Cultural: News, Travel & Trendsetters

Guiding Lights

With the Expo having opened to rousing success, there’s excitement in the air as millions of Chinese and foreigners continue to descend on the compact, two-mile swath of land that is the Expo grounds.

In the first six weeks alone, the USA Pavilion has ushered more than one million guests through its doors. USA Pavilion Commissioner General José Villarreal and newly appointed President Martin Alintuck are intensely aware that their diplomacy now will reflect the way many Chinese view Americans and American culture for the very first time.

“I am incredibly honored that Secretary Clinton appointed me United States Commissioner General. For me, personally, it is great to be able to spend time in Shanghai, where my daughter has lived for the past few years,” says Villarreal.

Acting as a goodwill ambassador and the official U.S. representative at the Expo, Villarreal meets visitors of all walks of life: from Expo-goers in line at the American Pavilion to the presidents of nations from around the world. He’s a highly regarded attorney from San Antonio, Texas who has served on a number of corporate and non-profit boards.

Villarreal spends his time hosting USA Pavilion events, attending official Expo events and visiting other pavilions with America’s host of 77 Mandarin-speaking student ambassadors. He’s the chief booster of the USA Pavilion’s theme, “Rising to the Challenge,” which complements the overall Expo theme, “Better City, Better Life.”

As the other face of the USA Pavilion, Martin Alintuck first came to the Expo as the director of communications for the USA Pavilion. While Nick Winslow, former pavilion president and cofounder, and his team conceived of most of the pavilion’s planning, design, and construction, Alintuck, who became Pavilion president in early June, expects “to build on that success.”

With the twin themes of fun and patriotism driving most of the action, Villarreal and Alintuck are hosting an assortment of American musicians on stages throughout the Expo. International audiences can feast on a diverse range of American musical styles, including hip-hop, jazz and bluegrass.

The second-in-command Alintuck sees himself as a custodian of American pride and values with the assistance of his staff and student ambassadors. “Everyone works very hard to offer a great experience to our more than 45,000 visitors a day,” he says. “I try to do my part as well.”

When the Expo concludes at the end of October and the last candy wrapper is swept from the streets, the USA Pavilion staff will take with them memories of a lifetime. On the other hand, the spirit they leave behind may further inspire Shanghai officials with ambitious plans to continue to shape the metropolis into a modern economic and cultural capital.

“Our goal is to leave a lasting impression of America to the more than six million visitors,” says Villarreal. “We accomplish our goal through two films, American Spirit and Urban Garden, which capture the American spirit—perseverance, innovation and community building.”

(Pictured): Top, the USA Pavilion. Above, USA Pavilion President Martin Alintuck, left, and USA Pavilion Commissioner General José Villarreal. Photo by Rune Huang.