|La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti|
- and translated by Robert Clark
- and translated by Robert Clark
At the request of our brother Xabier Iñaki, the editor of this work, with pride and
pleasure I have agreed to write a posthumous tribute to the memory of our
mother. I have devoted this essay
to the most important moments of her life because of her great influence on me.
It's a complicated family history of two wars through which our fathers lived
and of which they were victims: the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
mother had a calm personality, with much common sense.
She had what psychologists call a well-integrated personality, and she
was devout, precise, and practical. She
was not a dreamer but hard working, dutiful, caring, devoted to family and
self-renunciation and very loyal to her faith; and her faith helped her during
her many trying moments. One of her favorite sayings was "God squeezes but
He does not strangle." No matter how tired she was, she prayed the rosary
with litany every night and invited us to accompany her; and we did but
sometimes not very happily. She had a great ability to do wonders with her
hands; she knew how to turn something ordinary into the extraordinary. She
mastered the arts of cooking, weaving, sewing, upholstery, painting and
gardening. Her agility with numbers was insurmountable, and she was a great
manager. She had courage and confronted situations with which our father could
not cope. She avoided giving problems to our father by hiding many of the things
that we did not do very well. The circumstances in which she lived were
extremely difficult, but she was always ready to overcome any obstacle if that
brought happiness and peace to our father and us. The absence of her second
daughter was very painful all her life. Just as our father taught us to think,
to know and love Euskera and Euskadi. Ama taught us to pray, love and work.
During seven years of my childhood, I was far away from the care of our parents.
I was under the care of ama’s siblings and her aged father. I lived in the
same village where our mother was born and raised.
I went to school where she was educated, and had the same teacher who
taught her. The most precious legacy that ama left me has been confidence in
myself and her great Christian faith that did not abandon her even in the worst
moments of her life. Rather it gave
her strength to be able to make her way through different countries and in
difficult circumstances. It was a cross for our parents to bear to live far away
from everything that they most loved and had to leave behind forever.
father, a man of true Christian faith, was a tireless worker for the Basque
cause. His hometown of Algorta,
Getxo, erected a square that bears his name as a posthumous tribute to the great
orator, writer, translator and lover of his Basque ancestry. He was a great man
and next to a great man is a great woman, who was his wife and faithful
companion all his life, our mother. On the death of aita, ama compiled the
memories of all their years together. She wrote nine notebooks later transferred
to fifteen tapes that she recorded. In those tapes she described the passage of
the years they lived together with the same emotion that she lived them. With
her memoirs she has left an unforgettable legacy to us, her children and
in the twilight of his life dedicated this short poem to our mother simply
summarizing what she was for him. He gave it to her on the day of her birthday,
September 10, 1968. He would die five months later.
was after wife
the tender mother
care and affection
each state it was in
in every age
to be a paragon
The main source of information was "Memories of Ama: Cassettes recorded by
her with stories of her life between 1926 and 1970," the 15 tapes recorded
by ama, completed in February 1972. These tapes are an oral history of the years
lived with our father.
Robert P. Clark, The Basques: The Franco Years and Beyond (Reno, University of
Nevada Press, 1979).
Ana López Asensio, Colegio Madre Del Divino Pastor (Getxo, Getxo, 2004).
Don Felix Acha, Recuerdos de Las Arenas, two volumes (Las Arenas: Arenas Press,
Don Carlos M. Altube Zabala, Getxo, Anteiglesia del señorío (Bilbao: Editorial
La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, 1968).
William Wiser, The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930s (New York: Carroll &
Dorothy Legarreta, The Guernica Generation: Basque Refugee Children of the
Spanish Civil War (Rena, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1984).
Leon Grinberg and Rebecca Grinberg, Pyschoanalytic Perspectives on Migration and
Exile, translated from Spanish by Nancy Festinger (New Haven: Yale University
Mirentxu Amezaga, Nere Aita (San Sebastian: Editorial Txertoa, 1991).
LIFE OF MERCEDES IRIBARREN AMEZAGA
TO OUR MOTHER
OF THE FORGOTTEN
In the Basque language ama means mother and aita means father
parents were Vicente de Amezaga, a native of Algorta, Getxo, and Mercedes
Iribarren native of Las Arenas, Getxo. My siblings and I are products of two
Basque sources: one of maritime origin through aita and the other of Pyrenean
origin through ama.
results of genetic information, taken from DNA tests that my husband and I have
done recently, tell us that in the male line our Amezaga ancestors came 10,000
years ago from what is now southern Russia and Ukraine, where they lived as
people the Greeks called Scythians, (a group of nomadic and semi-nomads with
whom they had contact in the Black Sea region). They came by water through the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic and across different European and North African
countries to Euskadi living since then in the area between mountains and sea, a
dividing line that still exists today.
