The Department of State joins in the celebration of Caribbean Americans’ rich contributions to U.S. history, culture, and society as our nation commemorates Caribbean-American Heritage Month this June.
While the pandemic has kept us physically distant, the cultural and social ties that bind us remain strong, and the spirit of Caribbean-American Heritage Month endures. This year marks the sixteenth celebration of Caribbean-American Heritage Month in the United States. The first Proclamation was issued by President George Bush on June 6, 2006. Since 2006, the White House has issued an annual proclamation recognizing June as Caribbean-American Heritage Month. The 2021 Presidential Proclamation can be found here.
On the first official day of Caribbean-American Heritage Month on June 1, Secretary Blinken shared the following message via Twitter: “As we celebrate, we recognize not only the important history and vibrant cultural heritage of the Caribbean but also the countless contributions that Caribbean-Americans, including the many who are State Department employees, have made to our society.” In addition, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Laura Lochman delivered keynote remarks during the Institute of Caribbean Studies’ virtual Caribbean-American Heritage Month launch event.
This month, we recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Caribbean Americans within the Department of State by highlighting biographies of outstanding Caribbean-American employees who support diplomatic efforts around the world. We will continue to add biographies to this page throughout June.
Kesha Butler Bickel is a Program Analyst for the Division of Procurement and Administrative Services of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She joined the State Department in early 2020 right before the pandemic- but has still had a impactful year while responsible for establishing and maintaining internal policies and operating procedures, conducting in-depth management analyses, and managing the ECA Emergency Management and Records programs. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Political Science and master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois, and Certificate in Strategic Management from Georgetown University.
Kesha is a proud Belizean-American who enjoys sharing Belizean culture, traditions and foods with her friends and colleagues. Her favorite time to visit Belize is September where there are carnivals and endless festivities to celebrate the Battle of St George’s Caye and Independence Day which together commemorate Belize’s statehood and independence from Great Britain.
Lidice Calero Calafell is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs. She is part of the Global Affairs team working on civil society and human rights defenders issues.
During her tenure with the Department, Lidice has also served for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and Bureau of Diplomatic Security, where she had the opportunity to serve overseas despite being a career civil servant.
Lidice holds a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida, a Master’s Degree in Intelligence from Michigan State University, and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
A Miami, Florida native, Lidice is a first-generation Cuban American and the proud daughter of a Cuban mother who was on the maiden voyage to freedom on April 23, 1980, during the start of the Mariel Boatlift and a Cuban father, a Political Prisoner, given the opportunity for freedom following the 1985 Prisoner exchange.
Andrea Cameron is an economic-coned officer currently serving as a Career Development Officer in the Bureau of Global Talent Management. Prior to this assignment she served as the Economic Officer in Cape Town. Andrea also served as the Political Chief in Embassy Juba following assignments in Abidjan, Bogota, the Bureau of African Affairs, and the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. The child of Jamaican parents, Andrea earned a BA from Spelman College in Economics and an MA from American University in International Affairs.
Juan Domenech Clar is INL Bogota’s Law Enforcement Innovation Division Chief. He has served in Bogota since 2019. He is a Foreign Service officer who served most recently as deputy political counselor at U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires. He also served in the U.S. Mission to Somalia, Provincial Reconstruction Team in Khost, Afghanistan, the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, and at U.S. Embassy Mexico City. He is a Brown University and University of Chicago graduate and is originally from Puerto Rico. He speaks French, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, and Pashtun.
Mr. Cubas is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service currently serving as the Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. Prior to this, he was the Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Previously he served as the Supervisory General Services Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo; Deputy Consul General at the U.S. Consulate-General in Basrah; and Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka. He also served in Washington, Managua, Seoul and Osaka-Kobe during his 22 years in the Service. Mr. Cubas has a J.D. from the University of Miami, School of Law; a B.A. in History from Florida International University; and was a graduate student of medieval Japanese history at the University of Miami Graduate School. He speaks Spanish and Japanese and is married with two children.
