Chilean Ambassador to Budapest: Hungarians, Chileans have a very introspective personality

His Excellency, Camilo Sanhueza, Chile’s Ambassador to Budapest gave us a detailed interview covering his early experiences in Hungary in the early 1990s, the similarities between Chile and Hungary, how Santiago is tackling the emerging energy crisis and the Chilean community living in Hungary. He also talked about his favorite composers, singers and traditional Hungarian dishes.

DNH: Did you visit Hungary before being appointed ambassador in Budapest? If not, what did you hear about Hungarians before you arrived?

Ambassador Sanhueza: Yes, my first visit to Hungary dates back to 1992 as a tourist. I’m really impressed with how much that has changed over the past three decades. Above all the great work done to preserve the architectural heritage and the way in which Hungarian society and commerce have opened up to international markets. At the time, it was not so easy to find certain products. Also, few people spoke English, it was easier to communicate in German.

DNH: What was your first thought when you were informed that your next assignment would be in the Hungarian capital?

Ambassador Sanhueza: I was extremely happy to be able to collaborate in strengthening our bilateral relationship. Likewise, I looked forward to living in a city as beautiful as Budapest, so rich in culture, especially a wonderful music scene.

His Excellency, Camilo Sanhueza, Ambassador of Chile in Budapest and Alpár Kató, Editor-in-Chief of Daily News Hungary. Photo: Embassy of Chile

DNH: Can you tell 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 free time?

Ambassador Sanhueza: My wife is also a diplomat; she is assigned to the Netherlands where she lives with our children. During the pandemic, Hungary and the Netherlands weren’t so strict in terms of travel restrictions, so luckily I was able to keep going back and forth 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 subjects.

Regarding my free time, Budapest offers many interesting attractions such as a vibrant cultural life with concerts, museums and literature. I must admit that I have always had a special attraction for the work of Hungarian painters.

DNH: Not only is Chile a geographically very interesting country, but it also has a colorful history. Tell us about the five most important events in Chile that changed your country.

chile ambassador budapest hungary

Photo: Embassy of Chile

Ambassador Sanhueza: Precisely, as a Chilean writer once wrote, Chile has a crazy geography ranging from the driest desert in the world in Atacama to the South Pole in Antarctica. Bathed by one of the largest coastlines where the horizon is lost in infinity and backed by the Andes mountain range at the summits
up to 7000 meters above sea level.

DNH: What similarities do you see between Hungary and Chile?

Ambassador Sanhueza: I think both Hungarians and Chileans have a very introspective personality. Even though we are Latin Americans, being surrounded 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 products derived from copper from Chile, since we are the world’s leading exporters. Meanwhile, Chile mainly buys automotive spare parts and accessories. I see great potential to develop the import of Chilean products such as fresh fruit, dried fruit, fish and seafood.

chile ambassador budapest hungary

Photo: Embassy of Chile

DNH: Today, everyone in Europe is talking about the energy crisis. How is Chile doing in terms of energy?

Ambassador Sanhueza: Chile has always been dependent on foreign fossil fuels, which is why our national energy strategy stimulates the use of renewable energies. In fact, Chile is in 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 looks forward to becoming a producer and exporter of energy in the form of green hydrogen and to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

We should also keep in mind that Chile has some of the largest lithium reserves in the world.

DNH: Let’s go back to Hungary. How many Chileans live here? How many of them came
here to pursue higher education?

Ambassador Sanhueza: We estimate our community to be around 400 people. The first Chilean migrants arrived in Hungary in 1974 following the military coup of September 1973. Then, a second wave began to arrive after the signing of a working holiday agreement in 2017 which allows young people to cross one year in the country of the other while working. Finally, last year we welcomed the first generation of Chilean students who obtained the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarships.

DNH: You have lived in Hungary for several years. What are your favorite Hungarian cities that you would miss if you ever had to say goodbye to our country?

Ambassador Sanhueza: As I mentioned, Budapest is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, I love its architecture, its parks and the charm of walking along the Danube. I also had the chance to know other charming towns such as Esztergom and its imposing basilica, Pécs, the home of the marvelous ceramics of Zsolnay, as well as other charming places such as Eger and Győr. I must also mention the splendor of the Hungarian plains and the charm of its traditional folklore and craftsmanship.

DNH: And what Hungarian dishes would you happily cook for your friends and family back home?

Ambassador Sanhueza: I often go to the central market to buy ingredients for traditional Hungarian cuisine such as Gulyás and Pörkölt. I particularly enjoy the different types of meats and sausages, although I have to refrain from overeating for health reasons.

DNH: What are the must-see places in Chile that Hungarian tourists should definitely explore?

Ambassador Sanhueza: Eastern Island is definitely a wonder of the world worth visiting. I would also recommend visiting the Chilean desert with its bewitching contrast of colors, skiing in the Andes mountains, swimming in the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, walking in the national parks of Patagonia and, why not, to culminate the trip in the Chilean Antarctic region. .

DNH: I know you are a great music lover. Do you know the Hungarian music scene? A favorite singer, composer or orchestra?

Ambassador Sanhueza: Indeed, I particularly appreciate composers like Liszt, Kodály, Bartók and directors like András Ligeti and George Solti. It was a pleasure to be able to attend wonderful concerts with world-class musicians such as the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, in incredible venues such as the Liszt Ferenc Academy, the Müpa Theater and the new House of Music in Városliget.

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