His excellency, Camilo Sanhueza, the ambassador of Chile in Budapest gave us a detailed interview covering his first experiences in Hungary in the early 1990s, the similarities between Chile and Hungary, how Santiago tackles with the emerging energy crisis and the Chilean community living in Hungary. He also talked about his favourite Hungarian composers, singers and traditional dishes.
DNH: Have you visited Hungary before you were appointed Ambassador to Budapest? If not, what did you hear about Hungarians prior to your arrival?
Ambassador Sanhueza: Yes, my first visit to Hungary was in 1992 as a tourist. I am really impressed by how much it has changed in the last three decades. Especially the great work done to preserving the architectonic heritage and the way Hungary’s society and commerce has open itself to international markets. Back then it wasn’t that easy to find some products. Also, few people spoke English, it was easier communicating in German.
DNH: What was your first thought when you were informed that your next mission would be to the Hungarian capital?
Ambassador Sanhueza: I was extremely happy to be able to collaborated in the strengthening of our bilateral relationship. Likewise, I was looking forward to live in such a beautiful city as Budapest so filled with culture specially a wonderful music scene.
DNH: Can you share a bit more about yourself? Did your family follow you to Hungary? How did diplomacy become an important factor in your life? How do you spend your spare time?
Ambassador Sanhueza: My wife is a diplomat as well; she is posted in The Netherlands where she lives with our children. During the pandemic Hungary and The Netherlands weren´t so strict in terms of travelling restrictions so thankfully I was able to continue flying back and forth in order to visit my family.
I joined the Chilean Foreign Service in 1987, so I have spent the last 35 years as a diplomat, a career that has become a way of life more than a job and has allowed me to visit so many places, to know so many people and study so many different topics.
Concerning my spare time, Budapest offers so many interesting attractions such as a vibrant cultural life with concerts, museums and literature. I must confess I have always had a particular attraction to the work of Hungarian painters.
DNH: Not only is Chile a very interesting country geographically but also it has a colourful history. Tell us about the five most important events in Chile that changed your country.
Ambassador Sanhueza: Precisely, as a Chilean writer once wrote, Chile has a crazy geography from the most arid desert in the world in Atacama to the South Pole in Antarctica. Washed by one of the largest coastlines where the horizon is lost in the infinite and backed by the Andes mountain range with summits
that can reach 7000 meters high.
DNH: What similarities do you see between Hungary and Chile?
Ambassador Sanhueza: I think Hungarians as well as Chileans have a very introspective personality. Even though we are Latin American, being enclosed by the sea, the Andes and Antarctica has made us more isolated people.
DNH: What are the possible trade links between two countries so far apart?
Ambassador Sanhueza: Traditionally Hungary buys from Chile products derived from copper since we are the first exporters worldwide. Meanwhile, Chile buys mostly automobile spare parts and accessories. I see great potential to expand the import of Chilean products such as fresh fruit, dry fruits, fish and seafood.
DNH: Now everyone in Europe is talking about the energy crisis. How is Chile doing energy-wise?
Ambassador Sanhueza: Chile has historically been dependent on foreign fossil fuels, that is why our national energy strategy stimulates the use of renewable energies. In fact, Chile has a privileged position in the development of new and sustainable energies, for example, we receive the highest solar radiation in the world, we have some of the strongest winds on the planet and due to our great amount of volcanoes, geothermal energy is an option. Therefore, Chile is looking forward to become a producer and exporter of energy in the form of green hydrogen, and achieving carbon neutrality by the year 2050.
We must also keep in mind that Chile has some of the largest reserves of lithium in the world.
DNH: Let’s go back to Hungary. How many Chileans are living here? How many of them came
here to pursue higher education?
Ambassador Sanhueza: We estimate that our community is approximately 400 people. The first Chilean migrants came to Hungary in 1974 as a result of the military coup of September 1973. Then, a second wave started arriving after the signing of a Working Holiday Agreement in 2017 that allows young people to spend a year in each other’s country working. Finally, last year, we received the first generation of Chilean students that were granted the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarships.
DNH: You have been living in Hungary for several years. What are your favourite Hungarian cities that you would miss if you had to say goodbye to our country one day?
Ambassador Sanhueza: As I mentioned, Budapest is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I love its architecture, parks and the charm of walking alongside the Danube. I have also had the fortune of getting to know other delightful cities such as Esztergom and its imposing Basilica, Pécs home of the wonderful Zsolnay ceramics, as well as other lovely places such as Eger and Győr. I must also mention the splendor of the Hungarian plains and the charm of its traditional folklore and handicrafts.
DNH: And which Hungarian dishes would you happily cook for your friends and family back home?
Ambassador Sanhueza: I often go to the Central Market Hall to buy the ingredients of traditional Hungarian food such as Gulyás and Pörkölt. I specially enjoy the different types of meat and sausages, although I must refrain of eating too much for health reasons.
DNH: What are the top must-visit places in Chile that Hungarian tourists should definitely explore?
Ambassador Sanhueza: Eastern Island is certainly a wonder of the World that worth visiting. I would also recommend visiting the Chilean desert with its mesmerizing contrast of colors, skiing in the Andes mountains, bathing in the cold waters of the Pacific Oceans, walking through the Patagonian national parks and, why not, culminating the trip in the Chilean Antarctic region.
DNH: I know you are a big music lover. Are you familiar with the Hungarian music scene? Any favourite singer, composer or orchestra?
Ambassador Sanhueza: Indeed, I particularly enjoy composers as Liszt, Kodály, Bartók and Directors such as András Ligeti and George Solti. It has been a pleasure to be able to attend wonderful concerts with world class musicians such as the Hungarian National Philharmonic, in amazing venues like the Liszt Ferenc Academy, Müpa Theater and the new House of Music in Városliget.
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