|La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti|
doctors from Madrid came to visit the Medical Records Department because they
were interested in opening a program like it in the hospital where they worked.
We gave them a tour, and before leaving they left their cards so we could
contact them if any of us went to Spain. Months later when I was preparing my
trip to San Sebastian I got in touch with those doctors. We agreed that they
would come to Barajas airport to meet me.
Before my trip to Euskadi, aita and ama gave me a wonderful Canon camera,
one that used rolls of film, not a digital like we have today. I liked taking
pictures, and I got a lot on this trip, but in picture-taking Xabier always beat
ama and me in terms of quality. He has an eye for photography, and he has an
artistic and technical ability that makes him a very good photographer.
Personally I always thought it is an art that enriches our lives.
whole family came with me to the airport in Maiquetía, and I still remember
that when I said goodbye to everyone and was walking down the runway and neared
the stairs to board the plane, I heard the cry of ama "Miren".
She was calling to give me a last farewell. Maybe she thought there was
that possibility that I would settle in Euskadi with a job, or because I was
going alone adventure, or as an omen, but I turned around and smiled to
encourage her. Although the trip was good all night, at dawn we were still
flying over the Atlantic. The plane began to shake violently and it was as if we
lost height for a few seconds. One of the passengers near my seat went to the
cockpit, and when he returned asked if I was afraid, and I understood the reason
for his question.
I categorically denied I was terrified but then he said slowly that we
had lost an engine and the pilot was preparing to make an emergency landing. I
looked out the window and saw no land anywhere. I began to pray fervently. After
a while that seemed centuries, the pilot said we were going to land in Lisbon
without going into much explanation. And there before our eyes we spotted land.
Soon we could see terracotta roofed houses everywhere. We stayed in a nice hotel
where we spent the rest of the day and night before leaving for Madrid on the
evening of the second day. After leaving the luggage we ate; the dessert was a
delicious cream cake. Then they gave us a tour of several hours through the
historic center of this picturesque city that has hills, some very steep that
not even the bus could climb. During the war, Lisbon was one of the few European
Atlantic ports in a neutral country, so it became a gateway for the excape of
many refugees. When we arrived at Barajas (Madrid’s airport) it was dark. I
had planned my trip to connect by train to San Sebastian. The two doctors were
waiting for me despite the delays and took me to the Atocha station to take the
train to San Sebastian, but not before asking me all sorts of questions, and I
gave them a copy of my notes. They were really interested. I was able to get a
train that night and I arrived at the North Station in San Sebastian as eight
hours later. My stay in San Sebastian was very good and both Begoña and I had a
great time. But
now both of us were more mature and we each thought more seriously about
building a future than previous years. Some time later one of the doctors wrote
that they had managed to open the program and offered me a job. I was glad I
could help with anything, but I had my plans for my college degree in Caracas.
In San Sebastian I also had opportunities to implement the program and perhaps a
job for me, but due to budgetary problems, they offered to pay half of what I
was making in Caracas.
this trip in 1963 I returned home with the idea that it was better for us to buy
an apartment than to rent. Aunt Juli had just bought a very nice studio
apartment in a tall apartment house in San Sebastian and I caught her enthusiasm
to make a similar investment. We then lived in "Edifico Naiguatá,” a
well located apartment, spacious and sunny, but rented. Nearby under
construction there was a beautiful condo building that we visited on a Sunday
loved it, especially our father.
It had magnificent views of the golf course and Mount Avila, while it was
in a central location. There were gardens all around, a swimming pool, a small
playground for children, and a golf course that gave us all a sense of peace
even amid the noisy Avenida Miranda. We had a family meeting to discuss the cost
and the household income. At that time only aita, my sister and I worked. Bingen
could not work because he was in his first year in medical school, and that
absorbed all his free time. We could make monthly payments but the problem was
the down payment. We were discouraged when ama with a satisfied smile gave us a
big surprise. She was always responsible for juggling the available resources,
and had been secretly saving with the same idea in mind.
Now she had saved enough to start our project successfully. So we bought
a beautiful apartment in Campo Alegre.
pool was one of the things we liked in this new house. My brothers and I enjoyed
swimming and going to the beach was impossible because I had no car. Depending
on the time we had all the pool to ourselves. Only ten floors down we went with
our towels and sunglasses where there awaited us a refreshing exercise in this
tropical country. We loved to jump from the diving board and have races. Xabier
brought not only the required towel but came equipped with swimming goggles,
breathing tubes, fins, and earplugs of the Azteca type that they wore to show
their level of importance. I do not think that our brother could even get wet
wearing so much equipment.
after we moved, the Basque Center eliminated aita’s job. These were anxious
moments for all of us.
