April 29, 2011

Estíbaliz Chávez and the British Royal Wedding

It's a story which reads like the plot of a human interest movie. A desperate endeavour against hopeless odds; an epic adventure spanning the globe; a morality tale about the empowerment; or a cautionary tale about encouraging exttreme behaviour. The world's media has been gripped. Would Mexican teenager, Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán, make it to the Royal wedding on time?

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán in Madrid

Estíbaliz Georgina Chávez Guzmán's mother died giving birth to her. It's a difficult thing to grow up without a mother, especially when there is so little known about her. But one thing that the young Estíbaliz did know is that her mom had loved Princess Diana, from the British royal family. It was a facet that made the girl feel close to the woman who had carried her. It was a shared interest that could help fill the gap in her life.

Estíbaliz grew up in a suburb of Mexico City. It's been called 'modest' by much of the press, though the more sensationalist have opted for 'slum'. It's safe to say that the Chávez Guzmán family are not wealthy. What little pocket money that Estabalis could get or earn, she spent on British royal memorabilia. Pictures, cut from magazines, adorned her room, alongside her own artwork.

She also made a pledge to herself. In honor of her dead mother, she would go to London if and when Prince William married. It would be a homage. As Mama Chávez Guzmán had idolized Diana, then her daughter would be there, however tenuously, for Diana's son.

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán at home

Then it happened. The announcement that everyone had been waiting for. Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton and the news flew across the world. For 19 year old Estabilis, her moment had come. It was time to make good on her childhood promise; she had to make her dream come true. But there was a huge catch here.

How does a young, foreign national, with little money, even get to London, let alone attend the wedding? After all, this is an event that not even the President had been invited to! The invitations were being delivered at the descretion of the Queen of England and they were going to heads of state, British politicians and those of the Blood Royal. The working classes of Britain weren't even invited, so how on Earth was a Mexican girl going to get in?

Most people would have given up there and then, but Estabilis Chávez Guzmán is not 'most people'. She had a dream and the determination to make that dream come true. She went to the British Embassy, in Mexico City, and asked for an invitation. They very politely told her 'no'. So she defaulted to plan B. She set up camp outside the Embassy and went on hunger-strike, until she got her invitation.

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán on hunger strike

To be fair, the reaction of the average Mexican to her plight wasn't good. She was ridiculed in the press and in private conversations throughout the nation. Dubbed 'the crazy woman of the Embassy', she suffered people laughing in her face. She had friends telling her that it was ridiculous to risk her health over something so 'frivolous and silly'. After all, this wasn't a protest over world peace nor the end of Mexican troubles. This was for an invitation to a wedding, that wasn't even happening within her own country's upper classes.

For the British Embassy, the whole thing was a bit of an embarrassment. The Royal Wedding is a nice bit of feel good news for Britain. They could boost their own tourism and exports on the strength of it. But here was some kid stealing the attention. A representative of Prince William wrote a nice, formal letter to Estíbaliz. It explained that the invitations had already been sent and, unfortunately, there were no places left at the wedding.

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán on hunger strike

Estíbaliz revised her promise to herself. She might not be able to get into the church itself, but she wanted to be on the streets outside. She wanted to, at least, get a glimpse of the royal couple. She had a present for them. An oil painting, that she had created herself. She would give it to a member of the papparazzi, in London, in the hope that they would be able to pass it onto William and Kate. The British Embassy, in Mexico City, had refused point blank to accept it.

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán on hunger strike

The Embassy heard the latest request, but didn't wish to help with that either. They would not fly her to London. She was not welcome.

Estíbaliz's hunger strike went on. For sixteen days, she starved herself in full view of the public and a growing number of reporters. The story went global. Debates were being had all over the world, in a variety of different languages. What was the harm in letting her go? Why couldn't the British just show some humanity here? Or was she just a 'whacko'? Should such behaviour be encouraged? If other teenagers saw a success story here, then where would it end? Kids starving themselves for a new games console or tickets to a concert? Parents everywhere shuddered; and hoped that el señor Chávez Guzmán would hurry up and drag his daughter home.

In the meantime, Estíbaliz starved. Asked why, she simply replied, 'How else will I ever get there?'

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán on hunger strike


Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán on hunger strike
Her sign reads: 'I’m on a hunger strike. Will they let me die for just not giving me an invitation to the royal wedding?'

Then her luck abruptly changed. It was the kind of happy ending that has everyone sighing through smiles, in theater seats, as news spread through cyberspace.

A Mexican tycoon, Octavio Fitch Lazo, happened to be walking past one day, when he spotted her camp. He'd heard about her in the media, of course, but here he was able to stop and see for himself.Octavio Fitch Lazo He spoke with her and read her hand-written signs. Then he put his hand into his pocket and paid for her ticket to London.

"It moved me to see that no one understood her very well," He told the press. I think she is right to fight for what she wants."

Suddenly, even the most scathing and cynical of commentators changed their tune. This had changed from the story of a ridiculous teen to that of an adventure; a battle against the forces of old and evil; a saga of the triumph of the human spirit over poverty and scorn; a fairy tale where Cinderella DID get to go to the ball.

