|La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti|
The year 1905 would be particularly remembered in the world because it would see
the first Russian Revolution as a preamble to its later bloody revolution.
Sigmund Freud launched his psychoanalytic hypothesis with his controversial
"Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality." The American Wright
brothers, pioneers in aviation history, flew the first powered flight in history.
But a unique detail for consideration is the unforgettable year 1905 (known in
science as the "Annus Mirabilis”, or miracle year), was the scientific
production of the then-unknown 26-year-old physicist Albert Einstein, who
published a series of research papers that transfigured modern physics with his
proposals to explain to the world the theory of relativity and quantum theory.
in this miracle year our mother came into this world. The youngest child of our
grandparents Juliana and Innocencio was born on September 10, 1905. They
baptized her with the name of Maria Mercedes Pascuala and she was called Pascu.
Later on our father urged her to change and to use her second name Mercedes and
with this name she was known the rest of her life.
well-known family photo shows the five Iribarren siblings, each one holding a
symbol of their favorite hobby. Lola, an avid reader with a book, the young
Pascu, with a bouquet of flowers, Juli, with a fashion magazine, and Inocencio,
with a tennis racket.
His athletic skills led him to a position with the local soccer team,
known the "Las Arenas Club." The hobby of Aunt Mary was playing the
piano, but obviously she could not easily demonstrate her hobby. This photo was
taken to give to their sick mother. Mercedes lost her mother after a long
illness when the child was only 13, leaving his widowed father in charge of the
5 children and two adopted children. He got help from two aunts in the care of
the childhood of our mother we know little.
She did not talk much about herself. She told us that our grandfather was
an avid hunter and she was in charge of preparing the clothes early in the
morning when he went hunting on his motorcycle to Navarre. Once ama was ill with
high fever that would not leave her and the family doctor came to see her, and
he didn’t know what to do, so he asked the family to bring from the cellar the
dirtiest bottle so that he could inject its filth into ama.
Today we know that that filth contained something similar to penicillin.
But this concoction was home made and although her arm swelled up, the fever
the doctor when he saw her on the street said "My drunkenness saved your
life" because only under the influence of alcohol could he give such
medicine. The first clinical trial of penicillin was not until 1941 and in 1943
it began commercial production in the United States. On another occasion, when
she was little she was given a light blue raincoat that she liked, but it was a
little big, and for fear that it could be returned she stayed outside in the
rain all afternoon to keep her prized garment.
they met in the house with friends, our grandfather pushed a little bit his
youngest daughter to sing to the guests the Basque Nationalist song "Gora
Euskadi" and the girl spontaneously sang the lyrics: "Gora Euskadi
bizi Bedi, Sabino Arana Goiri gora." The whole family believed and
professed the programs of that time of Basque nationalism. Several times
Inocencio was told he could not attend Mass with the logo of the Basque flag on
his lapel. Innocencio and Juliana spoke Basque as their first language, and
early twentieth century social pressure and religious doctrine discouraged the
use of Euskera. The middle class saw Euskera as a sign of rural life and the
church saw the Basque language as pre-Christian, meaning is pagan, and denied
permission to baptize children with Basque names. Later, the governments of
Spain and France passed laws explicitly prohibiting teaching the Basque
language. Now it is completely different. Today the use of Euskera is a mark of
a well-educated middle class in the Basque country, but at that time from all
the children of the family the only one who spoke only Euskera was the oldest,
five Iribarren children were involved in the theater where they participated in
different ways. Lola was directed the productions, Juli sewed the costumes, Mari
was in charge of music, Innocencio directed the special effects like a
thunderstorm, which was done
by dropping down the stairs sacks of potatoes.
And Pascu was in charge of the acting, which she did with pleasure and
became a young woman of delicate features, graceful, intelligent, and with
common sense. She looked sweet, delicate and beautiful with her brown hair and
dark eyes. One of his many skills was mathematics; we heard her say several
times that one of her dreams had been to work on the Stock Exchange. After
finishing her studies in school administration she was helping her sister Juli
in her fashion design and sewing business. Her main hobby in her youth was
acting in the theater, first in the batzoki, a name in Basque that means
"place to meet." These are political and social venues of the Basque
Nationalist Party (PNV) that in addition to offices and meeting rooms had bars
and restaurants. There's one in every town, but they were closed after Franco's
victory in the Civil War. Ama later acted in the Parish Social House (Casa
Social) in Las Arenas which was a religious, cultural and recreational center.
