Nohra Puyana and Andres Pastrana were both born into powerful Colombian families with long traditions of public service. Ambassador Pastrana’s father, Misael Pastrana, was president of Colombia from 1970-1974, and he recalls that, “From the time I was a child I was always with my father. I loved to travel with him, because it was my way of getting to know the real people and the country.” By the age of twenty-six, Andres had been elected to the city council of Bogota, marking the beginning of a career that would encompass sixteen years in elected office and five elections to four different positions, culminating in the office of the President, which he held from 1998-2002.
Nohra’s childhood was characterized by her hands-on approach. “When I was about ten, I started a little escuela (school) on our farm,” she says, “and I would teach the farmers’ children whatever I had learned at school that day. I loved it, and it’s probably when I really began caring about the social condition.” Together, the Pastranas have devoted their lives to ending the cycle of narcotics, corruption, and civil strife that have ravaged Colombia since the 1950’s. In a country where at one time, public officials lived in fear of assassination by the cartels, the Pastranas have not only survived, but have played a critical role in leading Colombia toward unprecedented peace and prosperity.