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Close Up Maricris Zobel Talks About Life, Love, Resilience, And Joy

Maricris Zobel Talks About Life, Love, Resilience, And Joy

Maricris Zobel Talks About Life, Love, Resilience, And Joy
Maricris Zobel in Brunello Cucinelli (centre), joined by her daughters Paola Zobel-Laborde in J.Cricket from Univers, Rocio Zobel wearing Self Portrait, and Natalia Zobel in a Louis Vuitton dress (all wearing accessories from Hermés), and her grandchildren Olivia, Sienna, and Sydney
By Bambina Olivares
September 25, 2019
She finds joy and contentment in doting on her family and tending to her garden. Maricris Zobel reveals the secrets of making peace with her universe

From the outside, the Spanish-style home of Maricris Zobel, whose façade is drenched in the red-ochre tones of Andalucia, barely hints at what lies inside. Even as you enter, you catch only the briefest glimpse of a garden. It is only when you step into the lanai that you are able to set your eyes upon the lush expanse of green.

"I have heard this said, and I live by it," Zobel says with her characteristic warmth and candour. "If you want to be happy for a day, you buy an outfit. If you want to be happy for a month, you get a lover. But if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, you have to tend a garden."

In her beautiful tropical garden, with its Balinese-inspired pool on one side and a jewel of a poolhouse on the other, the mother of five and grandmother of five has found lasting bliss.

“A garden for me is the most relaxing, the most healing. I spend more time in my garden than I actually do inside my home! Let’s just say my kids know where to find me: they have to come out into the garden.”

Her garden is her sanctuary, a place for both contemplation and action. “I putter around, I trim, I plant. If a plant does not flower, I give it two years. If it doesn’t do well, it goes out!”

Rocio in Maison Rabih Kayrouz from Homme et Femme, Maricris in Balenciaga, Paola in Vita Kin
Rocio in Maison Rabih Kayrouz from Homme et Femme, Maricris in Balenciaga, Paola in Vita Kin

In tending her garden, she is guided by what her grandmother always said. There were two things a good garden always had: “an avocado tree, and a talcum plant. When I was a little girl, she had that Chinese powder that she mixed with the talcum plant. Smell it—it smells like verbena.”

The same care and devotion she lavishes on her garden she bestows, too, upon her family. She has five children with her husband of over 30 years, businessman and polo player Iñigo Zobel. Bianca, the eldest, has a son, Mathias, now five. Paola, who is based in Spain with her husband Santi Laborde, recently welcomed, her first-born: a son named Iñigo. Jake, who is married to Lara Reynolds, has four-year-old Olivia, and twin girls Sienna and Sydney who are three years old. Natalia still lives at home, while the youngest, 17-year-old Rocio is at boarding school in England.

She has gone through many organic and significant transformations, from young, not-quite-20 years old bride to doting mother, to indulgent and proud—not to mention glamorous—grandmother. Along the way, she not only grew in confidence about the person she w as becoming throughout the various phases of her life; she also became a committed Christian.

She was barely out of her teens herself when she became a mother for the first time. “I have three sets of children. By the age of 24, I had three kids! Then at 31, I had m y fourth, and 10 years later I had my youngest.”

Going through motherhood at three distinct stages in her life also saw her parenting style evolve. “The first three grew up with me; they were always by my side. With Natalia, I was already much more relaxed, but more vigilant about certain things in a way that I wasn’t with the older three. And with Rocio, I just enjoyed her. I grounded her more in my core values because when you’re an older mother, you just have a more serene kind of foundation and you know how to choose your battles. I was just more mature.”

Her older kids remind Rocio how lucky she is. “If you ask the older ones,” says Zobel, laughing, “they’ll say that apparently I was a much stricter mother, and we had very strict family rules that I don’t even remember!”

Natalia in Tadashi Shoji dress and earrings from Lanai, Paola in a Victoria Beckham dress from Homme et Femme, Maricris in Joanna Ortiz, Rocio in an Hermés silk scarf, Bianca in her own dress
Natalia in Tadashi Shoji dress and earrings from Lanai, Paola in a Victoria Beckham dress from Homme et Femme, Maricris in Joanna Ortiz, Rocio in an Hermés silk scarf, Bianca in her own dress

Experience has taught her a lot. “It makes you wiser as a whole, living through it,” she confides. “I would say that as a grandmother I am much more relaxed than I would have been with my kids. If I were to raise my kids all over again, knowing what I know, I would be more relaxed.”

A bride at 19, she acknowledges that, “I married before I knew who I was. So I became a wife and a mother before I really had a sure sense of myself as a person. All of that has to be part of the journey.”

In raising her brood of five, Zobel sought to emulate the closeness she maintains with her own brother and sister, who both live in the United States with their respective broods, and her mother (her father passed away in 2011, while an older brother passed away at the age of 49).

Bianca in her own dress, Maricris in Joanna Ortiz, Natalia in Tadashi Shoji from Rustan’s
Bianca in her own dress, Maricris in Joanna Ortiz, Natalia in Tadashi Shoji from Rustan’s

“The old-fashioned values are still the best, and the y are the values I live by,” Zobel affirms. “I guess in that way you could say I am a traditionalist and a conservative. My mother and my father were strict, but they walked the talk. They taught by example. They were conservative with God-fearing values. I really like that way of growing up. I think my kids appreciate it. They really see a difference between my parents and Iñigo’s family, and they appreciate my parents and the way I was raised. There was so much value, so much instruction… it wasn’t about how much you spend on your kid; it’s how much time you spend on your kid. We were not wealthy, but we were a very happy middle class functional family. My parents were always there for us, there was a lot of support, and a lot of faith.”

At that time, her parents were still Catholic, but in later years, like Zobel and her siblings, they became born-again Christians.

“My late father was a very quiet man, and my mother was more of a chatterbox. Every time my father would speak, he would speak in proverbs. He was from the academe. My father’s family were all lawyers; my father was a chemical engineer. They were all in the fields of science and math. Like him, I love to read; I love to study. I’m a history person—just don’t make me do math!”

She makes no apologies for the way she was raised, and how that has informed the person she has become. “I was raised to love your country, to put your home and family first. I believe that you don’t have to apologise for your history, but that you learn from it, you learn from your mistakes.”

An integral part of her personal journey is her Christian faith, which anchors her life and her family. That all her children are now Christian, and raising their own children as Christian is a source of great joy to her.

Maricris in a Josie Natori caftan and floral Ken Samudio earrings from Lanai, with grandchildren (who call her Bela) Olivia, Sidney, Sienna and Iñigo
Maricris in a Josie Natori caftan and floral Ken Samudio earrings from Lanai, with grandchildren (who call her Bela) Olivia, Sidney, Sienna and Iñigo

“At a certain age, you let go and let God. You know the things you can change and you know the things you can’t. It’s a decision: a decision to move forward, a decision to be happy.”

She is at peak bliss, and equanimity radiates from her face. She is clearly relishing life as a grandmother. Her grandchildren call her “Bela,” derived from the Spanish word for grandmother, abuela. “My mother was abuelita. My grandmother was abuela. It was like that in our family, every other generation was called abuela, so it really was supposed to be abuela for me. But Bela does sound nicer.” Indeed the little ones adore their Bela.

Passionate about her beautiful family, devoted to her balmy, luxuriant garden, and grounded in her faith, Zobel may just have discovered the secret to a life of enduring happiness.

  • Photography Mark Nicdao
  • Art Direction Anton San Diego
  • Styling Monique Madsen
  • Outfit Louis Vuitton, Homme et Femme, Univers, Rustan's
  • Accessories Hermés, Lanai Manila

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