Doña Pilar de Borbón, Infanta of Spain by Royal Decree, daughter of Don Juan de Borbón and María de las Mercedes de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Orleans, and sister of the current King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, is a woman of character. Her inner strength may come from her wandering childhood. She was the daughter of exiled parents (her father, Don Juan de Borbón, never came to reign). Or it may have something to do with genetics; she was always stout and strong-willed, even as a child. She jokes about being much larger than her brother and occasionally “picking on” His Majesty. But perhaps her biggest quality is standing up for the things she deeply believes in. She renounced her rights of succession to the Spanish throne to marry Luis Gómez Acebo, who did not have royal blood. A lover of culture and sports, the Infanta has been President of the International Equestrian Federation, a title that was later occupied by Princess Haya of Jordan. She is also an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, a member of the Council of Honor of the Spanish Olympic Committee, and has chaired Europa Nostra, the Pan-European Federation for cultural heritage.
H.R.H. Doña Pilar de Borbón, Infanta of Spain.
She currently resides in Madrid, leads a very active life and rarely gives interviews. However, she graciously agreed to chat with azureazure.com to talk about one of her passions: the New Future Foundation, an organization that cares for children who, for various reasons, are deprived of a family environment. Doña Pilar works with the organization since 1968 and is currently its Honorary President. She keeps a busy schedule: “I attend meetings where we discuss the best ways to provide the most loving care for the children; we talk about how to create effective households, homes for battered women, necessary improvements, etc.“ Every Christmas, the Foundation organizes the rastrillo, a street market supported by many familiar names in Spanish society, which has become a successful annual event. During the most recent edition, Her Royal Highness touched the soul of her countrymen and demonstrated her fighting will. A few hours before the inauguration of the event, the Madrid City Council tried to cancel it, alleging there were problems with the facility. Witnesses report that when Doña Pilar was informed about the cancellation, she decided to go forward: “I will open tomorrow and let the police try to stop me”. We can only imagine the look on the face of the law enforcement agent when he faced the Infanta, who was determined to go on with her cause. They say she was anguished, worried about the children, and frustrated. Finally she and her team fought, negotiated, compromised, and the event went on as planned.
But there is still plenty of work to do. Doña Pilar is restless, and believes she can improve on many fronts. In addition, the foundation she presides offers a wide range of programs: “we operate homes for women in the last stages of their prison sentences. They have the right to be with their small children until they are three years old, and at New Future we do not like to see them in jail. We find them jobs while the kids go to daycare or schools; we offer them cooking and sewing classes; we teach them how better care for their children, and other useful lessons, and that I like very much”, she says enthusiastically.
H.R.H. Doña Pilar de Borbón, Infanta of Spain.
Practical thinking and will to fight injustice, were the crucial factors that brought her to work for the organization: “I started to collaborate with New Future the same year it was founded, 1968. I liked its modern approach”. We should mention that in those days (in Spain), there were only large orphanages, serving hundreds of children, with very scarce resources. New Future presented a different model for providing homes to the children. “I think having small homes and a family environment is more appropriate for the children’s development”, says the Infanta. “We inculcate in them the values needed for success, respect for classmates and teachers, and care for the environment. They are happier and we get better results.”
Doña Pilar believes that the practice of solidarity is the gateway to happiness. She talks about the rewards of giving back, and reminds us of the many ways we can support New Future: “give a donation, help as a volunteer, come to our annual event to do your Christmas shopping… any form of collaboration is important.”
She regrets that in Spain charity donations are much more taxed than in countries likes the United States. But she remains tireless in her work. Her philanthropic labor is so important that she is willing to allocate whatever time is necessary to the organization, constantly rescheduling her busy agenda of personal, family and social commitments.
Doña Pilar, Honorary President New Future Foundation.
The Infanta has five children (Simoneta, Juan, Bruno, Beltran and Fernando) born of her marriage to Luis Gómez Acebo, Duke of Estrada. Their wedding was much debated, and although her then future husband was the grandson of the Marquis of Cortina, it was considered that an Infanta of Spain should only marry a man of royal blood. Love triumphed and things went well. As she often says: “marriage is like the lottery”. In 1991, after 24 years of marriage, her beloved husband died of cancer. Maybe that loss, so early and so painful, made her see things more clearly, because when asked about the most important things in life, her answer is simple: “health, and good understanding between people”.
Despite life´s setbacks, Doña Pilar remains positive and considers herself lucky. “When you have received much affection, as it has happened to me, you must return it to society. So I try to help. Besides there is a lot to do.”
She continues her life with as much passion as ever, managing multiple obligations, caring for others, and wishing for “good health, a better future and my children´s happiness “. ■