La mujer que acompaņo a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti  

Gure Ama

(Our Mother)


Marie Clark

Aita decided, although with great difficulty, to try the opportunity that presented itself in Caracas, Venezuela. I did not want to leave Montevideo or leave half my life once again.  I wanted to finish a college degree and live in that environment where not only I but the whole family was so happy.  Ama was calm and explained that she understood how I felt, and she felt the same, and that the reasons for leaving the country were only economic. Aita also wanted to calm me down and one night before leaving he took me to see the play "Trojan Horse" or "Troiako Zaldi" as he called it.  It was in the School of Architecture, very close to our home. The family was going through tough economic times where our father earned our living with a combination of different jobs, but he was now 54 years old and was anxious about long-term possibilities for him and for us. Two of ama’s sisters (Lola and Mari) and a niece, Ma Luisa, daughter of Mari, who lived in Venezuela, urged him to go to Caracas because the city was booming economically and he certainly could get a better paying job.

The plan was for aita to go to Aita alone. Ama and we would join him if he found in Caracas the solution to the problem. Our friends who ama and I kept writing were telling us that the country's economic crisis began to unravel in 1955.  They added that they didn’t know if the cause was the fall of prices of exports from the one-product Uruguayan economy or our departure from the country. How could we not love a country whose citizens gave us so much help and for whom we felt so much?, Ama said. When we left she gave us all a memento of her child hood. She gave me two books: The Imitation of Christ, written by the German mystic, Thomas a Kempis, and The Psalter, which are the Psalms of David.  Both were very appropriate for me at that time. With sadness our father left Montevideo on July 17, 1955. He wrote to us often telling us about his impressions of the city and his new job. A month after arriving in Caracas, aita met with old friends at the Basque Center, which was the sanctuary for Basque refugees since 1942. His old friend Jose Maria Lasarte, the godfather of Bingen, offered him the job of Secretary General of the Basque Center, and he agreed.  Even though it paid a good salary, it was less than the other job previously offered, but was working for and with the Basques, and that was sufficient.

Shortly after this, the lehendakari José Antonio Aguirre while passing through Caracas had a conversation with our father about his major concern: the fate of Basque culture in the post-war world. Franco was fiercely persecuting and suppressing the Basque language. Aguirre explained that he had the idea of forming a permanent seminar that would produce papers and studies, which would provide for the future of coming generations.  It would consist of four to six people. There would not be much of a salary, but the site would be a village in the French Basque country.  In a couple of months he would confirm the offer since he had to propose in Paris such a suggestion; and if feasible aita would be in charge. Our father was very excited; it was his idea of a dream job and he was certainly able to carry it out.  And more importantly, it would be close to home.

The hope and joy of Aita were intense.  He immediately wrote to ama to prepare a trip to Euskadi. Ama was more realistic; she was not very convinced that it was something so perfect for him.  But with great hope she began to prepare for the trip. It would be an opportunity to meet her second daughter Begoņa, now 16 years old.

Ama had a huge job to do alone, because we children were busy in our own worlds. She had to put most of our household goods up for sale in an auction. She had to save our father’s books, and she had to make a careful scrutiny of all our father's books, page by page to ensure that there was no compromising paper in them. Some books are impossible to carry with her because of the subject so she had to send them by mail. Ama was also in charge of selling insurance in the company where aita had worked in Montevideo, and while she was taking on this job there was a fire in an insured property that ama had to deal with. With so much to do, la Tata became ill and had to be rest for three months. Ama dealt with everything and everyone with courage and energy. Our good friend Pedro Arteche, whom ama called him "the savior" because he got her out of many problems, seriously proclaimed that ama "deserved a statue" and how right she was.

With great sorrow we said goodbye to Uruguay, leaving what we loved so much. The friends, country, everything was so familiar to us and nice, and I realized that my dreams of a college education were broken, though I do not think it was feasible to expect that my parents could have paid for me to get a degree in medicine, but at that time I did not realize it.

Farewells are never good. Those days were full of emotion and a lot of fussing about everything for ama. All our friends showed their love. The last two weeks before the trip we had almost daily farewell parties from friends and neighbors with dinners accompanied with songs. We heard the famous tango over and over again "Adios Muchachos," made popular by Carlos Gardel, a famous tango singer and film actor in Uruguay and Argentina. My friends gave me a goodbye party in a tearoom. The friends of my brothers invited them to a barbecue. Ama had a grand farewell by the members of Euskal Erria with some moving words. Ama stated later that "There was no good way to say goodbye to so generous and caring friends."

With this trip our family took a different turn. The plan was for us to wait in San Sebastian for aita get to San Juan de Luz, in France, and meet there with him. In this way all living close to home might be near Begoņa, whose absence from the family had become a big problem. This gave ama the courage to make the trip.

