Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mexican Panel hopes for Spanish royal visit

Santa Fe's 400th Anniversary Committee is angling for a visit by the Spanish royal couple in 2010 to celebrate the city's founding.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia last visited Santa Fe in 1987 when the king helped plant a tree in the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors.
Albert Gallegos, the honorary consul of Spain in Santa Fe, told the committee Monday that the main thing he needs before extending the invitation is a solid date.
By September, the committee plans to designate as many as three days in 2010 for the commemoration.
Gallegos said he spoke briefly earlier this year with the Houston-based staff of the Consulate General for Spain about the proposed visit. ``Of course, the first thing they ask is the date,'' he said. ``And, of course, I didn't have any date. So the next thing they tell me is, `Well, we can't really get started with any kind of invitation or even an informal invitation until we have a date or an approximate date.' ''
Gallegos warned that a visit by the Spanish royal couple would involve a large entourage -- not unlike that which accompanied England's Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, earlier this month to sites in the United States.
``They told me that the king does not travel with less than 150 people,'' he said. ``They will be coming in their own personal plane.''
Gallegos said later that the ``enormous'' travel cost would be borne by the Spanish government -- not the city of Santa Fe or the nonprofit committee.
Gallegos chaired the committee that commemorated the 400th anniversary of New Mexico's first Spanish colonists in 1998.
He said when that committee invited the Spanish king and queen to attend the dedication of a statue in Cathedral Park in June 2003, the Spanish vice president came instead.
``The next best thing to the queen and king is, of course, the prince, and that is his official function -- to come to areas to visit on behalf of the government of Spain,'' he said. ``It would probably be more likely that we would get the prince.''
Prince Felipe, also known as the Prince of Asturias, the heir to the Spanish throne, has visited New Mexico several times in recent years.
In 2004, he came to Albuquerque for a groundbreaking for the National Hispanic Cultural Center and to discuss an endowed chair in his name at The University of New Mexico.
He also has served on the board of the United World College near Las Vegas, N.M.
``The prince has a lot of connections here,'' Gallegos said. ``They tell me he's always looking for an opportunity to come to New Mexico.''
He added that Prince Felipe travels with an entourage of only eight to 10.