It was the home and meeting place, education and entertainment of all youth of
Las Arenas, whose lives revolved around the parish and the youth group, Catholic
Action. The beautiful room, which had a capacity of 500 persons, was the delight
of everyone with its film and theater. Here the people of Getxo could see the
latest films, and they took an active part, sometimes simply as spectators and
sometimes as actors, in many plays. There was remarkable socio-cultural activity
in conferences and lectures on current topics of the day. Pascu enjoyed acting
and did it very well, just like everything that she proposed to do. One photo of
a group of young girls from Divina Pastora dressed in Basque peasant clothes
during their performance in a play, shows Pascu standing to the left.
of the young men from Algorta, including Jose Antonio Aguirre, Juanito Sarria
and a young law student, Vicente de Amezaga, went down to Las Arenas often to
see the works that were presented at the Social House. The neighborhood of
Algorta consisted mostly of wealthy capitalists. In the seventeenth century
Algorta had 100 houses, most of them near the port. Until 1859 Algorta was
completely isolated. The old beach of Las Arenas was the only way through for
people of Algorta who wished to take the train or a steamship. In 1853 a road
was opened from the Consulate House, across Portugalete, to the San Martin
neighborhood. What is today the beginning of the area known as La Avanzada is
where the sandy of Las Arenas began, a town in those days not deserving of the
attention of the people of Algorta. The area between Las Arenas and Algorta was
dotted with palaces and villas inhabited only in summer months, leaving the rest
of the year closed.
de Amezaga, who had excelled in his studies at the school of San Bernardo de
Algorta suddenly lost his father at the age of 17. Shortly after that he closed
himself in the attic of his house and learned by himself Basque in six months.
He came to master the language to such a degree that he would later be
the founder of the American Institute of Basque Studies in Buenos Aires (1943),
he taught Basque Culture at the University of Montevideo (1947-1955) and Basque
language at the Advanced Institute of Culture in the same city. He was named a
corresponding member of the Basque Language Academy in 1957. In 1926 he
graduated in law from the University of Valladolid and he was now preparing for
the examinations of to become a notary public, to be held in the Canary Islands.
He was appointed Municipal Judge of Getxo in the year of 1931, and in that
capacity he officiated at the wedding of his friend Jose Antonio Aguirre, first
president of the Basque Government. At the same time Don Resurrection Mary Azkue
(1864-1951) founder of the Basque Language Academy, a priest, musician, writer
and academic, and a key figure in the recovery of the Basque language offered to
our father a scholarship to send him to Germany, but the Spanish Civil War made
impossible all these projects.
one occasion ama was starring in the comedy "Cradle Song" by Gregorio
Martínez Sierra, which is the story of a newborn abandoned at the gates of a
convent and raised by nuns. Vicente who had seen her acting several times
noticed her talent and her delicate beauty and fell in love. They went out in
groups for some time until one day he asked to meet her at La Avanzada the
following day. She
replied quietly, as was the custom at that time: "Maybe if it doesn’t
she went on her bike and there on August 23 1927, Vincent declared his love for
her. They got engaged. Their courtship at the end of 1920 recalls for us the
traditional world that has completely disappeared today. Aita living in Algorta
went down to Las Arenas to pick her up more or less at six pm for a walk to
Neguri. Sometimes they went to the bakery of Zuricalday and walked through the
beautiful Paseo Zugazarte, a beautiful avenue with many small palaces and
ancient lime trees along the promenade, creating a pleasant and welcoming
atmosphere near the sea. Always they were escorted from a safe distance by her
sisters and her sister’s friends, until nine o'clock at night. At this time
Vicente left her and returned to his home on train to Algorta. The weekends they
went to a movie (American movies were popular in those days) or they went on the
train to the Arriaga Theatre. The Opera House, built in a neo-baroque style, was
named after Juan Crisostomo Arriaga of Bilbao, a composer known as “the Basque
Mozart". In the spring they went to France accompanied by Juli. Visiting
the casinos, the two sisters loved to play and bet, Vicente not much, but he put
up with it when he saw her happy. Also they attended football (soccer) matches,
always supporting Arenas. They ate lunch in the Hotel Continental in front of
Las Arenas’ hanging bridge, and also they went to parish movies.