Kelia Cummins is the Director of the Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at U.S. Embassy Manila. Kelia joined the State Department’s Foreign Service in 2008 and has served at embassies and consulates in Kingston, Jamaica; Shanghai, China; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Bern, Switzerland. Domestically she has served as a Watch Officer in the Secretary of State’s Operations Center and as a Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management.
Ms. Cummins holds a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law, a Master’s degree in Public Health from the George Washington University (GWU), and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from GWU. She speaks Mandarin Chinese and German.
She is a native New Yorker whose parents hail from Barbados. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ms. Cummins practiced corporate law in New York City.
Gregory David is an Economic and Political Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in São Paulo. He covers China, cyber issues, digital economy, law enforcement, state strategy coordination, infrastructure, automotive industry, IPR, aviation, smart cities, and artificial intelligence. From 2016-2018, in addition to visa adjudications, Greg served as Staff Assistant for the Front Office at U.S. Embassy, Beijing, onboarding the new DCM, implementing trade and North Korea policy, and managing the Guangzhou health crisis. He also worked for the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, working on exit bans, intercountry adoption, and IPR issues.
Before joining the Foreign Service, Greg served for over 16 years as an officer and federal investigator in the United States Air Force, leading teams that conducted counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal operations. He has held overseas assignments in Japan, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and the Czech Republic. He received his Air Force commission through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Greg graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude, in social studies from Harvard University. He also completed a postgraduate Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in the Caribbean. Greg received a Master of Science degree in strategic intelligence with the highest distinction from the National Intelligence University. He also is originally from Trinidad and Tobago but grew up in upstate New York. His wife, Purnima, is a certified Shiatsu Therapist and Reiki master.
Before joining the State Department as the Senior Advisor for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Laura served on the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition working to engage stakeholders with the Agency Review team. Laura previously served on the Biden For President campaign for nearly two years as the campaign’s National Latino Engagement Director. In this role, Laura worked with national Latino organizations, elected officials, stakeholders and allies to build a coalition across the country. Before joining the Biden for President campaign, Laura served as the Chief of Staff for Florida State Senator José Javier Rodríguez. Previously, she worked on the Andrew Gillum for Governor and Hillary for America campaigns in Florida during the 2018 and 2016 election cycles, respectively. Her roots in Florida politics date back to 2012, when she began her work in the Florida Legislature and on state legislative races.
Raymond Raul Nelson is a second-tour Consular Officer at U.S. Embassy Brasilia. He previously served at the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as an Economic Officer, where he tracked business climate trends and the healthcare sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in western Saudi Arabia. Prior to officially joining the Department in 2017, he interned at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique. Raymond earned his M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his bachelor’s degree from Carleton College in sociology and anthropology. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and African American father in Cleveland, Ohio, he is also an alumnus of the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship.
Yolanda Parra is the U.S. Consul General in Matamoros, Mexico. She is a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, most recently serving as the Director of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Yolanda began her Foreign Service career as a Financial Management officer serving in Jerusalem and Tokyo. She then converted to a Foreign Service Generalist as a consular coned officer serving in Cairo, Brazil, and Frankfurt.
Yolanda grew up in Puerto Rico where she worked as an accountant for the firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers. She earned a both a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas. She is a Certified Public Accountant.
Luis Salas is a third-tour Economic officer, serving as Deputy Economic Unit Chief and lead Commercial Officer at U.S. Embassy Colombo and lives in Sri Lanka together with his spouse and two children. Covering both Sri Lanka and Maldives, Luis helps guide the Embassy’s strategy to improve bilateral trade and facilitate business ties between our countries. He also works closely with the Department of Commerce, the United States Trade and Development Agency, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative to advocate for American companies and increase U.S. exports by capitalizing on business opportunities in Sri Lanka and Maldives. Luis previously served as Human Rights Officer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and American Citizen Services Chief in Oslo, Norway. He holds master’s degrees in electrical and biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan and, prior to joining the Foreign Service in 2015, worked in the private aerospace sector where he designed communications and scientific satellites. The child of two Puerto Rican parents, Luis grew up in South Florida speaking English and Spanish at home. He also speaks Norwegian, Japanese, and Khmer.
