The event was held at the Inegas congressional center attended by close to 70 individuals that represented a diverse group of professional men and women who represented the 600,000 strong Croatian diaspora communities of the countries of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru who brought their very unique experiences and needs of this South American continent. The common goal is to tighten and strengthen the relationships between our South American nations and our motherland Croatia.
This 3 day event is organized around 3 thematic areas which are: the socio-political problems of the South American Croatian diaspora, Croatian cultural experiences in the South American diaspora and strengthening our ties with the Croatian motherland through the learning of the Croatian language and culture, and the business roundtable which aims to develop more businesses between the South American countries and also with Croatia.
Mr. Robert Jakubek, honorary Consul of the Republic of Croatia in Santa Cruz, Bolivia gave the opening remarks recalling the over 100 year old start of the Croatian immigration to South America who came here to seek work and a better future for themselves and their families. He thanked Ambassador Nives Malenica, the State Office for Croats abroad and the Croatian Heritage Foundation for the support provided by the Government of Croatia and the Foundation to the diverse array of projects that have also contributed to the realization of this meeting.
Croatian Ambassador, Nives Malenica (concurrent for Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador) talked about the support given by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce to establish a commercial office in Chile that will identify businesses and common commercial projects in Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador to establish a bridge with Croatian businesses in Croatia and also Croatian owned businesses in the 4 countries that she oversees. There is also an initiative to increase information and promote South American tourism to Croatia.
Mrs. Branka Bezic, represting the Croatian Heritage Foundation (matica.hr) from the Split-Dalmatia County congratulated the Croatian community of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia for organizing the extraordinary event of the 2016 Meeting of the South American Croatian diaspora, and for all the long hours, work, sacrifice and love that the group of volunteers and organizers put into the meeting. She brought her book “Croatian Footprints in the World” which is a compilation of stories and photographs from Croatian communities around the world whose sale proceeds during this South American event will go towards a charitable donation to needy people and children in Bolivia.
Mr. Jorge Kuljis, Bolivian representative to the Croatian World Congress read the letter of Croatian World Congress President Stephen Asic, from Australia regarding the event. He emphasized that the objectives are to be able to invest in Croatia, with the presentation of success stories in Croatia, and to work on this groundbreaking idea of generating commercial opportunities between the South American diaspora and Croatia.
Mr. Josip Hrgetic and his wife, entrepeneurs who are from Venezuela and currently work and live in Zagreb and belong to the G2 meeting organization connected into the working session from Zagreb, Croatia via Skype and talked about the soon to be launched Business G2 portal aimed at Croatian investors from the diaspora around the world, that will have basic information about Croatia, it will also have professional business advice on how to set up a business in Croatia, as well as business legal in Croatia. The idea is to connect investors to the correct professionals, companies and organizations to troubleshoot and solve any problems with their future and current business investments in Croatia. He also mentioned that the 2nd G2 business meeting for Croatian diaspora investors around the world will take place on October 10-12, 2016 in Zagreb and invited South American business leaders and entrepeneurs to attend it.
From the Argentina delegation Mr. Kresimir Jerkovic expressed that the Argentinian Croatian Chamber of Commerce recently celebrated their 25th anniversary, and that the chamber is fully functioning and engaged in the activities and goals that they’ve set up to do as part of their businesses in Argentina and with Croatia.
Mr. Carlos Lonza, President of the Croatian Stadium in Santiago, Chile who led the delegation from Chile, expressed his interest in promoting cultural and sports events, to generate more participation from the younger generation and to strengthen the sporting links between our countries. He also stressed that it is important to ease the obstacles that prevent the participation of Croatian citizens living in the South American diaspora in Croatian parliamentary and presidential elections.
Mr. Alex Tudor also from the Chilean delegation mentioned the project to create a Chamber of Commerce that would unite Croatian diaspora businessmen from Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, and said that currently the quantity of business activities is limited.
Dr. Pedro Marinov from Chile mentioned that the Croatian community in Antofagasta is totally integrated, he is also surprised at the quantity of Croatian descendants in his country where every single day he meets a new Croatian descendant, and the community has such an impact in Chilean political life that 10 members of the Chilean congress are Croatian descendants. He mentioned that in Chile, the Croatian community is highly respected in the country because the Croatian diaspora in Chile is perceived as having individuals that are: believable, responsible, serious, honest and hardworking.
