Asturias is a sparsely populated coastal region in north-west Spain but is famed for producing a high volume of world class sportspeople, as well as successful personalities in showbusiness – and also the current Queen of Spain. Here are five of the best-known people from this beautiful region.
Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano (born 15 September 1972) is the Queen of Spain, as the wife of King Felipe VI who ascended on 19 June 2014. Letizia came from a middle-class family in Oviedo, but became a national treasure on TV. Before her marriage, Letizia was a journalist for ABC as well as a news anchor at CNN+ and Televisión Española. Letizia married King Felipe in 2004 and today they have two daughters, Infanta Sofía and Leonor, the Princess of Asturias. Leonor is now heir to the throne.
Spanish World Cup winner Juan Mata was born in Burgos along with his sister, but was raised in the city of Oviedo, Asturias, his father’s hometown. Mata said in a recent interview with Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague that his favourite city in the world was Oviedo. Mata played for Real Oviedo’s youth academy from the age of 10, until Real Madrid snapped up the young talent five years later. Mata has gone onto play in the Champions League for Valencia, Chelsea and Manchester United, but still holds a special place in his heart for Asturias.
El Guaje (or The Kid in Asturian) took his nickname from his famed ability to play competitively with those above his age group growing up in Langreo. Another World Cup Winner David rose to fame playing in the same Valencia squad as Juan Mata, along with David Silva. They won the Copa Del Rey ahead of giants Real Madrid and Barcelona in 2008, before many of their top players headed to Europe’s biggest clubs. Villa also formed a formidable strike partnership with Fernando Torres in the European Championships in the same summer. Villa was Valencia’s top scorer throughout his 5 years with the club, including scoring 28 goals in his final season. His career continued an upward trajectory after leaving for Barcelona in 2010. A consummate striker, Villa has won every trophy possible at club and international level.
Born in Oviedo, racing driver Fernando was from an everyday family. His mother worked in a department store and his father was employed as a mechanic in an explosives factory. His father passed on his love of mechanics and kart-racing to his son. Alonso is now widely regarded by sports journalists and F1 pundits as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers in the history of the sport. He has won two World Championships over 15 years since he first took to the track.
José Ángel Hevia Velasco, known professionally as Hevia, is best known as the performer of a unique style of electronic bagpipes. The Asturian gaita player learned bagpipes from a very early age and worked with a computer programmer and technician to develop the instrument that he toured Europe with. Hevia became a favourite of the majority of Spain and his music spread to the rest of Europe. His most notable career achievement came in 1992, when he was awarded first prize for solo bagpipes at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France.