Thursday 28 February 2008

Margrethe & Henrik in México

A catch up on Queen Margrethe's and Prince Henrik's state visit to México from Billed Bladet. The Queen and Prince Henrik completed the official part of their trip and then had a few days for a private visit to Mayan and Aztec sites. Billed Bladet 1, Billed Bladet 2 and Billed Bladet 3.

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Billed Bladet (no. 9, 28 February 2008) 'Uspoleret lykke' – Unspoiled happiness:
“We’ve had some wonderful days in Mexico, but it’s quite exceptional to be here in the sate of Michoacan. It’s a special feeling because a man, who probably is one of my distant relatives, the brother of King Kristian II, was here many hundreds of years ago, where he meant so much to the population that they still remember him and talk about him.”
Queen Margrethe displayed genuine and great enthusiasm when on the last day of the official state visit to Mexico she had to summarize what had been the most exciting thing during five hectic days. There has been many impressions, fantastic and colourful, but flying north from Mexico City to arrive at the small village Tarecuato, where the distant relative of the Queen, Friar Jacob, once lived, was a particularly enchanting experience. Friar Jacob was a Franciscan monk and founded a monastery in the 1500’s.
“I got a sense of friar Jacob’s spirit still being present in the village and the monastery. It was beautiful and heartrending,” said Queen Margrethe, who flew by helicopter in order to get so far out into the countryside.
“It was so unspoiled in the small town, nothing in particular was arranged for the tourists. Of course it was a day of celebration, but this is how they really live when they are having a celebration. I noticed that almost all the women wore the local dress and not just those women who were near us.”
“I also saw some women with children in their arms, who were wrapped in their large blue shawls, and this how they really are dressed on a day to day basis. It’s just a small aspect of it all, but the place has a particular atmosphere.”
Friar Jacob was son of King Hans and as such brother of Christian II. He arrived in Mexico in 1553 as the first Dane and fought for Indians to be considered equal. That wasn’t always popular.
“Friar Jacob had been a very unusual personality due to his concern for the indigenous population and his insistance that they were equal to other people. That was quite extraordinary for his time, certainly in these parts.”
“He may have been a bit revolutionary,” interjects Prince Henrik who followed the press meeting with a big relaxed smile, while he rested himself on his new walking stick.
Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik were smiling a lot during the entire visit, but the Queen admitted:
“When one has to be active for so many hours, one can sometimes become a bit limp and as we have all discovered, one is also affected by jetlag. It’s only just now on the last day of the visit that one is finding one’s legs.”
Q: Can you keep up the high level of activity?
“Well, that remains to be seen.”
While the Regent Couple has been in Mexico, the debate as to whether Crown Prince Frederik ought to run for membership of the IOC has continued here at home.
Q: What is your attitude in respect to Crown Prince Frederik wanting to join the IOC?
“It’s commonly known that the Crown Prince is interested in sports and also participates in sports himself and is very informed about the world of sports. That’s why I believe it is exciting for him to get that opportunity. Apart from that he is an adult, who makes his own decisions. I have full confidence that he both can and will do so.”
Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik have both been to Mexico before, but separately.
Q: How is it to be here together?
“Lovely. You see twice as much when you are two.”
Q: Mexico City is an overwhelming city of 27 million inhabitants. How have you experienced the city?
“I cannot recognise it at all from when I was last here. It has changed so much. Sometimes I think: - I’ve been here before – but it isn't the same. I would say the city is pretty difficult to get an overview of.”
Q: Have you had time to buy something for your grandchildren?
“Really not yet.”
Perhaps there was a small present for the four grandchildren. Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik stayed for additional three days in Mexico in order to relax and look at the exciting ruins in the south at Chiapas. From there Prince Henrik travelled to Nicaragua and Queen Margrethe flew home to Denmark in order to on to a skiing holiday in Norway. (by Annelise Weimann and kindly translated by Muhler).

