Category Archive:Central America

Philanthropy in Colombia

sduncan post on February 22nd, 2016
Posted in Central America

By Krysta Summerfield

Despite Colombia being categorized as the fifth most dangerous city in the world, its situation is

not as precarious as media and other social entities portray it to be. In fact, Colombia is recognized for its

friendly culture and its commitment to its community. It is exceedingly common in the Colombian culture

for neighbors to offer a helping hand when others are experiencing difficulties or hardship. For example,

when a neighbor requests to borrow an egg, it is not uncommon for another neighbor to lend it to them; or

when a neighbor requests assistance fixing their plumbing, another neighbor would willingly lend a

helping hand free of cost. This paper will focus on the cultural practice surrounding the Colombian

Throughout the many conversations I have engaged in with my Colombian relatives, I have found

the act of La Rifa most philanthropic. La Rifa typically occurs in times of crisis, when a member of your

community is encountering adversity. The three most prevalent episodes of La Rifa that I have witnessed

occurred because the father and primary breadwinner of the family was incarcerated, or the father and

primary breadwinner of the family lost employment or a member of a family from the community had

passed away and the family was unable to afford adequate burial services.

When unfortunate occasions similar to the ones mentioned above occur, the community leader,

usually a self-elected male elder, will gather donations. In the Colombian culture large donations are

luxury items such as electric blenders, electric radios, etc. He then raffles these items off to community

members. Everyone in the community is eager to participate in La Rifa because not only does it mean

they have a chance to win a luxury item, but they are also consciously aware that by participating the

proceeds from their raffle ticket will grant aid to another community member in need.

In addition to the proceeds of La Rifa, the leader of the community will also go door-to-door and

collect donations for the family/individual in crisis. With the average monthly wages of a Colombian

estimated to be $692, it is difficult and impractical for individuals to make large monetary donations.

Instead, community members donate as much food as they can spare. Typical donations consist of rice

In the Colombian society there is a heavy reliance on the community and less on government

officials. Instead of allocating funding towards the creation of a social safety net, the Colombian

government allots the majority of their funding towards military strategies and movements favoring the

eradication of Colombia’s largest rebel group, The Farc. This therefore, places the responsibility of social

welfare on community members and increasing the continuation of La Rifa.

It is evident that Colombians do not take an individualist approach within their community. In the

Colombian culture there is a strong emphasis placed on communal generosity and the donation of one’s

time and inclusiveness and less on the donation of monetary funds. These acts of generosity are only

expected to act as a temporary solution. Instead, the idea of reciprocity is highlighted. This in turn

encourages the suffering family/community member to resume their position within their community and

one day give back to those that have given to them in their time of need.

Works Cited

A. Sanclemente (personal communication, September 25, 2013)

BBC News. (N.d.). Where are you on the global pay scale? Retrieved September 26th, 2013.


C. Lopez (personal communication, September 26, 2013)

Global Burden of Armed Violence. (2011). Trends and Patterns of Lethal Violence. Retrieved

September 27th, 2013. From

Peters, T. (N.d.). Colombia’s average wages less than half global average. Colombia Reports.

Retrieved September 27th, 2013. From


Comments are closed

Cuban International Giving: The Tradition of Foreign Medical Aid in Revolutionary Cuba

sduncan post on February 22nd, 2016
Posted in Central America

By Alex Holton

After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the newly established socialist government identified free
universal health care as a basic human right and responsibility of the state. The Cuban revolution has
always had an international perspective and the use of medical aid has become a way of exporting this
ideal and revolutionary politics to the developing world (Feinsilver, 2008). Although these missions
are undoubtedly politically motivated, and in some cases vehicles for economic gain, postrevolutionary
Cuba has consistently made international medical aid part of its character and in doing so
has incorporated it into its tradition of giving.

