Carmen Romero Rubio

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Fabiana Sebastiana Maria Carmen Romero Rubio y Castelló (Tula, Tamaulipas, January 20, 1864 - Mexico City, June 25, 1944), second wife of Porfirio Díaz, President of Mexico.

Youth[edit]

Carmen Romero Rubio was born on January 20 of 1864 in Tula, Tamaulipas to a wealthy family. Her parents were prominent liberal lawyer Manuel Romero Rubio, and Agustina Castelló. Her godfather was Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. She had two sisters, Sofía (Chofa) and María Luisa (Guicha). Known as "Carmelita," she celebrated her saint's day on the feast of the Virgin of Mt. Carmel, on 16 July. Her friends and family members organized festivals in her honor in Carmelite convents during her lifetime.

Marriage[edit]

Carmen's father was active in Mexican politics during the late 1860s and 1870s. The Rubios were acquaintances, and frequent guests, of the American ambassador, John W. Foster. It was during a reception at the American embassy that General Porfirio Díaz met Carmen Romero Rubio. She agreed to teach him English, and a closer relationship evolved. On November 5, 1881, don Porfirio married Carmen Romero Rubio in a civil ceremony, with the President of Mexico Manuel González serving as witness, according to the new secular Reform Laws. The next day, the religious ceremony took place. The couple received the blessing of Archbishop Antonio de Labastida y Dávalos. They honeymooned in the United States, traveling across the country, using the opportunity to establish important contacts with American politicians and businessmen whom Díaz hoped would invest in Mexico. Mexican historians have seen the marriage as an important alliance between two rival factions of the Liberal Party (Díaz's and Lerdo's), but also as the beginning of Díaz's conciliatory rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church. The apocryphal memoirs of Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada stress the importance of her mother—and not Carmen—in aiding Díaz's relations with the Church.

First Lady of Mexico[edit]

One and a half years after the death of Delfina Ortega, first wife of General Porfirio Díaz, Carmen Romero Rubio supplanted her in the role of First Lady of the Nation. Romero Rubio modeled her activities as First Lady on the traditional role of rulers' wives. In Mexico, the Spanish vicereine had long been the patron of religious and social affairs, and this role had been expanded by empress Carlota during her brief reign, to include the protection of the arts and the encouragement of social reforms. Carmen expanded on this, accompanying Díaz at public events. Her copious correspondence was managed by a special department of the President's office and she helped to host visiting personages. She attended religious, civic, and cultural events. Working with the wives of cabinet members, governors, and regional oligarchs, she formed and chaired relief committees responding to natural disasters. Her work on behalf of the children of working class women in the nation's capital established a number of day care centers, schools, and benevolent associations, including "La Casa Amiga de la Obrera" founded in 1887. She also saw to the upbringing of Díaz's children, arranging marriages to prominent families. Rubio Romero played the role of First Lady for three decades, since Diaz took office on December 1 by 1884 until his resignation on May 25 of 1911.

The exile, return, last years and death[edit]

In Paris, ca. 1912.

Carmelita accompanied her husband in his exile to France in 1911. They lived in Paris in rented apartments, never buying a home, frequently moving and traveling. They toured Europe and visited Egypt. After the general's death in 1915, Carmen remained in France for nearly two decades, living from investments in Mexican oil companies and rental income. She played an important role in the rituals of the Mexican colony in Paris, organizing memorial masses for Díaz and for the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Carmelita spent much of her time traveling around France and Spain, and frequently summered at her stepson Porfirio's chateau de Moulins, close to Landes-le-Gaulois. Carmen returned to Mexico in 1934, accompanied by her sister Chofa aboard the French steamer "Mexique." She resided for some time in Mexico City's Colonia Roma, on no. 20 Tonalá Street, in a home that belonged to her niece Teresa Castelló.

On June 25, 1944, Carmen Romero Rubio y Castelló died in Mexico City at eighty years of age. She was buried at "The French Cemetery", and the mass was officiated by the Archbishop Luis María Martínez. Salvador Novo wrote an excellent crónica of her funeral.

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