Victor Grimaldo, CEO & Founder President of Viva Panama Organization, Inc. (VPO), was invited to participate at the annual conference on "Public Diplomacy of the Americas" organized by the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars (APDS). This conference provides a unique opportunity for scholars, practitioners and students to engage in an open discussion regarding relevant and urgent topics in the field of public diplomacy, specifically focusing on the topics of cultural diplomacy, trade and investment, and media. The event took place on November 15th, 2013, at USC Annenberg Auditorium of School for Communications & Journalism.
Victor Grimaldo was invited as a representative of Viva Panama Organization, Inc., a non-profit organization exempt from federal exemption under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code in the US, to speak about its mission promoting Panamanian culture in the United States. Among other speakers: Arturo Sarukhan as former Ambassador of Mexico, Jorge Conde as the Director of the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, Caroline Bennett as Communications Director of Amazon Watch, Elizabeth Bahamondes as Marketing Manager from ProChile, Juan Carlos Briseno as Trade and Investment Commissioner from ProMexico.
VPO is the main organization representing Panama among Central American and Hispanic associations in California, Las Vegas, Texas, Puerto Rico, Mexico & Canada. Over time, it has become one of the most respected, talented and professional organizations in Los Angeles, and has been called by many as "Cultural Ambassadors of Panama in California." Most of the VPO projects are focused and intended to share the culture of Panama with intergenerational and multicultural groups in California. Following this goal, VPO organizes a series of events with the motto “Panama also Lives in Los Angeles”, where we share our culture and invite the different community to enjoy it. VPO established the “International Week of Panama" in the County of Los Angeles in 2003, declared by the Board of Supervisors of the Los Angeles County.
VPO's involvement with the community and younger generations started in 1999, when we performed with family members and our own children in their school and churches, making them feel important and proud of their family and their culture. The community started to request more participation in parades, public events where we took our little ones. The work continued going to schools teaching the young students that were not even Panamanians to dance traditional dances from Panama.
VPO’s mission is to present, preserve and promote the many expressions of Panama’s culture, such as the music, dance, tradition, literature, painting, arts & crafts, and cuisine of its people. It seeks to make the highest quality and spirit of Panama accessible to the multicultural population of California and the USA, by organizing, coordinating displays and exhibitions, creating educational programs with museums, schools, universities, and other cultural centers. VPO and Ballet Folklorico Viva Panama are responsible for the implementation, presentation and hosting projects with the purpose of educating and entertaining the community about the Culture of Panama.
VPO has been directed by Victor Grimaldo for the last 23 years, who has a long history and experience in teaching, organizing and accomplishing successful events. He graduated from the School of Medicine at University of Panama, later trained in Family Medicine at Stanford University, with a Master degree in Healthcare Administration from A.T. Still University. He has served the Hispanic community and recognized for his contribution on awareness, early detection and prevention of Prostate Cancer in Los Angeles
Grimaldo trained in traditional folk dances since age 12, he founded his first dance company in Panama; later, he founded his second dance company, Ballet Folklorico Viva Panama, in Los Angeles area, to keep his three children living outside of their native Panama in touch with their culture. He continued to train years later, mentored by Prof. Elisa de Cespedes, an international icon of the Panama Folklorico tradition. He has taught traditional folk dances to many individuals in California and has been involved and recognized in many educational, cultural and community programs over the last 23 years. Currently, he is the Founder President & CEO of Viva Panama Organization, Artistic Director of Ballet Folklorico Viva Panama, Board Member of the Latino Museum of Los Angeles and most important, proud father of William, Adam & Marie Grimaldo.
VPO’s community involvement with other communities has gathered a long list of cultural friends among the Latin American, American and foreign communities, who will be invited to participate and bring with them their communities and participate in their collaborations with others. The community will be reached via emails form our data base, via our website, via electronic and printed flyers, via announcements in the local newspapers and local TV stations. Most of these communities are low income and underserved people at all levels.