Andean folk singer becomes UNICEF goodwill ambassador

Celebrated Peruvian folk singer Dina Páucar, also known as the “Beautiful Goddess of Love,” is receiving the distinguished roster of UNICEF goodwill ambassador today during a ceremony hosted by the United Nations.

Páucar, an iconic example of social change for Andean Indians and mixed-race mestizos and known for her philanthropy, is one of Peru’s biggest music stars and also draws huge crowds in neighbouring Bolivia and Ecuador.

“I am very proud of this. I have been working with children without telling anyone because I don’t believe that it is necessary to call the press every time you help someone,” Páucar told Terra Perú. “I have been dedicated to this cause for over 15 years and now I will be able to help on a larger scale because I will be working hand in hand with UNICEF.”

Approached by the UN last October, Páucar told reporters that she is eager to put her fame to good use to advocate for children in Peru and to support UNICEF’s mission to ensure every child’s right to health, education, equality and protection.

“It was a very long process,” Páucar said. She will working with Peruvian pop singer and composer Gian Marco, “because he also is a goodwill ambassador. Though it isn’t clear yet what I will be asked to do, I want to dedicate myself to the children of Apurimac, Cusco, Junin, Huánuco and Cerro de Pasco,” she said. Gian Marco worked as a composer with Emilio Stefan and won the Latin Grammy in 2005.

Other Latin American UNICEF goodwill ambassadors include Colombian Shakira Mebarak, Diego Torres of Argentina and Venezuelan Ricardo Montaner, all contemporary pop singers.

Páucar is to celebrate her new title this Sunday in Lima, at a musical event organized for Peru’s National Potato Day.

The focus of the event is to encourage Peruvians to eat more potatoes, which have a high content of Vitamin C and iron as well as Vitamin B6 and magnesium, rather than the less nutritious but ubiquitous rice and noodles. Peruvians consume an average of 77 kilos of potatoes per year, but government officials hope to increase consumption to 100 kilos by 2011.

“We are launching a campaign to urge the poor populations to change their eating habits. We want to promote the consumption of potatoes in the face of rising international prices for wheat, corn and soya,” Agriculture Minister Ismael Benavides said earlier this month, during the EU-LAC summit that gathered European and Latin American government officials to discuss climate change and the imminent world food crisis.

Páucar was born in the Peruvian highlands and came to Lima at the age of 10. After working as a street vender and a housemaid, she reached stardom in 1994 with her hit single “Qué lindos son tu ojos,” or “Your eyes are so beautiful.”

Her style of music is called huayno (pronounced WHY-no), a high-pitched fusion of Andean and European instruments combining an almost Asian-sounding twang with Latin and pre-Columbian rhythms.

Her life story was dramatized in a hit miniseries in Peru.

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