The Promising Future of the Dominican Republic

Within the recent framework of the Annual Meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank, I was pleased to participate in a discussion group hosted by the renowned British publication The Banker, on the fast growth experienced by the Dominican Republic in the past years, and its sustainable development plans.

The discussion was facilitated by the Economy Editor of the publication, Silvia Pavoni, and included the participation of highly renowned figures in the country like Enrique Ramírez Paniagua, Manager of Banco Reservas; Fernando Capellán, Executive President, Grupo M and CODEI; José Miguel González Cuadra, Executive President, CCN and Reuven Bigio, CEO and Vice-Chairman, GB Group.

The macroeconomic outlook, the relationship between development and social policy, the tourism-oriented focus of the country, the financial and banking system, as well as the direct foreign investment were the core themes we discussed and whose findings are published in this edition of The Banker.

As stated by Silvia Pavoni, “The Dominican Republic is, undoubtedly, the current economic star of Latin America in terms of growth,” given its thriving tourism industry, a reinvigorated mining sector and a healthy economy with sound investment levels.

The Banker also highlights the 7% GDP growth reported by the Dominican Republic in 2015 derived from, among other factors, the country’s capacity to keep its budget deficit under control.

Last February, we announced in Cisneros the start of the Tropicalia Four Seasons development – our greatest commitment to the Dominican Republic – our contribution to add value to the country as a Sustainable Tourism benchmark. We are very excited to be part of the solid growth of the land we all care about so much.


Tropicalia, a dear dream come true

 

Tropicalia

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for our company and our family. We proudly announce the launch of Tropicalia; a tourist luxury destination, on the south coast of Samaná in Esmeralda Beach, Dominican Republic.

My relationship with Costa Esmeralda, in the Dominican Republic, is like those relationships resulting from love at first sight. Ever since I saw it from up above, 25 years ago, I was sure that I was given the opportunity to do something different with my life; something that would also help us give the country what it had given us up till then and is still giving us: the warmth of its people and the beauty of its environment. This is what the Dominican Republic –our second home, a special place– does; thus our proposal had to be special too. This is how Tropicalia was born almost ten years ago.

Throughout this period, we have invested in the community and the environment of Miches, being aware that they are the most important things. We wanted to make sure we would set up foundations to ensure the sustainability of anything we intended to do, and we have succeeded. The model we have decided to use –the public-private alliance– has had a lot to do with this. We have worked together with the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Education, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the IDB, as well as other national and international foundations.

Education has been the focus of many efforts. Today we can say that, thanks to the Tropicalia Foundation, over three thousand students have improved their skills and school results. Furthermore, 250 professors have improved their teaching and knowledge skills.

Over 210 million pesos invested in programs intended to improve the community’s productive skills aiming at becoming part of the chain of value, have given a boost to entrepreneurship and financial education of more than twenty thousand people in Miches and nearby locations.

Yesterday we took our first step to continue our walk with the idea that the already achieved well-being be maintained and grow. The construction of the Four Seasons Tropicalia hotel will change the luxury tourism paradigm in the Dominican Republic; it certainly means a qualitative and quantitative huge leap with an incalculable range of value for the country that will bring about a new era of projects of this caliber.

Four Seasons Tropicalia will have 169 keys, apart from the 40 Four Season residences; a wonderful golf course, and various amenities that will be part of the first phase of Tropicalia as a whole.

This means an investment of 310 million dollars through two years. During the construction and operation period of the Four Seasons Tropicalia, it will employ 1,800 people. Having this sustainable, luxury hotel is part of the low density and low environmental impact real estate development in the area, the Cisneros Real Estate’s flagship.

During these years we have learned vastly from Costa Esmeralda, its people and its environment. This was required for maintaining the sustainability of a project such as Tropicalia. Today, we are sure  to have a strong, robust and healthy tree planted.

Thanks to all Dominicans for making this project a reality.


“The Cisneros. Faces and Footprints of a Family” was launched at the Real Academia de la Historia

I am very excited to share with you that on October 16th, one of my biggest life dreams was crystallized when I launched, “The Cisneros: Faces and Footprints of a Family (1570-2015)”

The Royal Spanish Academy of History in Madrid was where, alongside my wife Patty, my son Guillermo and dear friends such as José María Aznar, Ana Botella and Bieito Rubido, I culminated a project of more than three decades of research about the origin of our family.

