The documentary “An almost forgotten promise”, directed by a Spaniard, María Rozmán, a member of USEC, received on June 23rd an Emmy® award as the Best Historical/Cultural Report. It describes the two-year quest led by Teresa Valcarce, another member of USEC, to fulfill a Continental Congress Resolution from 1783 to honor a Spanish hero from the American Revolutionary War, Bernardo de Galvez, by hanging his portrait on the walls of the U.S. Senate. USEC had a unique opportunity for an exclusive interview with Teresa.
1) What is your opinion on the significance of this award?
One more instance where Bernardo de Galvez and the Spanish contribution to the US Revolution are in the spotlight. One more event that proves that the recognition of a forgotten hero comes from a good marketing and PR campaign. The pride of a Spanish woman, Maria Rozman, Director of the Informativos Telemundo, adding an Emmy to her collection. She was the person who came to my office one day and told me that my story had to be told. The pride of The Asociacion Bernardo de Galvez in Malaga and his Vice-President Manuel Olmedo Checa getting the recognition because he was the person who discovered the documents of the forgotten promise. One more event where Spain shines.
2) It seems like there is more and more interest in promoting the legacy of Spain in the US, as demonstrated by the recent visit from the King and Queen of Spain to celebrate the 300-year anniversary of the foundation of San Antonio and New Orleans as well as the exhibit “Recovered Memories: Spain, New Orleans, and the Support for the American Revolution” sponsored by Iberdrola. How can these activities help to develop stronger relations between Spain and the US?
The US gives a special importance to its history, founding fathers and heroes. The fact that the role of Spain was so significant is not forgotten and, beyond politics, history is a very strong tie. In this case, we are also lucky because King Felipe VI is a very respected, professional and admired leader and the Ambassador Ramon Gil Casares built important and strong diplomatic relations with the US during his time here in Washington DC. I still hear from Americans that they miss him! Spain is in a privileged position with the US with this historic relationship, our job is keeping, growing and caring about it.
3) During your 2-year quest to achieve the fulfillment of the 1783 US Congress resolution you had to interact with multiple representatives from both the US Congress and the Spanish government. What did you learn in terms of negotiation skills at that level that could be useful for other members of the USEC community?
Being authentic. Believe in what you want to accomplish. Having people skills. Prepare each and every meeting as it is the final and most important of your negotiation. Study very well the other part. For example, in my case, every time I had a meeting, I studied what that member of Congress votes for, the committees where he/she serves, the issues that he/she supports, his/her religion, if he/she has a family, hobbies, the state where he/she is from, etc.
If I had a 30-minute meeting, I had to optimize the time. The first thing to do that is to not make mistakes saying something inappropriate, because you could lose you interlocutor in a second for a silly comment. Pay attention to the body language of the person you are talking to because it signals whether they are interested and engaged in your conversation or if you are losing his/her attention.
The most important negotiation skill that I applied more than once is to be able to throw away your strategy and in seconds improvise and build a new one based on the needs of the situation. I also think it is important to have the instinct to know when you can get the trust from the other person sharing that you are nervous because of the importance of the meeting or when, no matter how nervous you are, you need to look calm. Being honest, no matter what happens, be always honest with the other person, because this is a skill that the other part will always remember and appreciate.
4) As a dual citizen of the US and Spain who has lived in Washington DC for almost two decades, you must be an expert in cultural differences between the two countries. Which do you think are the most important ones that need to be taken into account by Spaniards doing business in the US?
I would put on the top of this list the email language. In the US an email always needs to start Dear,…Thank you….Please… Would you…Could you… and never ever use capital letters. Showing always five minutes before the meeting or on time, but never ever show up late. Spaniards tent to have body contact and be very friendly, a sign that is not so usual in US. When you finish a meeting with an American always follow up with a thank you email, putting in writing the next steps.
5) How about Americans doing business in Spain?
Do not lose your temper when people show up late. It is not personal. Do not be surprised if you are taken to a restaurant and have your meeting eating and drinking alcohol. Just relax and don’t try to take notes during lunch! Don’t be offended if we don’t respect personal space, take it as a sign of trust. Don’t bring up conversations about the independence issue or politics. Stay out of it!!! If the others criticize the US, don’t take it personally or get offended, Spaniards always have an opinion about the US by default. Just say very politely that you prefer not talking about politics. We speak very loudly and with our hands but we are not upset, it is just a cultural fact.
6) As a member of the Advisory Board of the Hispanic Council you have an active role promoting the collaboration between the US and Spain. Which would you say are the main challenges and opportunities in this relationship?
To me, the challenges are getting time away from my full-time job, my children and the service I provide to the Spanish Community here in DC. The opportunities are amazing because every time that we have a chance to make Spain more visible in the US is a gift and the Hispanic Council has the tools and resources to make this happen.