BUENOS AIRES – Spain’s King Emeritus Juan Carlos I met early Saturday with Spanish organizations in Argentina’s Tucuman province, at the town of San Miguel de Tucuman, where 200 years ago the South American country declared its independence.
The meeting was held at the hotel where the royal is staying and before the start of the first official events commemorating the Bicentennial of Argentine Independence, at which Spain was represented by Juan Carlos I, who abdicated the throne on June 18, 2014, officials told EFE.
Attending the meeting were some 30 members of such Spanish organizations as the Sociedad Española, represented by its president, Marcelo Seoane.
Also present were former Tucuman students who attended Madrid’s Universidad Complutense, an institute of higher education that maintains a cooperation agreement with Tucuman University, and which offers a winter course that grew out of that accord.
On hand besides the Spanish ambassador to Argentina, Estanislao de Grandes, and authorities accompanying Juan Carlos I on his trip, was Adolfo Iriarte, Spain’s deputy consul in Tucuman, a province whose census shows it to be home to some 13,000 Spaniards.
After this extremely cordial meeting with the Spanish community, during which Juan Carlos I took an interest in its problems and concerns, the king emeritus attended a reception at the seat of government offered by Argentine President Mauricio Macri for the foreign eminences who came to take part in the events celebrating the Bicentennial of Argentine Independence.
He later went to the cathedral for the Te Deum of thanksgiving for the nation’s independence.
There he sat directly behind the Argentine president and next to the vice presidents of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera, and of Uruguay, Raul Sendic, who, together with Juan Carlos I, were the highest-ranking foreign representatives attending Saturday’s events.
Taking part in the ceremony led by Tucuman Archbishop Alfredo Zecca were Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The archbishop recalled that 200 years ago Saturday, just a few steps from the cathedral, “a handful of patriots had the courage to proclaim independence,” but added that the “ideal of Argentina living like one big family,” where everyone is embraced by fraternity, solidarity and the common good, is “very far” from being achieved.
In his opinion, Argentines now face the “challenge” of beginning the nation’s third century by making freedom the “touchstone” of a “pluralistic and democratic” society.
The celebrations will continue Sunday in the city of Buenos Aires, with a parade of military bands from Argentina and 11 other countries marching down the Avenida del Libertador, one of the capital’s main thoroughfares.