In his Sept. 15 lecture at the Law School, Spain's Ambassador to the United States, Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, spoke with pride about his country and its warm relationship with the United States, but also gently poked fun at some common misperceptions about Spain among Americans.
Dezcallar, who assumed the post of ambassador to the United States in August 2008, spoke about his trips around the country that have taken him, for example, to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and to the grounds of the Capitol for President Obama's inauguration. The trips, he said, gave him a wonderful chance to meet many Americans and to become better acquainted with the American political system.
The ambassador told the audience that in the course of his travels he encountered a lot of stereotypes about Spain, wryly noting that a number of Americans "think of Spain in terms of bullfighting, in terms of Flamenco." The romanticism of Spain and its portrayal as radically different from the United States was popularized by some nineteenth century writers and historians, a phenomenon, he said, that has been carefully examined by historian Richard L. Kagan in recent years.
Spain, said Dezcallar, is an "old and very dynamic country ... Probably no country has changed more dramatically over the last thirty-five years, and that gives us a lot of benefits and some problems."
He gave the audience a sampling of Spain's recent contributions to art, architecture, opera and cinema and spoke with pride about his country's membership in the European Union and NATO. Spain can also boast, in terms of GNP, as being among the world's ten largest economies.
"Probably our greatest strength is our financial sector," he said, adding that this sector derives part of its vigor from a strong regulatory system. Spain also is among the leaders in developing high-speed railway networks and is in the forefront of nations harnessing wind and solar power.
His country, he said, also faces its share of challenges. The ambassador spoke about the negative effects of a recent housing boom gone bust, its high unemployment rate, a recent decline in tourism, and stresses caused by domestic terrorism. Similar to its neighbors, he said, Spain also is deeply concerned about issues such as climate change, world poverty, proliferation, and regional conflicts.
Despite some differences, Dezcallar said, "Spain and the United States are friends. We are allies. We are united in almost everything. We share the same values: democracy, freedom of expression, free markets."