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April 15th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Mercedes Peñas Domingo will become Costa Rica’s First Lady when her long-term partner, Luis Guillermo Solis is inaugurated on May 8th, but her identity – even her face – is a mystery to most in the country.
Peñas, a political scientist and naturalized Costa Rican citizen originally from Spain, has done her best to avoid the media, and did not make her first public appearance until a March 5th press conference, when Johnny Araya dropped out of the presidential race. She has given only a couple of interviews since, but here’s what we know.
Peñas, 45 was born on November 17, 1968 in Madrid, Spain, and 21 years later in August 1991 set foot in Costa Rica for the first time, where she would attend the University for Peace (UPEACE) and spent two years in the country.
When they first met, Luis Guillermo Solís, ten years her senior was one of her professors while she was studying for a Masters in International Relations, Peace, and Development Cooperation at UPEACE.
Two years after her time at UPEACE, Peñas got a job as an assistant in the Department of External Relations of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Peñas later did consulting work for the United Nations and the European Union, as well as a foundation called the Rainforest Alliance.
Since 1997, she has worked for DEMUCA, a technical and financial arm of the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation (AECID), which “promotes the strengthening of local governments in Central America and the Caribbean.”
Peñas and Solis have been together for nine years, together caring for their 7-year-old daughter Inés.
The couple says they routinely see and visit Solis’ five other children of previous marriage (Monica, Cristina, Beatriz, Diego and Ignacio); as well as Peñas’ family in Spain.
Editor’s note: This story was edited on April 15th at 3:26pm to reflect Peñas and Solis’ relationship as long-term partners, in addition to some minor syntax changes.