Wed, Apr 03, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Boosting Taiwan’s Latin America ties

By Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos

There is no doubt that Taiwan has a long history of cooperation and friendship with Latin America and the Caribbean. From the 17 countries that still recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan) as an independent country, nine are in the region.

That is why there is no surprise that the area has been aggressively targeted by China in the past few years, and through economic incentives — such as loans and the promise of access to its giant market — Beijing has been able to lure away some of Taiwan’s allies, starting with Panama in 2017, and the Dominican Republican and El Salvador last year.

However, there are several groups in Taiwan that are trying to strengthen the friendly relationship between Taiwan and its allies, such as the Honduran Association in Taiwan and the Belizean, Guatemalan and Paraguayan student associations.

Probably the most significant of these groups is Latinos Taiwan, which holds events in different Taiwanese cities. The group was founded by Peruvian Jorge Luis Chocano Castro while he was working for the Honduran embassy in Taipei in 2003.

Its main objective at the time was to unify the Latin American and Caribbean community, assist them with legal counsel, give them support and get close to the Spanish-speaking Taiwanese community — some of whom had lived in Latin America — and give them a space to interact.

With time, its objectives moved beyond that to also help with cultural promotion, giving the community a platform to show their talents, and improve tourism between Taiwan and other nations.

Through its activities, it tries to let the Taiwanese community know that Latin America and the Caribbean are more than just negative headlines. They have rich cultures filled with talent.

Although it is true that some nations might not be as developed as others, we are warm people filled with vision and desire to show the world what we are capable of doing.

Another objective of such groups is the promotion of the Spanish language.

Taiwan had historic Spanish influence, as it was a Spanish colony from 1616 to 1643. According to the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, about 2,500 students pursued a Spanish major at Taiwanese universities last year, with an estimated 2,000 more taking it as a second foreign-language course.

Latinos Taiwan hopes to help increase this number by getting more Taiwanese interested in the Spanish language and Latin American culture.

There are only five Taiwanese universities that offer a degree in Spanish, even though there are more than 100 institutions of higher education in the nation and Spanish is one of the most common languages in the world, with about 548 million speakers.

The cultural activities held by Latinos Taiwan have noticeably improved the friendship between the Latin American and Caribbean community by providing a space to meet each other and learn about the differences between cultures, as well as to enhance collaboration between students. They have also helped strengthen diplomatic relationships between countries.

The festivals and cultural events provide an opportunity for diplomatic officials to interact with each other and cultivate their relationships, but they also give Taiwanese an opportunity to get to know the real Latin American and Caribbean community.

As the founder of Latinos Taiwan put it: “Without a deep, sincere and mutual knowledge of each other, Taiwan, Latin America and the Caribbean are friends only on paper. If we want to feel like true brothers, we have to get to know each other.”

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