MIAMI – Spain’s Queen Sofia met Sunday with members of Miami’s Spanish community, including musician Nacho Cano and businessman Nicolas Vallejo Najera, who was accompanied by his wife, Mexican singer Paulina Rubio, as well as local officials and Spanish diplomats.
The event took place in downtown Miami’s iconic Freedom Tower, a 1925 Mediterranean-style building inspired by Seville’s Giralda and declared a National Historic Landmark.
Queen Sofia greeted each of the hundreds of people, including many of the most familiar faces from the local Spanish community, who turned out for the reception at what was once Miami’s tallest building.
“The history of this great country (the United States) does not start with the founding fathers, but in Florida many years earlier,” Spanish Ambassador to the United States Jorge Dezcallar said in his welcoming address.
Spain’s influence on early U.S. history is “a frequently forgotten reality,” the ambassador said, noting that 2013 will mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of explorer Ponce de Leon in Florida and the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, by Pedro Menendez de Aviles comes two years after that.
“Florida has always been the entryway to the Americas for Spaniards, and it will continue to be for the countrymen who are with us today and have found an open door in Miami where Spanish is spoken, they celebrate Three Kings and they can have tapas or paella,” Dezcallar said.
Spanish is the most studied language in the United States, “more so than all the other languages put together,” the ambassador said, adding that Spain was the 10th-largest investor in this country, with $50 billion, while bilateral trade surged 135 percent in the first eight months of this year.
“Relations between the two countries are very good, thanks to a great extent to the work of, among others, the Spaniards who have come to this country,” Dezcallar said.
Spanish Consul General in Miami Maria Cristina Barrios y Almazor also attended the reception, as well as a long list of local dignitaries.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski and Miami Dade College president Eduardo Padron were among the local officials who turned out to welcome the Spanish monarch.
Queen Sofia, who arrived in South Florida on Saturday night after a visit to Haiti, will inaugurate the Spanish Cultural Center at a ceremony later Sunday to be attended by singer Alejandro Sanz, another well-known member of the Spanish community in Miami.
The singer will be honored for his achievements and role in the United States and Latin America.