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Senora Maxima, Holland's Future Queen Has Embarrassing Argentine Heritage

From Máxima Zorreguieta to Princess Máxima of the Netherlands
From Máxima Zorreguieta to Princess Máxima of the Netherlands
Alberto Amato

BUENOS AIRES - There was some bitter irony that the news that Máxima Zorreguieta would soon become the Queen of the Netherlands arrived on the eve of her father’s 85th birthday.

When she married Prince Willem-Alexander in 2002, the Dutch government refused to invite her father Jorge, because of his past as a high-ranking official during the infamous Argentinian military dictatorship, also known as the “Dirty War.”

There are no fairytales without some type of conflict. If it doesn’t have a conflict, it’s not a good story, and it’s certainly not a fairytale. Máxima’s story, though, is far from a rags-to-riches Cinderella story. Born on May 17, 1971, she grew up in a posh neighborhood north of Buenos Aires, and was educated the prestigious Northlands school, a bilingual school for the children of Argentina’s elite.

The Northlands school played a decisive role in Máxima’s life. She graduated at 17, in 1988, when the military dictatorship (1976-1983) had been over for some time. In 1978, the future queen was seven years old when journalists and the Dutch soccer team flocked to Argentina for the Soccer World Cup. At the time, the Argentinian tragedy was already known worldwide. They knew about the torture and executions at the detention camp in the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) and sympathized with the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,” the mothers whose children were made to “disappear” during the dictatorship. At the time, Máxima’s father was the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

It took Máxima seven years to graduate with a degree in economics from the Argentinian Catholic University. After a brief work experience with Mercado Abierto, an electronic securities and foreign-currency market, she entered the world of finance and international trade while at the same time teaching English and math.

Her thing was numbers and sales. She worked three years for Boston Securities and then in July 1996,went to work for HSBC in New York as vice-president of institutional sales for Latin America. Between 1998 and 1999 she worked for Dresdner Kleinwort Bedson’s Emerging Market Division. Máxima was a successful woman who had reached her “maximum potential,” one of the tenets of the Northlands school.

Whirlwind romance

Her life changed in 1999. At the time, she was vice-president of institutional sales for the New York Deutsche Bank and she had just gone through a short-lived, but intense romance. As in all fairytales, the protagonist must have a sad love story.

Then one day, one of her former classmates surprised her with one of those sentences that carry mystery, intrigue and conjure happiness – or tragedy: “I have the perfect guy for you.”

The perfect guy was Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand Van Oranje-Nassau, heir to the Dutch crown. They met in Andalucía, Spain during the 1999 Seville Fair. Legend has it that she asked him what he did for a living, and that when he answered he was a prince, she thought he was joking. A bit of candor is always good in fairytales. They danced together, which is what young people do to become intimate; Willem jokingly improvised a tango of which, fortunately no record exists, and that was when love struck.

From then on, everything went quite quickly. Two weeks later, the 33 year-old Prince came to visit her in New York. The story goes that he sent a message to his mother – the Queen – saying, “Her name is Máxima. She’s Argentinian, but lives in New York. Trust me and don’t me ask anything.” In these cases, sons will speak like this to their mothers, even if they are queens. Soon after, Máxima started to be seen on the royal yacht in the company of queen Beatriz, and took a job in Brussels, Belgium. They were engaged on March 30, 2001.

On May 17, the day of her 30th birthday, Máxima became a Dutch citizen. On July 3, parliament approved her wedding and on Feb. 2, 2002, the couple was married.

Loyal to its human rights policy, Holland found itself in the dilemma of having to decide whether or not to invite Jorge Zorreguieta to the wedding. Prime Minister Wim Kok asked Professor Michel Baud, an expert on Latin America, to hold a secret investigation on Zorreguieta’s role during the “Dirty War.” His report, code-named “The father of the bride,” determined that the Netherlands could not invite Zorreguieta to his daughter’s weddings.

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