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Celebrating the Greek War of Independence in Latin America

Credit: Courtesy of Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela

The long-awaited Bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence is approaching and will be  celebrated by many compatriots around the world — some as far away as Latin America.

It is one of the most important dates in the history of Greece, commemorating two hundred years of liberation of the Greek people after years of oppression under the Ottoman Empire.

It is a story of struggle, courage, determination, bravery, fervor and heroism that is almost as epic as the stories of ancient Greece.

Honoring the celebration, some of the most well-known places in the world will be dressed in the colors of the Greek flag. Among these are the White House, the Sydney Opera House and even Niagara Falls — revealing the importance of Greek culture all over the world.

The Celebration of Greece’s Independence in Latin America

There are a great number of Greek communities throughout Latin America. They are numerous, and prosperous, although often small. But they all share a great bond, the country of their ancestors.

Despite their different nationalities, they feel like a great family full of friendly and hospitable people, as if their bond with their homeland conveyed the values ​​that characterize the Greek people.

It is regrettable that with the current situation in the world, most of the people in these countries are in confinement and under restrictions, making it impossible to carry out the appropriate celebrations in person.

The last celebrations of Greek Independence Day took place two years ago, in 2019 prior to the start of the pandemic.

Greek Communities  of Latin America and their Celebrations

Proud of their Greek heritage, the communities hold celebrations on all the important dates, including the country’s Independence Day.

Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela

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Members of the Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela. Courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela

Venezuela, on the northeastern corner of South America, has a large presence of Greeks. The Greek Orthodox community of Venezuela, founded in 1960 by a group of Greek residents, is one of the largest in all of Latin America.

As all communities share the customs and traditions of Greece, Greek Reporter spoke with Cristos Mitsikostas, the secretary of the community, who told us that due to the large presence of Greeks, the celebrations were held in Valencia, the most populated city of the Carabobo State in Venezuela.

However, in recent years these have taken place in Caracas, the capital of the country.

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Celebrations of Greek Independence Day at the Legislative Palace in 2016, Caracas, Venezuela. Courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela

Generally, a great celebration of independence is held annually, with a Floral Offering in front of the statue of the Liberator in the Plaza Bolívar of the city of Caracas. Later, a Liturgy in the cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Community, takes place, followed by a small parade of the students of the Greek School with skits and dances.

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Headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela, Caracas. Credit: Cristo Mitsikostas
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Students performing Greek dances on Independence Day. Courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela.

The celebration is usually attended by approximately 150 to 170 people, a large number given the overall numbers of those in the country who are of Greek heritage.

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Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Caracas. Courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Community of Venezuela.

Hellenic Collectivity of Santiago, Chile

The Hellenic Collectivity of Santiago is an institution founded in 1918 by 50 Greek immigrants who arrived in Santiago de Chile with the purpose of integrating into and developing the local community.

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Courtesy of the Hellenic Collectivity of Santiago

The purpose of the community is to promote and spread Greek culture through different activities such as Greek language classes, traditional dances, classes in making traditional Greek food and the celebration of important dates together, including Independence Day.

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Courtesy of the Hellenic Collectivity of Santiago

The group currently maintains contact with and brings together approximately 250 Greek descendants who reside in Santiago de Chile.

Courtesy of the Hellenic Collectivity of Santiago

Current Covid-19 restrictions in the capital city of Chile unfortunately prevent meetings or celebrations at the present time. However, the community has still been able to carry out a series of activities with the students, promoting the understanding of the importance of Greece’s Independence Day.

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Courtesy of the Hellenic Collectivity of Santiago

María Teresa Marinakis, president of the Collectivity, comments “We have all the desire and energy to pay tribute to the two hundred years of freedom of the Greek people in our new headquarters.”

For the second semester of the year 2021, a change of headquarters has been projected, which will be a boon to the newer generations and which will allow for the further development of Hellenism in Chile.

Nostos, Argentina

The Hellenic Cultural Association Nostos in Argentina is a non-profit civil entity dedicated to promoting and disseminating Greek culture and language.

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National Library of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Courtesy of Nostos.

Like the other groups all over Latin America, Nostos’ last celebrations took place in 2019, when cultural exhibitions were held. These formal events have in the past even had the participation of ambassadors.

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Members of Nostos, the Hellenic Cultural Association of Argentina. Courtesy of Nostos.

During these annual celebrations, the flags and anthems of the countries are presented, speeches trading the history of Greece are made in Spanish and Greek, and of course traditional dances are performed as well.

Cristina Tsardikos, President of the Hellenic Nostos Cultural Association told Greek Reporter that concerts and other types of presentations have also been held, with the purpose of fostering the spread of Greek culture to the Greeks and Philhellenes of Argentina.

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Greek dancing is part of the annual celebrations of Nostos. Courtesy of Nostos.

As a tribute to the bicentennial of independence, a series of activities have been carried out, emphasizing the importance of Greek culture in Latin American literature. There was also an exhibition of Hispanic poets who included historical material from the Greek revolution in their works.

Greeks from Bolivia

In Bolivia there are no established Greek communities per se, but there is a large presence of Greek descendants. These families are well aware of and proud of their fatherland and are in charge of sharing their heritage and traditions, in addition to celebrating important dates on the Greek calendar.

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The Paputsachis family, La Paz Bolivia. Courtesy of the Paputsachis family.

Such is the case of the Paputsachis family — a large extended family which is united and deeply rooted in its culture.

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Antonio Papoutsakis, Constantino Papoutsakis and Sacarias Francachis upon their arrival in Bolivia. Courtesy of the Papoutsakis family

Varinia Pérez Paputsachis said that despite not having a community in her country, they have kept the traditions of the Greek people alive, holding meetings and celebrating all the usual Greek holidays.

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Varinia Pérez Paputsachis, a Bolivian Greek descendant invited to the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Greek community in Antofagasta Chile. Courtesy of Varinia Paputsachis.

As a representative of all the Greeks in Bolivia, Paputsachis was invited to the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Greek community in Antofagasta, Chile.

They may not celebrate the date like the large Latin American communities, but as a family they take it upon themselves to make everyone more proud of their Greek roots by demonstrating their unconditional love for the land of their ancestors.

Invitation to countries in Latin America

In honor of the Bicentennial and in order to share Greek knowledge and culture, the ARGO Center for Hellenic Studies will hold the »  International Conference on Greek Culture and History» on March 25, 26, and 27, 2021.

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Credit: Facebook/ARGOS

Additionally, some Latin American communities will show their love for Greece and honor its Bicentennial in whatever way they can this year, demonstrating their support by raising the flag outside their homes, eating Greek delicacies and simply enjoying Greek culture on this very special day.

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