In Haiti, Cuba has been praised for its roll in helping to contain the Cholera epidemic that
emerged in the wake of the devastating earthquake of 2010. Cuba was in a unique position to provide
aid after the quake because of a preexisting contingent already on the ground, which had been
providing aid since a hurricane in 1998. As of November 2011, the Cuban mission had treated 76,000
cases of the disease (Archibold, 2011). Another poignant example is Operacion Milagro or Operation
Miracle, a program established in 2004, that by 2009 had helped restore vision to 1.6 million people in
Latin America through a variety of surgical procedures, free of cost (Voss, 2009)

These missions are definitely not without their political aims. For example, a 2005 agreement
with Venezuela assigned 30,000 Cuban doctors and included a promise to train 50,000 Venezuelan
physicians in exchange for 53,000 barrels of oil per day (Feinsilver, 2008). That being said, disaster
relief missions like the one in Haiti and “operation miracle” are conducted without cost to the recipient
nation. Castro reiterated the importance of foreign medical aid in a 2005 speech: “Not once,
throughout the selfless history of the Revolution, have our people failed to offer its supportive medical
assistance to other nations in need of this aid at times when catastrophes have hit them, regardless of
wide ideological and political differences…” (Castro, 2005)

An argument could also be made that these missions are little more than political propaganda.
For Example, the Cuban Government’s offer after hurricane Katrina, to send 1,500 doctors to New
Orleans, could easily be framed as political theater (Archibold, 2007). Furthermore, the frequency of
these missions in Latin America and Africa can be seen as a method of cementing relationships in a
political climate that is often hostile to the island nation (Feinsilver, 2008). However, regardless of
political gain these services are sorely needed. During a 2009 meeting in Havana, Honduran Foreign
Minister Patricia Rodas commented on the characterization of Cuban aid as ‘medical diplomacy’ by
saying, “If offering a helping hand is an extension of foreign policy, then (it is) welcome. I wish other
countries would do the same” (Voss, 2009).

Although in it’s earliest forms, Cuban medical aid came in conjunction with military support, as
with the Algerian Independence struggle in 1963, more recently medical aid has been tied to good will
and disaster relief (Voss, 2009). This commitment is reinforced through the establishment of
organizations within Cuba like the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, an organization committed to natural
disaster relief world-wide (Archibold, 2007). Throughout its existence, post-revolutionary Cuba has
made foreign medical aid a national priority and established it as a pivotal part of its character. In
doing this, regardless of political aims, the nation has established international medical aid as part of its
tradition of giving.

Works Cited

Archibold, Randal C. (2007). “Cuba Takes Lead Roll in Haiti’s Cholera Fight”, New York Times Times. Accessed online
January 29th 2012

Castro, Fidel. (Sept 19, 2005).”Speech at the foundation ceremony of the ‘Henry Reeve’ International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics, and the national graduation of students of Medical Sciences,” Accessed online January 29th 2012.

Feinsilver, Julie M. (2008) “Oil-for-Doctors: Cuban Medical Diplomacy Gets a Little Help From a Venezuelan Friend”,
Nueva Sociedad # 216. Accessed online January 29th 2012

Voss, Michael. (2009) “Cuba Pushes its ‘Medical Diplomacy” BBC, Accessed Online January 29th 2012.

Comments are closed

Labor Day in Jamaica

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Central America Tags: , ,

By Kristen Leegstra

In North America, Labour Day is the “last day of summer”, the perfect day to have a barbeque, catch up with friends and family or even go to the beach. This national holiday however, is very different from the country of Jamaica. In Jamaica, Labour Day falls on May 23rd; prior to 1964, Labour Day was known as Empire Day which celebrated the birthday of Queen Victoria, until a bill was passed that created May 23rd as the national volunteering holiday. On this specific day Jamaicans from every community and town, take part in this national movement of generosity and giving. Together as a community they work together to clean roads, fill potholes, paint schools, and numerous other activities.

For this assignment I had the opportunity to interview my sister Natalie and her husband Justin, who was born and raised in Little London, Jamaica. My sister and brother in law mentioned that they have been in Jamaica many times on Labour Day and have been part of this special holiday. Natalie mentions that “it is a beautiful thing to see because these communities have such few possessions and few resources, nevertheless the towns still congregate together to finish the job.” The main focus of giving is that we do it for free and do not expect a gift in return, which is idealized completely in the country of Jamaica through their community contributions on Labour Day. Additionally, many individuals in the impoverished Jamaican communities do not have many possessions, regardless everyone comes together to do their part showing the genuine generosity this country has.

