During a recent event at a foreign Embassy in DC I met one of the most interesting cultural ambassadors I have ever had the pleasure of encountering; charming, accessible, and full of local flavor. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce, the Mexican Avocado! I can assure you, this is not a joke. As we were waiting in the Embassy lobby we saw crate after crate of avocados leave the building. Naturally, my colleagues and I had to ask our host about it.
Hundreds, dare I say, thousands of avocados are sent by the Mexican Embassy, every year, to politicians in Capitol Hill and delegates on Embassy row as part of Mexico´s strategy to re-brand itself, drawing positive attention to the economic and touristic opportunities in the country, despite present challenges. These “cultural ambassadors” in the hands of policy makers and investors (literally) represent a growing export market of over $2.9 billion. But these smooth tasting fruits (yes fruits!) have much more to offer as cultural diplomats.
Far from the clichés and negative stereotypes, avocados have become a Mexican symbol capable of generating recognition of cultural diversity and heritage and, as part of the country brand they have even contributed to debunking accusations of links between Mexican cartels and avocado production. The appropriation of this symbol in Mexican foreign relations is an example of a (so far) successful act of cultural diplomacy where public opinion is influenced through a cultural – gastronomical and economic exchange .
Atlas Corps Fellows, much like tasty avocados, represent their countries while serving in the US, and as such we should be well aware of our “country brand” and what may incite positive relations and intercultural dialogue, despite our own country’s challenges. Change your perspective, change the world!
Other examples of great (but not as tasty) cultural diplomacy initiatives:
1958: PANDA DIPLOMACY Pandas as China’s ‘Goodwill Ambassadors’ to the World
1971: PING PONG DIPLOMACY in US-China Relations
2013: BASKETBALL DIPLOMACY Dennis Rodman’s brings his Basketball to North Korea