THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CALI
1957 - 2007
December 2007 address to the members and guests at the year end celebration of the 50th anniversary of The American Society of Cali.
The honorable Angelino Garzon
Governor of the Department of the Valle Del Cauca
The honorable Ramiro Tafur
Mayor of the City of Cali
Mr. William Martin
Consul General of the U.S. Embassy
Ladies and Gentlemen:
This evening has special significance as we bring to a close a year of events celebrating a half century since the founding of The American Society of Cali.
It is with great pride that I speak to you tonight on behalf of the Board of Directors on the occasion of our 50th anniversary.
In researching the history of The American Society we have found accounts going back to the 1930’s of dedicated people who were instrumental in promoting friendship and cooperation between the peoples of Colombia and the United States.
We pay tribute to them this evening with our deepest sentiments of gratitude.
A number of curious events occurred in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s that contributed, in a significant way, to the development of this city and the region of the Cauca Valley.
The idea to create an international association took root in the 1930’s. To be more specific, it was in 1938 that Mr. Ernesto de Lima, Sr., an American citizen and father of Norma, Ernesto and Eduardo, here present with us this evening, invited members of the crew from the ship USS Taylor, which had docked in the port of Buenaventura, to a dinner party in Cali with officials of the Colombian Army and Air Force.
The success of that encounter prompted Ernesto de Lima Sr. to form The American Association, the first of its type created in Latin America.
This small group of progressive and hospitable Americans helped to create a positive atmosphere for the later arrival of important multinational companies from the U.S., Canada and Europe.
In the 1940’s and 50’s another historic event took place (according to reports from observers who participated in that era) that also contributed to the rapid development that began in those days.
The DC3 and DC4 passenger planes of Panagra Airlines, flying routes from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to points south, were obliged to make a refuelling stop somewhere and it turned out that Cali was a very convenient location. Therefore, these flights made a refuelling stop at Calipuerto, today called Cavasa.
The planes stayed overnight in Cali and the passengers, mostly businessmen, stayed in the hotels Alferez Real and Aristi.
This interesting set of circumstances gave these unsuspecting passengers the opportunity to experience the warm hospitality and cool evening breezes of Cali and to look forward to returning to spend more time in this delightful town. The charm of Cali captivated many of these visitors who would later make important decisions back home to locate their factories and offices here.
Looking back in time, one can see clearly how a set of small incidences converged to create the climate that would change a small town into an important city.
A number of important companies set up operations in Cali in the 1940’s, including Sidney Ross, Colgate Palmolive, Hoechst, Goodyear, Carton de Colombia, Eternit, Union Carbide and Fruco. In the 1950’s others arrived such as Celanese, Fleischmann, Quaker Oats, Adams, Coca Cola, Propal, Facomec, Gilette, Squibb, Abbot, Miles Laboritories and Merck, Sharp Dohme.
As could be expected, this boom of activity was accompanied by the creation of other important entities that provided necessary services to these new guests such as the American school Colegio Bolivar, founded in 1947, the Colombo Britanico School, the German School, the Lycee Francaise, the Colombo American Cultural Center and the Colombo American Chamber of Commerce, established in 1962. All of these organizations participated in the wave of development that took place in this magnet of opportunity that was Cali in the mid 20th century.
This is an interesting example of the law of cause and effect; how everything is woven together.
This frenzy of activity was the catalyst for other important changes that occurred during this period. In 1951 the Universidad del Valle established an important link with the Rockefeller Foundation that resulted in a greater presence of American scientists in Cali and a significant increase in the number of medical students participating in study programs in the U.S.
In 1956/57, the U.S. ambassador, John Cabot, together with the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Señor Jose Manuel Rival Saccon, established the Fullbright Commision, resulting in a very significant interchange of scientists and other professionals in the field of education.
Thank you Cali for your warm reception and for making it possible to be part of this vibrant society, something that is reflected in many of our families that are today truly bi-national, bi-cultural examples of the integration of our two peoples.
The American Society of Cali will continue to work toward the integration of Colombian and U.S. citizens, support for regional development and will continue to support social programs, particularly in the field of education.
Long live The American Society of Cali!
Richard W. Lee