La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti  

Gure Ama

(Our Mother)


Marie 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. 

Our 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.

Our 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 grandchildren.

Aita 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.


For girlfriend

More rebonita

That was after wife

Faithful and loving

And the tender mother

Home rules

And Granny

With care and affection

The penalty takes

In each state it was in

And in every age

Used to be a paragon




1. 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.

2. Robert P. Clark, The Basques: The Franco Years and Beyond (Reno, University of Nevada Press, 1979).

3. Ana López Asensio, Colegio Madre Del Divino Pastor (Getxo, Getxo, 2004).

4. Don Felix Acha, Recuerdos de Las Arenas, two volumes (Las Arenas: Arenas Press, 2004, 2005).

5. Don Carlos M. Altube Zabala, Getxo, Anteiglesia del señorío (Bilbao: Editorial La Gran Enciclopedia Vasca, 1968).

6. William Wiser, The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930s (New York: Carroll & Craft, 2000).

7. Dorothy Legarreta, The Guernica Generation: Basque Refugee Children of the Spanish Civil War (Rena, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1984).

8. Leon Grinberg and Rebecca Grinberg, Pyschoanalytic Perspectives on Migration and Exile, translated from Spanish by Nancy Festinger (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).

9. Mirentxu Amezaga, Nere Aita (San Sebastian: Editorial Txertoa, 1991).






Mirentxu Amezaga



          In the Basque language ama means mother and aita means father

Our 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.

The 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.

From 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 Basques.

In 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 marina.

Our 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.

The 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.

For 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.

It 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

Deva, 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.

An 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 Baths.

In 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.

In 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.

The 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.

On 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.

Ten 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.

The 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.

By 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.

Our Mpther -Our Mother1 -Our Mother2 -Our Mother3 -Our Mother4 -Our Mother5 -Our Mother6 -Our Mother7 

-Our Mother8 -Our Mother9 -Our Mother10 -Our Mother11


I) Vida de Mercedes Iribarren de Ametzaga -Gure Ama - Tributo a nuestra Ama, por Mirentxu Ametzaga 


I.1 Vida de Mercedes Iribarren de Ametzaga -Gure Ama

I.2  Life of Mercedes Iribarren de Ametzaga - Our Mother

II) La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti - por Xabier I. Ametzaga


II.1 La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti

III) Mis manos quieren hablar - mi poema a mi Ama - por Xabier I. Ametzaga


III.1 Mis manos quieren hablar - mi poema a mi Ama

IV) Publicaciones en Internet relacionadas 


IV.1 Sitio en Internet que lleva el nombre de Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti

IV.2 Los tres Barcos que llevaron a Ama y Aita

IV.3 Travesia

IV.4 Reunion familiar Amezagaeguberriak

IV. 5 Antecedentes

IV. 6 Publicacion en Internet de toda la obra de Aita - la que ella ordeno y recopilo

IV. 7 Publicaciones Xamezaga Editor Internet

Dedicatoria y mi homenaje a Mercedes Iribarren Gorostegui - Su esposa y mi ama

Travesia   Antecedentes   Reunion   Fotos     Videos   Slide Show Reunion

Sitio en Internet en homenaje a Mercedes Iribarren de Ametzaga.
Creacion, Edicion y contacto: Xabier Iñaki Ametzaga Iribarren
Blog Xabier Amezaga Iribarren:
Editorial Xamezaga


I.1 Linea de Vida  y su Obra

I.2 Poesias en Euskera Recopilacion Total

I.3 Conferencias Recopilacion

I,4 Articulos Periodisticos Recopilacion Total

I.5 Lengua Vasca

I.6 Gernika

I.7 Uruguay

I.8 Venezuela

I.9 Reseñas Biograficas

I.10 Traducciones

I.11 Obras Publicadas

I.12 Semana Vasca en Montevideo

I.13 Ciclo de Clases

I.14 Nota Bio-Bibliografica

I,15 Biografia en Euskera

I.16 Sitio en Internet en Euskera

I.17 Nostalgia

I.18 Articulos Periodisticos Indice Cronologico

I.19 Articulos Periodisticos Indice Alfafabetico

II) OBRAS COMPLETAS - Libros Publicados en Internet


II.1  El Hombre Vasco

II.2 Hombres de la Compañia  Guipuzcoana

II.3  El Elemento Vasco en el siglo XVIII Venezolano

II.4 Vicente Antonio de Icuza

III) INDICE de TEMAS RELACIONADOS. Libros publicados por sus hijos;


III.1 Nere Aita - el exilio vasco - Mirentxu Amezaga 

III.2 Cronicas del Alsina -  Arantzazu Amezaga de Irujo

IV) Sus Hijos Escriben;


IV.1 Los tres Barcos que llevaron a Ama y Aita

IV.2 Travesia

V) Sus Hijos Escriben tras su muerte;


V.1 A mi Aita

V.2 La cancion de mi Padre

VI) Otros aspectos


VI.1 Reunion Familar en su Memoria

VI.2 Exodo

VI.3 Comision del Cuatricentenario de Caracas

VI.4 Inauguracion de la Plaza que lleva su nombre en Algorta

VI.5 Su Pequeño Poema en la Nota Necrologica 4 Febrero 1969

VII) Toda su Obra Publicada convertida en Formato PDF- puede ser leida en dispositivos  e-Book


 VII.1 Amézaga Vicente  Autor Irujo Ametzaga Xabier

 VII.2 Articulos de Prensa

 VII.3 Bio Biografica

 VII.4 Biografia en Euskera

 VII.5 Ciclo de Clases

 VII.6 Ciclo de Conferencias

 VII.7 Nostalgia

 VII.8 El Elemento vasco en el Siglo XVIII Venezolano

 VII.9 El Hombre Vasco

 VII.10 Los Hombres de la Compañia Guipuzcoana

 VII.11 Obras Publicadas

 VII.12 Vicente Antonio de Icuza

 VII.13 Poesias

 VII.14 Relacion de Escritos como Autor

 VII.15 Reseñas Biograficas

 VII.16 Semana Vasca Montevideo

 VII.17 Semana Vasca Montevideo Indice de Articulos

 VII.18 Traducciones

Sitio en Internet en homenaje a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti.
Unico sitio en Internet, que lleva su nombre, de referencia completa de su vida y su Obra totalmente publicada en Internet, 
Poesias, Articulos de Prensa, sus Libros, completando asi, y cerrando todo lo que se habia escrito en libros sobre el y su vida
Creacion, Edicion y contacto: Xabier Iñaki Ametzaga Iribarren
Blog Xabier Amezaga Iribarren:
Editoriales relacionadas con sus Publicaciones
Editorial Xamezaga
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