THE King of Spain used his speech at the Princess of Asturias Awards to honour the people who lost everything following the volcano eruption in La Palma.
In his address to the audience in Oviedo on Friday, King Felipe VI took the time to acknowledge La Palma and all its inhabitants who ‘have seen their lives beaten in such a dramatic way and with as much helplessness as sadness’.
In the rousing speech, he said: “Many of them have lost everything: their houses, their lands and crops, their animals, their memories.
“They have asked us not to forget them and, together with all Spaniards, we will; we will not forget them.”
The King visited La Palma with the queen on September 23 to meet with families affected by the eruption.
He described meeting the Cumbre Vieja survivors as a ‘privilege’ and he praised emergency services workers who put their lives at risk saving others.
The Spanish royal family met with the victors at the Reconquista Hotel in Oviedo, in the Principality of Asturias in the north of the country on Friday.
The king was later joined by his wife Queen Letizia as well as their daughters Princess Leonor, 15, and Princess Sofia, 14, at the glittering award ceremony that evening.
The Princess of Asturias Awards was established in 1980 by Felipe, who was then heir to the throne, before he ascended the throne in 2014.
The annual awards, which are now named after his daughter, Leonor, are presented to individuals or organisations who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, and public affairs.
The ceremony was cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic and the king spoke of his joy at being able to celebrate the awards in person again.
He said: “Today, happily, we have returned to the Campoamor Theater. Coming back here really means a lot: it means getting back on our way.”
The event, which was established to consolidate links between the autonomous community Principality of Asturias and the King and encourage scientific, cultural and humanistic development, is one of the most glamourous and prestigious on the royal calendar.
“Our winners have always given us an example of solidity and firmness in their purposes,” the king said. “Of how their causes show the greatest commitment that human beings can have: commitment to others.”
King Felipe VI heaped praise on the Paralympic swimmer Teresa Perales, the winner of the sports category.
He said: “It is a pride for Spain, an example of overcoming: overcoming all difficulties, injuries, illness, always with confidence in herself and with enormous willpower.
“She is hard-working, brave, admirable. Her tenacity, her continuous struggle for victory are a paradigm of what it really means to be an athlete and compete; of that ambitious and generous spirit that sport embodies when practiced with dedication, intensity and excellence “.
He has also praised the ‘titanic’ work carried out by chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen, winners of the Concordia Prize.
“The continuous, rapid and effective response to the most extreme situations has turned them into symbols of what it really means to show solidarity with those who suffer,” he said.
It comes as the chef pledged to donate money from Spain’s top prize to those affected by the volcano in La Palma.
The 51-year-old chef and his NGO, World Central Kitchen won the Award of Concord for ‘offering extraordinarily fast and efficient on-the-ground response to social and nutritional emergencies’.
Andres, who was born in Asturias in 1969, has announced he will donate his share of the €50,000 prize, which King Felipe VI will deliver on Friday, to those affected by the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.
The celebrity chef and his wife have also pledged to double the amount, donating their own money towards the disaster.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma erupted on September 19, taking with it thousands of homes and businesses and devastating all the land in the area.
It has forced more than 7,000 people from their homes across the island as well as devastating 600 hectares of land, including avocado and banana plantations.