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Norberto 'Tiko' Borja interview, 2020-10-10

Identifier: dcpl_dcohc027_04.wav

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

D.C. Oral History Collaborative (DCOHC) is a citywide initiative to train community members in oral history skills, fund new and ongoing oral history projects, connect volunteers with oral history projects, and publicize existing oral history collections. DCOHC is a project of DC Public Library, HumanitiesDC, and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. This collection contains oral history interviews, transcripts, and indexes produced by DCOHC grantees.


  • Creation: 2020-10-10


Language of Materials


Biographical / Historical

Born in 1955 in Baranquilla, Colombia, Tiko Borja migrated with his family to Washington D.C. in May 1970. When he was a child, Tiko was left blind after an accident. Tiko’s Mother brought him to the United States hoping that doctors could operate and restore his sight. But doctors failed to restore his sight. Tiko’s family lived in the Adams Morgan neighborhood surrounded by other Latino immigrant families. He went to school in D.C. and graduated from Western High School. He studied at American University. Tiko married and moved to Damascus, Maryland with his three children. In 1989 he founded the Colombian national folkloric group, Colombianos Unidos. From 1989-1996, Tiko led the group of 40 young dancers, did fundraising for the group, and hired a dance coordinator. They represented Colombia with folkloric dances and a float in the 1990 Fiesta D.C. Parade of Nations in July. In 1993 Tiko helped organize and lead the “Festival of Las Americas”, the second Latino Festival that year. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month in September 1993, Tiko worked with a volunteer committee to hold the Parade on Constitution Ave. Tiko’s Colombianos Unidos dance group also paraded in the Cherry Blossoms Festival. In 1992 Tiko took Colombianos Unidos to perform in the Expo in Sevilla, Spain. Since 1979 Tiko has been the Owner/Manager of a convenience store located at the National Institutes of Health. When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit in 2020, the government offices shut down, and as a result Tiko’s store was closed.


From the Collection: 1.13 Terabytes


Norberto Borja describes the early years when his family migrated from Colombia and lived on Ontario Road in Adams Morgan. Borja describes the neighborhood in the 1970’s: full of Latino families who knew each other. He describes his first job working at the SED Center, located next to his house. Borja first got involved in the D C Latino Festival in the early years when it was held on Colombia Rd. He describes how his young Colombian group of drummers was asked to perform in the Festival. By 1989 Borja had moved to Maryland, and when the D.C. Latino Festival moved to the Mall in 198 9, many Colombians wanted to participate now that the Festival Parade was on Constitution Ave. Tiko helped organize a new folkloric group, Colombianos Unidos . Borja describes how he led this group of 40 dancers, taught them Colombian folkloric dances, and organized the big Colombian float, La Chiva, at the 1990 Festival Parade of Nations. Borja describes his experiences working with other Latin American countries, his success in taking his folkloric group all the way to the Expo Sevilla in Spain. Borja describes how the Colombian participation in the 1990 Festival also led to his participation in the national Cherry Blossoms Festival. Borja describes the importance of the elected Festival leadership in the 1989 - 1990 period, how their vision of “having their Latino community known by all of the nation” was prescient. He believes that the commitment to work with the community and for the community made a big difference in the success of the 1989 - 1990 Festivals. But he describes how other D.C. Latinos did not carry on that tradition and Latino festivals today are not the same as back in 1990 . Borja reflects on how unique Latino Festivals were back then because they changed the tone of festivals: home - cooked food from all over Latin America and the Caribbean was sold at those Festivals. Borja believes that that history led to the growth of larger festivals throughout the region. Borja describes how he helped organize a group to lead another Latino Festival, Parade of the Americas, in 1993. Borja believes that his experience with Colombianos Unidos allowed him to get to know many new people, learn how to negotiate with D.C. Government authorities, and how the Latino Festival and all the preparations helped Colombian immigrants recover their heritage and culture.

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001