the maternal side Iribarren, we are descendants of people from the Stone Age,
the first inhabitants of Europe. About 45,000 years ago they came from the
Middle East, and entered the Baztán Valley where they remained for the past
25,000 years. Baztán Valley is located north of Navarra in the Atlantic
Pyrenees, a place of meadows and hills, castles and stone farmhouses with large
balconies, monasteries, medieval bridges, caves and megalithic monuments that
speak of their Paleolithic era. Their culture was formed in the upper basin of
the River Bidasoa which in this area is called Baztán River, 40 miles north of
Pamplona and to the east of the French Basque Country. This is where, in the
Battle of Roncesvalles on August 15, 778, Charlemagne's army was defeated by the
the seventeenth century the Iribarren family name begins to appear near the
province of Guipuzcoa, It is clear that the Iribarren were leaving the Pyrenees
to go to more prosperous cities and towns near the Cantabrian coast. In 1864, in
the coastal town of Motrico, our grandfather Innocencio was born. His parents
were Pedro José Iribarren (b. 1828) a native of Motrico, Guipuzcoa, and his
mother Juana Egaña (b. 1837) of Escoriaza, Guipuzcoa. Innocencio, the youngest
member of the family, grew up in this pleasant fishing village of Gipuzkoa, on
the shores of the Cantabrian Sea on the border with the Province of Biscay. Its
coasts are cliffs that open into two bays; one has the urban core and the port
and the other has beaches that it shares with Ondarroa. The town of Motrico was
founded in 1294 and takes its name from the river at the mouth of which lies the
River Deva. It has a great beach which is the main tourist attraction. In
another time there was a major trading port; now is use as a recreational
grandmother Juliana Gorostegui was born in 1872 in Deva, Guipuzcoa. The family
name Gorostegui originates in the town of Bergara, west of the province of
Guipuzcoa, probably about the seventeenth century, and it is translated in
Basque as the “place where the holly tree grows”. Her parents were José
Antonio Gorostegui (b. 1829) native of Abaltxisketa, Guipuzcoa, and Maria Josefa
Urkidi (b. 1844) of Motrico, Guipuzcoa.
town of Deva is surrounded by mountains 800 to 900 meters high which are within
walking distance from the coast. Nearby is the Cave of Ekain, a cave with large
important equestrian paintings of Deva. Among the highlights is a group of
horses that are highly relevant in the Magdalenian period (15,000 to 12,000 BC)
and make Ekain one of the main European prehistoric sanctuaries. This cave is
included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
us the history of the Iribarren begins in 1876 at the end of the Second Carlist
War. Innocencio was born in 1864 and Juliana Gorostegui in the early 1870’s.
In their youth they witnessed a monumental struggle in Spain between the forces
of modernization and centralization on the one hand, and supporters of freedom,
and traditional regions on the other.
is important to include the history of our great grandfather Elias Iribarren,
who fought on behalf of the Carlists in the second Carlist war. After the war
ended, Elias returned to his home, but was pursued by the liberal forces which
had sentenced all ex-Carlist militiamen to exile or death. One day they came to
arrest Elias, who was hiding in the haystack. Unable to find him the soldiers
had decided to leave when the commander came up to ask the children who were
playing outside where their father was. The youngest, Innocencio, unaware that
he was sealing the fate of his father pointed to the barn and the soldiers found
him and shot him right there
the town of our grandmother Juliana is three miles from Motrico. We believe they
met in one of the festivals in Deva, on the feast of San Roque on 14 August.
Juliana was an attractive young woman of delicate features. After they married
they went to live to Motrico. Our grandfather was a sea engineer but the sea
made him seasick so he decided to try new career by opening a company, and since
he loved the sea he opened a business of ship-building factory.
For that he went to live in Las Arenas, Vizcaya, in 1895.
For many years, Las Arenas had been an undesirable backwater with little more
than a lonely beach. In 1880 the difficulties in supplying drinking water to the
town were overcome by a well with water pump and a windmill designed to drain
the marshes. An old house, called the Consulate, and an old tavern were the only
buildings that existed in 1860. The mill was in the place than later was erected
the Parish of Las Mercedes.
important figure in the history of Las Arenas in the mid-nineteenth century was
a merchant and industrialist named Máximo Aguirre, who had been a mayor of the
city of Bilbao. Also Aguirre had been a consul in the United States and had
adopted the American and British custom of buying land as an investment.