“The Cisneros: Faces and Footprints of a Family (1570-2015)” draws on the roots of the Jiménez de Cisneros family during its beginnings in Palencia, Spain; a place they were forced to abandon due to circumstances. Following a brief stay in La Habana, Cumaná and two decades in the Port of Spain, they finally established themselves in Caracas.

In 1982, two years following the death of my father (Diego Cisneros) I began this adventure inspired by him, who during his moments of reflection asked my mother Albertina and me to recover the family history for posterity.

Written by José Ángel Rodríguez, this book pays homage to the memory of my father. It would not have been possible without the collaboration of brilliant historians and archivists such as Antonio Herrera-Vaillant, Juan Torres Fontes, Manuel Amador González and Álvaro García Castro; not to mention Ms. Carmen Iglesias and Julio Ortega who contributed the prologue and epilogue. I thank them all deeply for the dedication and love they have put into this project.

Similarly, I would like to give special thanks to Mr. Javier Garciadiego, who accompanied me throughout the presentation of this project to Brown University and Ms. Enriqueta Vila Vilar, who honored me with her presence on that occasion.

Although this book began as an investigation into the origins of the Jiménez de Cisneros family, the result portrays an extensive mutual history which embraces us from across the Atlantic to the Pacific, and is told in our shared language. This is why I hope this book will inspire not only the descendents of the Jiménez Cisneros family to learn about and deepen their roots, but also all those families whose histories form part of the Ibero-American fabric which has been woven together to create our shared history. 

 


Discovering Common Ground

Ever since Ptolemy, humans have described the contours of earth’s lands and seas according to their observations, with each new discovery redrawing the map. Even now, with a multitude of scientific tools that help us describe our world’s geography with great precision, there remain uncharted territories in our understanding of its cultural boundaries and how they are interconnected across borders. With an attitude of adventure, what we find when we look afresh at our suppositions may forever change our mental map of what we thought we knew.

One common supposition is that distance breeds difference. Though distinctions among nations and peoples exist, it’s my view that brains are wired to be more like one another than unlike, and it has always been important to me to understand what connects us all. In Latin America, I see that there are more similarities between, for example, Brazil and Argentina, or between Venezuela and Colombia, or between Bolivia and Peru. We’ve had a common ancestry and a common history through the wars of independence. And even after the wars of independence, when we diverged in some respects, we have shared a tremendous culture together, and we have two languages that unify us all.

Global exchange is built on commonality, cooperation, and collaboration, and Latin America has been a nexus of global commerce and culture since the Colonial period. It’s nothing new—the creation of those networks of finance, ideas, objects and people that unite us in so many ways, and which we now refer to as globalism, has been happening for a very long time, over great distances.

Like so many families everywhere, my grandchildren’s family has included men and women who were willing to take risks to overcome distances in order to resettle in more opportune soil. Ancestors on both the Cisneros and Phelps side—my family and my wife Patty’s family—found homelands in Spain, Venezuela, Cuba, Trinidad, Spanish Florida, England, and the United States. In researching our genealogy for our grandchildren, it has become clear that a seemingly genetic predisposition toward adventure, a sense of the vital importance of education for all, and an ability to adapt and change—combined with moments of good fortune—have allowed us to respond to challenges and has made us successful. With that success comes responsibilities.

One responsibility we take very seriously is the preservation of the many wonderful examples of material culture from Latin America that comprise our collections. Preserving the heritage of artworks involves more than the crucial work of caring for them physically. It involves giving them new avenues of correspondence with other works of art and other traditions where they may be studied in public, and creating new scholarship that reveals previously unseen connections and discovers new facts.

When Patty and I began collecting the landscapes of Latin America by traveler artists to and within the region, we recognized that the images they recorded from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries represented a way to perceive a world whose boundaries transcended political borders. They further provided an understanding of Latin America as a longstanding participant in networks of interconnected ideas, traditions, and fruitful exchange.

We have been delighted to be able to collaborate with Hunter College, the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, and Americas Society, to organize an exhibition of the landscapes that demonstrate those connections, and to publish a book about them with new scholarship by distinguished scholars and students from the two schools.