In the early hours of the morning of April 7, 1956 we boarded the French ship Provence, and our friends in the port took leave of us. With tears in our eyes we said goodbye one last time while the ship sailed slowly away out of the Rio de la Plata and entered the Atlantic Ocean. It was not for ama or for me the first time we had this feeling of leaving something good that we loved to go aimlessly into the unknown. When we could not see our friends because of the tears and the distance, we went to the beautiful dining room where our table was the only one empty, because they were already serving lunch.

The itinerary of the trip was stops in Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Dakar and Barcelona, our destination. We got off at Santos and we reveled in the rich aroma of coffee that covered the city.  They told us that 50 years earlier it had been the port of entry for the bubonic plague in Brazil. The entrance to Rio is spectacular; mountain chains surrounded us until we got to the wonderful and exotic city and port of Rio de Janeiro. We visited the Christ the Redeemer statue atop the Corcovado, and from there we could see the fantastic view of Copacabana beach, from the Sugar Loaf. We walked in the Copacabana neighborhood famous for its tiled streets imitating the movements of the waves. We bought the aromatic coffee like no other. Brazilians are right to say "God is the artist and Rio is his painting."

Next was Bahia.  In this city we visited the church of San Francisco covered with gold. This city is called the Black Rome for its large number of churches and population of blacks.

In Dakar ama went with Xabier and Bingen to visit the city, and Arantza and I decided to go with our friends. When we returned, we didn’t realize that ama and our brothers were not on the ship. An hour later we heard the ship's whistle announcing its departure and they had not yet returned. I went to tell the captain to wait a bit because our mother had not yet arrived.  I don’t know how he would have responded to my panic, but luckily at that moment we saw ama and our brothers running down the dock.

Early the next morning, they announced that we were leaving the Atlantic and entering the Mediterranean, and then we could see from afar the Rock of Gibraltar, which is a rock that has no rivers and has to store its water in cisterns, we were told. It's the closest point in Europe to Africa.

Even in the midst of our sorrow of leaving our beloved Uruguay, the crossing was happy for us kids. We made friends with a group of young people, and from the beginning we all were friends.  A young French boy and I spent a lot of time throughout the trip.  At the end of the trip, Arantza gave me a poem titled "My First Love." Everything was good for us children but not so much for ama, who anxiously awaited meeting her second daughter and an uncertain future. We celebrated the crossing of the equator, interrupting the routine on board, and it was declared a holiday. An authority, in this case, the captain of the ship, disguised him and played the role of the god Neptune. From the bridge by means of loudspeakers announced the arrival on a makeshift throne of Neptune, who came in a procession followed by his entourage. Near the pool on his throne, he baptized neophytes, demanding taxes and granting favors. They gave me the name "Star Fish". After this ritual and without hesitation we threw the captain into the swimming pool. The moment when we crossed the line was marked with a peal of bells. But all young people were busy because that afternoon we were all dressed in disguises. A lady was in charge of the costumes and she chose for Arantza a costume representing a seller of baskets of Bahia, and granted me the mysterious costume odalisque. That night I attended the dance, but ama came for me to go to bed much earlier than I had hoped.

It was a great trip until the eve of the landing.  Our brother Xabier, the youngest of the group was always running after us, and someone in front of him without knowing who was behind him, the closed one of the heavy doors of the ship and his hand was trapped.  He needed medical help in the infirmary of the ship and then again in Barcelona. His screams and cries aroused the sympathy of all passengers.

Communication in those days, in the 1950s, between our parents or us and Begoņa was based on letters that took one to two weeks to reach its destination. Still we had no idea of supersonic flight, instantaneous communication in writing and speaking. Not as it is today, when the Internet or cell phones provide us easy international communication.  We never received many pictures of her because our aunt was not very fond of photography, and she also had busy and hectic life to write letters.  Begoņa herself had never been inclined to write much. They tried several times to call our parents by phone, but it was quite an ordeal because it was so expensive, and often the conversations were brief and marked by miscommunication. When friends of our parents traveled to Euskadi, our parents urged them to visit Begoņa. But none of these visits was positive because she was quiet all the time for fear that they would take her with them to America. This kept us from having a close relationship with our sister, which would have better prepared us for the meeting that was about to unfold.


