Antecedentes  Travesia   The Lives of Vicente Amezaga y Mercedes Iribarren 

France: 1938-1942


Until the end of March 1937 the Spanish Civil War was far away from the Basque Country, or at least from Vizcaya.  The Basques felt safe because the Cantabrian Mountains separated them from the rest of Spain.  They did not know, however, about the help that the Nationalists had received from Hitler and Mussolini with troops and the Condor Legion bombers.

Franco started his offensive against Euskadi with fury and one of the first events was the bombing of Guernica.  Guernica was one of many bombed towns in the Spanish Civil War, but Pablo Picasso’s interpretation of the attack through his famous painting turned it into one of the best known events of the century.  His painting converted the ashes of Guernica into a symbol of Nazi terror from the air, and the whole event became the most famous episode of the war.

On April 26, 1937, my parents were in Mundaca, on the left bank of the Guernica River about seven miles north of Guernica.  As Director of Education for the Basque Government, my father was inaugurating a school in Mundaca that morning.  My parents were having lunch with local authorities when they saw continuous flights of the big silver bombers of the Condor Legion flying out over the Bay of Biscay to wheel and turn upriver toward Guernica.  At first they thought it was only a reconnaissance operation but the continuous flights sacred the entire population of this small resort area and they took refuge for some time until they could leave the town.  At 9:00 pm the radio broadcast a message from the pastor of the Santa Maria Church of Guernica who in a pathetic voice told the terrible news.

The most painful thing about this attack is that it was not done out of rage but out of indifference.  The Germans were only practicing how to conduct such attacks in the next, bigger war.  But when they bombed the town they were ignorant of the symbolism of the village.

Guernica is the historical capital of Vizcaya, locatd about 15 miles east of Bilbao.  The village was founded by Don Tello, Count of Vizcaya, half brother of Pedro I of Castille, on April 28, 1366.  The town is the site of the famous symbolic oak tree and the Casa de Juntas, the representative assembly of Vizcaya.  Representatives of all the villages in Vizcaya had a seat and a vote in the assembly, and their early meetings were held beneath the tree of Guernica.  The first recorded meeting of the assembly was in 870 AD.  It was here that the kings of Castille would pledge to respect the local privileges of Vizcaya and ever since then the tree has been the symbol of their independence.  The assembly still possesses the “Old Privileges,” (known as fueros), the “Historical Archive,” and the original manuscripts of the most famous Basque poet and composer, Iparraguirre (1820-1881), the composer of the stirring anthem “Gernikako Arbola” (“The Tree of Guernica”).

Monday, April 26, 1937, was market day in Guernica, the ancient and sacred town of Vizcayans, and of Basques generally.  That day, the town’s population was swollen beyond its normal size of about 5,000 by the farmers who had come to sell their produce in the market and by the hundreds of refugees who streamed through the town toward Bilbao in flight away from the war front, barely 15 miles to the east.  Despite its total lack of military significance, the town had prepared for an aerial assault after the bombing of nearby Durango the preceding month.

The attack began at 4:30 pm, carried out by the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion.  The attackers used explosive munitions at first, then switched to incendiary bombs in a fourth wave about 6:30 pm.  Fighters strafed the fleeing population with machine gun fire near the end of the assault.  Only years later was it learned that the Luftwaffe used attacks such as these to test their weapons and tactics to perfect their use of strategic bombing for the impending war.  Virtually the entire center of the town was destroyed.  Not a single building escaped harm except – as if by miracle – the Casa de Juntas and the sacred oak tree.  Casualties reached 1,654 killed and 889 wounded.  Vicente Amezaga and Mercedes Iribarren were attending the dedication of a new Basque school at a nearby town that afternoon when they saw the planes circling overhead as they gathered in formation for the assault.  The violence of modern war was a part of the life of the Amezagas even before they could begin to form a family.  It is fitting, therefore, to begin the story of the Amezaga family with the seal of the City of Paris, where it began: Fluctuat nec mergitur, “tossed by the waves, she does not sink.”