In what today are Las Arenas, Santa Ana and Lamiako, he turned the land
into a residential area where the Basque elite could buy their second home. For
that he had to channel the river courses of Udondo and Gobela rivers, and he
began the draining of the marshes and the setting of the land by planting pine
trees, tamarisk and gorse bushes. The
town soon became an important residential and tourism center because of the
fashion for sea bathing. The plan for the town was a rectangle in the center of
which was the Santa Ana’s chapel and the Establishment of Bilbaínos Sea
1903 local leaders began to devise a new development between Algorta and Las
Arenas, which would be called Neguri, which means “winter town” in Basque.
As the name says it would be destined to be inhabited throughout the year
instead of simply during the summer vacation season.
And what once was a sandy wasteland became a modern and symmetrical town,
a resort of chalets and small palaces that was inhabited in the summer months.
The rest of the year these houses were empty, giving the impression of being a
ghost town, but soon it would be filled with apartment buildings.
1864 the first church was built in Las Arenas, the hermitage of Santa Ana, one
of the oldest examples of the Gothic architectural style of Vizcaya. The work
was done under order of the family of Maximo Aguirre, but soon the chapel would
not be large enough for the increasing population. In 1872 the only means of
transportation was a streetcar linking the important city of Bilbao with Las
Arenas. In 1887 this was replaced by a train with the same route. In 1882 Las
Arenas had only 212 inhabitants. In the next 20 years more than 120 buildings
were erected. In 1887 the church of
Las Mercedes was opened; it was designed by Severino de Achúcaro according to
the Gothic model.
first private school in Las Arenas was the school of "La Divina
Pastora" now called “Colegio Madre del Divino Pastor”.
It was founded by the Franciscan sisterson June 25, 1904. It was formerly
a country estate in the French style, bordered on the north by the railway
station and on the south by the Gobelas Street. I remember from the class having
heard the whistling of the train. They began offering three years of teaching in
all subjects, adding homemaking skills, painting, French, and music.
Ama stood out in the first two subjects: especially sewing, knitting,
embroidery and painting. Her teacher was Mother Maria Luisa.
July 28, 1893, a unique attraction opened in Las Arenas, the world's first of
its kind. I refer to the “Hanging
Bridge”, or “Puente Colgante”, the most notable engineering structure for
which the city is famous. Its construction was needed to link existing resorts
on both sides. The structure is not a bridge but a shuttle craft suspended over
the river. The shuttle carries
passengers and vehicles across the Nervion River in a trip that lasts several
minutes. Making the trip on the ferry saves to road drive of 20 kilometers to
reach the opposite bank. On July 13, 2006, the bridge was declared World
Heritage Site by UNESCO which considers it one of the most outstanding works of
architecture of the Industrial Revolution.
miles from Las Arenas was Bilbao the largest city in the Basque Country and the
industrial center of Vizcaya. The
city dates from 1300 but its industrial impact dates from the mid-nineteenth
century. Bilbao by 1886 had 50,000 inhabitants. It is located on the banks of
the Nervion River that zigzags through the city as it flows into the Bay of
Biscay before passing through several villages and cities that once had an
independent existence, but now it have become suburbs of Bilbao. One of these
suburbs is Las Arenas.
town was ready to welcome our grandparents Innocencio and Juliana Iribarren whom
they arrived in Las Arenas with their two older daughters, Lola and Juli.
Shortly after, our grandfather bought a parcel of land near the village of
Erandio on the banks of the Nervion River and there he founded the factory
called "Talleres Erandio" an industry specialized in the construction
of cranes and large commercial ships. Five years after arriving in Las Arenas
our grandparents went to live to "La Casa Grande" (The Big House) on
the fourth floor on the street of Las Mercedes. This large stone building is
opposite to the Parish Church of Las Mercedes (1900). It was newly built by
Domingo Usobiaga who also came from Motriko. In Las Arenas, our grandparents had
three more children: the only son, Ino, Mari, and Pascu.
the early twentieth century, the society encountered by Innocencio was booming
and the Iribarren family enjoyed the comfortable lifestyle of the growing middle
class of Vizcaya. Our grandfather had a large cellar which according to family
legend he fermented solid green grapes of Vizcaya to make a thin and delicious
liquid acid called chacolí, which they consumed with gusto.
I) Vida de Mercedes Iribarren de Ametzaga -Gure Ama - Tributo a nuestra Ama, por Mirentxu Ametzaga
II) La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti - por Xabier I. Ametzaga
III) Mis manos quieren hablar - mi poema a mi Ama - por Xabier I. Ametzaga
IV) Publicaciones en Internet relacionadas
|Vicente Ametzaga Aresti - His Biography and his works Published on Wikipedia
Mercedes Iribarren Gorostegui - La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga - published on Wikipedia
Xabier Iñaki Ametzaga Iribarren - Information published on Wikipedia