7 DECEMBER 2005

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Crown Princess Maxima of the Netherlands has arrived for her first official visit to the country of her birth. The future queen was given an enthusiastic welcome from local people when she landed in the northern province of Jujuy in an effort to boost anti-poverty programmes in the region.

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The royal journeyed across the Atlantic in her capacity as a microcredit advisor to the United Nations. In recent years her home country has been blighted by economic crises and international agencies are endeavouring to bolster rural areas by providing short term loans to local entrepreneurs.

Villagers who turned out to greet the princess, who was looking radiant in a bright yellow jacket and burnt orange trousers, were clearly delighted with their VIP guest. And the mum of two seemed just as pleased, smiling broadly and embracing many of those who turned out to welcome her.

Some of the farmers confessed to feeling a little overwhelmed by the horde of photographers who followed Maxima's every more. "We're not really used to this sort of thing," said Salamón Zerpa, to which the royal responded: "One never does get used to it."

And Maxima will surely have been touched by the generosity of her compatriots. Despite their poverty, the residents of beleaguered towns like Maimará and San Pedrito came bearing gifts. The 34-year-old, who holds a degree in economics from the University of Argentina, said she considered it an honour to be able to help with her homeland's recovery.

"I decided to collaborate with the UN because I believe firmly that to give a loan to a person is to offer the opportunity for them to fight their way out poverty," she said. "It is far better to give people the opportunity to make their own money than to just give a donation."

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The princess embraces a little girl in the province of Jujuy. Maxima originally hails from the capital, Buenos Aires
Photo: © AFP
Click on photos to enlarge

Many of the locals came bearing gifts for the royal visitor. The sign in the background says "Welcome Maxima" in Spanish
Photo: © AFP

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