Cecilia Miranda honored for her lifelong work promoting Bolivian culture, heritage and dance in the community of Madison

For much of her life, Cecilia Miranda worked tirelessly for decades to promote Bolivian culture, music, heritage and folklore here in Madison through a wide variety of initiatives and organizations. All the while, she didn’t think anyone had really noticed.

But a lot of people did. And on December 4 at the Centro Hispano in Dane County, Miranda received the “Ambassador of Bolivian Folklore” award from the Bolivian Retirees Association of Wisconsin (Asociacion jubilados de Bolivianos en Wisconsin).

“I was very honored by this. It feels good. I didn’t expect something like this from my Bolivian community,” Miranda told Madison365. tried to do it quietly and I never wanted to take credit for it.”

Miranda is a founding member of Tiawanaku, a dance company that has promoted Bolivian and Latin American culture and has performed at numerous festivals, galas, banquets, summer outdoor events and more in the Madison area. Miranda also served as costume director for the organization. She is also a founding member of the Centro de Residentes Bolivianos in Wisconsin, first as secretary and then for consecutive years as president.

Boliviamanta performs at El Dia del los Niños.
(Photo by A. David Dahmer)

In June 2006, Miranda co-founded the dance group Boliviamanta, whose mission is to share Bolivian culture with future generations. Through numerous performances, the group was able to promote Bolivian folklore throughout the Midwest. In Quechua, Boliviamanta means “made in Bolivia” or “from Bolivia”.

The costumes for her dance groups are imported from Bolivia as well as designed and handmade by Miranda, whose personal goal is to provide dancers with a way to build self-esteem and relive Bolivian traditions through dance.

In addition to all of this, Miranda has been an active member of Bolivianitas, a group of Bolivian women formed with the aim of helping people in need in Bolivia. She has volunteered and traveled with Solidarity Bridge as an interpreter to give back to her country.

Boliviamanta, directed by Cecilia Miranda, performs at Middleton’s Columbian Fest. (Photo by A. David Dahmer)

“After I received the award, I wrote all these details on a Facebook post because so many people had no idea where I had been or what I had done,” Miranda said. “I needed to tell them a bit about what I did as a Bolivian for Bolivia. That’s what it’s about. Bolivians do things for Bolivia.

Miranda left Bolivia for Wisconsin when she was 13 years old. She describes herself as a “bit of a clumsy teenager”.

“I lost all my Bolivian stuff as a teenager…you tend to try to blend in with your peers. And my family wanted me to speak decent English – no Spanish… decent English. “There is no one who speaks Spanish here,” they said. They didn’t want me to lose opportunities because of the language barrier,” she recalls.

Boliviamanta

A whiff of Bolivian memories came back to her, by chance, when she was 18 or 19 and met two other Bolivian girls performing at the Civic Center (now the Overture Center) at International Fest.

“I walked into the bathroom and saw this girl all dressed up in a Bolivian costume. Turns out his family was from the same town as me – Oruro (a Bolivian town about the same size as Madison) – and that’s how it all started for me,” Miranda recalls. “The daughter, Silvia Collier, and I would become best friends. When she got married, I was part of her wedding. Over the years, we have never lost touch.

Since then, Miranda has made it her mission to promote her Bolivian culture and heritage and to expose the people of Madison and beyond to the many great customs and history of Bolivia.

“A lot of people don’t even know about Bolivia – its customs, its dances, its people, its food. I’m so happy to share,” she said. “I invest a lot of money in these Bolivian costumes for performances. Everything must be very glittery. The detail should be there. I am “very visual”.

Bolivian Pensioners Association of Wisconsin

The Bolivian Pensioners Association of Wisconsin was formed by a large group of people here in Madison originally from Bolivia, the fifth largest country in South America located in the west-central part of the continent bordered to the north and east east by Brazil, to the southeast by Paraguay, to the south by Argentina, to the southwest by Chile and to the northwest by Peru. The Bolivian Pensioners Association of Wisconsin is a non-profit organization created to maintain ties to Bolivia here in the Midwest.

“Bolivians – we always tend to form an association, a membership, an organization. It’s so common for us to have it so we can socialize,” Miranda says.

Miranda works many hours at her day job as a nursing assistant at UW Health, so the Bolivian Pensioners’ Association of Wisconsin must have been a little sneaky trying to give her this award for her working life.

Cecilia Miranda with Rosario Gutierrez (right) and Evelin Flores-Nuñez (left) at Centro Hispano after receiving her “Ambassador of Bolivian Folklore” award

“I remember they asked me about my work schedule and days off, but I’m still working. I work about 64 hours a week and I work night shifts. So I said, ‘I’m free on December 4th. But why ?’ “Oh, I’m just asking,” they replied. “We are doing something and we want you to be there.”

“Next thing I know I was honored and it was so wonderful,” she adds. “I am eternally grateful to the members of the Bolivian Pensioners Association of Wisconsin. It’s something I will cherish forever.

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