Interview with Mexico’s Hungarian ambassador

On the 5th of November Mexico’s Hungarian ambassador, H.E. Isabel B. Téllez De Ortega was the guest of the University of Pannonia. After her presentation took place in the conference centre of Building “B”, we had a talk with her, including stories and information about Mexico, her experiences and feelings connected to Hungary, as well as future collaborational plans.

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Why did you join the foreign-service?
I have been in the foreign-service for 32 years. I was just finishing the university when I joined. I was always thinking about how should I love my country and how should I serve my country. Firstly, I wanted to work for an international organisation but later on, one of my teachers said to me; why don’t you try the foreign-service? Furthermore, my grandfather said that I would be a good diplomat. Later, the formerly mentioned teacher said again that I would be appropriate for the foreign-service. I have to admit that she convinced me. This is really a service; I like to serve my country very much. That is why I decided to work in the foreign-service.

Why did you become the ambassador of Mexico in Hungary?
That’s another very incredible story. When I was young, I loved to watch the movies of Sissy, I was curious about Hungary. Later, I met with Mr. János Tóth, who was the ambassador of Hungary that time in Mexico. (Now he is retired.) He was incredible at that time, he was very nice with us and one day he showed me a tourism image movie about Hungary. I remember that it started with the music of Blue Danube. I was fascinated and I said to him that I am going to be the ambassador of Mexico one day (it was about 30 years ago). Some years later, when I finished being the President of Mexican foreign-service, I decided to come to Hungary. I knew that ambassador of Mexico had retired so I had a big chance. Some of my friends advised me about other places and possibilities but I wanted to come here. Fortunately, I was allowed to be the ambassador of Mexico in Hungary, so, actually my dreams came true!

What challenges have you experienced during your career in the foreign-service, and how did you handle them?
Men sometimes believe that they are the ones who are able to handle everything and women have to be in the back. (Not my husband, he is wonderful!) During the 32 years of my career I had to work sometimes double to show that I can really do these things. As for me, nowadays this balance between genders is better but during the last decades it was more difficult. This was the most difficult challenge of my career.

How do you evaluate the relationship between Mexico and Hungary?
During the last year, after the changes of governments in both countries, Mexico and Hungary made efforts to start cooperation and are achieving results which were not possible to reach before. I am quite happy with that, I know that both parties want more business and cooperation. As for me, it would be very important to exchange more students and people, because all the Hungarians going to Mexico would be ambassadors for their own country and for Mexicans it would be the same in Hungary. According to me, we will be closer to each other and we will be able to bridge the big distance between us. It is not easy but we had to work on it. I honestly believe that the future is in central Europe and I think that the future for us will be a good future.

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Do you feel Hungary as your “second home”?
Yes, of course!

What differences do you feel between the average citizens of Hungary and Mexico?
The only big difference is that Hungary has a smaller amount of citizens, so traffic is not so terrible and life is not so accelerated. In terms of everyday life, your country is much more calm, I can do whatever I want and enjoy your beautiful Danube and capital city. As I have already mentioned, life is much calmer, traffic is smaller, more organised and there is a lower amount of people on the streets. Hungary is a safe country and Budapest is not a really big city. I love the accelerated life of Mexico City but at the same time I used to be tired of it.

Is there an experience, person, or event in Hungary that influenced your policies?
Everybody told me that Hungarian people are not easy, but I experienced that even though I cannot speak Hungarian, inhabitants are very nice. I will give you an example. This year, in April, I got sick. Normally, I used to go to Mexico to visit my doctors every December but in April I had stomach ache. I thought that I maybe had appendicitis. Unfortunately, this happened on a Sunday and I had no idea what to do. My husband called my assistant, she called the ambulance of the district and finally the doctor with paramedic arrived and sent me immediately to hospital. They took all the necessary tests and I needed to get surgery that night. I spent four days there and I should share my room with two very nice Hungarian ladies. I didn’t know how to understand my roommates so I started offering them paper, soap and they did the same to me. I didn’t know how, but finally we understood each other without speaking the same language and we were helping each other. I have never said that I was an ambassador. Anyway, hospital was an incredible experience. The doctor was very nice and employees took care of me very well. My roommates were so nice and so warm to me in a moment in which I was feeling very bad. This is my best experience of Hungary. I understand that there is a need for much more modern hospitals but believe me, I cannot complain.

What parts of Hungary have you already visited?
Szentendre (because it is close to Budapest), Balaton is beautiful, Debrecen is a great place, Pécs as well, Veszprém of course, Győr and all the places I know here are beautiful. We plan to go to Tokaj in the near future. One of the beautiful things of Hungary are the bridges of the Danube in Budapest. We enjoy museums, such as Gödöllő, Kecskemét (the museum of toys), Visegrád, Esztergom, but every place has something special.

Have you ever been in Veszprém before?
Not yet, but I am 100 percent sure that we will come back to have a sight-seeing tour.

What do you think about the possibilities of starting a (new) cooperation between Mexico and Mexican universities and the University of Pannonia?
We are going to work on that because this university had already been included in the annual program