After Mayor Carlos Arias Navarro handed Richard Nixon the golden key to the city of Madrid at Plaza del Marques del Duero during his October 1970 trip to Spain, Richard Nixon told some 1.5 million screaming Spaniards, "This is not an ordinary key. An ordinary key opens a door to a house or a room, but this key opens the hearts of the people of Madrid and Spain and the people of the United States. We are grateful for this wonderful welcome."
Press secretary Ronald Ziegler believed the reception Richard Nixon received in Spain was his biggest since taking office in January 1969. Generalissimo Francisco Franco's aides described the welcome the biggest showing of enthusiasm in Spanish history. "I was very pleased by the warmth of the reception of the people of Madrid. It was very exciting and a very exciting reception. It was the largest crowd I've seen," Richard Nixon stated.
At a State Dinner in Madrid, Richard Nixon made the comment, "We think of the words of welcome which you (Generalissimo Francisco Franco) have so generously spoken. We think also, of the tremendous crowds in the streets of Madrid as we drove together to the Palace where we are staying (Palacio de Moncloa). And as we heard and saw those crowds, they were saying many things.
"Among them were these: First, General Franco, they were expressing their respect and their affection for you. Second, they were expressing their friendship for the people of the United States. Third, as I saw those crowds, I saw the past of Spain and the future of Spain, and it is truly a great future, because I saw a vigorous people, a proud people, a young people, a dynamic people.
"The people that have been responsible for Spain having the fastest growth rate of any country in Europe over these past years; the people who will be responsible for Spain, in the last 30 years of this century (since 1940), moving into a new period of economic progress and well-being for its people and a new period of contributions to progress for all peoples in the world. This is what I felt as we drove through the streets of Madrid today (back in October 1970)."
Before attending the State Dinner at the national Palace, the Palacio de Oriente, Richard Nixon joined Gregorio Lopez Bravo, the Spanish Foreign Minister, at El Pardo Palace, the official residence of Generalissimo Francisco Franco for a private talk with the General. In the evening Richard and Pat Nixon were scheduled to meet with Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon and Princess Sophie at Moncloa Palace for tea. Before tea, Richard Nixon met with Vice President Luis Carrero.
Security was tight during Richard Nixon's visit. 'United Press International' reported 500 civilians cheering around the ceremonial square at Barajas Airport runway were carefully screened. The 2,000 Spanish security police and troops wearing the German-style helmets of World War II were said to be everywhere along the President's route into the city. "Guardia Civil officers were stationed every 50 to 100 yards on the highway and on overpasses into the city as well as on the flag-decked airport rooftops.
"Air Force One glided in from a sunny, cloudless sky on time, a few minutes after noon. A Spanish air force drum and bugle corps and band with platoons of rifle-armed airmen formed the honor guard for the elaborate airport welcome. Youngsters carrying small American flags were among several thousand spectators who managed to get a ringside position on the airport observation deck."
As he stepped from the door of Air Force One plane, Richard Nixon waved to the clapping crowd proclaiming, "We in the United States feel grateful to Spain and Spanish culture, which contributed so much to American life. Particularly in the past 10 years (since 1960), we have seen increased cooperation between the United States and Spain."
The black, open-roofed Continental was said to have flown to Madrid for Richard Nixon's visit carried the American President and the Spanish General for the 16 miles along the crowd-lined, tree-lined streets. As reported, "Bodyguards in blue berets followed slowly behind General Franco with spears in their hands and pistols at their sides.
"More police in shiny black Napoleonic hats guarded every gate. And others were on rooftops both at the airport and along the motorcade route. U.S. and red-and-yellow Spanish flags flew from special white poles along the way. A mounted cavalry escort followed the Presidential motorcade through the streets as well as 100 silver-helmeted horsemen in uniforms of the time of Christopher Columbus and carrying flag-tipped lances."
Richard Nixon reportedly "lunged past his bodyguards and into the crowd. He touched people's hands and put his hands on the shoulders of admirers, a campaigner's version of the Latin embrace." General Franco thanked Richard Nixon for coming to Spain at his invitation, "You will see our city and will be able to appreciate the admiration our people have for Americans and the cooperation between our two nations. I hope your stay will be a happy one."