and AAFSW Program Chair Sheila Switzer, as well as Colombian Embassy officials, for organizing the wonderful program. Dr. Athanasopoulos Owen invited the audience to enjoy an evening celebrating romance, love and friendship, as well as giving and showing support to those in crisis. She reiterated that all proceeds from the evening would go to the AAFSW Family Crisis Fund, which helps Foreign Service spouses and their children in situations of distress, usually during a separation or divorce, by providing them with funding for food, lodging and legal consultations.

In the elegant ballroom, a perfect setting for the diversity and richness of Colombian culture, patrons enjoyed a delicious Colombian buffet dinner, including the traditional and popular Torta Negra, made of caramel and candied papaya and the unique passion fruit (maracuyá) flan topped with shredded coconut.

Two energetic professional dancers demonstrated Colombian cultural highlights, especially the Cali-Style Salsa, also known as Colombian Salsa and Salsa Caleña, strongly influenced by dances to Caribbean rhythms which preceded salsa, such as Pachanga and Boogaloo. The dancers showcased the techniques of salsa caleña with as many twists, flips and displays of showmanship as possible. Mesmerized guests enjoyed the dancers’ intricate and precise footwork, mastery of quick rapid steps and skipping motions, the secret to Colombia’s often winning major world dance championships.

With great enthusiasm, guests of all ages took to the dance floor for a salsa class, and using their newly acquired skills, danced the evening away in the grandeur of the great white Edwardian ballroom.

Celine Erickson
AAFSW BookRoom Volunteer

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