Billed Bladet (no. 9, 28 February 2008) 'Margrethe fik blomster af gadebørnene' – Margrethe was presented flowers by the street kids.
“Will the Queen be wearing a long dress? Will she be wearing a tiara?” Fifteen-year-old Paula is almost bursting with curiosity. In a few minutes she will meet Queen Margrethe, who, along with Prince Henrik, is on official visit to Mexico, and for Paula this is about the greatest and best thing that has happened in her life. Paula lives in an orphanage, Casa Sonrisa, in the middle of Mexico City. Her mother abandoned her and her sister Maria to the streets because she couldn’t cope with taking care of them, and the girls have by good luck ended up in the little home. They have been allowed to stay in the same room so they can support each other, and they are having a cosy (hygger) time with their teddy bears and dolls and they play with the ten other girls in the home.
Paula and Marie are two lively children but they are not keen on talking about their rough background. Casa Sonrisa is for children who have been abused or sexually molested and they can’t manage to talk about that yet.
"We really like to be here and we are starting at school soon,” they say with enthusiasm. Paula cannot read yet, but her fourteen-year-old younger sister can read a little.
The visit to the orphanage is an important item during the state visit, where the Regent Couple visited as many businesses and institutions with a relationship to Denmark as was possible. Casa Sonrisa was built from the money that was raised from the sale of the Children’s Third-World Calendar (*) in Denmark. So much money was raised that three small orphanages could be furnished as well as a clinic for children with terminal diseases.
The orphanage is a success story which shows how much Danish funds can help in a poor country. As such, the orphanage was one of the places Queen Margrethe absolutely wanted to see when she was on an official visit to Mexico last week. The Queen didn’t just see the beautiful and colourful Mexico but she also got an impression of the problems the country has. And the children on the streets are one of these.
Even though Paula and Maria have had a sad fate, they are also fortunate. They no longer live on the streets but in a house where caring adults look after them. They are fed and clothed, get to see a doctor when they are sick and they also get to go to school. Not all children are so fortunate in Mexico City. Nearly 40,000 children live on the streets, and that can either mean the parks, down the sewers or under the bridges.
Casa Sonrisa is a small orphanage and the twelve girls live in bunks in three rooms. In honour of the visit of the Queen everything has been newly painted in the Mexican style of neon green, pink and turquoise all mixed in, so it’s a colourful spectacle that welcomes the royal visitor. Even though she cannot talk with the children, there is a fine rapport between the Queen and the girls.
As time goes on, most forget their awe and approach to touch the fine lady.
That makes the Queen smile a big smile. She is however not dressed in the ball-gown the children had hoped for and she is not wearing a tiara either, but her blue suit and the red hat is after all much grander than what the children can ever hope to get.
After being shown around at the orphanage, there were music and speeches and ... a glass of lemonade in the small yard. Afterwards the Queen said:
"It’s a very nice place with some wonderfully sweet children. They are incredibly trustful considering what they have been through. It’s more than one wants any child to exposed to.” (by Annelise Weimann and kindly translated by Muhler)
* Børnenes U-landscalender. It’s sold every year up to Christmas. The surplus is donated to various projects in the third world.

Billed Bladet (no 9, 29 February 2008) 'Hånd i hånd i Mexico' – Hand in hand in Mexico
It was obvious that both Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik enjoyed the five-day state visit to Mexico last week. The trip has been planned twice, but has been cancelled at the last minute. Finally it had come and even though the visit, which is the first done by a Danish regent to the beautiful state, was hectic and busy, the Regent Couple had some opportunity to relax together.
In the garden at the anthropological museum the Queen and Prince Henrik took time for a little stroll hand in hand, during which they could chat in confidence. The visit to what is considered one of the best museums in the world was such a great joy for both of them. Here they saw some of the most lavish objects found in the Mayan cities and a large number of fantastic sculptures. They also saw the huge Aztec calendar stone that foretold that the Earth might face doom at a certain date, if the gods were not placated. They were [also able to see exhibits about] human sacrifice. Then the Regent Couple saw some of the stones which were used for the human sacrifices.
The ancient Mexican culture interests both the Queen and Prince Henrik so much that after the state visit they went for a three day holiday in order to see a number of the most impressive temples and ruins of the past in Mexico.
A state visit is not just pleasure but also an extremely busy journey and in order for so many as possible to have a Danish royal visit, the Queen and Prince Henrik were often out separately. At the exciting Franz Mayer Museum, the Queen saw an exhibition of modern Danish jewel art and many of the jewels were large and fantastic.
Q: Would you yourself like to wear some of the jewels?
“Oh yes, I think it’s fun to have some imaginative jewels and I wore a couple (of such jewels) last night. It’s a beautiful brooch I’m very partial to. I cannot remember the name of the artist right now and I will not fall in the water by saying something wrong. It is all in all a really nice exhibition, it’s like a revue of 35-40 years of Danish jewel-art and it’s amusing because they are so different. I’m incidentally familiar with many of them beforehand.”
It was also an eager Queen who saw Danish contemporary art at the San Carlos Museum. Seven Danish artists have taken part and the Queen really took her time to look at it all. She asked lots [of questionsa] and it was obvious that it was a professional who knew what it was all about. In particular Helle Mardahl had a long chat with the Queen about the large sculpture with the jutting breasts, which she calls Self-portrait. This fascinated the Queen a lot and so did the paintings.
“I’d really like to see what’s hanging on the walls,” she said when some men were blocking the view. And they naturally stepped aside at once. (by Annelise Weimann, and yes! kindly translated by Muhler)

Billed Bladet no. 9, 28 February 2008) 'Alderen trykker' – Age is taking its toll
“I think it’s age that is starting to set in.” Prince Henrik smiles broadly. He doesn’t need to hide the fact that he turns 75 in June next year and when halfway through the official state visit to Mexico last week he suddenly started using a walking stick, the explanation was obvious – his age.
“I think it’s more comfortable using a walking stick. I’m starting to have problems keeping balance – my physical balance that is, not my mental. But I can ensure you that I’m still playing tennis.”
“However not with a walking stick,” adds Queen Margrethe laughingly.
Q: Are you also using a walking stick at home, Prince Henrik?
“Yes I do, you just haven’t seen me with one. The walking stick I’m using here is Mexican and purchased during the state visit.”
During the visit to Mexico, Prince Henrik was often dressed in summer clothes and it didn’t look at any time as if he had lost weight.
Q: You have just been on a slimming-down trip to Italy. Have you had problems sticking to the diet afterwards?
“Yes I have. Can you tell by looking at me?”
Q: How much weight did you lose while on your diet?
“Oh, that’s a secret.”
Q: Have you gained the kilos again?
“Yes, unfortunately, but it really is very difficult to keep the weight off.” (by Annelise Weimann and kindly translated by Muhler)

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