Olivia Arias Harrison: the Mexican soul behind The Beatles

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    Olivia Harrison is the Mexican soul behing The Beatles.

    Former Beatle George Harrison and his Mexican-born wife, Olivia, pose Saturday, January 15, 2000, while on vacation in Ireland. (AP Photo/HO)

    The once rural town of Hawthorne located in southern California is a far cry from Friar Park, the 120-room Victorian neo-Gothic mansion in Henley-on-Thames located outside London and home of Olivia Trinidad Arias Harrison.

    It’s an all-around fairy tale story for the daughter of working class parents from Mexico.

    No one can say what Olivia Arias’ future plans were before she met George Harrison, lead guitarist of The Beatles.

    However, one can speculate that like so many young Hispanic women of her time, she might have ended up married to a local man, living nearby her parents and relatives.

    Olivia Harrison at the ceremony posthumously honoring George Harrison with a star.

    Olivia Harrison at the ceremony posthumously honoring George Harrison with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Shutterstock)

    But one thing we don’t have to speculate about is that the young Latina from Hawthorne, Calif. had no idea that she’d end up living in a mansion once owned by the English aristocrat, Sir Frank Crisp; in fact, married to one of the most famous rock stars of our time.

    Olivia Harrison was born in Mexico City in 1948 and shortly thereafter her family settled in the California town, Hawthorne, named after the author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

    Today, Hawthorne has a population of approximately 85,000, the majority being Hispanic, some of whom are relatives of Ms. Arias Harrison.

    The town is known more for its list of celebrities that were either born or raised there.

    Aside from Olivia Arias Harrison, former famous residents have been actress Marilyn Monroe, singer Chris Montez, the three Wilson boys of Beach Boy fame and a sundry of athletes.

    Olivia Arias Harrison is one of five children born to Esiquiel and  Mary Louise Arias. The Arias was a typically close knit Hispanic family. Her father worked at a dry cleaner and her mother was a seamstress.

    She graduated from Hawthorne High School and later took a secretarial job at A&M Records based in the Los Angeles area.

    Yes indeed, life is full of surprises and in the case of Olivia Arias Harrison, it’s that and much more. Her life is a Cinderella story if ever there was one.

    Olivia met her knight in shining armor, George Harrison, one December night and never looked back to her modest and simple life in the rural Californian town of Hawthorne.

    Even though she married one of the world’s wealthiest and most famous rock stars, Olivia doesn’t seem to be self-absorbed and self-indulged as many of the other wives of the rich and famous.

    Her husband was referred as “The Quiet Beatle” because of his almost reclusive nature and his wife followed suit.

    Love in 1974: Olivia Arias and George Harrison

    Olivia Arias and George Harrison may not have married had it not been for the British model and “it girl” of the 60’s, Pattie Boyd.

    Ms. Boyd was George Harrison’s first wife but after eight years filled with problems of infidelity, drug use and love for the Indian religion on the part of Harrison, she left him for the singer Eric Clapton.

    Some stories claim that after Pattie Boyd left him, Harrison hit rock bottom emotionally and was on a rebound when he met Olivia.

    Olivia Harrison is widow of Beatle guitarist, George Harrison.

    Former Beatle George Harrison, right, and his companion, Mexican-born Olivia Arias, are shown at London airport, England, Nov. 5, 1977. (AP Photo)

    While one can’t give rise to rumors one way or another, it can be acknowledged that when George Harrison met Olivia Arias at a party in 1974, they fell in love and were happily married for 23 years.

    Interestingly, Olivia rarely reveals much about her Hispanic roots or her family.

    In a rare interview with Katie Couric shortly after the death of her husband, Olivia seemed uncomfortable when Couric asked how she felt living in a place such as Friar Park being from a working class background.

    That question could have been left out of the interview or asked in a more dignified manner but inquisitive journalists such as Ms. Couric can’t help themselves, puncturing the heart with rhetorical and insensitive questions to those they see as vulnerable in their skin.

    There are many fans of The Beatles that aren’t aware of Olivia’s Mexican background.

    And that doesn’t seem to be something she cares to share in any form. Her devotion was to her husband, who like her, also came from a working class background.

    They were, in essence, two fortunate people who rose above their means and had more in common than most of us realized.

    Olivia spends her time devoted to her and George’s only child, 36-year-old Dhani.

    She preserves the memory of her husband through a series of projects, such as co-producing an HBO documentary, authoring books and helping to establish an orphanage in Romania.

    Olivia Arias Harrison is not known to be an activist in the Hispanic-American community, but her act of charity speaks volumes about the widowed Latina from Hawthorne.

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