Isabel Urcuyo

Isabel Urcuyo
First Lady of Nicaragua
In office
PresidentLuis Somoza Debayle
Personal details
Rosa María Isabel Urcuyo Rodríguez

(1924-07-31)31 July 1924
Costa Rica
Died30 August 2014(2014-08-30) (aged 90)
Houston, Texas, United States
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • United States
Luis Somoza Debayle
(m. 1947; died 1967)
AwardsOrder of the Precious Crown

Rosa María Isabel Urcuyo Rodríguez de Somoza (31 July 1924 – 30 August 2014) was a Costa Rican-born diplomat and the First Lady of Nicaragua from 1957 to 1963 as the wife of President Luis Somoza Debayle.


Isabel Urcuyo was born in Costa Rica on 31 July 1924. Her father was Clodomiro Urcuyo Argüello, a wealthy Nicaraguan who owned large areas of land in northern Costa Rica and served as Minister of Education in the government of Juan Bautista Sacasa. Her mother was Costa Rican Amalia Rodríguez Crochet. By maternal line, she was descended from the Costa Rican oligarchy. Isabel was the youngest of a family of four children; her siblings were Vicente (Nicaraguan ambassador to Spain), Clodomiro, and Anita. She studied at the Colegio La Asunción de Managua, where she earned a bachelor's degree in science and literature.[1] She learned English with a private American tutor.

She married Luis Somoza Debayle on 9 June 1947,[2] who flew to San José to court her, as she spent seasons with relatives there. They had met as neighbors when they were children. When Somoza returned to Nicaragua as an adult, they soon became engaged. Their civil marriage took place at the Urcuyo house in Managua, and a religious ceremony was held in the Archbishopric, followed by a reception at the Palacio de la Curva in the Loma de Tiscapa [es]. They had seven children together.[3]

Isabel Urcuyo accompanied her husband at the historic summit held in Costa Rica in 1963, attended by the presidents of Central America and U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[4] She also made several successful tours of Mexico, the United States, Europe, and Japan, where she was decorated by Emperor Hirohito with the Order of the Precious Crown for fostering friendly relations between his country and Nicaragua.[5] She was also decorated by Pope John XXIII in Rome.[1]

As First Lady, she was known for charitable works, particularly those benefitting children, and organizing social assistance programs.[1][3][6] When Somoza left office, he and Urcuyo took a trip around the world. After his death from a heart attack on 13 April 1967,[7] she was made an honorary consul of Nicaragua in New York and ambassador to the United Nations. After the Sandinista Revolution, Daniel Ortega and subsequently Violeta Chamorro denied her entry to Nicaragua. She was granted a visa during the government of Arnoldo Alemán. She moved to Houston, Texas in the early 1990s.[8]

Isabel Urcuyo de Somoza died in Houston on the morning of 30 August 2014.[9]