Media Center

Press Release


  October 15, 2003

In wide-ranging reflections on the 511th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas, the representatives of Organization of American States (OAS) member countries on Tuesday underscored how the venture—sponsored by Spain—changed the course of history and human development.

Chairing a protocolary meeting of the Permanent Council to mark Columbus Day, Ambassador Salvador Rodezno of Honduras described the history-making voyage as the “beginning of discovery,” one that held great importance for the Americas and Europe alike because it changed the notions of the existing world. Rodezno hailed relations between Spain and the Americas and commended Spain’s important contributions towards the “fusion of two civilizations” through, among other things, its support for OAS hemispheric development programs.

OAS Secretary General César Gaviria expressed his view of the Organization as reflecting shared beliefs surrounding a common hemispheric destiny. He said that at this juncture in inter-American relations, “the dream of unity, which has suffered so many setbacks in the Americas, is becoming a reality.” The OAS, he added, has become the central forum to discuss the region’s problems and advance its political, economic, social and cultural institutions.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Sofía Leonor Sánchez Baret of the Dominican Republic, recalled the Caribbean region as “the center and point of departure of Western civilization’s expansion into the New World for half a century” – where everything began, “for humanity’s good or to its peril.” She also lamented the fact that although the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean marked the beginning of a great European venture into the Americas, “it left the islands stripped of their indigenous peoples.”

Colombian Ambassador to the OAS Horacio Serpa articulated what he viewed as the paradox of the Western Hemisphere, saying the region possesses the greatest world power but at the same time suffers the greatest needs. “Five hundred years after Columbus arrived, and with him the Encounter of Two Worlds, as citizens of the 21st century who have inherited that symbiosis, we are still discovering ourselves,” Ambassador Serpa declared.

And, in his special presentation to the OAS Council, Spain’s Permanent Observer, Ambassador Eduardo Gutiérrez, reviewed the more than five centuries of his country’s special relationship with the countries of the Americas. He renewed Spain’s firm commitment and its support for a variety of OAS activities, including human rights, anti-narcotics efforts, promotion of democracy and the OAS Fund for Peace to support initiatives to peacefully settle conflicts between or among member states.

Reference: E-200/03