La mujer que acompaño a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti  

Gure Ama

(Our Mother)


Marie Clark


 At 2 pm the captain and I together on the deck looked at the dock that we were approaching slowly. We waited anxiously for the ship to anchor in the harbor. Feeling lonely and desperately looking for familiar faces, I asked the captain "Who are my parents?" Before he could answer, my sister Arantza, nearly five years old, and my brother, Bingen, two and a half years, came running down the dock shouting my name. Now I was not Merceditas; they called me Mirentxu. For every situation in my short life I had a new name. From a very early age I called different names depending on the situation I was in. The first letter that I "wrote" to my parents on the eve of my third birthday in Las Arenas, in 1941, I signed Merceditas. The first few months in Montevideo in the park children called me "the Spanish girl" because of my European accent.  When I arrived in Venezuela, my co-workers called me Maria Mercedes, and my friends called me "ché" (the word used in Uruguay and Argentina for “pal” or “friend”) because of my Uruguayan accent. When I became a U.S. citizen in 1970 I changed it to Mirentxu. I used it until I realized that it was difficult to pronounce and the sweet name was changed to "Merencho", so I chose my first name Marie. My name in Basque continues in the family, with our eldest daughter Anne Miren, and our first grandchild Gizelle Mirentxu. The various names and different nationalities I've had is one of the reasons why the motto on the crest of Paris is appropriate to tell a bit of my history "nec Fluctuat mergitur" or "tossed by the waves, she does not sink."

A little nervous, from the deck I exchanged a few words with ama on the dock. Aita’s hands were shaking and he smiled. The rest looked at us, but nobody said much. I remember I asked about my brother Xabier, then eight months old, since I didn’t see him, and ama replied that he was waiting for me at home. The captain took me to his cabin to meet my parents in private and to officially hand me over to them. The minutes passed slowly, seemed hours until aita appeared in the doorway of the cabin and was followed by the rest of the family and a few friends. Aita full of excitement kissed and hugged me calling me "Maitea nere." Ama with tears in her eyes embraced me for a long time saying "You’ve made us so happy."  My sister and brother hugged me. The emotion of the moment was intense for my parents, and for me to meet them all. I had wanted to do this for so long, but once it was done I was ready to go home with my aunt and uncle again. Maybe it was because I realized that everything around me was very different from what I had experienced so far.

After saying an affectionate goodbye to the captain and Torino we left the ship and soon we arrived at the house on Juan Paullier Street, No. 1615, third floor. The apartment was located a half block from the Avenida 18 de Julio, famous and popular with many shops. The apartment was very nice but a little tiny.  In a stroller was my little brother Xabier, beautiful, chubby, blond and he won me right away with his smile. Also there was Lucinda Martinez, who was called “La Tata” at home.  She was the lady who took care of my brothers and sister and helped with household chores. She welcomed me warmly. Months later, La Tata, who was a very good artist, would help me designing the pages of my school essays. On these occasions she told me proudly that he was a native of the city of Melo, capital of the department of Cerro Largo, birthplace of brilliant literary talents such as the legendary Juana de America, and Justino Zabala Muñiz. Her father had gone blind after an explosion in the lab where he worked and the family suffered financially because of it. While my parents entertained a few local friends I went to the room that I was to share with my sister, followed by my sibblings who wanted to see the things I had brought. Arantza, my sister, was a cute blonde hair who was very interested in everything I said and did and followed me everywhere with her rag doll in her arms she called "la pipi." Bingen my brother was a handsome boy with large melancholy eyes, very quiet, serious, silent observer and, perhaps intimidated because until now he had only one older sister to order him around, and suddenly he had two. I felt very good to be with them around me, although my role had changed.  Here I was the eldest of four children, with siblings ages 4, 2, and 8 months. Because of their ages they all needed more careful attention than I did, and it was difficult for a girl of 9 years to accept this after being an only child for seven years. What a change!

The day after my arrival, our parents took me to see the city. We took a bus to the Parque Rodo, a huge amusement center near the beach. Bingen and Arantza came with us. We went on the bumper carts and carousels, but the roller coaster our father went on with my brother and sister, because I did not want to go to on it and ama stayed with me. We two were walking through the park's unique flora abounding with greenery and flowers, which she loved. It was the first time my mother was alone with me since I was two years old. How many years passed with the lost of experiences and the bond that is usually established during these crucial years of formation of a child. My family was lost from my life and I was lost to them and I thought it was difficult or almost impossible to recover. In silence we looked around when I noticed a seller surrounded by children who had a bunch of balloons of all colors combined with the colorful atmosphere. I had never seen balloons before since the carnival figures I had known carried only inflated animal bladders, which they used to scare children. Ama, on seeing my great surprise, bought me two. Later we bought cotton candy. I only knew the lump of sugar on a drink that accompanies hot chocolate. Everything was unknown. I missed not having Begoña with me. Many years later I told her "all the changes I went through would have been much easier with you beside me,” to which she replied "I also didn’t like it that you left me."

