The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA) along with the International Good Neighbor Council (IGNC) have announced their selection of the four bright young Abrazo Children who will represent the United States and Mexico during the 120th Celebration.
“The abrazo, or hug, given by our four beautiful Abrazo Children symbolizes the mutual admiration and respect that our two countries and cities have for one another,”
said WBCA President Eddie Villarreal.
“The powerful gesture of an abrazo between the officials from both the United States and Mexico embraces our traditions and demonstrates our unity as border neighbors.”
The 2016 – 2017 Abrazo Children, representing the United States, are Ella Alessandra Gonzalez and William Joseph Palumbo III. The children representing Mexico are Cassandra Cabrera Zamudio and Mateo Cañamar Morales. The official announcement of the selection was made during a special ceremony on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at the San Agustin Ballroom at La Posada Hotel located at 1000 Zaragoza Street, the proud sponsor of the International Bridge Ceremony and the Official Hotel of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration.
Ella Alessandra Gonzalez, 7, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alejandro Jose Gonzalez. Ella is a second grader at St. Augustine Elementary School where her accomplishments include yearly Honor Roll, the May 2016 Student of the Month, and participating as a member of the basketball team for 2 years. In addition to her achievements at school, Ella enjoys spending time involving herself with extracurricular activities. She has performed in numerous dance recitals as a member of The Erika Garcia Haynes School of Dance for the past four years, studying ballet and flamenco. Among other things, she also enjoys yoga, swimming, arts & crafts, golf and spending time with her family and friends. Her love of other cultures has sparked an interest in traveling across different parts of the world and has landed her in places such as Walt Disney World, Miami, Los Angeles, Cancun, and London. Involvement in WBCA is definitely not new for Ella. Her maternal grandmother, Lisa Zuñiga, has been an avid WBCA board member for over eight years and won prestigious awards such as the Presidential Award and the Joseph Netzer Award. Ella’s aunt, Casey Zuñiga, was also an Abrazo child in 2000 and a Society of Martha Washington debutante in 2010. Ella is excited to carry on the family tradition of participating in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association.
William Joseph Palumbo III, 7, is a member of the Gifted & Talented program at C. L. Milton Elementary School. The son of William Joseph Palumbo Jr. and Vanessa Medina Palumbo, William enjoys playing an array of sports. In these past years, he has played with the 1st grade Milton basketball team and additionally the 2nd grade Milton basketball team in the Boys and Girls Club League; and with the City’s Spurs League. William also plays flag football and has played baseball with the Laredo Pony League for the last two years. William not only excels on the field but in the classroom as well. He has received the Distinguished Student School Award for the past three years, which recognizes his ability to achieve a straight “A” Honor Roll and maintain Perfect Attendance. He placed 1st place in the School Science Fair and was recognized as fourth among the first grade students in the Accelerated Reader program. As he continues on his path of education and athleticism, he understands the importance of hard work, fair play, and respect for all.
Cassandra Cabrera Zamudio will represent Mexico as an Abrazo Child. Cassandra, 8, attends the third grade at Mary Help of Christians School. She is the daughter of Jeremiah Jon Cabrera and Cristina Isaura Zamudio de Cabrera. Cassandra is a member of the school’s Mary’s Club, and Marian’s Club. Her extracurricular activities also include choir, crochet and Club Net. She enjoys acrylic painting, baking, playing tennis, golf, dancing hip-hop, ballet and horseback riding. She also enjoys a good book and loves to travel as well as playing with her friends and family.
Mateo Cañamar Morales, 9, is a fourth grader attending United Day School. He is the son of Eduardo de Jesus Cañamar Ferrara and Marisela Morales Cañamar. Mateo plays soccer with the U9 and U10 teams in the Laredo Heat Soccer Club. He is also a part of the Laredo Speedster Basketball League, the United Day flag football, basketball, and track teams. He is a member of the United Day Environmental Club, was a Student Council Representative and Citizen of the Year for the third grade. Mateo enjoys most sports, outdoor and ranch activities such as hunting, fishing, and archery. This past summer he attended Teotepec Summer Camp in Saltillo, Mexico for two weeks where he focused on creating learning and recreational experiences based on Christian core values.
La Posada Hotel, the official host hotel of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, is the proud sponsor of the International Bridge Ceremony for the 120th Celebration.
“The La Posada Hotel is honored to participate as a host of the announcement reception for the Abrazo children who will participate in the upcoming WBCA/IGNC International Bridge Ceremony in February 2017,”
stated Norbert Dickman, General Manager of Fasken Oil and Ranch, Ltd., the operator of the La Posada Hotel.
“The Abrazo ceremony is always a focal point of the annual festivities, as well as a meaningful and touching symbol of the close relationship which exists between ‘Los Dos Laredos’ and among the United States and Mexico,”
The symbolic meeting of the two countries that is part of this Laredo Celebration was first established in 1898. It quickly evolved to include a ceremony where U.S. and Mexican local and military officials gathered to walk arm in arm into downtown Laredo, making it one of the longest-standing traditions of the Celebration still honored to date. In 1969, the WBCA and IGNC introduced the Abrazo Children to this symbolic event to further promote the greater awareness and understanding between the people of the Americas. The act of the four children meeting in the middle of the bridge and exchanging a heartfelt “abrazo” symbolizes friendship, goodwill, kindness and a mutual appreciation between the United States and Mexico.
After the children exchange these symbolic hugs or “abrazos,” the U.S. and Mexican dignitaries also meet their counterparts in the middle of the bridge and share the same “abrazo” gesture. This is the only time each year that an international bridge linking the two countries is formally closed to the public.
As official Ambassadors of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, this year’s Abrazo Children will attend a number of WBCA events including the historic International Bridge Ceremony Sponsored by La Posada Hotel. The event will take place on Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 7:30 a.m. on the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge.
“The Abrazo Ceremony that takes place each year on the international bridge is one of the most symbolic events of the whole Washington’s Birthday Celebration,” said Villarreal. “It is truly one of the most meaningful events for me because it was the first event that I chaired as a volunteer with WBCA.”
Throughout the years, the Celebration has grown to be over a month long and consists of parades, dazzling pageants, fireworks, a carnival, an air show, a sizzling jalapeño festival and much more. Combined, WBCA events attract nearly 500,000 residents and visitors, and contributes an estimated $14 million every year to the local economy.
The Washington’s Birthday Celebration was recently ranked as one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association (ABA) because of the excellent entertainment value it offers to both tour groups and individual travelers from around the world.
The 120th Washington’s Birthday Celebration takes place January 19 – February 20. Tickets for events may be purchased in early February at the WBCA TIcket Kiosk inside Mall Del Norte.
For additional information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, contact the WBCA office at (956) 722-0589, or stop by the office located on 1819 E. Hillside Road in Laredo, TX. Also, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.