Paraguay's ambassador to the United States said Monday during a visit to the Capitol that half a century of cultural and educational exchanges between Kansas and the South American nation support a lasting sense of mutual understanding.
Ambassador Manuel Caceres, who met with Gov. Laura Kelly, said bonds were exemplified by university exchange programs and opportunities to be enriched through art. Collaboration is promoted through Kansas Paraguay Partners, an organization taking a nongovernmental, apolitical and nonreligious approach to crafting linkages with Paraguay.
"The relationship gives Paraguayans the opportunity to study abroad," Caceres said. "In fact, we have almost 3,000 Paraguayans who came to school here in Kansas during the past 30 years. In a way, a lot of people know the United States through Kansas."
"It's the best way of diplomacy. You meet people. You know the country. You know the culture. Of course, you'll always have a friend somewhere else," he said.
Steve Richards, president of Kansas Paraguay Partners, said he was drawn to connecting with people across borders and in ways that changed lives.
"International experience is both a mirror and lens where I learn at least as much about Kansas and the United States as I do the country that I'm visiting and working with," Richards said.
The Paraguayan ambassador said Kansas and Paraguay had similarities that included democratic traditions, the geographical transition from hilly to flat terrain, and an economy built upon industrial agriculture that included beef exports. Perhaps not well known, he said, was Paraguay's role as a leading exporter of electric power driven by river water and as one of the true bilingual countries in the Americas.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was the first person in that job to visit Paraguay since 1965 and is a former Kansas congressman, said Kansas Paraguay Partners represented the potential of a sustained effort to build ties among countries. In addition to the exchange students, Pompeo said there had been exchanges of 600 teachers and 1,800 volunteers.