Celebrating 200 Years of U.S.-Chilean Friendship

Posted by Alejandro Wolff
February 24, 2012
Joel Roberts Poinsett, Consul General of the United States for the Spanish provinces of Buenos Ayres

Today marks the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Chilean friendship! On this day in 1812, Joel Robert Poinsett of Charleston, South Carolina, met with the president of the First Chilean Governing Council as not only the first U.S. diplomat to Chile, but the first accredited member of any foreign government to reach the newly independent nation. Poinsett was received as U.S. Consul General to Chile by Jose Miguel Carrera during a time of revolution in Latin America. The United States, having recently achieved its own independence and engaged at the time in a second war with England, was supportive of Chile's struggle for freedom. Poinsett fought alongside Chilean patriots and participated in the group that drafted Chile's first constitution. He returned to the United States in 1814, having laid a foundation of diplomacy and trade that would endure.

In the past two centuries, the United States and Chile have seen their relationship grow beyond anything Carrera and Poinsett could have imagined, as today, our countries work closely bilaterally, regionally, and globally across a diverse range of issues. Look at any area of engagement -- economic, regional cooperation, environment, education, military, law enforcement, or culture -- and you will see broad and constantly evolving relations. From early commercial exchanges Poinsett fostered to multibillion-dollar investments today, trade has been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Chile relationship -- quadrupling since 2003 under our Free Trade Agreement to nearly $24 billion last year.

Apart from commerce, the United States and Chile enjoy excellent institutional partnerships across a range of issues. Our countries' educational systems benefit from dynamic exchanges such as the Fulbright scholarship program, U.S. law enforcement and military cooperation with Chile is among the best in the hemisphere. We work together in Haiti to foster stability and in Central America to strengthen rule of law and development, a key contribution in the fight against the violence and instability that stem from narcotics trafficking. Chile and the United States enjoy broad cooperation on the environment, agriculture, science, and disaster preparedness.

Chile's Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a ceremony in Santiago today to commemorate the meeting between Poinsett and Carerra and the robust relationship that has grown between our two countries since. The event featured documents and photos from the era, such as the one above of Poinsett, and I was honored to speak on U.S.-Chile relations. In Washington, the Embassy of Chile and the Smithsonian Institution, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, are hosting a reception at the Smithsonian American Museum of American Art to celebrate both the February 24, 1812, meeting and the continuing friendship between our two countries. The Under Secretary for Science of the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Eva J. Pell, Charge d'affaires ad interim of the Embassy of Chile Roberto Matus, and Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Kathleen Stephens will all speak.

Side by side, Chile and the United States are forging a better future for citizens of both countries and for peoples beyond our borders. In another 200 years, our successors no doubt will marvel at how much more we will have achieved.

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