As a scratchy recording of the Colombian national anthem played on the phonograph, parents and their adopted Colombian children stood in respectful silence.
Soon after, the celebration of Colombian Independence Day, held recently at Wesley Methodist Church on Connecticut Avenue NW, was enlivened by music and handclapping as the Colombian dance group El Tayrona and folk singer Natividad Fajardo took over.
Sponsored by the Barker Foundation, a private adoption agency, the event was the first in a series of programs planned to help adopted children maintain cultural links with their native lands.
The foundation, established in 1945, became involved with international adoptions in 1974 and since has placed children from Colombia, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia with American families.
After the independence day celebration of music and dancing, a dinner of tamales, empanadas, patacones and yucca was served.
"Colombians are very gay people and always look for an occasion to celebrate," said Carmen Andrade, a Colombian cultural attache who attended the festivities.
The events commemorated the anniversary of July 20, 1810, when declarations of independence from Spain were made in Bogota, the capital.
"The child has in his or her background something that makes him a little unique in this culture," said Robin Allen, an international caseworker with the foundation. "We want to encourage recognition of the child's background and attempt to make it a positive thing."
Along with an opportunity to learn something about Colombian heritage, the families had the chance to "see other families composed as theirs are of children from another culture," Allen said.
Bill Pierce of the National Committee for Adoption said such gatherings provide an opportunity for parents and children to talk with people at the foundation "in an informal fashion" about their difficulties in dual-culture families.
Adopting children from other countries is becoming an increasingly popular option for American parents. "The disparity is very great between the number of American children who need adoption and the number of people in America willing to adopt," Pierce said.
Because of birth control, abortion and the number of single parents who are choosing to keep their children, there are fewer children in the United States who need adoptive homes than there are parents willing to adopt, Pierce said.
On the other hand, in countries such as Colombia where birth control is not as popular as in the United States, many children need adoptive families, he said.
"In many countries, adoption is not recognized as an option," Allen said.
According to Pierce, "The United States is more accepting of adoption because it's more of a melting pot. Here bloodlines don't have the same meaning."
"Some parents choose to adopt a child from a particular country because they have some tie to that country," Allen said.
Hunter and Amparo Hutchinson, for example, now live in America, but Amparo is originally from Colombia, and they adopted their daughter Helen Margarita from Amparo's hometown.