In the living room of our home, beneath the window, there were shelves of books. Aita pointed out to me a collection of books that ama had bought especially for me. One was "Heidi" the novel about the life of a girl living under the care of her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. And there were several books in the collection of the Countess de Segur, whose author is Russian and came when she and her family were exiled to Paris at age 13 (1812). She was later married to Count Eugene de Segur. Her novels are based on the life of her three daughters. One daughter, Natalie de Segur, was maid of honor of the Empress Eugenia de Montijo. Segur's first novel I read was called "The Model Girls", about a happy family with three “model” daughters: Camila, Magdalena and Margarita.  But their friend Sophie was very different. She was jealous of her friends. Her mother had had no news of her husband who was lost at sea, and in her house there was much unhappiness. The author focuses on the three girls through their adventures with Sophie to learn the path of good and evil. And I gladly absorbed the stories, reading these books several times.

On the first floor of our home lived a woman named Moma, who was very good to us.  When she heard us come down the stairs left some candy or pastry on the ledge of the door as if she had forgotten it, and we knew it was for us. It was delicious, and this became routine. Soon Bingen would add for this game. Xabier was too young to follow. As they could not reach the ledge, the power I got from reaching the delectable food made me an instant hero. When I went to buy coffee at a place called "El Chaná" Arantza almost always wanted to accompany me. It was on Colonia Street, one block from home, and we could not get lost because the aroma of coffee we could smell as soon as we left the front door. My sister loved making these little excursions with me, it was something new to her, although I'm sure our parents were shaking a little bit when she followed me because I was still a novice in the city.

La Tata took us to the park in the afternoons, three blocks from home. It was the Park of the Allies, named in honor of the Allied nations that won in the First World War. The park is huge and with all varieties of trees and plants as well as much wildlife, and monuments such as the Obelisk, La Carreta and the Estadio Centenario. This stadium hosted the first World Cup soccer championship. Uruguay was the first world champion in 1930 and again in 1950 at the famous Maracana Stadium (in Brazil). In the afternoons, La Tata gave us a snack, not the chocolate bar and bread they gave us in San Sebastian, but bread with dulce de leche, typical Creole jam which I loved. I soon became friends with a group of children, but I was called "the Spanish girl", a term I disliked because it emphasized my differences with them, but nothing I could say could make them change their minds until they heard me speak with a Uruguayan accent.

And these things that happened every day made me rebel from time to time against the injustice that I saw and felt within myself and at my young age that I did not know how to express. Only my conduct and my studies gave away my feelings. Because I compared the difference in the life led by my brothers and sister with what had been mine. They grew up next to our parents, and everything was easy, but I had to suffer, fight, stop and change everything that was familiar to me just because of wanting to be where I belonged by birth. How difficult it was for me to understand and accept that. Today, in similar circumstances all family members would be subject to family counseling. But ama was able to overcome these obstacles with patience and love.

Sigmund Freud tells us that many cultures have emphasized the sadness of mothers separated from their small children, but historically little has been said about the consequences of the loss of the mothers suffered by young children. The basic need of a child is the love and tenderness of his mother, and in her absence, his greatest anxiety is that such love is lost. It is also the father's presence that gives security and confidence to the child. The dimensions of this drama are impossible to understand for someone who has not lived them. Ama understood better than anyone that I had adjustment problems, and although it was difficult to talk now with the girl she left many years ago, she knew to wait until I was ready for it. It was less difficult for her to deal with my rebellion than it was for our father, perhaps because she better understand my struggle that was also her struggle. I know that the two wanted to close the gap that had opened after the separation of seven years. And there was always the question about why our mother chose our father instead of my sister and me. Aita tried also understanding and wanted to get close to me, but I made it more difficult for him. And I knew ama felt this in her heart; she understood it and that made her pain double. And to hear her express her pain made me love her more. Finally their confidence in me, their concern and their love worked miracles. When someone trusts us, it adds value to our lives.