Miss Liz Yakisich from Paraguay gave a brief description of the history of Croatian immigration to Paraguay which founded one of the earliest Croatian associations in the continent in 1889. The association was refounded last year under the name of “Paraguayan Croatians Association” with the active participation of 50 members. The hay Croatian language classes that have just began and have already been featured in articles and interviews in the Croatian Heritage Foundation magazine and HRT’s La Voz de Croacia (Croatian Voice). The main problems that they face is the lack of interest and attention that the Croatian Embassy in Argentina has given them, with Embassy staff being rude, disrespectful and inattentive with their paperwork and their requests for Croatian nationality.
Mr. Zdenko Teply Bagatelj from Peru thanked the proactive work of the Croatian Embassy in Chile under the leadership of Ambassador Nives Malenica for her efforts to unite the diasporas of the 4 countries that she oversees (Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru). He mentioned that his community is working on a project to create the Peruvian Croatian Chamber of Commerce, and that Croatian language classes have started in Lima, Peru under the leadership of Father Marko Yukic’ gathering about 50 students.
From Bolivia, Dani Nigoevic expressed that their century old Croatian Club infrastructure has been restored, and also that the Croatian cemetery in Oruro is being restored and preserved. A recent development has been that Bolivian National Archives through a project with a local university is working on preserving, organizing and cataloguing the Oruro Croatian diaspora archives, asking Dr. Gonzalo Nigoevic to become a member of the national program of memoirs for UNESCO.
Also from Bolivia, Mr. Tomislav Kuljis said that it is important to keep awake the interest of the younger generations in their Croatian heritage, and that we have to go beyond commerce and culture, through new initiatives like fostering Bolivian Croatian exchange programs, and work more efficiently through individual projects targeted to specific needs in order to expedite results and generate community engagement.
During the afternoon working sessions of the “Meeting of the South American Croatian Diaspora” participants from various countries, gathered in 3 different rooms to listen to short presentations from different countries regarding their experiences in the 3 thematic areas of the event. Participants exchanged opinions, expressed the successes as well as the obstacles that arise in their areas, as well as the lessons learned, and proposed conclusions with solutions to these problems. The 3 thematic areas were: a) Socio-political situation of the South American diaspora, b) Culture and learning of the Croatian language in the South American diaspora, c) Business round table and issues of regional trade integration between South American companies Croats and business opportunities and investments with Croatia. The next day the proposals of the 3 commissions, a consensus was reached and the joint declaration of the three commissions will be sent to Croatia, to the authorities in the motherland in the different spheres of government, the Chambers of Commerce in Croatia, institutions involved in the disputed areas.
The “Croatian Culture and Teaching of the Croatian Language” commission was the most attended session of the event. Ana Paola Parada Pavisich and Claudia De Ugarte presented the experiences of the activities of the Croatian language classes in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Miss Liz Yakisich of Paraguay gave a very interesting speech about the origins of the Croatian community in Paraguay through the experiences of the past as well as the new experiences of the recently created Paraguayan Croatian Association.
Mr. Gonzalo Pedreros of the Klapa Tri Sulara of Antofagasta Chile, who is not of Croatian origin talked about his personal experience of falling in love with Croatian klapa music and instruments after his marriage to a Chilean Croatian lady. His story was mesmerizing and an example the wonderful and interesting things that happen with the non-Croatian spouses around South America who are actively involved and collaborate in the Croatian communities in their countries.
Mrs. Branka Bezic of the Croatian Heritage Foundation (matica.hr) from Croatia spoke about current and future projects of the foundation that are specific to the South American Croatian diaspora.
Mr. Gonzalo Nigoevic of Oruro, Bolivia proposed the idea of creating a project to rescue the oral history of Croatian emigrants who have been told to their families so that those stories and traditions do not disappear when the Croatian emigrants die.
A representative of Argentina told the story of how her community has recorded Croatian stories through short articles in the local newspaper. These stories reflect the historie and contributions of the Croatian immigrants to Argentina.
Ambassador Nives Malenica spoke about existing projects and a proposal that is being worked on, creating an platform to have access online to Croatian classes online and free of charge that could be accessed by the members of the Croatian diaspora in South America.
Participants of the business roundtable and commercial exchange committee had individual business meetings, formulated strategies and next steps for the current chambers of commerce in Argentina and Chile, as well as the creation of the Croatian Chambers of Commerce in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.