May 7 fell on a Saturday in 1938.  The Amezagas’ first child entered the world as Europe was passing through what came to be called “the May crisis.”  Adolf Hitler, fresh from his coup in Austria, now threatened neighboring Czechoslovakia over the rights of German-speaking Czechs living in the western end of the nation, known as Sudetenland.  Czechoslovakia was determined to resist the threat from its much more powerful adversary, France had a treaty obligation to defend Czech independence, and Britain was allied with France to attempt to restrain Hitler’s ambitions in Eastern Europe.  Europe seemed headed for a repeat of the 1914 chain of miscalculations that began the Great War.

As it turned out, the threat receded.  The French government flinched and sought an alternative way out, Britain breathed a sigh of relief that their IOU had not been called in, and Hitler realized that he might be able to get what he wanted in Czechoslovakia without a war.  With the advantage of hindsight we now know that World War II had merely been postponed 15 months but at the time the sense of relief was palpable. 

Now my parents were in Paris, together.  “Paris is a party of life,” Ernest Hemingway said a city that has been praised in story and song.  Street painters with long beards made the Paris of their dreams on their canvas.  No other city in the world had as many painters as Paris.  When my father joined my mother in Paris after long months of separation, she was eight months pregnant and living with her sister Tia Juli in a small apartment.  To compensate for the four months of separation and hunger they had been through, they celebrated by dining at the “Thirteen Francs” Restaurant on the Champs-Elysees where for just thirteen francs they could get half a lobster and ice cream for desert.  After my birth, they moved to a larger apartment, and Tia Juli moved with them.  She opened a fashion design and sewing shop in the same apartment, which was quite large, and she and my mother enjoyed going to the fashionable events of the city, such as weddings, to see the latest styles.

Mercedes’s first pregnancy almost ended tragically.  The baby was turned incorrectly as birth neared and the doctor had to resort to the extensive massages and use of forceps to turn her head correctly.  At one point, he left the delivery room to tell Vicente that he thought they could save his wife but the baby would probably not survive.  Mirentxu of course had other plans, and emerged kicking and healthy although her face was marked by the forceps for days thereafter. 

The morning of May 7 Paris’s main avenues were all decorated.  The city was getting ready to celebrate their national heroine and patron saint of France, St. Jeanne D’Arc, called the Maid of Orleans, who united the nation at a critical hour and decisively turned the Hundred Years’ War in France’s favor.

Looking out on to the broad avenues of the city through the window in a small waiting room of the clinic of Vincennes was a man of medium frame, blond hair, deep blue eyes hiding under dark-framed glasses.  Absent-mindedly he observed the people outside as he waited for so many hours anxiously.  His name was Vicente.  He was my father.

Many hours earlier Dr. Lamaze, my mother’s obstetrician, told him that his wife would be okay but they couldn’t assure him the same for the baby.  The child was in danger.  Vicente was thinking how ironic that his first child perhaps would never see the light of day in the Ville lumiere, the city of lights as they called Paris.

The “Dr. Lamaze” referred to above was the soon-to-be world famous Dr. Fernand Lamaze, the founder of the Lamaze method for natural childbirth.  Lamaze was born in 1891 and died in 1957.  In 1951 he introduced his method of childbirth in France by incorporating techniques he observed in Russia.  This method included childbirth education classes, relaxation, breathing techniques, emotional support from the father, and leaving the baby and mother together 24 hours per day from the beginning.  The method became extremely popular around the world and especially in the United States.  In 1938 Lamaze had not yet discovered painless childbirth but he was the most famous obstetrician in Paris and women came from all of France to be attended by him.  It is not speculation to suppose that in the hands of a less skilled obstetrician, Mirentxu’s birth would have ended tragically.

It was almost dark.  He was getting impatient looking again and again at his watch that hung from the silver chain.  It was almost 9:00.  He felt more of a stranger in that city to which he had come only a month earlier.  Paris is the city of the exile.  Chopin went there to compose, Picasso to paint, and James Joyce to write Ulysses.  He too came to exile escaping the Spanish Civil War.  How much it hurt to think of what he left behind.  Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by the voice of Dr. Lamaze who announced with joy “We have saved the baby.  It’s a girl.”

My father (from now on, Aita) quickly left the almost dark waiting room to join his wife and baby.  His wife (from now on, Ama) was tired but pretty as ever and radiant.  Next to her was a pink crib with their new daughter.  At that precious moment they were both very happy looking proudly at the new member of the family, and the shadow of the war was forgotten for a moment.