At home we were discipline because mealtimes and bedtime were always at the same time. While the family ate lunch together, we children almost always ate dinner before our parents, because they were not home on many days at that time. La Tata served us every night at seven o'clock. Going to bed too was governed by an almost inflexible schedule that would not let us be around during their evening or night work. This routine was followed every night. After we retired to bed, my father took advantage of the peace in the house, busily working on his translations and literary works at his desk.  Next to him in a special chair, ama sewed clothes for us or knitted in silence and thus the two were working in company with so much love for each other until the wee hours of the night. Ama often asked me to help her wind the skeins of wool, and taught me the art of weaving and knitting and I liked to work on canvases at her side. And I continued to practice knitting most of my life, even making rugs for the children’s bathroom, just as she did.

The family’s financial decline a bit before my arrival made my adjustment more difficult. With my arrival, the house was very small; in just one year were two more children in the family. A few months after I arrived we moved to Francisco Araucho # 1235, third floor, Apt 6. The building was newly constructed; we were the first people to live there. It was bigger and spacious and very well located, near the school and in front of the José Pedro Varela Park, where we went almost every day. This triangular shaped square, which is bordered by Artigas Boulevard, the Avenida Brasil and Calle Canelones, is one of the most beautiful and spacious squares in Montevideo. The part that faces the Boulevard has a beautiful bronze and marble monument dedicated to the great educator of the people of Uruguay.  The statue is carved in bronze and he is holding a book in his left hand and a pencil in his right hand and at his feet are several books.

One thing that was still unknown in the lives of my brothers and sister was the loss of baby teeth.  When I lost one, it was a new event in the home, with the legend of the Tooth Fairy. It was a novelty for them to see that I placed the tooth under the pillow while sleeping and a mouse (Ratoncito Perez, the Spanish version of the Tooth Fairy) would exchange it for a gift or money. My sister dreamed of the moment when she would be toothless. The story of Ratoncito Perez goes like this: "Between the death of King and the accession to the throne of Queen Mari-Castaña there is a long and dark period in the chronicles where there are few reports of rats. It appears, however, that there flourished at that time a King Buby I, a great friend of the poor children and determined protector of the mice ...” The mouse was very small, with straw hat, golg glasses, canvas shoes and a red bag, hanging on his back. They say that the mouse lived with his family in a big box of cookies, in a famous candy store, just a hundred meters from the Palacio Real. The little rodent ran away from home frequently, and through the pipes of the city, came to the rooms of the little King Buby I and the rooms of other poor children who had lost a tooth.  He would trick the cats, which were always lurking about. On the July 18th Avenue was a shop devoted to Ratoncito Perez.

On Saturday mornings we often went to the Pocitos Beach on bus #121. On Sunday afternoons we visited friends of the family, and sometimes we'd go to Carrasco. This was an elegant and sophisticated resort about 20 kilometers from the city with the most varied types of architecture.  The building that I remember most was the Hotel Casino, because the bus stopped and let us off there.  It was a magnificent building surrounded by gardens and sculptures, and from here we walked through beautiful countryside with fragrant eucalyptus trees that provided a perfect backdrop for the mysterious and funny stories that my father told my younger siblings. In Carrasco lived Maria Ana Bidegaray de Janssen, who was called Marianita.  She was born in Hasparen, Lapurdi, in the French Basque Country.  She was Xabier’s godmother and a close friend of the family.  She was the person I most admired in Montevideo, and in her memory our first child was baptized with the name of Anne Miren. It was not just her culture, her refinement, her delicate figure, but her intelligence, her charm and humanity in dealing with people. I loved hearing her stories of the Far East and I remember noticing in the living room of her home two paintings showing torture in medieval China that did not go with her personality.  She noticed my amaze and told us that the consequence of disobeying Emperor was torture and death. She was the author of the first book published in Uruguay on the subject of Basque culture, “The Basque Cradle,” (“Cuna Vasca”) in 1948. Years later in the farewell to us in Euskal Erria (the Basque club in Montevideo) she took me aside to speak fondly of many things. How did she know so much about my life? Among them, she talked about my role and responsibilities as the eldest daughter.  With tears in my eyes, I hugged and thanked her for her words, though I do not remember having followed all her good advice.

Two months after my arrival and before school started, we went to a studio to get an official family picture.  Ama had made all the clothes that we wore in this picture. This picture has always been in the dining room. Aita was next, but for some reason not in the picture. It was March (the beginning of autumn in the southern hemisphere) and this month we would have the first day of school. Ama, Arantza and I went to buy uniforms with enthusiasm to the store El Cabezón, a huge warehouse near home that had everything. And ready the first week of March we started the school. But although I did not know any at the one school, the Liceo Santo Domingo of the French Dominican Sisters, soon became my second home. The school and the sisters became a treasured sanctuary as I grew uup, and I made friends whom I continued to write after leaving Uruguay until the eve of my wedding.

