Daily Archives: November 11, 2012

Emma Violand, the Bolivian face of the Obama Government

Kudos to Emma Violand and welcome to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!

Alejandra Pau reports for Pagina Siete:

Emma Violand, the Bolivian face of the Obama Government

POLICY after the victory of the Democratic Party in the United States elections, the “cochabambina” pedagogue will lead a position on the School Board of Arlington, Virginia.

She spent three decades of her life to public education in Arlington County, Virginia, United States, and this week won for the second consecutive time a position in the School Board of that jurisdiction after the triumph of the Democratic Party in the elections of November 6. It is also the first Latino woman who holds that post.

Emma Violand, born in Cochabamba, has also a PhD in education, area who has dedicated more than 30 years of her life.

Referring to the imminent start of a new cycle in public office, from United States she told Pagina Siete how delved into the politics of one of the world’s powers.

The emotion in her voice is noted once the telephone contact is established, and does not go away as she tells how her heart-“will always be Cochabamba” – she has lived a whirlwind of emotions in the last hours.

“They have been hours without doubt of great emotion. “Today, at my age of 68, and I say this with pride at this age, after retiring as administrator of Arlington public schools, I decided to make a political campaign to better serve education”, says.

Persons elected in each district form the School Board of a County, which in turn elects the Superintendent of schools, who is in charge of directing work such as the allocation of budgets and other administrative duties.

Not a word in English

In this special stage in her life, Emma recalls clearly, the passages that marked her childhood, such as the passion of his father, Adalberto Violand, for politics.

She tells her father was exiled and only years later, her mother succeeded in that she along with two of her sisters were welcomed by families in the United States.

At age 16, and without knowing a word in English, Emma Violand arrived in the northern country to help a family as a nanny. Despite the difficulty with the language, she managed to graduate from high school in Virginia and won a scholarship at Radford University, where she earned a language teacher degree.

It was then when she made a practice of teaching in the classroom and she realized that education fascinated her. At age 21 she was married but she was widowed shortly after since her husband died in the Vietnam war while she was doing her Masters in modern languages and education. That was one of the reasons why she returned to Bolivia.

Pioneer and educator

Once in La Paz, she worked at the St. Andrew’s High School [SAS], was dedicated to volunteerism in public education and became interested in the rural area. She founded, with other educators the organization “Un Maestro mas” [One more teacher], who was responsible to send teachers to remote areas.

Subsequently she decided to return to the United States to pursue a doctorate in education. She married again, had two children and became the first latina to be bilingual teacher of public education in Arlington, in 1976.

Since then she was concerned about the education of immigrants, creating programs that facilitate their education as well as the learning of English, because there is a student population that comes from 105 countries in Arlington schools. Thus she managed to become the first latina administering the public schools in that County.

Programs that boosted, as the “English as a second language” and the “accelerated bilingual high school”, marked a milestone in American education.

“Then I founded the Bolivia school, over 15 years ago (‘), since the Bolivian population in Virginia in the early 1990s increased (‘).” I later founded other organizations to help undocumented students to attend college; many of them are bright Bolivian students, of the best,” she says.

Politics, and the future

After retiring in 2007 she understood that changes are made not only in schools, but that can take shape through laws and policy. It was then when she had the support of the then-member of the Board of Government of Arlington, Wálter Tejada, and the democratic community, and served for the first time on the School Board in 2008.

That year was the protagonist of another historic achievement, when she occupied the post of President of the School Board in Arlington before the elections, the first that Barack Obama won in the United States.

One of their goals for the next four years is to continue the work done in the last term and focus their efforts on reducing the dropout within the immigrant community. It also points to young people to achieve the bilingual baccalaureate and obtain facilities in their college admission.

“We must also focus on protecting immigrant women from health, education and work. Having an exemplary mother helped me see how important that is to a woman to prepare and succeeds. Here we can expect that the next President will be a woman, instead in Latin America there are several and that’s because Latina women are very strong, as the heroines of the Coronilla. So, I am ‘llajtamasi’ [Coronilla is the hill where Cochabamba women fought against the Spaniards in the independence war; llajtamasi is a Quechua word that means “from this land, I’m from Cochabamba”] and I remain so,” she stresses with humor.


It is always refreshing to witness Bolivians who succeed!!