My brothers were still studying, and our father was 63 years old, a bit
old to easily get a job, especially as a foreigner. But he got another job
thanks to his friend Pedro Grases, who had helped him before and did it again
new job was doing what our father liked, that is, historical research. Grases
was born in Catalonia (1909-2004) and arrived in Caracas in 1937 to escape the
Spanish Civil War.
He was a writer, historian and literary critic. An avenue in the Caracas
neighborhood, La Castellana, where he lived for over half a century bears his
name. He valued and recognized the worth of our father and was always ready to
give him the opportunity that our father deserved. A sense of self worth is
needed to assess the worth of others.
this time the Medical Records Department was talking of a scholarship for one of
us to go to Chicago, Illinois, to do graduate work, and I was thinking to
register for it, although all the English I knew was medical terminology.
I think I would have gotten it, but something intervened in my plans.
"Man proposes and God disposes" is a saying attributed to the German
writer Kempis, author of Imitation of Christ; and ama repeatedly said it
to make us see that our goals depend on the divine.
November, the American holiday of Thanksgiving, is a traditional festival in the
U.S. and Canada. In the United States it is held on the fourth Thursday of
November. Usually for this feast family and friends gather around the table to
share a feast. Aita worked with an American student and my father invited him to
dinner that day with us.
He liked the food that ama prepared so he gladly accepted. The
traditional main dish for dinner is a great roast turkey stuffed with corn and
sage, served with a sweet cranberry jelly, vegetable dishes, sweet potatoes,
mashed potatoes with gravy made from turkey. The desserts are varied, with
pumpkin pie being the most popular, then pecan and apple. Days before the party
George, as we called our friend, asked our father if he would mind inviting
another American student new to the country who was also alone. Aita agreed
the United States Macy's department store in New York makes a great parade
through the streets that attracts millions to Broadway to see the giant balloons
and watch performances by guest artists. To compete we decided to do our own
show. I sang the popular and famous Mexican musical ranchera song
"Ella" by Pedro Infante.
Bingen accompanied me on the cuatro,
a musical instrument typical of the Venezuelan Plains, based, as its name says,
on four strings.
It is a very ancient instrument, giving rise to today's guitar. We were
ready to compete with the big Macy's parade.
opened the door and took care of the necessities of the guests.
Arantza Ama gave instructions on what to do for our celebration. Aita was
not very confident that things would go very well and was a little nervous.
six o'clock the intercom rang and Xabier started to carry out his duties. Soon
the door was opened and George and his friend Robert arrived, the latter with a
bottle of wine. Pello entertained us with his loud laughter and everything went
well to the relief of our father. After dinner Bingen and Xabier went to the
Basque Center, aita and ama prudently withdrew, and the five of us went out to
the terrace to chat animatedly until 1 am.
as we called him at home, called me in fifteen days and went to eat an arepa and
a drink. Soon
we began dating and this relationship became more formal on March 19, the feast
of St. Joseph and a public holiday in Caracas. Bob and I went to spend the
afternoon on Monte Avila.
is located at the foot of Monte Avila, a mountain of 2,765 meters which is
reached by a cable car to the top. The trip, which lasts 15 to 20 minutes, is a
picturesque ride through Venezuelan nature. It passes through the different
types of plants such as palms, ferns, flowers, orchids and trees such as
Bucharest, the most beautiful tree of Venezuela with orange leaves. Reaching the
top is almost like being in the jungle, deep green, dense and cooler
temperatures. Its green is constant in contrast to the dry cement in the city.
the top there is hardly any place to walk because it is a peak, but in this
narrow area stands the famous Hotel Humboldt, a cylindrical structure with 14
floors and a 360 º view on the top floor. From the summit looking south we see
the town, now quiet in the distance, and to the north we watched the Caribbean
Sea. And there in this romantic place Bob proposed to me and I accepted, in the
lobby of the hotel dining room, where there an ice skating rink, a gazebo, and a
cafeteria. We entered the latter and there toasted our future with a Coca Cola
first person I told of our engagement was ama.
We hugged, and went to tell aita. For both it was a joy mixed with
sadness because I would leave the house and the country. Almost the first thing
my father did after receiving Bob into the family was buy a Basque flag to have
with us always, which we have done.
It is framed and is always in prominent place in our living room.
But ama, with her strong faith, was worried that Bob was not Catholic.
To calm her, aita took us to his desk and looked there and studied the
origin and history of the Methodists, the religion in which Bob had been
baptized, and he read all the information we needed.