Natalia supports digital transformation projects across the Department, first joining the Bureau of Global Public Affairs in 2019 and now assigned to the Global Engagement Center. She has a long-standing interest in diplomacy and international aid, first expressed in a love of languages — she speaks Spanish and French — followed by academic pursuits in foreign affairs (University of Virginia) and international peace and conflict resolution (American University). During graduate school, Natalia completed a field-based practicum in Israel and the West Bank and was a research assistant at the US Institute of Peace supporting both the Academy and then Colombia senior specialist. Continuing to build her portfolio, she interned and worked with several international development organizations and eventually transitioned to helping the Department achieve its digital strategy through business process improvement, organizational change, adaptive management, and human-centered design. She is a native of Puerto Rico and has established roots in the DC area.
Beatriz Garcia Velazquez is the Program Assistant for the Public Engagement (PE) and Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) teams for J/TIP. As a contractor for J/TIP, she supports the PE and IGA Senior Coordinators by performing special projects that enhance the effectiveness of the teams. Throughout her time at J/TIP, Bea’s had the opportunity to assist with outreach on congressional, interagency, and press documents related to human trafficking. And she’s assisted with the management of specific efforts to improve external stakeholder engagement.
Bea was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University in “Peace, Conflict Resolution, and Global Security” and a master’s degree from Georgetown in International Security.
She’s come to believe that it is possible to learn from, and make meaning of, life events no matter how challenging. Experiencing and living through the Brussels terrorist attacks traced her professional goals. She aims to serve as an honest, empathetic and impactful peace and conflict resolution advisor in the quest for international security, and to support and advocate for policies and programs that will have a positive and vital impact in all societal structures and its citizens.
Gabriela serves as the Public Diplomacy Officer for the Nordic, Baltic, and Arctic. She joined the Foreign Service in 2013, served her first two tours in Santo Domingo and Shanghai as a consular officer, and most recently as the Desk Officer for Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and Malta. Prior to that, she worked in WHA’s Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs for two years. She received a master’s degree from Georgetown University in Latin American studies and attended the College of William & Mary for her undergraduate degree. Gabriela is a native Spanish and Portuguese speaker, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, FL. Her father is originally from Cuba and her mother from Brazil.
Johanna Villalobos is career Foreign Service Officer. In her current position as the Public Affairs Officer in Paraguay she manages the integration of public diplomacy strategy into interagency planning and policy decisions. Prior to this position, she served as the Country Public Affairs Officer and Mission Ecuador Spokesperson promoting a deeper understanding of U.S. government policies to the Ecuadorian public. Johanna has also served as the Cultural Attaché in La Paz, Bolivia, the Deputy Coordinator for the Department’s Foreign Service Officer Orientation Course, Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Office of Brazil and the Southern Cone, Trade Officer in Rabat, Morocco, and Immigrant-Visa Chief and Fraud Prevention Manager in Managua, Nicaragua. Johanna has a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science from Drew University. She speaks Spanish, French, and some Portuguese. Johanna and her husband John are the proud parents of three children, Jonathan, Julian, and Jazmin. Johanna was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up in New Jersey.
Shanice Williams serves as a Program Assistant in the Office of Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP). She is responsible for offering support for the President’s Interagency Task Force as well as the Senior Policy Operating Group. Additionally, Shanice previously worked in INL and OBO. Prior to being a contractor to State, she worked on the Monogram team at the American Petroleum Institute. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University. Shanice was born and raised in NYC and her family is from Antigua, Nevis, and St. Vincent.