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Paquita Gorrono, a 103-year-old Spanish refugee who lived and died in Rabat

Paquita Gorrono is a Spanish woman who was forced to flee Franco’s Spain. She lived on the Moroccan soil for 78 years, worked for King Hassan II and became one of the most notorious Spanish figures in the kingdom. Nicknamed «La Pasionaria Rabat», the 103-year-old Paquita passed away yesterday in Rabat.

Paquita Gorrono, a Spanish refugee who lived 78 years in Rabat./Ph. DR
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Born in Madrid on the 5th of November 1913, Paquita Gorrono has lived a long life. Being a member of a rich and distinguished Spanish family, Paquita was expected to have a normal and plain life back in her country. However, her political orientations exceeded expectations and made of her a symbol of resistance. Nicknamed «La Pasionaria Rabat», the young woman indeed had to spend the rest of her in life in Rabat, yesterday she passed away.

It all started for Paquita when Franco, a military dictator rose to power in 1939. Speaking to El Pais in 2013, back when she was 100 years old, Paquita explained how her life took an unexpected turn, «everything was going absolutely swimmingly».

Paquita Gorroño's ID card from her time as secretary in the Moroccan Royal Palace./Ph. El PaisPaquita Gorroño's ID card from her time as secretary in the Moroccan Royal Palace./Ph. El Pais

«My only concern was where we were going to spend the summer. Against my mother's wishes, I wanted to work. She thought I was crazy, but I decided to apply for a job with Iberia, which was about to open a route between Madrid and Paris and was looking for French-speaking young ladies to work as cabin crew. I spoke French fluently because my parents had sent me to study in Paris. I would have been one of the first hostesses on that route, but the Civil War interrupted everything»


Fleeing to Morocco

It was at that time that her story with Morocco started. The Spanish lady found out that her husband’s uncle lives in the Kingdom. Although the only relative she and her husband had in Morocco died, Paquita took advantage of that desperately to enter the country. «The French official said that we would be able to use the funeral as a reason to go to Morocco», she said adding that «in return, they asked me to help translate for them. And that’s how I got to Morocco».

Once on the Moroccan soil, Paquita found herself a job. She worked as a nanny, and in a factory until 1940. Back then, a new chapter of her life was on the writing when she got a job in the royal palace. «I met Prince Hassan when he was 14», she stated. «The first thing he asked me to do was type some invitations to a party at the Royal Palace», recalls Paquita.

Paquita posing with her son Rubi in 1950./Ph. El PaisPaquita posing with her son Rubi in 1950./Ph. El Pais

Speaking of the crown prince back in the time she declared that «his father, Mohammed V, was very strict, and he made him study during holidays. I felt sorry for him, thinking that my child was on vacation, but that the boy who would become king was working».

Paquita's story with King Hassan II

After inheriting the throne and becoming King Hassan II, the Spanish refugee was offered to work as his personal secretary. Years later, Paquita left the palace for personal motives. «There are people who speak badly of Hassan, and they have their reasons, but he was always very kind to me. When I left, he told me that I would always be welcome in his home and that if I needed anything I just had to ask», she said. As promised, Paquita asked for the King’s help but only years later.

Paquita on the balcony of her house in Rabat./Ph. El PaisPaquita on the balcony of her house in Rabat./Ph. El Pais

«The owner wanted to increase the rent, and even told the court that he needed the apartment for a family member. I called the palace and told them who I was (...) I told the king about the situation, but he must have misunderstood me, because when I was leaving, the man that was escorting me asked how much money I owed. I told him that I didn't owe any money. He then told me that the king had told him to pay my debts. We eventually cleared the matter up, and when I went to court, the owner of my apartment didn't even bother to show up».

The Spanish woman lived in that apartment with a carer called Fatima. Her son was living in Prague and she separated from her husband. Paquita was lately very sick. She could not get out of her bed for months. After her death, Paquita will always be remembered by the name she was given «La Pasionaria of Rabat», a woman who lived and died in the Moroccan capital. 

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