A few days later we left the Vincennes Clinique to go to our house located at Rue Bonaparte #18, 6th Arrondisement, on the Left Bank of the Seine.  They passed the narrow streets filled with antique shops.  They passed the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, established in 1816, whose students could be seen painting and sketching on the nearby wharves and bridges.  My parents looked at the students more attentively as if they wanted to tell them of their new role as proud parents of a French child.  Now they felt less like immigrants.

Two weeks after her birth, Aita y Ama had their first child baptized in the oldest church in Paris, St-Germain-des-Pres, which was located just a short walk from their apartment on Rue Bonaparte.  The church was built to house a relic of the True Cross brought from Spain in 542 A.D.  The church began as a Benedictine abbey founded by Childebert, the son of Clovis.  The Normans all but destroyed the abbey at least four times, and very little remains of the original structure.  The church was enlarged and reconsecrated by Pope Alexander III in 1163.  The abbey was completely destroyed during the French Revolution but the church was spared.

Mirentxu, the equivalent in the Basque language of Marie, was the name I was called at home.  From the time I learned how to walk I was waiting happily for my father at the front door with his slippers.  My father adored me.  He enjoyed feeding me, and he imposed that chore on himself every day.  He wrote a poem dedicated to me that described these moments.

Shortly after Mirentxu was born, the family moved to a larger apartment on Rue Goethe #1, near Marceau Avenue, in the 16th Arrondissement.    The photo on the right, taken by Mirentxu during her trip to Paris in 1995, shows their apartment building.  Their apartment was the first from the street level with a balcony (on the third floor of the building).



 My parents loved the neighborhood of the new apartment.  They loved the great boulevards and the little side streets lined with old houses, cafes large and small, cheap and expensive restaurants, and they were captivated by the quays and bridges on the Seine and the monuments that combined the ancient and the modern. 

Tia Juli, who was my godmother, had a fashion design shop in Paris, and she lived with us.  She had been like a second mother to Ama, and now they were best friends.  Juli was an energetic and creative person, talented in fashion design, who admired the beauty in everything.  Above all she had an extraordinary ability to convert any kind of cloth into a beautiful garment.  In her high fashion shop she saw people from the most glamorous social position to the middle class.  On Sundays she often went to the Eglise de la Madeleine to see the weddings.  By the ring of the church chimes she knew the level of the wedding.  Juli was interested because the dresses were designed by the best shops in Paris.  My mother accompanied her many times.

Ama also loved to go to the open market two blocks from our house once a week.  There she found boxes of oranges, apples, lemons, grapes, strawberries, pears, and cantaloupes, as well as flowers piled high in pyramids.  What was amazing, she used to say, was the variety of cheeses they had.  The French said they have a different kind of cheese for every day of the year.  Next to the market was a bakery with the wonderful aroma of fresh bread.  People carried the long baguettes under their arms.  There was also nearby a small fish market where the smells of fresh fish competed with the garden perfume of lettuce, celery, leeks and radishes.

The stores and markets attracted swarms of people trying to decide what to buy as they listened to the continuous chorus of the sellers as they yelled the different prices.  My mother enjoyed shopping for food, and she cooked as happily as she shopped.  Now that they lived on the Right Bank, they had access to the more typical part of Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Palais de Chaillot, the Champs Elysees, and the Jardin des Tuilleries, where they loved to take me in the stroller.

One reason for moving to this new apartment was that it was just a short walk from the location of the Basque Government in Exile in Paris, #11 Rue Marceau (see photo).  This office, officially referred to as the “Basque Delegation”, was opened when the Civil War broke out in 1936, and coordinated the actions of the Basque Government between 1937 and 1940.  Aita worked there as secretary to the Basque Minister of Justice, Jesus Maria Leizaola.  In addition, he and Mercedes traveled several times to London to inspect the conditions of the colonies established there for the Basque refugee children.  When they went to London, they left Mirentxu for several months with Tia Juli and a nurse.  It was the first time since they were married that they were going to be alone and they needed that, because what lay ahead of them would be a painful experience for them both.  For the most part, though, the Amezaga family carried on a relatively normal life considering the tragedy and violence they had seen.  These photos show Ama and Mirentxu on the balcony of their apartment in Paris (Ama is knitting for their second baby) and Aita and Mirentxu during a family outing to the Tuilleries Gardens near their home.










