Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, immigrant from Spain, strives to provide assurance after attacks

Anna Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris at Design Museum on October 28, 2014 in London, England.

Anna Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris at Design Museum on October 28, 2014 in London, England.  (2014 Getty Images)

When Anne Hidalgo became mayor of Paris, she made history.

No woman had ever been the mayor of the City of Lights.

But Hidalgo, who was born in Spain and spent part of her childhood there, did not have much of a honeymoon.

She had not been in office even an entire year when terrorists struck her city in January, killing staff members of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, three police officers, and hostages in a kosher market.

Now, 10 months after that attack, Paris again was the site of terrorist-produced carnage when attackers tied to Islamic State opened fire and set off explosives on a Friday night, Nov. 13, in one of the city’s most populated sections. The Bataclan night club, which saw the most fatalities, was the site of one of Hidalgo’s first campaign rallies in 2014.

As Hidalgo, who is 56, did after the January attacks, she tried to convey a message of pride in the city, comfort to the survivors and victims’ loved ones, as well as urge unity and determination to fight the evil that had struck again.

"Tonight Paris is paying a high price faced with terrorism, but we are still standing, and we will continue to stand," Hidalgo told journalists after the attacks, according to published reports. "The sites that were hit were places where Parisians like to go out, where the youth of Paris likes to go on the weekends at night. So the idea was to hurt that freedom, that youth. The toll is terrible and I want to tell the families and the victims, once again, that we are with them."

On social media, she has assured Parisians: "When your heart falters, the great heart of Paris will support you. When your heart is suffering, the heart of Paris will soothe you.” 

Hidalgo was named Ana when she was born in Spain, but changed it to Anne around the time she acquired French citizenship at about 14.

She holds both Spanish and French citizenship, and is said to be more fluent in French.

Her grandparents had fled to France when dictator Francisco Franco seized power after the Spanish Civil War. Her grandparents returned to Spain after a while.

Then her parents moved the family to France for better economic opportunities.

Her father was an electrician and her mother a seamstress.

Hidalgo, who is a socialist, resists trying to meet expectations she feels are purely symbolic.

When she was running to be mayor, Women’s Wear Daily asked her: “Do you see yourself in a role à la Michelle Obama, propelling designers?” She responded: “It is important and I love it. The designers do an incredible job. It’s good to make it visible, without being showy. I am an elected official, not a model. I like a subdued style, not bling-bling.”

She also has balked at living at what has been the official mayoral residence, the Hotel de Ville, and instead lives with her husband Jean-Marc Germain, a Socialist member of parliament, and their teenage son in what has been described as a modest home.

Hidalgo is known for putting in long hours, but she resists being made to feel guilty for not spending more time with her family.

“It is not always easy for [the family] but I have never suffered from guilt,” Hidalgo said flatly to the Financial Times. “To be mayor is to work 24 hours a day.”

Hidalgo has waged battles to keep businesses closed on Sundays, to expand Paris’s green spaces and she’s a diligent promoter of Paris.

Her high profile, albeit not brought about as she would have wished, and her poised demeanor and popularity rate (a recent survey had it about 50 percent), have some thinking she may run for president of France someday.

“There is no question of that,” said her deputy, Bruno Julliard, to the Guardian.

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