The Provence anchored in Barcelona on Sunday April 22, 1956, shortly after lunch. We went to the bridge and our group of friends tried to find Begoņa, and we soon recognized her on the dock and we all in chorus shouted her name. Begoņa, exhilarated by her sudden popularity, looked at us amazed and happy. At last she came on board with Aunt Mari, her granddaughter Ana Mari, and friends of the family, Julita and Juan. Of all the family members she knew only me. When ama and our sister embraced, it was very exciting for them and for us to see them. Ama lost consciousness for a few seconds. That day was the first time that all five siblings were together in one place and fifty years more would pass before we would repeat this feat. And in that moment of joy we all believed that our sister Begoņa would stay with us, but unfortunately it did not happen like that. Many years had passed with us apart to repair the damage of such absence. We prepared to leave the boat and they asked for our passports and when ama showed hers they took it away and said she had to get another safeconduct pass in a month because her passport was worthless. It was her purge. The books and other passed through customs without the boxes being opened, thanks to our good friend Araquistain. We stayed at the Hotel Astoria and the son of Mary Pallin, who was in this city, took us the three sisters to visit the city during the time we were in this beautiful Catalan capital. We visited the Monastery of Montserrat, the Park Tibidabo, Montjuic, a center for arts, entertainment and culture and the Church of the Sacred Heart. After a few days we took a twin-engine plane to Bilbao.

In Sondica airport waiting for us were Aunt Elvira, Uncle Ino and Aunt Carmen. The joy and surprise of meeting again was great, since for ama it had been almost twenty years since she left her town and their families. We went to our uncle's house and after dinner came the Algorta family to visit. Many memories rushed through my mind and heart.  Now with different eyes I looked around me at what had been familiar to me as a child.  I told this to ama, and she replied that it all seemed smaller, as if taken from a picture. But her emotions were now focused on her second daughter Begoņa.

Begoņa was 16 and I almost 18 years, the age when we thought life was fantastic and the world belonged to us. We got along as well as when we played together many years ago. Because of the experiences of the past years in different countries, speaking with a different accent and because there wasn’t much physical resemblance, her friends did not believe we were members of the same family and the sad thing is and was, we belonged to two different worlds.  So there were and are differences between the two, but the sad experience of our childhood always united us and will continue to join us. But the only dissimilarity we felt at that time was that she was a fan of the Royal Society of San Sebastian and I was a fan of Athletic Bilbao (the two leading Basque soccer teams). Begoņa made a great effort to form with me the inseparable duo from our childhood, to the dismay of our mother, because with it Begoņa relegated her to third place in her life. Our two brothers have always grown up together in the family and country and continue without the disparity Begoņa, Arantza and I have lived since the three of us have grown up in different places, in different circumstances and therefore with different experiences.

At the same time we arrived at Barcelona aita received word from Aguirre that their project had been postponed indefinitely due to lack of funds. Aita, despite his sadness, was confident in the tenacity of his friend José Antonio, and continued to hope that would be done in the future.  Ama was not so optimistic. It was a great disappointment, more than she needed, but at this time to ama the most painful was the confirmation of what he feared.  She had lost her second daughter and it seemed too late to win her back. It has been a long time and she could not recover in a few weeks the work of many years. The war continued claiming its victims.

In midsummer the beautiful town of San Sebastian on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea offers spectacular views. The city is surrounded by three beaches Ondarreta, La Concha and Zurriola, and three mountains. Monte Urgull, a mountain of 135 meters, is situated between the Old Town of San Sebastian and the Paseo Nuevo, near the sea. At the top is the statue of the Sacred Heart that dominates the skyline.  Monte Igueldo, 184 meters high, has an amusement park and a lookout tower that served long ago. Monte Ulia (231 meters) enjoys a privileged setting, wooded with abundant ruins hidden in the bush and coastal cliffs and a view afforded by the coast facing the Cantabrian Sea Guipuzcoa. The dictatorship kept for San Sebastian the role of summer capital city. From 1940 to 1975, Francisco Franco spent the month of August at the Palace Ayete.

