This year Hungary and Mexico celebrate the 40th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. On this occasion, Diplomacy & Trade has recently presented a special focus including an interview with the Mexican Ambassador to Hungary, Isabel Bárbara Téllez Rosete.
“When I arrived here in 2011, I was full of emotions. I wanted to know Hungary, Budapest, everything. I wanted to see everything. Of course, I learned about Hungary and its history before I came here. I read that Hungarians are not easy people, which might be true but not for me. I think they are very nice. When I meet them I feel they are so kind even if they don’t speak English or Spanish. I was happy to discover that we have several things in common like embroidery,” Ambassador Téllez Rosete tells Diplomacy & Trade.
Regarding bilateral relations, she says that “soon after I arrived, we had the meeting of our joint economic committee with a Mexican delegation traveling here. This March, we had political consultations in Mexico revising all the bilateral programs, looking at all the changes Mexico has gone through in the past years, including the election to office of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The next event in bilateral relations will be the second session of the joint economic commission this spring or early summer.”
Mexico actively participated at the first Hungary - Latin America Forum in Budapest in 2012 and “we’ll be there at the second such forum this June, as well. I believe the most important effort now is to push for high-level contacts. Last year, we had our Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs here and we’re working on the highest level visit, too.”
Hungary and Mexico reestablished diplomatic relations 40 years ago. “I want to underline the fact that this was a re-establishment. Before that time, we had had relations since the 19th century when Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the Habsburg times, a lot of Hungarian soldiers went to Mexico and many of them settled there. That is why we have so many things from Hungary without knowing we have them. Later, in the 20th century, we were not on the same side in a divided world. With the thawing of international tension, we began to formalize our relations, followed by the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals,” the Ambassador explains, adding that “The past 40 years have proved that there is a stable and friendly relationship between the two countries, and that there is an increasing mutual demand for the exploration of bilateral economic and trade opportunities.”
The most important development in bilateral economic relations is the recently established chamber of commerce. “For me, this is a big achievement because it shows you that there are people in this country interested in increasing Hungarian-Mexican business ties,” she points out. The chamber will help a lot in facilitating the establishment of businesses for Mexicans coming here.
One of the biggest Mexican investor in Hungary is Nemak that manufactures aluminum cylinder heads for vehicles in Gyõr, NW Hungary. Nemak has several times indicated that the growing shortage of qualified professionals needs to be addressed. According to its managing director, David Toth, the high-level supply in the molding profession can and should be resolved within the framework of the dual training process.
The Ambassador points to the fact that an agreement on mutual protection of investments between the two countries has not been signed, yet. “It is very much necessary. It is not a problem of Mexico and not a problem of Hungary – it will be governed by an agreement between Mexico and the European Union. Once such an agreement is in place, more investments are expected to come to Hungary and Mexico, as well. Then, the rest of the business ties will be taken care of by the businesses, themselves. I trust they know what is best for them.”
According to the Ambassador, “there are a lot of things on our mind regarding cultural exchanges and other programs but many times, we just don’t have the resources to implement these plans. We are working now on having a bilateral program and we have our own activities prepared for this year, activities that are organized within the framework of the anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. We wish to have official celebrations scheduled to start from next May but, it may well be postponed to June given the general elections here in April. We try to present Mexico to all Hungarians. We need to attract more attention to tell the people that ‘Hey, Mexico and Hungary are here!”
She adds that “in the past year, we managed to organize events like the exhibition of a renowned Mexican contemporary muralist Julio Carrasco Bretón in the Budapest Gallery who also donated a 6×2 meter mural to the capital that now adorns the Keleti underground station in Budapest. We had successful concerts from two Mexican artists, one of them of Hungarian origin, who introduced classical and modern Mexican pieces to the Hungarian public.
The Embassy supported various activities related to the ‘Day of the Dead’ like an exhibition of the images of famous Mexican skulls by the graphic artist, Guadalupe Posadas and a lecture on the death cult in Mexico and performances of Aztec death rituals. My colleagues and several members of the Mexican expat community took part in the “Mexico Day” organized by the Károlyi Mihály Spanish-Hungarian bilingual high school where we were thrilled to see how much interest there is among the youngsters for Mexico.
A career diplomat
Based in Budapest, Isabel Bárbara Téllez Rosete, is not only the ambassador of Mexico to Hungary but also to the governments of Croatia and Bulgaria. “Together with the team working at this diplomatic mission, our main objective is to serve Mexico and the Mexican people and promote better and more active relations between Mexico and the countries to which our mission is accredited,” she points out.
She joined the Mexican Foreign Service through a competitive exam in 1973. An internationalist by profession, she says she has dedicated her life to work with and for her country and she has held positions in Mexico in virtually all areas of the Mexican Foreign Ministry and abroad, including her work as Ambassador of Mexico in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago as well as to the governments of Barbados, Granada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. She was also the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the Association of Caribbean States and Ambassador to the Government of the Dominican Republic.
In Budapest, she regularly attends the gathering of lady ambassadors stationed in Budapest. “Normally, we have a lunch once a month. Men are curious; they always want to know what we talk about. Usually, we invite a woman to speak: from an organization or from the government. We meet in this group, sometimes as everyday persons not just as diplomats. It is a very good club, we represent basically all the world,” she says.
Traveling in a very safe country
Since 2011, she has had the opportunity to travel extensively in Hungary. “There are many beautiful places I like in this country. One of them is Szentendre, just north of Budapest. Also, the city of Debrecen in eastern Hungary is impressive for me – as is Pécs in the south of the country. The two latter cities have very interesting universities with a lot of advancement there.”
She also enjoys the Diplomatic Harvest, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “when we pick grapes in various vineyards. I know several people personally in the world-renowned Tokaj wine growing region. It is one of the jewels of Hungary, I must say. I also like to travel with the family and have a walk around places. You have a very secure, very safe country.”
One of her favorite activities is going to the market. “You have really vivid markets here just like in Mexico. I like to get to know things and always ask: ‘what’s this?’ and ‘what’s that?’At many of these markets, you can get lángos, the deep fried flat bread. I love this Hungarian specialty with sour cream and grated cheese on it. Sometimes, I take it home and top it with beans and hot Mexican sauce before I eat it.”
Another favorite site for her is the Danube Bend, north of Budapest, and the river, itself. One of the best vantage points to see it is the Fisherman’s Bastion in the Buda Castle. “It is like a living monument. I don’t know why I like it so much, perhaps, because when I look down on the river and the city from there, I am overwhelmed by history,” she says, adding that there are a lot of other things waiting to be discovered on trips she plans to take with her husband, Agustín Ortega Wright, an economist. They have one son, Jesus Gerardo Agustín, who is a lawyer working in Mexico.