Spanish royal visit
A visit by Spanish royalty, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, took place on February 19, 2009 as part of the Celebrate Pensacola festivities commemorating the 450th anniversary of the 1559 Luna expedition, which established "America's First Settlement" in the Pensacola area.
The visit by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía was arranged by Maria Davis, a Spanish native who had moved to Pensacola in 1972 and served as Honorary Vice Consul of Spain since 1984. Davis had previously helped bring the Spanish naval training ship Juan Sebastian de Elcano to Pensacola four times; recruited Spanish grants for the restoration of St. Michael's Cemetery; led local delegations to Spain; and worked to initiate a student exchange program between the University of West Florida and the University de las Islas Baleares in Spain. UWF President Dr. Judy Bense said of Davis, "There is no better representative of either Pensacola or Spain than Maria. She may be less than five feet tall, but no one can say no to her. Not even royalty."
The King and Queen traveled from Jamaica in a Spanish Air Force Airbus A310, landing at Sherman Field, NAS Pensacola, shortly after 11:00 PM on the evening of February 18, 2009. Their plane was expected to arrive earlier, but was delayed by heavy rainfall. The royal entourage was greeted by Pensacola Mayor Mike Wiggins, NAS commanding officer Capt. Bill Reavy and Navy Rear Admiral Gary R. Jones. They were then transported to the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front Hotel, where they stayed overnight.
Approximately 45 Spanish expatriates were invited to a private breakfast with the King and Queen, held at 10:00 AM at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front.
Visit to Fort George
Later that morning, the King and Queen visited the Fort George site, where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony.
King Juan Carlos I made a public address from the second floor balcony of the T. T. Wentworth Florida State Museum, overlooking Plaza Ferdinand VII. The King was introduced by The crowd was estimated between 2,000 and 3,000.
After his address, the King and Queen left for NAS Pensacola, where they attended a luncheon, held in the Blue Angels Atrium of the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Entertainment featured music by the Pensacola Civic Band and an opera selection by Elise Quagliata and Dr. Kyle Marrero. Following a prayer by Bishop John Ricard, both the Spanish and U.S. national anthems were played. The menu was prepared by five "Pensacola celebrity chefs" — Frank Taylor, Irv Miller, Jim Shirley, Dan Dunn and Gus Silivos — and included the following:
- Salad: Baby iceberg lettuce with grilled, pickled shrimp, Sweet Home Farm asiago crisp, heirloom tomatoes and peppered bacon with a roasted Roma and garlic smoked vinaigrette.
- Entrée: Grilled Gulf Coast grouper with tasso, charred sweet corn and Pasilla chili pepper macque choux sauce, lump crab and cheese grits.
- Dessert: Chocolate fudge cheesecake with praline-Refroe Pecan crust and Pedro Ximenez macerated fresh berries.
| Governor Crist, Senators Nelson and Martinez, Authorities, Congressman Miller, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your kind and generous words. Thank you also for the warm welcome you have given to the Queen and myself in this dear city of Pensacola.
A city with strong ties to Spain, to the origins of the United States, and to the old friendship that has enriched relations between America and Spain, on both shores of the Atlantic. A friendship that flourished during the United States’ fight for Independence, when Spain actively poured financial, political and military aid into assisting the American patriots.
This excellent Museum, a witness to the rich history of naval aviation in the United States and Pensacola, inspires us to highlight how intrepid men have contributed decisively to forging the national histories of both Spain and the United States. They were free, sincere and clear-headed men who knew how to assume their responsibilities to serve their country and other friendly peoples.
Among them, Bernardo de Galvez, to whom one of my eighteenth-century ancestors, King Charles the Third, granted a coat of arms to mark the heroism and spirit of service he showed in Pensacola. The figure of General Galvez reminds us that today many other men and women, from the United States and Spain, from countless industries and professions, are devoting their best efforts to strengthening the relationship between our two countries.
The Queen joins me in thanking, once again, the City of Pensacola, its authorities, its citizens and its associations for the great and noble effort they are making day by day to carry on the memory of our shared history. A memory that will always be the seed of friendship between the United States and Spain. Thank you, Admiral, for your generous hospitality here in this interesting and attractive National Naval Aviation Museum.
And now, may I ask you to raise our glasses to toast you all and most especially the members of “Celebrate Pensacola” and those who proudly develop our common historical and cultural heritage in this lovely city. Thank you very much.
The King and Queen departed Pensacola for Miami in the late afternoon.
- "Pensacola resident helps to bring King, Queen of Spain to Pensacola." Pensacola News Journal, February 6, 2009.
- "Spanish royals arrive." Pensacola News Journal, February 19, 2009.
- Royal Society Luncheon program
- King Juan Carlos' Toast at Rick's Blog