The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA) along with the International Good Neighbor Council (IGNC) have announced their selection of the four bright young Abrazo Children who will represent the United States and Mexico during the 125th Celebration.
“The International Bridge Ceremony has been a long-standing tradition between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, featuring our four Abrazo Children,”
said WBCA President D. Matthew Gibson.
“The beautiful event brings our two great nations, Mexico and the United States, together to demonstrate the love and strength our communities share.”
The 2022 – 2023 Abrazo Children, representing the United States, are Mila Fernanda Garcia and Francisco Marcel Gonzalez Flores. The children representing Mexico are Andressa Maria Vazquez Urteaga and Jeremiah Cabrera. The official announcement of the selection was made during a special ceremony on Friday, August 5, 2022, at the San Agustin Ballroom at La Posada Hotel located at 1000 Zaragoza Street, the proud sponsor of the International Bridge Ceremony and the Official Hotel of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration.
Mila Fernanda Garcia, age 9, is the daughter of Mr. Jose E. Garcia and Mrs. Cynthia Vela-Garcia. Mila is a fourth grader at St. Augustine Elementary School. Her hobbies include flamenco, ballet, horseback riding, swimming, skiing, and watercolor painting. Mila also enjoys playing at the family ranch and reading.
Mila comes from a long legacy of family members who have served as Abrazo Children, dating back to 1985. Her aunts, uncles, mother, father, and others have also volunteered, and continue to volunteer, in multiple capacities with the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association and its affiliate organizations such as: the Caballeros de la Republica del Rio Grande, International Good Neighbor Council, Society of Martha Washington, and the Princess Pocahontas Council. Her father, Jose E. “Pepe” Garcia is currently a WBCA Board Member.
Mila is honored to follow in her family’s footsteps and continue this long legacy as the 2022-2023 Abrazo Child representing the United States.
Francisco Marcel Gonzalez Flores is 10-years-old and the son of Mr. Francisco Javier Gonzalez Garza and Mrs. Monica Flores Gonzalez. He is a fifth-grade student at United Day School and he loves his school and his community. In his free time, Francisco enjoys playing tennis with his friends, practicing boxing, playing in the pool or on the trampoline with his brother Patricio, and spending time with his dog Lulu.
His hobbies include playing video games like Roblox and PlayStation 5 VR. Reading is also a hobby he enjoys, and his favorite book is called “The BFG”, which he read last year in his class. Francisco also loves traveling and so far his favorite place is Disney World which he recently visited and enjoyed very much. Throughout the years he has participated in numerous sports such as Taekwondo, swimming and playing basketball, in addition to numerous camps. Francisco is a kind, lively, and thoughtful boy with a big smile. He loves his family and friends and always makes sure he shows it. Francisco is honored and excited to represent the City of Laredo and the United States as the 2022-2023 Abrazo Child as part of the 125th Washington Birthday Celebration.
Andressa Maria Vazquez Urteaga is 9-years-old and the daughter of Mr. Jorge Javier Vazquez Longoria and Mrs. Melissa Urteaga de Vazquez. Next week she will be starting the fourth grade at Mary Help of Christians School and is a proud member of the MHCS Choir and NET.
An avid gymnast at heart, Andressa also loves spending time in the great outdoors with family and friends. Her most favorite thing to do is spend time in the family ranch and go horseback riding. Among other hobbies she enjoys are hunting, fishing, and traveling. In her downtime, while at home, Andressa also loves to read.
As the 2022-2023 Abrazo Child representing Mexico, Andressa is proud to follow in her family member’s footsteps, many of whom served as Abrazo Children dating back to 1987. Andressa’s family legacy extends over the years to include participation in various WBCA events and WBCA Affiliate events, such as with the Consejo Internacional de la Buena Vecindad and the Society of Martha Washington.
Jeremiah Cabrera, age 10, is the son of Mr. Jeremiah Cabrera and Mrs. Cristina Cabrera.
He is a fourth-grade student attending Colonel Santos Benavides Elementary School where he is involved in many extracurricular activities. Jeremiah is an avid reader and a member of his school’s Gifted and Talented Program and the National Elementary Honor Society.
Jeremiah also loves playing sports and is part of the Colonel Santos Benavides Basketball team, Prodigy Flag Football, and the Dreamcatchers Basketball travel team. Additionally, he enjoys playing tennis and golf.
In his spare time, Jeremiah loves to go hunting, fishing, and swimming. Also among his favorite pastimes is playing boardgames and volunteering. Jeremiah is honored to represent Mexico as the 2022-2023 Abrazo Child.
The symbolic meeting of the two countries that form part of this Laredo Celebration was first established in 1898. It quickly evolved to include a ceremony where U.S. and Mexican local and military officials gathered to walk arm in arm into downtown Laredo, making it one of the longest-standing traditions of the Celebration still honored to date. In 1969, the WBCA and IGNC introduced the Abrazo Children to this symbolic event to further promote the greater awareness and understanding between the people of the Americas. The act of the four children meeting in the middle of the bridge and exchanging a heartfelt “abrazo” symbolizes friendship, goodwill, kindness and a mutual appreciation between the United States and Mexico.
After the children exchange these symbolic hugs or “abrazos,” the U.S. and Mexican dignitaries also meet their counterparts in the middle of the bridge and share the same “abrazo” gesture. This is the only time each year that an international bridge linking the two countries is formally closed to the public.
As official Ambassadors of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, this year’s Abrazo Children will attend a number of WBCA events including the historic International Bridge Ceremony Sponsored by La Posada Hotel. The event will take place on Saturday, February 18, 2023 at 7:30 a.m. on the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge.
Throughout the years, the Celebration has grown to be over a month long and consists of parades, dazzling pageants, fireworks, a carnival, an air show, a sizzling jalapeño festival and much more. Combined, WBCA events attract nearly 500,000 residents and visitors, and contributes an estimated $14 million every year to the local economy.