While I lived in the house of Aunt Juli, ama, Bingen and Xabier slept in a rented room nearby. Begoņa and I we soon joined a group of young people with whom we went out regularly. We would meet on the Ondarreta Beach in the morning and at dusk on the “Avenue”. One night we arrived home a little late and the night watchman of the neighborhood, who had the keys to every house and watched over the peaceful streets, opened the large outside door of the house for us.  It reminded me of what aita told us about the night watchmen in his time in Algorta. They were like talking clocks and weather forecasters, singing time and weather every hour during the night. Our brothers, 9 and 11 years old, while in Donosti raced their toy sailboats in a large fountain close to home.  They were a real Olympic games.  They went hiking, climbing Mount Urgull and Mount Ulia; and they walked nine kilometers to the neighboring town of Hernani.  They rented bicycles and rode seven kilometers to reach Renteria.  Its inhabitants were known as cookie sellers because they made the delicious cookies Olibet were made there.  We speculated that they went there for the cookies, but they never told us for sure because their excursions were always alone, and by doing so "hidden" they knew better.  They continued with these adventures until the day before school started. We only saw them at mealtimes. Arantza, 13 years old, liked to be in Las Arenas. When she visited San Sebastian things didn’t go very well because we did not include her in our plans, and she was alone. I had just turned 18, and found myself celebrated and flattered and I was absorbed in this new adventure with Begoņa next to me in wonderful San Sebastian. I did not realize Arantza needed me. Resentfull, she returned to ama in Las Arenas where she had a group of friends with whom she went to the beach or on hikes. In one of these outings she went with friends to Mount Serantes, a small mountain whose peak is located in Santurce on the banks of the Bilbao estuary, visible from all parts of the region it serves as a landmark.  Arantza fell in a ravine and broke her ankle.  She also had a lot of bruises and even lost consciousness. Ama was taking care of some paperwork in France but dropped everything and rushed to her side. Although Aunt Carmen took good care of her, it was problematic for ama to have so many things to fix and children separated and far away from her without her care and supervision.  But we were many and we had to live in different houses, which our aunts and uncle generously offered.

One day Aunt Juli asked me to be a model for a small fashion show because Carmen, the official model of the shop, was sick. Nervously I agreed and later my aunt let me use the clothes from the show to wear to parties. On weekends we went to the San Sebastian tennis club where Begoņa was a member. The time that I lived in Las Arenas I also had an active social life. I was invited to bowling, and paries and dances in friends’ homes.  We also went to dances at the Royal Club “Josaleta” in Neguri, which I attended with my friends, the Madariagas from Bilbao. Ama was not very happy that I had this kind of social life when aita was working so hard to support the family, but Aunt Juli intervened in my favor, and she let me keep going.

Our father was depressed by the rejection of the plan in France and his grief and disappointment were made worse by living alone in a boarding house in Caracas.  He asked ama to hurry up to come to Caracas to be with him, not understanding everything that ama was living through at that time. She wanted and needed to rebuild their home, that is, look for a house, buy furniture and bring us to live with them. Ama, at the insistence of our father and leaving unfinished a number of commitments and obligations that were still pending, and with much sadness left her children to be at his side. Once she was reunited with aita in a small apartment, Arantza went to Caracas to live with them and after testing immediately began school. Two years passed before my brothers and I rejoined them. For now Bingen, Xabier and I lived in San Sebastian. I had to prepare for the trip to Caracas faster than expected because aita did not approve of my dating a Spanish engineer, which I had just started. My departure was delayed several months which was a torment for our father, ama told me later.  It was delayed by the crisis of the Venezuelan government at the time that ended with the fall of the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.


On a cold April morning in 1958 we left San Sebastian. Begoņa accompanied me, along with Aunt Julie, Esperanza (a cousin), and her driver Ramon.  We left for Madrid, about 500 kilometers away. We stopped in Logroņo, La Rioja, for lunch at a restaurant and although I do not remember the name or the menu, if I recall our astonishment because they had the heating in the floor.  We were just about to cross the Ebro River, and were now officially in Spain, I thought as I remembered the words of aita. We continued traveling to Burgos, where we stopped to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Burgos, a stately Gothic church of the thirteenth century. We continued our trip and although we did not stop, road signs told us we were near El Escorial, the historic residence of the King of Spain. Just before reaching Madrid, we stopped to see the Valley of the Fallen in the Sierra de Guadarrama, designed by Franco to honor those killed in the Spanish Civil War. Half an hour later we arrived at the hotel in Madrid. We had dinner and went to rest.  The next morning everyone went to visit the Prado Museum, but I stayed at the hotel.  I was not looking forward to the trip, perhaps thinking of what to expect in the new Caribbean country.

Finally the hour of departure arrived and after saying goodbye to everyone I boarded the aircraft.  Since this was still the era of propeller aircraft, the trip from Madrid to Caracas lasted 11 hours.

For Bingen and Xabier, classes ended several months later and they arrived in Caracas, and the family was together again. I personally would have loved for Begoņa to join the family as we all would, but for now it was too much to expect of her.


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 acompaņo a Vicente de Ametzaga Aresti - por Xabier I. Ametzaga


II.1 La mujer que acompaņo 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 Iņaki 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 Reseņas 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 Compaņia  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 Pequeņo 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 Compaņia Guipuzcoana

 VII.11 Obras Publicadas

 VII.12 Vicente Antonio de Icuza

 VII.13 Poesias

 VII.14 Relacion de Escritos como Autor

 VII.15 Reseņas 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 Iņaki 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 acompaņo a Vicente de Ametzaga - published on Wikipedia
Xabier Iņaki Ametzaga Iribarren - Information published on Wikipedia