this time she had changed her name to Mercedes, which was her middle name,
because aita liked it more. She was a person of great faith. Her religious life
had always been of utmost importance all her life and also for Vicente, and now
during their courtship their religious lives were intense. Sundays were always
dedicated to the church, the Mass and later perhaps a parish event or go to
support the Arenas wherever the team was playing. The celebration of Holy Week
was special to them. Holy Thursday ama arranged the Monumento, the church altar
which was decorated that day
in churches in every neighborhood. At four in the afternoon they went
together to visit the seven “Stations”, which were important local sites.
They would start from the Colegio de la Divina Pastora, the school where
ama was educated, then go to the Church of Las Mercedes, the Chapel of Santa
Ana, El Hospital, the Church of San Ignacio, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and
the Church of St. Nicholas. Friday was a day for more meditation, or they
participated in religious processions. Sometimes Vicente went as dignitary,
dressed in a formal suit, and sometimes as a simple citizen. Holy Saturday
everything looked happy and the girls all wore new dresses. Ama said
"during the month of May, the month when everything was blooming and
dressed for the holidays with colorful flowers, they would perform the custom of
“las Flores,” which consisted of praying the rosary with litany and hearing
songs sung by the choir of the village. The altar was decorated daily with
flowers of different colors that parishioners gathered in the gardens, some days
with red roses, others with white jasmine, lilies, wallflowers and in the middle
of the range of colors the image of the Immaculate Conception with her blue
both described this scene for us with delight, but also with pain seeing that
our generation did not have these views in our spiritual lives. This religious
life would ease their minds in this time of great tension leading up to the
parents used to pray together various novenas, most frequently one named for the
town, the Virgen de las Mercedes, and for the Virgin of Begoña in Bilbao. For
this latter novena they had to leave the house at six o'clock and climb 300
steps to a high point.
Having thus “sanctified” themselves they ate the famous local snack,
chocolate with churros (similar to English crullers). When their relationship
began to be more formal in the mid 1930's they began to shape their future and
sadly she stopped acting. Years later she would describe to us their life was
"simple, quiet and of deep faith." Unfortunately the world they knew
was about to explode and in fact they would know little peace again.
they were thinking about "forming their nest" and for that they chose
a white brick house of two floors in the coastal town of Sopelana, three miles
from Algorta. The house was small but sunny. It had a nice dining room, kitchen
and bathroom. The bedroom had a balcony that opened onto the garden which was
surrounded by fruit trees.
Ama dreamed of the flowers and vegetables they would plant in the
beautiful and spacious garden. They visited the house often in the company of
Grandmother Maria, aita’s mother, to add the some decoration to the building.
They had already bought furniture for the dining room and living room, and the
nuns were embroidering her trousseau and all this made them dream of a better
future, full of hope.
But the war interrupted her dreams when they had to abandon everything to
live in exile for the rest of their lives. She talked about the engagement as
the best time of her life
Basque Autonomous Government was installed as such on October 1, 1936, because
the Spanish parliament, the Cortes, did not give their final vote of approval
until then. Its
first president, Jose Antonio de Aguirre y Lecube, took the oath of office as
the lehendakari in the Casa de Juntas in Guernica.
The installation of the first lehendakari was October 7, 1936.
Aita was named to be the Director General of Elementary Education in the
newly formed Government of Euskadi.
The Spanish Civil War was a violent conflict that broke out after the
failure of the coup d’etat of a sector of the Spanish army against of the
legal and democratic government of the Second Spanish Republic.
The war wracked the country between July 17, 1937, and April 1, 1939,
finishing with victory by the rebels and the installation of a dictatorial
fascist regime, at whose head was General Francisco Franco.
This act meant the end of the democratic experiment carried out in Spain
since April, 1931, and which lead to the Spanish Civil War.
This war was a precursor to the Second World War.
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