Estíbaliz went home and rested up, before being collected to go to the airport. She had packed her oil painting and a sleeping bag, along with two Union flags. She would be on that sidewalk in time and she would see the royal couple! Her childhood dream accomplished through sheer grit; her pledge realised against the odds!

She flew to Madrid, in Spain, then onto London. But there disaster struck again. The British customs officers stopped her to inspect her oil painting. They questioned her as to where she was going. They soon learned that she had no address to stay in the UK; neither did she have any money for a hotel. They wouldn't even let her out of the airport. They put her on the next plane back to Madrid.

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán in Madrid

Estíbaliz found an internet cafe and immediately e-mailed Octavio. It read simply, "Help me." But she hadn't got this far to turn back now. She gained lodgings in a Puerta del Sol youth hostel, then turned to the Spanish press. They broke the story and angry editorials appeared in newspapers from the Middle East to the Americas. There had been a definite sea-change in public opinion and now everyone wanted her to be there. The British Home Office said that they would look into it. Nothing else happened there.

However, her story had gone viral; and where there's a story, there's Facebook and Twitter. There are several Facebook groups dedicated to her now. The biggest have loads of comments, from Mexican people, telling her that she's embarrassing the country and just to stop now.

On the other hand, there were others really trying to get her to the wedding on time. 'John', from New York, USA, sent her $800, as a gift; while a new friend, met through a Facebook group, arranged for her to stay with a Mexican living in London. There were offers of paying for her flight back to Britain. The Immigration Authority, in London, refused to comment.

Estíbaliz Chávez Guzmán in Madrid

Thus it stands, with Estíbaliz still waiting in a hostel in Madrid. Will the money and letter come on time? Will the British finally let her in? Will she make it to the church on time?

Update edit: Estíbaliz did receive the money in time, along with a letter from a Londoner, who agreed to offer her accommodation. She flew back to England, but was stopped at customs again. She was informed that, after being deported once, she had to wait at least two weeks before attempting to regain entry. The fact that she now had somewhere to stay, plus several hundred pound to spend, cut no ice with them.

Estíbaliz ultimately watched the Royal Wedding on a television screen in Madrid. She has to wait until May 7th, until she can fly back to Mexico, as that is the date on her ticket.

12 comments:

  1. Persistent? yeah. . . motive? little. . . whats the big deal with The Royal Wedding anyway? did she make it? I don't know, I don't think so, too bad, it wasn't a big thing to help her, compassion of a few, apreciated, the rest of the world f. . you.

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  2. I'm not sure what your angle with that comment was, but the Royal Wedding meant a lot to people.

    Maybe not to you but that's your own opinion. Don't go hating on other people for wanting to be there.

    Awh that's sad. :( I'm sorry she never managed to be there in person. I'm glad she was able to watch it though.

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  3. I have just updated the story to add the ending, as I was unsure myself until now.

    It is a shame that she never made it onto the streets of London to watch the wedding. Whether it is a big deal to the rest of us or not, it was a big deal to her. That, I think, is the fact that should be honored.

    She fought for a dream that so many thought was hopeless and, but for the British bureaucracy, she would have succeeded.

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  4. the brittish inmigration agents r ude and racists

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  5. British think too much of themselves. They live in this boring island. No wonder they end up in the USA....

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  6. I am British and I think that it is appalling that this has happened. Asking around here, just now, I can assure you that ordinary Britons would have loved for her to have seen the wedding. We are all deeply ashamed at the actions of our custom officials.

    I have not been elected to speak for my whole country, but I can do so for the dozen Britons here. That message is, "Lo siento."

    I do hope that this incident will not put Mexicans off visiting Britain; as I hope, one day, to visit Mexico.

    As for why the British go to the USA, it is in the hope of fishing those crates out of Boston Harbour. Such a waste of perfectly good tea. *wink*

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  7. Thank you all for your comments. It is a sad and controversial subject, though I would urge you all to stay on topic. Britain and the USA alike both have their merits and flaws, like any country. This is not really the forum to bash any nation as a whole.

    On a lighter note, Mexico is always worth visiting!

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  8. How sad! And I don't mean how sad she didn't make it. I mean how sad that there was not one British official either from the British embassy in Mexico or the British Customs Office or the Mexican Embassy in Britain for that matter, that did any one little thing to help her. For Estibaliz it will be a disappointments but disappointments are made easier to bear when you know YOU have done all YOU could to achieve your goal. If you fall short so be it, but it wasn't from lack of trying. Sad are all those individuals (officials)who had it in their power to help and chose not to. Now THOSE are a sorry bunch of (insert your own adjectvie).

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  9. I know that I was so sure that she would make it. It is a pity that she was thwarted in such a way.

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  10. She was with a wrong reason. Sorry, there is not fairy tale without effort.

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  11. Right or wrong reason, I think there was certainly a lot of effort put into this. Thank you for commenting.

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