Patricia Cardenas, ambassador of Colombia, is chairperson of this year’s Cherry Blossom Charity Ball. The International Ladies Benevolent Society’s annual fund-raiser will be held April 13 at the Hotel Okura.

Bogota, capital city of Colombia, is reputed to be a center of learning. It rejoices in its attention to literature, poetry and music, and appreciates being called the “Athens of South America.”

On a high plateau in the Andean region, this city of eternal springtime enjoys a temperate climate and the benefits of natural wealth. Within reach of Bogota are emerald mines and the underground Salt Cathedral, both contributing to the city’s aura of originality.

Patricia Cardenas, ambassador of Colombia to Japan, comes from Bogota. She is thoroughly conversant with Colombia’s varied climatic features from its tropical lowlands to its mighty mountains, its history and its products.

“I hope everyone will come to visit us, and see how dynamic our country is,” she said. She is in a position to compare places, as she has traveled to many.

Cardenas, who speaks four languages, studied at the University of Los Andes, Bogota, to become in 1983 an industrial engineer. Her father, she said, “was very much into the coffee business. In my family we are all dealing with economics.

“I am the only one to represent our country somewhere in the world, but we are all working for the country from many perspectives.”

Her own early ambition was to have “a combination of experience in different fields.” During a two-year term of being administrative director at a research institute, Cardenas went to the University of Oxford, England. “That was a different life. It gave me my good memories,” she said.

At Oxford she gained a diploma in economic development. In Bogota again, she was appointed to lead the planning, economic and fiscal analysis office of the Ministry of Finance. She moved up to become adviser to the Minister of Finance, thereafter becoming commercial director of an international trading company.

“The Ministry of Finance gave me a lot of confidence,” Cardenas said. “All my life I have had a lot of variety. It’s a healthy attitude to look at topics with a very broad view both from the public sector and the private sector.”

She was called to serve Bogota as a city council member. Before coming to Japan she spent five years as president of the Banking and Financial Institutions Association of Colombia.

For the last two decades, Cardenas served as director on the boards of several important councils. As representative of the president of the country, she worked with the Crafts of Colombia. She helped the Modern Art Museum, and as representative of the Minister of Finance on several occasions she provided professional expertise.

Over the last 10 years she has received distinctions for her outstanding performances. In between times she has been appointed to attend seminars in other countries.

She visited Japan before coming here to take up her present appointment.

To be a woman ambassador means accepting heavy commitments. On top of being a high-level diplomat she is the mother of three children, all of whom continue their education in Tokyo.

Additionally, she had been here only two months when the International Ladies Benevolent Society asked her to assume the chair of this year’s Cherry Blossom Charity Ball.

“I was very honored,” she said. “It was a wonderful introduction to my life in Tokyo.”

ILBS, resurgent after World War II, took its present format and name in the early postwar years when Japanese people were still struggling with deprivation.

Concerned international women determined then to raise money to help relieve shortages suffered by institutions and some individuals. ILBS membership expanded and the society received the patronage of the Imperial family.

As Japan recovered and prospered, ILBS continued to aid institutions caring for the ill and disabled, and in time extended their assistance to selected causes outside Japan.

“There is need everywhere,” Cardenas commented. The Cherry Blossom Charity Ball is scheduled for April 13 at the Hotel Okura, Tokyo. Cardenas is putting a Colombian gilding on the evening, and praises the hotel for its willing efficiency.

She says the menu will feature Colombian products, including of course coffee, and decorations will focus on flowers brought in from Colombia. ILBS has solicited donations of valuable prizes including those for the raffle.

“The really special prize is a Colombian emerald necklace,” Cardenas said. Raffle tickets are available from ILBS members.


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