May 25, 2019
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Queen Letizia wins outpouring of affection at Dominican banana cooperative

Azua, Dominican Republic, May 22 (efe-epa).- Queen Letizia visited Tuesday a Dominican cooperative for growing and marketing organic bananas that employs needy women thanks to loans provided by Spain, and where she received an outpouring of affection from hundreds of people.

On the second and last day of her stay in the Caribbean country, Letizia traveled to Azua, at some 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Santo Domingo, to observe the situation of local business owners in another gesture of support for the empowerment of Dominican women.

Many residents of the Los Tramojos neighborhood and of the Azua municipality greeted her as if she were a rock star, and welcomed her with cries of "Letizia, Letizia!"

Acting as her host was Diana Cepedes, a cooperative member who met the queen a year ago in Madrid at an event organized by the BBVA Microfinance Foundation (FMBBVA)

Diana had urged her to visit the banana plantation when she went to the Dominican Republic and she accepted the idea.

"Never in my life did I think this dream would come true. I feel proud and happy. I feel so extraordinarily good about this visit," the cooperative member told the media.

Diana, 45, who already has three grandchildren, explained to Letizia the entire process of growing bananas and the benefits it brings the community.

In her case, after earning less than $40 a decade ago, she has made a success of an 8-hectare (20-acre) plantation that employs 11 people - two sons, another two relatives and seven Haitians - thanks to loans obtained since 2010 for a total of $6,300.

Accompanying the queen on her visit was Dominican Agriculture Minister Omar Benitez, who said that her presence is "a reaffirmation of the friendly relations" the Dominican Republic has with Spain, "a strategic ally for many years."

Organic banana exports are one of the main sources of income for the Dominican Republic - 55 percent of the fruit consumed in the European Union comes from the Caribbean nation - and as an industry it creates more than 30,000 jobs.

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