He followed closely my relationship with Bob.
He liked his sense of responsibility, seriousness, punctuality and
eagerness to study, and generally liked him very well.
our engagement time flew.
There were so many details, so little time to prepare for the wedding.
Ama helped me buy most of the outfit, gave me tips on home management and
did not worry much, but her lessons I put into practice later. She accompanied
us to choose the invitations and participations. We sewed and wove quickly.
I needed fall and winter clothes, which I did not have. She had taught me
to crochet years earlier and I liked it, and she told us how she learned to knit
from the women in the batzoki (local
club of the Basque Nationalist Party) who made jackets to send to the gudaris (Basque soldiers) at the front during the Civil War.
June 23, Arantza, Pello and Bob and I were married in a civil ceremony. It was a
simple family ceremony. After
the ceremony, we went home where ama had prepared one of her famous banquets. We
set the wedding date by the church on September 15. Aunt
Juli designed my wedding dress, simple and very pretty with a long veil and a
crown of silk lilies. Ama and I were walking to church the day before the
wedding to arrange and decorate it with flowers. On the way ama told me that she
longed for me what she had hoped for and obtained from her marriage: to be
loved, cared for, and understood. We talked of many things that awaited me in
the future and what we wanted to share more closely.
Ama told me in an uncertain voice said, "We'll go to visit
you." The little chapel looked simple and humble, but beautifully
15 September 1965, was sunny and everything was ready for our big day. The
small church was filled with flowers. Ama was the bridesmaid. With
soft music we entered the church on a red carpet coming down the aisle. We
were married by Father Jose Mari Mendizabal (Goian Bego; in Basque, Rest in
Jose Mari talked about Basque women and he reminded Bob that in the Basque
Country the wife who is in charge of everything.
Ama was the best example.
Bob was calm and happy.
I was less so, thinking about so many changes that awaited me. Once
again the joy of the moment was a bit confused by the farewells from all my
family, and also the shadow of war in Vietnam, which was present. This war had
intensified in the spring of this year, and Bob was facing two years of military
service after getting his doctorate. Xabier took the pictures because the
official photographer arrived after lunch, having suffered a car accident.
was very sad for them to let me go and for me to leave them.
Not without tears in our eyes we all said goodbye.
We were thinking about another separation and more when we would see each
other again. We went to the Sheraton Macuto and two days later before embarking
I called home to say goodbye to ama, and that evening we sailed for Houston,
Texas. That afternoon, in the tropical port of La Guaira, I could not help
feeling that I had left behind a part of me that I might never recover. The
ship was at sea. This
was the third time that a ship would take me to a different destination leaving
my loved ones, to start a new chapter in my life as a migrant. Today I can say
that I received all the sacraments and each in a different country: Baptism in
Paris; First Communion in Las Arenas; Confirmation in Montevideo; Marriage in
Caracas; and Anointing of the Sick in Washington.
and I had talked about my total ignorance in the kitchen, and soon she sent me
my first cookbook, "My Vizcayan Economic Cookbook", by Mercedes
Ledezma. The author was a professor at the academy of cooking and worked in
Bilbao where all marriageable girls came to take lessons.
It was possibly
the first academy of its kind to be formed in this city.
knew that I would learn and would benefit from the small cookbook, and I did,
but I struggled with the equivalence of measures, such as converting grams into
the year 1965 there were many changes globally, which affected Bob and me
situation had worsened in Vietnam, and President Lyndon Johnson ordered to send
troops to prevent South Vietnam from collapsing, and the continued war
intensified. The Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII was one of the
events that marked the twentieth century. It
lasted from the fall of 1962 until its closure in December 1965. The
goal was to modernize and renew the Catholic Church. And the final decisions of
this council were drastic changes such as replacing the altar table, moving the
tabernacle to the side, remove the rail for communion, the priest celebrating
Mass facing the people, women not needing to wear a veil in the church and
changing the language of the liturgy.
The Mass had been celebrated in Latin for hundreds of years and now it
would be in the vernacular, which in my case would now be in English. While it
is true that all these changes took place gradually over four years after
finishing the Council, the changes were added to the big change I was
experiencing at the moment.
and I agreed that we didn’t like all these liturgical changes very much. Here
you can add what the Prophet Jeremiah told us. Do not look longingly to the past wishing things could
be as they were before. Exalt God in this moment and let us move forward. And so
it proved to be.
Bible has a great influence, but we are unaware of the path that has left us not
only historically in the social and cultureaspect but in art, science,
literature and music.
Ama in her everyday language used many sayings from the biblical world.
of the expressions taken from the Bible and spoken by ama:
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
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