Uruguayan ambassador's trade visit strengthens relationship
The ambassador visited Montevideo as part of a trip to promote trade, cultural exchange between Minnesota and Uruguay
MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — The Uruguayan ambassador to the United States toured the Ice Castle manufacturing plant in Montevideo last week, but left without one of the popular ice fishing wheel houses in tow.
“No ice in Uruguay,” Ambassador Andrés Augusto Durán Hareau said with a laugh when he was asked if he planned to bring one of the rigs home with him.
While the ambassador’s visit to Montevideo is not likely to open an overseas export market for Ice Castle, his visit was aimed at bolstering both more trade and cultural exchanges between his country and Minnesota, and the rest of the United States.
“I feel at home here,” Durán said as he spoke to a gathering on the evening of March 23 to celebrate his visit to Montevideo.
Along with the gathering, Durán and Minister Counselor Nathalie Peter and Counselor Maria Fernanda Garcia toured Montevideo businesses and the public schools on Thursday and Friday.
Of course, they also stopped to see the statue of José Artigas downtown.
Durán's visit to Montevideo is believed to be the first by a Uruguayan ambassador to the western Minnesota community of just over 5,300 people. It strengthens a relationship that dates to 1905 when the City of Montevideo, Uruguay, and Montevideo, Minnesota, exchanged flags.
In 1949, the statue of South American liberator Jose Artigas was erected in downtown Montevideo. It was a gift from schoolchildren and citizens in Uruguay who saved pennies and bronze scrap to make it possible. Montevideo holds Fiesta Days every summer to celebrate this unique relationship.
Today’s relationship between the two Montevideos continues with visits by Uruguayan teachers, thanks to organizations such as the Minnesota-Uruguay Partners of America. The nonprofit organization promotes cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries, and hosted last week’s visit.
Carman Mills, local board member of the Minnesota-Uruguay Partners of the Americas , welcomed the ambassador and expressed her hope that the visit will lead to more exchanges between the two Montevideos.
Montevideo Mayor Erich Winter also emphasized his hope for more exchanges.
“It means a great deal to us,” he said of the visit.
The modern partnership between Minnesota and Uruguay was forged in 1965 as part of President John F. Kennedy’s “Partners of the Americas” initiative to build relationships between the U.S. and Latin America. The sister-city relationship first began in 1905 when the mayor of each city exchanged national flags .
The partnership fits. Minnesota and Uruguay share a lot of similarities in terms of size and population, Durán told the West Central Tribune. The two countries also are very similar in terms of the importance of agriculture, education and renewable energy, he added.
Those similarities are what brought him to Minnesota. The ambassador and his entourage met with Gov. Tim Walz and representatives of Minnesota-based companies doing business in Uruguay, including Cargill, in the days before the visit to Montevideo. The talks focused on trade, education and cooperation on renewable energy and soccer.
Uruguay is passionate about soccer, and is interested in helping Minnesota develop the sport, Durán explained. He toured the Minnesota United’s field as part of his visit.
Duran said he believes the conversations with state officials were productive in improving the relationship between Minnesota and Uruguay in both cultural and business spheres. A trade mission to Uruguay involving Minnesota government and business representatives may result, he said.
“I leave this state very happy with a lot of lines to follow up for the future,” he said.