CONCLUSSIONS, NEXT STEPS AND JOINT DECLARATION OF THE MEETING OF THE SOUTH AMERICAN CROATIAN DIASPORA
On Saturday, April 30, 2016 all the participants of the “Meeting of the South American Croatian Diaspora” gathered in the final plenary session to present the conclusions reached in their working groups after 2 days of work and discussion. The close to 70 participants representing the Croatian communities of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay helped to fine tune and signed both the official declaration and the conclussions reached in their individual working groups. Two delegates from each country will sign the declaration, and this declaration will be sent to the Croatian Parliament (Sabor), to key members of the Croatian government, Croatian leaders and Croatian organizations.
- Call to Croatia and the South American Croatian diaspora to continue to work to maintain Croatia as a free and sovereign nation.
- South American Croatian voting is very limited and concentrates only in the 3 metropolitan areas of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Brasilia (Brazil) and Santiago (Chile) leaving a large majority of elegible Croatian citizen voters unable to exercise their right to vote in the South American continent. We request to modify law to allow us to vote through the mail or electronically, because our right to vote is guaranteed in the Croatian Constitution.
- Representation in the Croatian Parliament (Sabor). Article 44 of the Law for the Croatian diaspora states that it is indispensable that the Croatian citizens living in the diaspora can and must participate in the socio-political life. It is therefore crutial that we have real representatives in the Croatian parliament and we request to have 2 members in the Sabor.
- Croatian diaspora attaches at the Croatian Embassies. We request that the Croatian Embassies in South America have staff member that would be a Croatian Diaspora Attache whose mission would be to act as liaison between the Croatian communities and the Republic of Croatia.
- Croatian language courses. We request that the Croatian Heritage Foundation (matica.hr) develop a Croatian language internet course that is free of cost and easily accessible for our diaspora through the web.
- Leadership program aimed at young leaders. We request the Croatian Heritage Foundation to develop a leadership program based in Croatia aimed at young leaders from the South American Croatian communities, so they can further develop their leadership skills through short courses in Croatia while they get to know the motherland better.
- Student exchange program. We request the Croatian Heritage Foundation to help us develop a student exchange program aimed at having South American students of Croatian origin to go to Croatia and live with a Croatian family, fostering also young Croatian students to come and live for a few months with a South American family.
- Quotas for South American descendants to study at Croatian universities. We request the competent Ministry of Education to provide a number of spaces at Croatian universities for young South American Croatians to go to Croatia and study at the universities.
- Next meeting of the South American Croatian diaspora will be in Santiago, Chile in 2017.
Business roundtable and commercial area
- Bi-national chambers of commerce. Maintain the existing Argentinian Croatian, and Chilean Croatian Chambers of Commerce. Create and obtain the legal status of the Bolivian Croatian, Peruvian Croatian and Paraguayan Croatian Chambers of Commerce. Develop a Croatian business network of Croatian chambers of commerce which will link efforts with the Croatian Government in the next 90 days.
- Coordinating committee. The South American Croatian Diaspora coordinating committee will line-up commercial goals with Croatian businesses, Croatian Embassies and the Croatian Government.
- Unified database. A unified database will be created to house the products and services according to the business offer and demand.
- South American Business and Croatian Business. The character of business with have 2 objectives, to generate business within the South American region and with Croatia in the next 60 days, using the existing business contacts that we have in South America and Croatia.
Croatian culture and Croatian language classes
- Develop Croatian language learning centers in South America that will teach Croatian descendants the Croatian language using local Croatian speaking teachers.
- Promote student exchange programs, such as the model mentioned in the socio political goals.
- State Office for Croats Abroad. Request the Office, to publish the call for scholarships to learn Croatian in Croatia twice a year, considering that in South America the seasons of the year are opposite to Croatia for academic purposes.
- Support in Croatian language training, and teaching materials. Request the Croatian Heritage Foundation and the State Office for Croats Abroad to provide local South American Croatian language teachers with training opportunities, help us unify the best teaching methods and teaching materials such as books, and request funds for these activities.
- Strenghten Croatian heritage and culture in the South American diaspora. Do this through Croatian movies with Spanish subtitles, folkloric music and dancing groups, Croatian cuisine culinary events across the continent, sporting events, etc.
- Create an information webpage or portal for Croatian language learning resourses and Croatian culture.
- Request the presence of high level Croatian government missions that address the political, economical and cultural issues mentioned in this declaration.
- Promote the bi-national signing of agreements between our individual countries and the Croatian government to facilitate our work in the socio-political, economic and cultural areas.
- Form country specific tailored sporting teams to represent us in Croatian games though the disciplines in which each country is great at.