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Latin America

King Felipe: “Mexico is respected, well-known and well-liked in Spain”

Spanish monarch pays homage to Civil War exiles during his first state visit to Mexico City

KIng Felipe and Queen Letizia toast with President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife Angélica Rivera.
KIng Felipe and Queen Letizia toast with President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife Angélica Rivera. REUTERS

Seventy-six years after the Mexican government welcomed the first Spanish Republican exiles, on Monday night King Felipe VI paid homage to those who fled Spain during and following the 1936-39 Civil War, as part of his first state visit to Mexico.

“It was a migration filled with intellectuals who helped build prestigious institutions and enriched the universities,” said the king, while thanking the Mexican government for receiving the exiles.

It was a migration filled with intellectuals who helped build prestigious institutions and enriched the universities”

“In Spain, Mexico is respected, well-known, well-liked, and we feel we have a true friend when we think about Mexico.”

King Felipe and Queen Letizia began their trip with a visit to Los Niños Héroes Monument, where six cadets are buried after they died fighting US troops at the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847.

Refusing to surrender, they were killed while trying to defend their Military Academy. They were aged between 13 and 19.

After the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded the present-day states of Arizona, New Mexico and California to the United States. Texas, which won its independence from Mexico in 1836, became a republic before joining the union in 1845.

The Spanish monarchs laid a wreath at the monument before meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife, the former TV actress Angélica Rivera, at the military’s Camp Marte in downtown Mexico City.

Felipe and Letizia were received by a 21-gun salute and a military parade.

It wasn’t the first time the king and Peña Nieto had met. As prince of Asturias, Felipe represented his father, King Juan Carlos, at 69 presidential inaugurations in the Americas, including Peña Nieto’s swearing in ceremony.

The king said that he hoped his visit would serve to strengthen Spanish-Mexican relations.

Lázaro Cárdenas became the first Mexican president to welcome the Spanish exiles

At a state dinner, Felipe referred to the “thousands” of Spanish intellectuals who taught students at various schools, including the prestigious Colegio de Mexico, and Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM).

His words struck a special chord with the survivors of that painful exodus from Francisco Franco’s Spain, which also brought celebrated figures such as film director Luis Buñuel, author Max Aub, and poet Luis Cernuda to Mexico.

President Lázaro Cárdenas, who is mostly remembered for nationalizing Mexico’s energy sector, became the first to welcome the Spanish exiles during his 1934-1940 term in office.

Following the war, Mexico broke relations with the Franco government. Diplomatic ties were not restored until March 28, 1978, during Spain’s transition to democracy.

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