I receive the news that Carmen Bernad passed away.
Along with sadness, a feeling of admiration and gratitude arises on me for all that Carmen Bernad has meant for the image of Spain in Belgium.
She was our Vice-President for decades, more than deserving the presidency, which she did not reach because of statutory reasons. Her dedication to the Chamber has no other explanation than her love to Spain.
Her services to Spain are countless. Her relationship with the Antwerp City Council and its Port Authority paved the way for Spanish business interested in the economic capital of Flanders.
Carmen’s father, born in Burriana, importer of orange, ended up opening a grocery store in 1919, which he named El Valenciano. Over the time, El Valenciano moved its headquarters to an old mansion near the city’s Grote Markt. Carmen and her brothers gave the business a cultural dimension, or even made of it a cosy public relations centre. I remember the wonderful sunset on the terrace of that building, surrounded by friends, listening to the concert of the carillon of the nearby cathedral. I also remember that, among the tourist attractions, El Valenciano was a postcard image. Carmen boasted of having a fig tree in her house, perhaps, she said, the only one in that latitude. During the winter she use to cover it with paper to “shelter” it. In the winery of El Valenciano you could be transported to La Rioja, to Ribera del Duero, to Jerez… Carmen was proud of the fact that “her wine” was tasted at the French Consulate in Antwerp, Marqués de Riscal. No doubt she ‘put a spike in Flanders’.
In 2013, aware of Carmen’s support, I suggested to Miguel de la Quadra Salcedo that the RUTA QUETZAL expedition should visit Flanders. Carmen, then Honorary Consul in Antwerp, opened the doors of the city to the young expeditionaries. A success in which her successor, Barbara Moreels, had a lot to do. Because of her age, this was the last service that the Chamber requested from her.
Carmen was awarded by King Albert II, as a member of the Order of Leopold I and, distinguished by King Juan Carlos I, with the Lady’s Bond of the Order of Civil Merit.
Carmen is a very important part of the history of our Chamber. A role model for all of us.
From here I express to her brother Luciano, the condolences in the mane of our Board of Directors.
May she rest in peace.
Juan Rodriguez-Villa Matons
Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg