La Reina de Manizales
Juanita Valbuena Rubiano viuda de Mahe y de Restrepo. The Queen of Manizales.
She was the rock of Manizales, the flower of Miami, the twentieth century’s fox. Adversity made her strong without diminishing her towering spirituality. Perhaps too strong a mother, she had to be a father too. But she was always a loving and generous grandparent.
She was not lucky with men. She attracted them and they were outstanding in their way. But they were flawed. Addicted or unfaithful. Gone too soon.
The Hotel Roma. It was her pedestal and she crafted it herself. Crafted it. Nurtured it. Protected it. And it nurtured and protected countless others, from street urchins, to guests in need, to employees who raised highly successful children with her help, to brilliant illiterates only she could work with.
I was her prince there but a very naive, badly behaved and self-centered prince. The first of several successive Court favorites.
She rested in The Sunset, a home in the country atop a floral mountain. Pool, stream, lake, gazebo. Chickens and cows sometimes. Poor relations. Arrogant renters. Pleasant renters. Summer vacations. Her little pink and gold castle. Now it protects abused and neglected mothers in the making. Her gift to posterity. Her ticket to heaven.
She was a beacon, a lighthouse, beaming hope and confidence and optimism to all around her.
She would have been one hundred and three years old today. I knew her for more than fifty-four of those years. She left several years ago. She joined her first two children, their father and her ancestors. I miss that pure crystalline light. I hope she is at peace. She earned it.
Many people knew her. Most loved her. All of them remember her.
 © Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Ocala, Florida, 2003; all rights reserved