By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Decked out in a traditional Chilean chamanto poncho and chupalla hat, newly arrived Chilean Ambassador to Mexico Domingo Arteaga Echeverría welcomed guests to a diplomatic reception at Mexico City’s Club Naval Norte on Thursday, Sept. 20, to mark his country’s national day.
Chile formally declared its independence from Spain on Sept. 18, 1810 (although it was not until after a seven-year fight under the leadership of José de San Martín and Bernardo O’Higgins that the country actually obtained its sovereignty).
But rather than chronical the history of that heroic struggle, Arteaga Echeverría used the occasion of the reception to highlight the close and ever-expanding bilateral relations between Chile and Mexico.
After acknowledging that his embassy was unable to host its annual national day celebration last year due to the fact that the reception was slated to occur the day after Mexico’s devastating Sept. 19, 2017, earthquake, Arteaga Echeverría said that in his brief three months here he and his staff have worked diligently to booster two-way ties.
Just hours after his arrival in Mexico last March, Arteaga Echeverría said he received Chilean Foreign Relations Minister Roberto Ampuero, who had come to participate in the ministerial meeting of the Pacific Alliance (a Latin American trade bloc composed of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru).
“All that occurred during my first 24 hours in Mexico, and we have not stopped since, which is a vivid testimony of the dynamism and intensity of our bilateral agenda and our shared commitment to identify and exploit opportunities to broaden our relationship even further,” he said.
The ambassador pointed out that following last year’s earthquake, his embassy donated the canapés and food that had been prepared for the national day celebration to victims and rescue workers in Mexico City’s Colonia Álvaro Obregón.
Chile also sent a specially trained rescue brigade to help find victims who were buried in the quake and donated $1 million for reconstruction projects.
“What I want to show is that, from the very first minute of this tragedy, Chilean solidarity was on hand to help in any way we could, just as Mexico had so generously helped us after our February 2010 quake and during the massive forest fires that plagued our country in the summer of 2017,” Arteaga Echeverría said.
“The sum of these types of gestures and concrete initiatives are the solid framework of the friendship between our two people, who are united by a common history and geography, and whose respective lives as sovereign nations began just two days apart.”
(The Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo famously declared Mexico’s independence in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 1810.)
Arteaga Echeverría said that both countries “look to the future with hope and confidence” as nations with social and political stability and a firm commitment to respect for human rights of citizens and immigrants alike.
The envoy also spoke about the cultural, literary and academic links between Chile and Mexico, including the fact that the late Chilean poet and educator Gabriela Mistral spent three years in Mexico helping to modernize the national public education system.
Chile has also been named the country of honor for the 2019 Guadalajara International Film Festival.
Arteaga Echeverría likewise spoke about binational cooperation in health and sanitation, migration issues, water treatment and conservation, agriculture, legal litigation and the fight against illicit drug trafficking.
On the political spectrum, Chile and Mexico cooperate with one another through a number of regional and international forums.
Arteaga Echeverría said that combined bilateral trade reached a total of $3.5 billion in 2017, and that there is still a vast potential for even greater commercial interchange.
The two countries signed a bilateral free-trade agreement in 1999.
Arteaga Echeverría concluded his speech by saying that he was certain that binational cooperation would continue to increase under Mexico’s new administration, led by populist President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will take power on Dec. 1.
After the speech, there was a presentation of traditional Chilean cueca dance and music, as well as a sampling of Chilean cuisine and wines.
.Arteaga Echeverría is a political appointee of Chile’s conservative president Sebastian Pinera, who took office in March (although he previously served as president from 2010 to 2014) after winning on promises to double economic growth (which slumped dramatically during the center-left administration of his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet) and to make Chile the first Latin American country to achieve developed status by 2025.
A civil engineer who graduated from Chile’s Pontificia Universidad Católica, Arteaga Echeverría previously served at head of the Santiago metro system.
Mexico and Chile first established diplomatic ties in the early 1820s, shortly after their respective independence from Spain.
Those relations were temporarily severed in 1974 following the coup against democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende and the installment of a military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet.
Diplomat ties were restored in 1990.