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Palabras de Su Majestad el Rey en San Agustín con ocasión de su 450 Aniversario

San Agustín (Florida), 18.09.2015

I would like to start by emphasizing how deeply grateful the Queen and I are to the authorities and to the people of St. Augustine for their warm welcome on such a special day for us. The tour we have just taken of your city has really been a lesson on how to keep our shared history alive. Your profound appreciation of your Spanish heritage can be clearly seen in the care with which you have restored and maintained different monuments —the Castillo de San Marcos, we have just visited, is proof of this.

These days we are celebrating the 450th anniversary of the first European city founded on what is today the United States. And we have to call it a city, because from the outset, the Spanish were intent on creating a permanent settlement that was more than just a military camp, a religious mission or a trade hub. Indeed, St. Augustine was all that, but it was more than that: it was a true city that would soon be home to a diverse population of artisans, friars, clerks, physicians, tailors, interpreters and soldiers.

In fact, this ambitious goal was already reflected in King Philip II’s orders to Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Commander of Spain’s Indies Fleet, and as such one of the most prominent men at the service of the Monarchy. We can presume that King Philip chose him precisely for his leadership qualities, which he would display during the entire process of founding this city: courage, skill and perseverance, for sure, but also imagination.

Not in vain, British historian Hugh Thomas believes that “the creation of a new Christian World in the Americas (…) was one of the supreme epics of both valor and imagination by Europeans”. Creative activity always begins as an exercise in imagination.

The result is that St. Augustine was built to last, and the truth is that it has lasted despite changing its location three times, suffering severe fires and floods, and enduring despoilment by pirates and corsairs at different times throughout its history.

Today, we are pleased to see how the respect and esteem for Spanish heritage that has always been shown by the authorities of St. Augustine and of the State of Florida are also being shown by other U.S. institutions. As you know, just a few months ago Congress granted General Bernardo de Gálvez, Vice rag of the New Spain, a Spanish-born war hero of the American Revolution, honorary citizenship of the United States. And during my visit to Washington I was able to see his portrait displayed in a prominent position in the Senate, between the portraits of President Eisenhower and President Wilson. This is a noble gesture that honors the United States, which by so doing is acknowledging Spain’s contribution to its independence.

Aprovechemos estas conmemoraciones para arrojar luz, más que sobre los personajes y sobre los hechos, sobre lo que estos significan: la transmisión de una cultura que hoy permea toda la realidad estadounidense y que reverdece día a día gracias a los más de cincuenta millones de hispanos que hoy residen, trabajan, se integran y se comprometen con el futuro de los EE. UU.

In this regard, we must also highlight the canonization of Father Junípero Serra, founder of the California Missions, during His Holiness Pope Francis’s forthcoming trip to Washington. So, little by little, we are seeing these and other prominent Spaniards, and their achievements, become rightly known and recognized as part of U.S. history.

Estos dos acontecimientos nos hablan de la intensa y extendida presencia Española en la raíz misma de la historia de este gran país. La nuestra es una huella esencial a la hora de explicar el devenir de estados como California, como Texas, como Florida.

Aprovechemos estas conmemoraciones para arrojar luz, más que sobre los personajes y sobre los hechos, sobre lo que estos significan: la transmisión de una cultura que hoy permea toda la realidad estadounidense y que reverdece día a día gracias a los más de cincuenta millones de hispanos que hoy residen, trabajan, se integran y se comprometen con el futuro de los EE. UU.

However, although we remember and honor our past, our eyes are of course set on the present and on the future progress of our peoples. The State of Florida is home to 350 Spanish companies, with an aggregate investment amounting to 40% of Spain’s total investment in the United States. Spaniards, therefore, see Florida as a land of opportunity where they can easily relate, in a particularly familiar cultural environment. And the United States-Spain Council Forum we are inaugurating this evening will be dedicated to dialogue and sharing viewpoints on how to promote trade and investments between the U.S. and the European Unión and also on education, science and innovation. In short, we share a past that brings us closer together, and this makes it easier for us to cooperate with a view to the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was called back to Spain by the King to lead the Armada, his heart remained here, in this land. Historian Michael Francis remembers this by quoting a letter in which he said to his nephew:

 “After the salvation of my soul there is nothing in this world that I desire more than to see myself in Florida.” That the founder of the city felt such sincere affection for this land where he left the best of himself is the perfect illustration of the process whereby Spain, a European nation, also became an American nation.

Spain’s American identity can be especially well understood here in St. Augustine, and that’s how I interpret that affection for our shared heritage, which was also so much appreciated by my parents, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, during their visit to this city fourteen years ago, and that Queen Letizia and I now cherish so highly during this trip.

Thank you very much.

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Viatges Oficials

Viaje Oficial a los Estados Unidos de América
Sus Majestades los Reyes con el presidente Barack Obama y su esposa Michelle15.9.2015/18.9.2015