Patty and I are especially proud of the students, whose research and curatorial work contributed tremendously to both the exhibition and book. Their work has added important gains to the intellectual preservation that will allow these works to live for a new generation, who will no doubt discover in them national identities with more in common than previously imagined.

 


Promoting High Impact Entrepreneurship Benefits Everyone

Endeavor is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting high impact entrepreneurship. It currently supports 1000 entrepreneurs around the world. It began operations in September 2013 in Miami thanks to support from the Knight foundation where my daughter Adriana was invited to form part of the founding committee.

Since her incursion into Cisneros, Adriana has infused a great entrepreneurial spirit both inside and outside the company. She is conscious of the responsibility we have as business people to promote countries’ entrepreneurial development by getting young people involved, not only through financing but also by equipping them with the know-how they need to convert their ideas into powerful businesses.

This is why in December last year, in my capacity as an Endeavor Mentor, I had the honor of participating as a judge for the ISP (International Selection Panel). Alongside my counterparts Jocelyn Cortes-Young, Daniel Heise and Lisa Raggiri, as well as Board Members Maurice Ferré, Sean Wolfington, Andrés Moreno and Ernest Bachrach, I was able to meet and interview people with entrepreneurial projects from 15 countries who are participating in the rigorous process of becoming part of this global network.

During the 2014 ISP, 40 high impact entrepreneurs representing 22 companies were selected by the panel and were admitted as new Endeavor members.

A Spanish company that really caught my eye during one of the group of presentations where I was involved, was Shazura (previously known as Shot & Shop). It is a software which plans to revolutionize the way we search for images on the internet. Its modern technology was developed by Sira Pérez de la Coba and transforms photos and videos into numbers. These numbers are then converted into data which means they are able to be compared with one another on the internet and facilitate searching.

In recent years at Cisneros Interactive, we have placed a lot of emphasis on developing digital companies that add value and we can see a lot of potential in Shazura to make the lives of many people easier. It is also an excellent opportunity for developing e-commerce. During its beginnings, this venture has already helped thousands of users to find clothes they like, based on just one pattern.

This is why I am pleased to share with you that alongside my daughter Adriana, Edgar Bronfman Jr. (Former Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group) and Jordanian entrepreneur Walid Tahabsem, we have decided to support Sira to take use of his platform to the next level. This will be done with financing of US$1 million and will mean the company will very soon be able to set up in Silicon Valley.

At Cisneros, we are proud to be able to propel these kinds of innovative projects which contribute to making the web a more powerful business tool.

Here is an article with all of the information: Spanish Startup Wins Billionaire Backing for “Google of Images”.


We Are All Necessary

The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV) recently published an exhort in which it highlighted the message left by His Holiness, Pope Francis during his visit to Latin America. It encourages us to assimilate adversity with courage, hope and responsibility. 

I would like to share some of the concepts I think aptly summarize the spirit of his message: 

  • We are all needed to reconstruct Venezuela and to do so, we need to meet as brothers and sisters and look for solutions together.
  • We all contribute to creating the Venezuela we strive for.
  •  Venezuela is one.
  • All Venezuelans want a country that loves peace, promotes family unity and progress.
  • We need a wholehearted desire to overcome difficulties to create an environment favoring agreements, dialog and reconciliation throughout our country.

Here is the full document (available only in spanish):


His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain Visits the Dominican Republic

A few days ago in the Dominican Republic, I had the honor of accompanying his Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain at the inauguration of the street which now bears his name in La Romana.

H.M. King Juan Carlos, alongside President Danilo Medina, cut the ribbon and declared the “Avenida Rey Juan Carlos I” inaugurated. This street provides direct access to Casa de Campo from the International Airport of Romana via the Coral motorway.

Ministers of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo and José Ramón Peralta, were also present at the ceremony as well as well-known businessmen José and Alfy Fanjul, Felipe Vicini and Ramón A. Méndez.

The Dominican Republic is one of King Juan Carlos’ most visited vacation places and he has become one of the country’s most loved visitors.


