By Carlos Perez Gil
Mexico City, Jun 29 (EFE).- King Felipe invited Mexico on Monday to take advantage of "the vitality and vast potential" of its relations with Spain, in order to strengthen ties that go beyond the spheres of politics and trade.
Felipe VI delivered that message to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the first day of his state visit to Mexico, together with Queen Letizia.
Peña Nieto, accompanied by first lady Angelica Rivera, welcomed them at a very solemn event.
Felipe noted the great importance of his trip to Mexico, not only because it has been a strategic partner of Spain since 2007, but also because of "the strength and vitality of their relations and the vast potential that lies ahead," being founded on "ties that go much deeper than politics and trade."
"They are relations forged among individuals and that consequently go beyond governments and institutions, which makes them even solider," Felipe VI, whose trip to Mexico comes after the six made by his parents, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, between 1978 and 2002.
Spain is Mexico's third largest trade partner and foreign investor after the United States and the Netherlands, and has more than 5,000 companies operating in the Aztec nation.
The president thanked Felipe VI for choosing Mexico for his first state visit to Ibero-America since becoming king last year.
"The affection and esteem that we Mexicans have for the king is nothing new," Peña Nieto said, recalling that then-Crown Prince Felipe was present at his inauguration three years ago.
Since his coronation, Peña Nieto said, Felipe VI has become a "symbol of unity and hope for his people, and a standard of renewal and confidence for Europe."
"I'm certain that his leadership will strengthen Spain's position and positive influence in the world," said Peña Nieto, who was released from hospital on Sunday, two days after undergoing emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder.
In an atmosphere of understanding and brotherhood, Felipe unhesitatingly crowned his speech with a "Viva Mexico" to show that all Spaniards "have felt, feel now and will always feel" that being in Mexico is like being "in their own country."
After the welcoming ceremony, the king and queen moved on to city hall.
There, in the chamber where in August 1945 the Spanish courts of the republic met to name Jose Giral prime minister of the government in exile, Felipe VI expressed his "immense" gratitude to Mexico for welcoming Spanish immigrants for several decades, including many exiles fleeing the Franco dictatorship.
Among them were intellectuals, artists, writers and philosophers like Luis Buñuel, Luis Cernuda, Max Aub, Leon Felipe and Jose Gaos, who endowed with prestige institutions like the Casa de España in Mexico, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and scientific organizations.
From Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, Felipe and Letizia received the title of Distinguished Guests and the key to the city.
The first day of the visit was rounded out with a private luncheon offered to the king and queen by Peña Nieto and his wife at the presidential residence, and an official dinner at the National Palace.