Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Remembering Queen Elizabeth II’s state visits to Mexico

“Dressed in a peacock blue and gray print dress and matching hat, the queen was greeted by local dignitaries and members of the British community,” read a United Press International account of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Puerto Vallarta in 1983.

The monarch, who died today at age 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, counted two journeys to Mexico among the many international state visits she made during her 70-year reign, the longest ever by a British monarch.

On that visit in the eighties, she stuck to the Pacific Coast as she visited Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, Lázaro Cárdenas in Michoacán, Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco and La Paz in Baja California Sur from February 17–25.

Her first visit was in 1975, when she saw Mexico City, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Yucatán and Veracruz in just a few days, from February 24 through March 1. That first whirlwind journey across Mexico was more than two decades after she had been crowned on June 2, 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II visit to Mexico 1975

Footage chronicling Queen Elizabeth’s debut visit to Mexico in 1975.

When she finally did visit Mexico, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Mexico’s president was Luis Echeverría Álvarez. Although relations between Mexico and the United Kingdom dated back to the early 19th century, this marked the first official visit of a British monarch to Mexican lands.

The royal couple arrived on the 412-foot Royal Yacht Britannia to Cozumel, where they barely set foot on soil: immediately after leaving the yacht, they boarded a plane to Mexico City. There, the royals were received by Echeverría and his wife, María Zuno Arce. The visit coincided with Día de la Bandera (or Flag Day), so children filled the capital’s zócalo with rhythmic boards, gymnastics demonstrations, choirs and colorful pom-poms to welcome the royals.

That celebration ended with the president and his wife accompanying the monarchs on a tour of the city aboard an open car, with the streets full of cheering observers. Afterward, the royal couple stayed a couple of days at the Camino Real hotel, taking time to visit Echeverría at his private residence in San Jerónimo, south of the city.

The next leg of the trip included a train ride to Guanajuato city, where the royals toured the Pípila independence monument, the Juárez Theater, the University of Guanajuato, the Alhóndiga de Granaditas (a museum in a former grain storehouse that was an important site in Mexico’s fight for independence) and the local market, where they ate tlacoyos — a snack made of thick corn dough and filled with fava bean paste and other goodies.

On her first visit in 1975, Elizabeth was serenaded in Guanajuato city.

In Oaxaca city, the monarchs visited loom halls and the handicrafts market and bought various items paying with pounds sterling. They also visited the archaeological site of Monte Albán. At night, the celebration of Oaxaca’s traditional La Guelaguetza.

Their next stop was Mérida, where a rain of confetti greeted the queen, along with a song whose lyrics said, “Queen of queens, when you pass by, all the flowers give off their fragrance,” performed by the Orquesta Típica Yucalpetén. At one point, a strong wind nearly blew her hat off and lifted her skirt.

“Jovial, simple, smiling, much more beautiful than her photographs” was how the Diario de Yucatán newspaper described the 48-year-old queen. 

The monarch visiting a textile workshop in Oaxaca.

The next day, near Yucatán’s north coast in Tizimín, she inaugurated the La Reina Zoo (The Queen’s Zoo). There, 2,000 children sang part of the English hymn “Land of Hope and Glory,” nearly moving the queen to tears. “It is the best gift I have received from Yucatán,” she reportedly told the governor.

During her stay of 23 hours and 50 minutes in Yucatán, she wore four dresses, white gloves, a hat, diamond and emerald earrings, pendants, a three-strand pearl necklace and white shoes, and of course accessorized with her handbag. Upon departing for Veracruz, she wore a yellow and orange dress — and there reportedly was 10 liters of ice cream in the royals’ luggage.

When the royal couple returned in 1983, they arrived on a Royal Air Force aircraft to Acapulco, where they were greeted by President Miguel de la Madrid.   

They toured the coast and then visited the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas, where they met with Governor Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Bernardo Sepulveda. The royal party traveled up the coast on the Britannia, upon which Sepulveda and his British counterpart, Francis Pym, held three days of talks, reportedly discussing the Falkland Islands, oil prices and various conflicts in Central America.

Looking fashionable in 1983 in Yucatán.

During her tour of Puerto Vallarta, the 56-year-old queen was taken to a senior home amid lush vegetation outside the city, where she was serenaded by a chorale group of 22 elderly women in long, red gowns said to be the color of the bougainvillea flower. 

After sailing to La Paz, the royal couple visited Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Our Lady of Peace cathedral, and the islands Jacques Cousteau and Espírito Santo.

And that was it. The queen’s trip continued on to the United States and Canada, but she never returned to Mexico.

President López Obrador responded to announcements of the queen’s death with a tweet on Thursday.

“I send my condolences to the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, British monarch and ruler of 14 independent states. In the same way, I extend them to her family, friends and members of the Royal Household.”

With reports from Infobae, Diario de Yucatan and UPI

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