When I first heard of the "Encuentros 2011" conference I was immediately fascinated with the project, and it did not take long before I was 100% committed to lending my support and expertise to this venture.
Exactly what are the "Encuentros" conferences?
The "Encuentros" conferences began in Europe, in 2006, when a group of Chilean students, scientists on study-abroad government scholarships, foresaw the benefits of creating networking opportunities amongst themselves. The seeds for an international annual conference for Chileans living abroad were planted, not by government officials or marketing specialists, but by biochemists.
The timing for "Encuentros 2011" couldn't be better! Lately, it seems that the reciprocity between Chile and California is progressing from a romantic interlude to a lifetime commitment. Take it from "The Girl from Empanada."
First, there's been a resurgence of the "Chile-California Program," an alliance that goes back to the Kennedy administration that was pulled out of hiding in 2008 by former President Michelle Bachelet, dusted off and resurfaced as the "Chile-California: A Partnership for the Twenty-First Century."
Also, much to my delight, the Sausalito - Viña del Mar Sister Cities' partnership has gained momentum recently, spearheaded by Sausalito resident Michael Moyle-the sisterhood also dates back to the 60's, when "La Hermandad" was commissioned to Chilean sculptor Sergio Castillo ...back when Sausalito was hip. I grew up (in NYC) hearing stories about the time when Sergio Castillo, a family friend, got my homesick parents to start California Dreaming from Sergio's reports back to New York City on how much the Golden State felt like living in Chile.
Sausalito recently had a welcome reception for Virginia Reginato, mayor of Viña del Mar, a visit now reciprocated... as Michael Moyle and Herb Weiner, mayor of Sausalito, are getting first-hand experience on Chilean hospitality and furthering the ties between these two bay cities that were once small bohemian towns that developed into unique tourist attractions, each adjacent to a respective major port.
While I'm on the latest historical liaisons brought to my attention between California and Chile, turns out that Marysville, a small city two hours North East of San Francisco, once the third largest city in California, well... back in the Gold Rush, was founded by José Manuel Ramírez Rosales, a Chilean 49er. In fact, recently the Marysville cemetery was presented a Historical Plaque by the Chilean government to honor the number of Chileans buried at the site. One anecdote that I found interesting is that the cemetery was segregated: the Japanese were buried in one corner, the Chinese another, the poor didn't make it into the cemetery at all, so they were buried on the outskirts, so on. Of course, by now, no one knows exactly where anybody's bones lie due to countless floods and numerous cemetery raidings by local teens.
Marysville also houses the Ramírez Castle, a historical architectural gem that still has functioning gas lamps. A presentation on the life of José Manuel Ramírez Rosales, by biographer Andy Jeremi, will be taking place at the Yuba County Library, on November 19th.
Thus, voilá, with all this action between Chile and California, "Encuentros 2011," the first ever in the United States, could neither have come at a better time, nor a better place than the University of California, Berkeley!
This year's three-day conference features the whole gamut of academic disciplines and it has broadened its scope to spotlight artists and entrepreneurs. "Encuentros 2011" is inviting the Chilean/Californian community at large, and individuals interested in Chilean affairs. With ever increasing cultural and business interests between the State of California and the Republic of Chile--seeking to build a strong constituency is key to future developments of mutual interests.
The Chilean students of "Encuentros" have devised just that, an unprecedented networking opportunity.
Finally, registration for the three-day conference is still open, and "Encuentros 2011" is now offering Single Day Passes. Allow me to highlight the opening program, the only one held in Spanish, on Thursday, November 10th, a Round Table titled "Haciendo Chile fuera de Chile."
The events will be as much social gatherings, as business opportunities, and academic lectures.
To register visit: Encuentros2011.org