I’m kind of late to the party when it comes to commenting on this unintentionally hilarious picture of President Obama and Spanish President Zapatero’s family, but I only recently discovered it so to me it’s brand new.

Back in 2009, Zapatero and his family visited the US at the G20 summit.  The Obamas hosted a dinner at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Zapateros, including his two teenage daughters, attended.  This picture was snapped sometime during the event and then was uploaded to the State Department’s Flickr account and attracted a lot of media attention in Spain and in the US.

This picture is actually one of the first pictures the Spanish have actually ever seen of Alba and Laura, Zapatero’s daughters.  Zapatero is fiercely protective of his daughters and usually never allows them to be photographed in public.  In Spain, there are strict laws protecting the privacy of minors (18 years old and younger, Zapatero’s daughters were 13 and 16 when this picture was taken).  Taking pictures of children of celebrities and politicians is usually forbidden–if the pictures are published, the faces of the children are usually blurred out.

Some Spanish news agencies decided not to publish the picture once it became released though the pictures still made the cover of several of the newspapers.

The State Department did remove the picture from the Flickr account once it realized Zapatero does not usually allow pictures of his daughters to be published in the media.  However, the damage was already done since the picture had made its way to several news outlets online and on blogs.

When I first saw this picture, I’ll admit it took me by surprise and I did laugh since it looked like an awkward family photo.  My first thought was that the girls would probably fit in easily in the Harry Potter movies at Hogwarts since their dresses reminded me of wizard robes. They both look super bored and kind of over this whole presidential thing.

After getting over the initial shock of their Goth style clothing, it led me to think about what it must be like living with a parent whose job requires him or her to be so much in the public eye.  When this picture was taken, Zapatero obviously had no idea it would be published, otherwise he never would have consented to his daughters being in the picture in the first place.  He seems to be very aware of the pitfalls of being such a public media figure and wanted to protect his daughters from a life in the limelight.

However, the laws in the USA when it comes to photographing minors are very different.  I don’t think there are any limitations when it comes to publishing a minor’s picture in the media.  We see pictures of celebrities with their kids in magazines all the time–in fact in the USA, publishing the first pictures of a celebrity’s baby can rake in millions of dollars (the bidding for pictures of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s biological children comes to mind).  If you google image Sasha and Malia Obama, there are thousands of pictures of the two girls with their parents and they were a regular presence during Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.

As for Zapatero’s daughters, I know there are conspiracy theorists out there who speculate the reason he hid them from public view was because he was afraid their Goth style clothing would embarrass him.  However, I doubt the girls dress like this all the time.  They are teenagers and their style will be constantly evolving.  And seriously, does anybody look fondly at pictures of their teenage years? I know I seriously cringe whenever I see pictures of me from middle school–glasses and braces and bangs (which I then concluded were so over and smartly decided to grow them out in 6th grade).  My high school yearbook picture from junior year of high school was a tragedy on so many levels, from my awful hair to my stoned expression.  That is a picture that I hope never sees the light of day outside the walls of my house.

So yes, the two girls do make the picture look like the Adam’s family reunion circa 1985.  Should their dad maybe have vetoed their choice of clothing? Should they have been dressed more “appropriately” to meet the President of the US? I mean, sure I probably wouldn’t have dressed like that if I knew I were meeting the Obamas.  But the fact that Zapatero let his daughters freely express themselves through their clothing makes me think he is a cool dad.  And his daughters seem pretty well adjusted and seem like they are going to turn out fine.  I’m sure Zapatero wasn’t thrilled by the way they decided to dress, but I think he knew in the long run it would be better for them to make their own decisions.  If anything, it will be a funny memory to look back on.

“Do you remember the time when Dad was the President of Spain and we got our picture taken in those goth outfits with the President of the US and his wife?”

That’s a pretty awesome story to bring up at family reunions if you ask me.

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