Cisneros: A Family History 1570-2015

It fills me with happiness and pride to share with you that on April 21, at the VII International Conference on Transatlantic Studies held at Brown University, Cisneros: A Family History 1570-2015 was launched. It is a book inspired by my father and it crystallizes one of his biggest desires: to unearth the family history for posterity.

The text is a first edition originally created as a personal archive, but on October 16, we will be launching the publication at the Royal Academy of History in Madrid, Spain, in a format designed for a much wider audience.

While researching and journeying through the past to create Cisneros: A Family History 1570-2015, I have realized that our family DNA is made up of defining elements from modernity, such as predicting changes, innovating to bring them about and the resilience needed to live them and lead them. These are characteristics I see every day in my children and grandchildren and they remind me that this publishing venture which started as a tribute to my father’s memory is also a legacy for them and a project to continue enriching for years to come.

The book was written by José Ángel Rodríguez, with a prolog by Carmen Iglesias and an epilogue by Professor Julio Ortega. It is thanks to them it has been possible to compile our roots and give my family this beautiful gift.

I have also included an introduction I wrote in which I explain why this dream was important to me and why I would love to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it…


A New Policy Towards Cuba

 

Following more than five decades, the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba seems increasingly more feasible. It is something to celebrate, not just for the people in both countries, but for the whole region.

Already in 2014, several representatives from the business and political sectors as well as the Cuban-American community had expressed our support to President Barack Obama’s Administration, in his efforts to improve US relations with the island and support Cuban people living in the United States.

Eight months later, we celebrate a new stance on diplomatic dialog which we are sure will continue in line with national interests and values by improving the capacity of Cubans to work towards a more democratic and prosperous country.

It is clear the reforms announced in 2009 have helped set the foundations for positive changes, by helping Americans to reunite and better support their family members on the island. Similarly, the free flow of information, improved communications, expanded remittances and commerce, and support for Cuban civilian society have also helped the Cuban people take greater ownership of their own lives.

We are encouraged by President Barack Obama’s recent statements on his intention to continue to call on Havana to respect human rights. We now sign a new missive recognizing the White House for its efforts to propose the matter and congratulating it on its decision to take action.

For years, I have expressed myself in multiple forums, on the need to create a more integrated Latin America in order to successfully face the challenges posed to us by the current global scene. In this sense, the normalization of diplomatic relations between these two countries would be an enormous step.

Now the new objective will be to achieve a legislative framework with regards to Cuba which reflects the reality of the 21st century.


Returning to Our Roots

Gustavo Cisneros at Palencia, Spain

For the Cisneros family, our roots, values and legacy have always guided our actions both in our personal lives and as a company. We are proud of our roots and learning about our history became our life’s mission.

More than a decade has passed since my family and I began this great quest to explore our background. It was crystallized through publications such as, “La saga atlántica de los Jiménez Cisneros” (The Atlantic Saga of the Jiménez Cisneros Family) which was published by Fundación Cisneros… This quest led me to the town of Cisneros in Palencia, Spain, and confirmed us to be descendents of the Jiménez de Cisneros family.

It allowed my family, especially my grandchildren, to have in-depth knowledge of our roots, as well as visit the place where our ancestors lived and from where they left on an adventure to the Americas, which is extremely important for us.

It was during this quest, I recently had the opportunity to return to Palencia. I traveled through some of the most important areas of Valladolid and of course, Cisneros town, together with the National Delegate for Valladolid, Miguel Ángel Cortés; José Ma. Hernández, President of Regional Council; Carmen Fernández, Delegate for Culture; the Mayoress of Cisneros, Rosa Aldea and her team; as well as the Mayors of Frómista, Fernandez Diez Mediavilla, Pedrosa de la Vega, Arturo Calvo, Saldaña, Miguel Nozal y Becerril and Mario Granda.

La Casa del Esclusero in Frómista; La Olmeda Roman Villa in Pedrosa de la Vega; the Museo Parroquial de Arte Sacro in Becerril de Campos; as well as the Cisneros Museum and Church; were some of the main places we visited. We heard about some of the tourism projects promoting these places which are home to some of the greatest renaissance art expressions.

As the Spanish proverb says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, look to where you came from…” . Over the last seven years in our family, Villa Cisneros has already become a part of our daily lives and our history.