WBCA Abrazo Children Selected for 123rd Celebration

WBCA Abrazo Children Selected for 123rd Celebration

LAREDO, TX – 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 123rd 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 Bobby Peregoy. “The powerful gesture of an abrazo between the officials from both the United States and Mexico embraces our traditions and demonstrates the unity of our Sister Cities.”

The 2019 – 2020 Abrazo Children, representing the United States, are Natalia Aileen Santos and Oscar Omar Martinez III. The children representing Mexico are Vera Rocha Gordillo and Sebastian Palos Peñuñuri. The official announcement of the selection was made during a special ceremony on Monday, August 12, 2019, 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.

Natalia Aileen Santos, who is 7 years old, is the daughter of Mr. Rogelio J. Santos, Jr. and Mrs. Minerva Ayala Santos and is sister to Sofia Nicole Santos.

She is a second-grader with all “A” Honor Roll at Colonel Santos Benavides Elementary School where she is a Gifted and Talented student and belongs to the rigorous Dual Language Program.  Natalia has earned the Principal’s award and Top of the Class recognitions and has had perfect attendance for her three years of school.  She obtained second place in her school’s Art Contest, placing also at the District level, won third place in the Science Fair and participated in her school’s track team.

Natalia enjoys taking ballet and jazz dance lessons at Lily Hachar Dance Studio since the age of three and has performed in five annual recitals.  She plays tennis at the Laredo Country Club and belongs to the United States Tennis Association.  Natalia has been practicing volleyball at The Gym Legacy preparing to join her school’s team this year.  She enjoys reading in English and Spanish and taking art classes at The Art Studio.  Natalia attended Mundo Montessori before pre-kindergarten.

Her mother serves as Treasurer of the International Good Neighbor Council and is also a member of WBCA.  Both her parents have been WBCA volunteers.  She looks forward to representing the children of the United States in the upcoming WBCA celebration.

Oscar Omar Martinez, III, 10, is the son of Mr. Oscar Omar Martinez Jr. and Mrs. Eileen Azucena Andrade-Martinez. He is a fifth grade student at Dr. Malakoff Elementary. Oscar enjoys hunting, fishing, tending to livestock, basketball, and golf. Oscar began golf at age 3 and as a privileged member of the Laredo Country Club Junior Golf and the Southern Texas Professional Junior Golf Association, he aspires to become a professional golfer.

As a proud member of the Lone Star 4-H Club, he has raised and showcased animals earning him prestigious awards and scholarship monies.

Oscar is an active member of Cub-Scouts where he serves his community and has earned merit badges and recognitions, including the Catholic Religious Medal Award from our Bishop. He graciously serves the Lord as an altar boy and usher at St. Patrick’s Church. He is the grandson of Mr. Moises Andrade Jr. (✝) and Mrs. Lily L. Andrade and The Honorable Judge Oscar Omar Martinez and Mrs. Velma G. Martinez

Both parents have been members of WBCA since 2015. Eileen serves on the WBCA Development Team since 2018 and has been a member of IGNC since 2014. Eileen is on IGNC Executive Board where she has served as Historian, and is currently serving her 2nd term as Secretary.

Oscar is delighted to represent Laredo and the United States as the 2020 Abrazo Child, and looks forward to continuing the family tradition of participating in the 123rd Washington Birthday Celebration.

Vera Rocha Gordillo will represent Mexico as an Abrazo Child and was born in the patriotic month of September. Vera Rocha Gordillo, 7, attends the second grade at Mary Help of Christians School. She is the daughter of Abraham Rocha Garcia and Cecilia Gordillo de Rocha.

Vera participates in volleyball, the Net Club, and gymnastics. She loves to dance, sing and swim with her family and friends.  Vera’s grandparents have plays a major role in her upbringing. From her love of drawing, inherited by her grandma Nanis, to her goal of becoming a teacher like her grandma Ana. She also developed a love for the outdoors due to her trips to her grandpa Carlos’ ranch and has a fine sense of humor like her grandpa Abraham.

Vera is a happy, outgoing, responsible and respectful little girl who loves her two older brothers, Abraham and Santiago. She follows her ancestors’ example of loyalty and patriotism because she loves to hear all the stories her great grandparents tell her about Mexico.

Vera’s parents have been members of IGNC since 2011. Vera’s aunt is a 10-year CIVB Member and the 1981 Abrazo child, as well as 1992 SMW Debutante. Her uncle Lauro L. Guajardo was the 1993 Abrazo child. Vera and her family look forward to represent Mexico as an Abrazo Child for the 123rd Washington’s Birthday Celebration.

Sebastian Palos Peñuñuri is 9 year-old and a 4th grade student at United Day School. He is the son of AA Mario Palos Moreno and Alexandra Peñuñuri de Palos. He is a member of the student council, basketball team, and flag football team at his school. His extracurricular activities consist of playing basketball, and soccer. He enjoys reading, swimming, and traveling with his family. During his free time he plays with his brothers and friends.

The parents of Sebastian are active members of the CIBV since 2014. His parents are also involved in the Mujeres de Sol y Agave of Nuevo Laredo, a non-profit organization that seeks to support Mexican women with limited resources who have a vocation and desire to pursue a higher education. Sebastian looks forward to respresent Mexico as the 2020 Abrazo Child during the 123rd Washington’s Birthday Celebration festivities.

La Posada Hotel, the official host hotel of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, is the proud sponsor of the International Bridge Ceremony for the 123rd Celebration.

“For many years, the La Posada Hotel has had the privilege of sponsoring the Abrazo Ceremony during the annual WBCA Festivities. This ceremony is truly a focal point of the annual celebration,” said Nobert Dickman, General Manager of Fasken Oil and Ranch, Ltd., the operator of the La Posada Hotel. “The bonds between the communities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo run very deep and are grounded in a common history and culture, as well as personal and family ties which remain strong even today. The touching embraces of the children representing the two cities, followed by the greetings of community leaders from each side of the border, express this common bond in the strongest possible way.  The La Posada Hotel is truly honored to be the official sponsor of this event.”

The symbolic meeting of the two countries that form 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 22, 2020 at 7:30 a.m. on the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge.

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 123rd Washington’s Birthday Celebration takes place January 23 – February 29, 2020. Tickets for events may be purchased in early February at the WBCA Ticket Kiosk inside Mall Del Norte.

For additional information, visit www.wbcalaredo.org, e-mail wbca@wbcalaredo.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.