"Veinte años no es nada" - "Twenty years is nothing" goes the chorus of Volver. The lyrics of the old tango tune, later given a famous flamenco reworking, are beautiful and poetic, but they don't entirely match the reality. Because some things have changed. Twenty years ago no one would have imagined many of the things that are now part of the realidad española. That we would suffer an endless pandemic, that then-king Juan Carlos I would flee Spain in an attempt to escape his scandals, that a Spanish public television news presenter and journalist would become the Spanish queen, and so much more. The life of Letizia Ortiz now is chalk and cheese compared to what it was two decades ago: from presenting news programmes and being the favourite on-screen companion of the controversial Alfredo Urdaci on TVE to living in the Zarzuela royal palace. Back then, Ortiz was a rising star in the communications world, and was yet to provoke - decisively - a certain inner warmth for one VIP member of her television audience: prince Felipe. Her daily newcasts made him lose the thread of the conversation, the victim of a love affair that would impact an entire country: the heir to the Spanish crown would marry a commoner, a divorcee and, so they said, a Republican.
It's difficult to know, but maybe one particular video produced by the Asturian journalist prompted Felipe to do something more than just flip coins over his relationships. It was the report series which the public network broadcast to help the Spanish people get to know the euro, the new currency of the European Union, which, twenty years ago, brought the era of the peseta to an end. Letizia was part of that campaign, telling us about the benefits of the new notes and coins. With hindsight, the message she delivered has not proved 100% corrrect, but that's another story. Meanwhile, the messenger herself has undergone a tremendous transformation over the past 20 years. On the occasion of the anniversary, the Bank of Spain has recovered those images, in which we see the current queen in an attitude and occupation that, today, in 2022, makes one pause for thought.
The Spanish central bank - which itself has changed roles, too - didn't hesitate for a moment to attribute to Letizia part of the success of the roll-out of the euro in Spain thanks to those mini-programmes which sold the idea to the viewers. Not that the españolitos had any choice in the matter at that point - a bit like with their monarchy. But what is absolutely irrefutable is to see how that journalist is now another person, in terms of both character and outward image. In fact, she often looks younger (and crabbier) than she did at that time. Yes, it will all be a matter of the exercise she does every day, although the surgical touch-ups that Leonor and Sofia's mother has undergone are also evident. Times have changed. Chalk and cheese. The euro and the peseta. Vaya.
Letizia left the profession of journalism when she became engaged to the heir Felipe and put a crown on her head. She made on the deal, of course. The same cannot be said of her father-in-law, Juan Carlos, who still today, from Abu Dhabi, points to her as the great cause of his descent into hell. Ortiz was good at doing her job in a television studio and with a microphone in her hands, but to be fair, she has not done too badly in taking on the role of Spain's "first lady", at least in term of allowing an institution that is obsolete, medieval, useless and tainted by all sorts of suspicions and scandals to survive a little longer. That the business hasn't folded completely is the sole merit of Ortiz and her way of doing things. However, it is not clear whether her efforts will be sufficient. The drift of the institution is comparable to the melting of the polar ice cap, and to reverse it, the task is a titanic one. It all gets a little bleaker every day.
Only time will tell if Letizia and company are still in the Zarzuela in another twenty years' time, or if, by then, she has re-applied for her old job. Now that would truly be a story.