Mexican heiress, U.S. envoy to wed

Lavish nuptial celebration this weekend captures imagination of Mexicans

April 24, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

MEXICO CITY - When U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza arrived in Mexico in 2002, he brought with him high expectations for strengthening relations between the two nations. Few could have imagined he would turn this country's social scene on its head.

This weekend, the former Texas railroad commissioner marries Mexico's wealthiest woman in what is undoubtedly Mexico's wedding of the year. Garza's romance with Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala, who heads the mighty Grupo Modelo beer empire, has captured the imagination of this country ever since word of their engagement leaked out in February.

The pair have sent out 400 highly coveted invitations to their three-day gala in picturesque Valle de Bravo, a mountainous weekend getaway spot outside Mexico City.

The invitees include a well-heeled Texas contingent, led by Republican Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita. The wedding's most powerful invitee is Garza's longtime pal, President Bush. The president is scheduled to be at his Crawford ranch this weekend, but first lady Laura Bush is expected to attend, and the Mexican media have hinted the president might make a surprise appearance.

The party and ceremony were to stretch for three days, with the ceremony taking place last evening. Colombian pop singer Shakira was rumored to be providing the entertainment; the U.S. Embassy in Mexico says it's not so.

And as befitting a cross-border wedding, there will be a bit of Texas and a bit of Mexico: A Texas-style barbecue is planned for today (dress code for the day is "Texas chic"), and a mariachi band was sure to play after the evening ceremony, a must at nearly every Mexican wedding. Invitations included a traditional Mexican milagro, a small silver religious votive offering, in the shape of a heart.

This will be Garza's first marriage; it is Aramburuzabala's second. The two met at a party shortly after Bush appointed Garza to the Mexico post in 2002, but their romance didn't begin until last September. The courtship proceeded quickly, and they had a fairy-tale engagement on New Year's Eve. Garza reportedly popped the question on the peaks of Macchu Picchu, the ancient Inca city high in the Peruvian Andes.

When an enterprising reporter discovered their wedding announcement tacked to the front of a Mexico City church, the news sparked waves of excitement in the Mexican press. The pairing seemed sent from above: Mexico's wealthiest woman and the U.S. ambassador.

Aramburuzabala, who sometimes shortens her tongue-twisting last name to MA14 and whose friends call her Mariasun, is the heiress to Grupo Modelo, founded by her grandfather, a Basque immigrant. She is credited with building up the business and diversifying the family fortune. Her worth is reported at $1.5 billion, and Forbes Magazine has listed her among the world's most powerful women in business.

Garza's star is equally bright. The son of a Brownsville, Texas, gas station owner and grandson of Mexican immigrants, Garza is considered among the next wave of Texas Republican heavyweights and is said to be considering a run at the Texas governorship or U.S. Senate.

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