About the Author: Laurie Weitzenkorn serves as Public Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy Santiago in Chile.
The cool breeze and sunny weather beckoned approximately 500 people to linger at the U.S. Independence Day celebration reception, organized by the U.S. Embassy Santiago in Chile on July 2, 2010. Traditionally, the Embassy celebrates the U.S. holiday with two events: a formal reception focused on Chileans guests and a flag raising ceremony that is open to all U.S. citizens living here. The guests arrived to the formal reception at Ambassador Paul Simons' residence, and were greeted by U.S. musician Shane Ellis' interpretations of famous American music coming from the piano. Guests were treated to simple, classic U.S. appetizers such as potato skins, chicken wings, and pizza bites, and indulged with a sophisticated buffet of dishes that reflected the diversity of U.S. cuisine -- from gumbo to gnocchi with lamb bolognese. Americans and Chileans sang along as the Youth Orchestra of Chile played both the U.S.and Chilean national anthems. High ranking Pinera-administration ministers, as well as Concertacion members, were in high attendance. The First Lady, Cecilia Morel, a principal and strong advocate of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Youth Orchestra, was also a guest.
In keeping with his own tradition, Ambassador Simons launched an eco-friendly pilot project at the residence during the event -- a photo-voltaic solar panel system that will help support the residence's electricity needs. It features a wireless monitor that allows us to track how much energy it generates, and allow us to be more conscious of our energy use during the course of the next year. The U.S.company, Wireless Energy, provided the solar system for this pilot project. It backs the Renova Lab outreach organization that helps provide energy generating solar and wind kits to schools in Chile, as well as other countries in South America. The Chilean Ministers of Energy and Environment, along with Chile's First Lady Cecilia Morel joined Ambassador Simons and his wife, Victoria Cardenas Simons, on the roof of the residence to cut the ribbon and start the system officially. In the past, Ambassador Simons inaugurated new thermal solar panels that help heat water in the residence. He also established an innovative gardening process called xeriscaping in an area of the residence property, which uses drought-resistant plants to improve water and energy efficiency.
Three American citizens addressed the crowd -- an employee of the Fulbright Commission here; an owner of a Santiago-based English-language Internet Radio and English-language newspaper; and the manager of a NGO that assists children who have suffered from abuse and abandonment. Throughout the event, Chileans and Americans enjoyed listening to patriotic, American songs; posing for photos with the Marines; indulging in familiar comfort foods; and celebrating America's history.