Oftentimes generosity and giving are hand in hand when it comes to acts of volunteering or philanthropy. The act of generosity is shown greatly in this annual tradition as many individuals have fewer resource, yet help each other in ways that make the biggest difference. If there is a person in the community who works with carpentry they will fix up the houses and schools, if someone is a painter they will use their resources to help paint the schools. From these examples we may see that despite the little materials they have they utilize their abilities for the benefit of others. This concept of having nothing but giving everything accurately captures the idea of giving as it is a selfless and loving act.

During the interview my sister mentioned that people in Jamaica are very enthusiastic about giving back to the community, and consider Labour Day as an exciting holiday, as the Jamaicans feel very rewarded helping their community. I believe that the mindset the Jamaicans bring to this act of giving is something that we as country need to adapt in our everyday lives. Our fast paced community would greatly benefit from acts of selflessness and giving as it is these acts that bring the community together and help us move forward. The Jamaican community can be an example for us in North America to question what giving is to us and how we can change the world around us by doing little things that make the difference. Countries such as Jamaica come from poverty and struggle, however, with volunteer opportunities such as Labour Day we are shown that the country is very rich in generosity and the act of giving.

Works Cited
Interviewee: Justin & Natalie Pringle ( Brother-in-law and sister)

Comments are closed

Philanthropy in Latin America

sduncan post on February 5th, 2013
Posted in Central America Tags: ,

By Nora Melara-Lopez

For centuries the Catholic Church financed by colonial governments and the private elite provided social support to the sick and the poor in Latin America. This support was paternalistic as it was combined with social control, forced evangelization, and the exploitation of indigenous peoples and African slaves (Sanborn & Portocarrero, 2003). In the 20th century, Read the rest of this entry >>

Comments are closed

The Inca Empire: Religion, Culture and Philanthropy

sduncan post on January 28th, 2013
Posted in Central America Tags: , ,

by Priscilla M. Madrigal Saballos

The Incas are the Indian people of Peru, who in the two centuries before the Spanish discovery of America, conquered an area stretching from the Southern border of present day Colombia to central Chile centering on the city of Cuzco in the Peruvian Andes. The Incas made their appearance in South America in the XI century (Loprete, 2001). They began by enlarging their territory beyond the immediate valley of Cuzco. By 1492, the Inca Empire is established and ruling over approximately 10 million people and the population is composed primarily of soldiers and farmers (National Geographic Television, 2002). Read the rest of this entry >>

Comments are closed

Philanthropy in Peru

sduncan post on January 28th, 2013
Posted in Central America Tags: , ,

By Marcia Llacuachaqui

Peruvians have a rich history in philanthropic activities, back in the time of the Inca Empire; “ayllus” were the basis on the Inca society. Ayllus consisted of families living together and sharing land, animals, and crops. Ayllu members worked the land cooperatively to produce food crops and cotton. This attitude of community assistance and helping each other in any situation is still alive among the descendants of the Incas today.

Two great examples of how Peruvians participate in philanthropic actions these days are seen in communal kitchens and carnivals.

Communal kitchens or comedores populares are well-known in Peru. Read the rest of this entry >>

Comments are closed

Cuba and Philanthropy

sduncan post on January 28th, 2013
Posted in Central America Tags: , ,

by Tyler Greenleaf

Cuba is a country of contrasts when it comes to philanthropy. For this article, it will be viewed through an internal lens (philanthropy done in the country) and external lens (philanthropy done by the country, specifically, international aid).

Internal Philanthropy
Modern communist philosophy presumes that the state and its institutions are owned, operated and controlled by the government without private ownership of capital. As a result, the possibility of an individual or corporation making a monetary donation is not part of the culture. The state is supposed to provide for everyone, Read the rest of this entry >>

Comments are closed