Patricia Velasquez

The essence of cultural diversity is understanding and respecting the existence of other cultures. Our cultural backgrounds affect the way we think, act and feel. I am Venezuelan with indigenous Wayúu roots, I live between Los Angeles and New York and I travel globally for work. There are millions like me for whom cultural identity is complicated by globalization and enriched by diversity. Every day, I interact with people from different cultures and I realize that behaviors I consider normal might not be so for others. Thus, I value where others come from and the fact that we are all different.

Cultural diversity is so important to me that I created the Wayúu Tayá Foundation, that helps improve the lives of Latin-American indigenous communities while maintaining and respecting their traditions, culture and beliefs. Our programs help the communities we serve maintain and preserve their own language, art, music, customs and traditions.

We have a women’s center where indigenous women sew traditional Susu bags – a practice that has been passed on from one generation to the next. We then distribute the bags commercially and reinvest the profits back into the community. The bags have proven a great mechanism to sharing Wayúu culture with others around the globe. Currently we are working on a partnership with FESNOJIV, the National Network of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, to assemble the first youth indigenous orchestra branch in the region. For the first time ever, the musical memory of the Wayúu’s will be written, preserved and available to others around the globe.