Providencia Paredes, the special assistant to former US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and believed to be one of the first people of Latino descent to work in the White House as part of a president’s inner circle, has died.
Gustavo Paredes, one of her sons, announced her death on Facebook.
Providencia Paredes died in Washington on Wednesday last week at the age of 90, he said.
Gustavo Paredes described his mother as a “pioneer, role model and icon for many,” and “a woman of immense will, passion, curiosity and a zest for life.”
Providencia Paredes was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, in 1924. She arrived in the US in 1948 alongside then-Dominican ambassador to the US Luis Francisco Thomen, for whom she did domestic work.
Soon after her arrival she met then-US representative for Massachusetts John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy became a US senator, he asked Providencia Paredes to continue working for him, and help his new wife with her affairs.
When Kennedy was elected president and moved into the White House in 1961, he sent for her.
“When he moved to the White House, he said: ‘I want Provi, because she is the best,’” Gustavo Paredes said, using his mother’s nickname. “That is how she ended up as Jackie’s personal assistant.”
During his presidency, Kennedy endeavored to improve relations between the US and Latin America.
In 1961, Kennedy established the Alliance for Progress, and proposed a US$20 billion loan to Latin American nations to promote democracy in the region.
Kennedy and his wife traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia and met with six presidents of Central American governments in Costa Rica.
In her role as special assistant, Paredes traveled the world with the Kennedys on personal and official trips.
Gustavo Paredes said there were only two trips his mother did not attend: one to Canada early in Kennedy’s presidency, and his last, to Dallas.
However, Providencia Paredes selected the light pink suit the first lady wore on the day the president was killed that has since become an emblem of his assassination.
In a 2013 interview, Providencia Paredes told Fox News Latino about seeing Jacqueline Kennedy for the first time after the president was killed.
“We went into a room, just she and I, and she broke down. She said: ‘They could have killed me, too.’ She said she was very afraid,” Providencia Paredes said.
Providencia Paredes remained close to the Kennedy family after the president’s assassination, later working for former US senator Robert Kennedy until his death, traveling with him to Los Angeles during his presidential campaign.
“She broke the barrier of what an American was: She was making trips with the president, representing the aspiration of the American dream,” Gustavo Paredes said. “From her humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic, she ended up flying around the world representing the country of her birth as well as her new-found country.”
She is survived by her sons, Gustavo Paredes, 60, and Hector Corporan, 69; and four grandchildren: Ariel Paredes, 35; Margarita Corporan, 42; Guillermo Corporan, 35; and Sofia Corporan, 28.
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