Others who visited us almost monthly visits were aita’s first cousin, Ludovina Amezaga, and her husband, Ambrosio Uriarte. While our parents talked to their cousins Ambrosio’s twin sister who lived with them showed us the delicious jams that she had made, and which she kept in the large pantry. On the death of Ambrose, Ludovina, elderly and in somewhat fragile health, moved to a nursing home where we went to visit often and where we went to say goodbye just before leaving Uruguay. On this last visit I noticed the very kind and compassionate soul she had and how fervent her faith was, and that last day I saw her as a saint. When I told aita this later, he said being an Amezaga there was no doubt about it.

Friday May 7, 1948, dawned rainy and sad, and the thunderous sounds of drums improvised from pot lids woke me up.  The whole family, including La Tata, woke me up with gifts. It was my first birthday in America; I was 10 years old. Happily I ran to eat breakfast and dressed in the uniform was ready to go to school when ama told me they had prepared a surprise for me that afternoon. When I returned for lunch, I neither saw nor heard anything more than a faint whisper of "Zurik Zorionak." (Happy Birtthady in Basque) I went to school in the afternoon, this time taking my five-year-old sister Arantza, who went to kindergarten.  Ama had given me a bit of change to buy one of my cravings of the moment, bubble gum, which I shared with my sister, but still she did not prepare me for the surprise that awaited me. When we returned to the home late, the whole house was lit and decorated with streamers and thousands of multicolored balloons. In the dining room table was a large cake with 10 candles and a big heart. Xabier would in a few days celebrate his first year, and although he didn’t know, he was included in the treat. Immediately the small apartment began to fill with a dozen children of friends of our parents. At the back of the room a special chair was reserved for John Uraga, a dear family friend, the former mayor of Barakaldo, who had saved his life during the Spanish Civil War by escaping to France across the Pyrenees during a change of the guard. For the dish there was nothing better than the rice pudding that ama made me and I savored it with pleasure every time. After blowing out my candles and the single one for my brother and eating the great "colinetas" or cakes, we had a Chaplin film that our dear family friend Pedro Arteche always provided. He was born in Bilbao and came to Uruguay with his parents at a young age. He and his wife had two daughters, Nora and Marta who were a bit older than me.  It was a very dear family to us all.

Ma Luisa de Biraben at the party asked for permission from ama to take me several days later to the cinema to see the musical fantasy film "The Wizard of Oz".  This movie was about a young American girl swept away by a tornado and left in a fantasy land inhabited by good and bad witches, a talking scarecrow, a cowardly lion, a tin man and other extraordinary beings. It was the first time I went to a movie in Montevideo, and it was very different from those I had gone to see in Las Arenas, Bilbao.

Ama was the promoter of celebrating family holidays, as well as for special occasions like when we were visited by Basque friends from Buenos Aires. She cooked very well and enjoyed doing it. I remember some of the visitors to Buenos Aires as Pedro Basaldua, the spouses Lasarte, Jose Maria Aldasoro, and was an occasion for ama to make her best dishes. She went to bed reading the cookbook. Our anniversaries and birthdays, which were never overlooked, were part of a legacy that ama and aita gave us by reciting the events of this special day events, stories of them during the Spanish Civil War and War World II, when they lived in Paris, and about grandparents and other family members. With all these stories in a way they were building family unity, strengthening the culture, and sharing issues of common interest.  They also wanted to transmit their values to us and it made us feel an important part of the family and gave us a sense of belonging to the family and as consequence to the society in which we lived. Her last recordings of fifteen audio cassettes were part of that legacy

Part of what we tell our children can mark their lives forever. Our thoughts dictate what we say; from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks, and it is therefore better to speak positively than negatively. The tricky thing about all this is to accept each of the members of the family, appreciate and love them as they are, showing interest and concern for others instead of apprehension.  We had to realizing that we sometimes give more than we receive, and accept it because there are times when we receive more than we give, and we should know how to be grateful. Family harmony and love are a great treasure that should we all nourish.

Even in family celebrations our mother took great pains not only with the food but with the presentation. The table looked wonderful with a special tablecloth, white linen embroidered in blue indigo, and the fine china used only for these occasions. On all these occasions Begoña was spiritually present in an empty chair where we put her picture to join in the festivities. Aita always gladdened the festivities with some story that at times was humorous and he even sang a song. We looked forward to the desserts because ama always had surprises.  Sometimes she put vintenes (Uruguayan currency) into the cake and we all looked eagerly for it not for the value but to feel special, but I think that she enjoyed it most


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