By January 1939, when Barcelona fell to Franco and the Civil War ended in the defeat of the Second Republic, Ama was pregnant with her second child.  With the prospect of an impending general war across Europe and an extended exile facing them, many Basques began to relocate to safer locales, especially in the Western Hemisphere.  A wealthy Basque immigrant to the Philippines named Manuel Inchausti created the International League of Friends of the Basques, an organization that raised large sums of money to assist in these relocations.  The Basque Government also provided aid as did the Emigration Service of Spanish Republicans, funded by the Spanish, Basque and Catalan governments.   The Basque Government sent numerous delegations abroad – to the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina – to prepare the way for those desiring to emigrate.

After Barcelona fell to Franco in March 1939, the Spanish Civil War was over.  Franco was proclaimed caudillo for life and given absolute authority.  Meanwhile Paris never looked better.  In July of that year they celebrated the 150th anniversary of their glorious revolution with patriotic and social parties and celebrations at Versailles almost every evening.  Life in France seemed better after a decade of depression.  The traditional parade and air force display on the Champs-Elysees on July 14, Bastille Day, were very impressive and gave the French people the confidence that they were powerful enough to win against Hitler.

In the spring and summer of 1939 Paris lived through a period of false optimism, thinking that perhaps Hitler had changed his mind about taking Europe into another war.  But in late summer, tensions rose again and France put the Maginot Line on alert and called up two million troops.  Mercedes’ doctor called to say that he had been called to military service and she should look for another physician to attend her second delivery.  Aita and Ama decided to move to Biarritz, where the Basque Government had established a splendid hospital, called La Roseraie, which attended the medical needs of the thousands of Basque refugees in France.  After much effort, Aita was able to purchase tickets for the train from Paris to Biarritz, but on the day they were scheduled to leave Ama went into labor.  Germany had the previous day invaded Poland, and France and Britain had declared war on Germany, so Paris was in chaos.  Hundreds of thousands of Paris residents attempted to flee the city and the roads and trains were all jammed.  Aita frantically tried to get a taxi to stop to take Ama to the hospital but to no avail.  Fortunately, the Basque Delegation was able to send a car for them and they arrived at the hospital with only an hour to spare before Mirentxu’s sister, Begona, was born.  She was baptized Miren Begona de la Paz (for Peace).  I was only 16 months old.  Since the hospital was closed the next day, the family had to return to their Paris apartment to await the next developments in the war.  But no attacks came and the so-called “false war” lulled the French once again into thinking that war would not come. 

The fall of Paris was sad and dark, under the threat of German attack.  With no actual bombardment people started coming back from the country.  In the dark capital the night life continued the same even though the public places and restaurants were closed at ten at night.  In May 1940 German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France.  The main weight of their armored forces struck at a weakly defended position in the French line and on May 15 they broke through and raced to the Channel coast.  On June 9 the Germans attacked across the Somme River and pushed on to the south.  As their armored columns spread across the country, the roads became clogged with fleeing refugees and the French army disintegrated.  Two-thirds of French territory was occupied by German forces.

June 14, 1940, in the evening Paris saw Hitler’s jubilant troops enter the city without firing a shot.  The Germans hoisted the swastika on the Eiffel Tower and the same day the French government flew to Bordeaux in southwestern France.  The Basque government was now leaderless because its president was trapped in occupied Belgium, but the members of the government decided to move their seat to Bordeaux.  My father was told to find a safe place there.  He left Paris several days before the Germans occupied the port of Bordeaux.  Five days later the Germans bombarded Bordeaux for the first time.  The situation in Bordeaux was very precarious.  The first night there was a heavy bombardment near where they were staying.  The trains out of Bordeaux were filled.  Aita, Ama and Begona waited for hours before they could find train space for the three of them, but they had to leave all their baggage at the station because there was not enough space.

In May 1940 the unsteady peace ended and Hitler’s forces invaded Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.  Just days before, the Basque President, Aguirre, and his family had gone to Belgium on holiday, and they were caught on the German side of the war front.  The president went into hiding, assumed a false identity, and managed to evade capture for several years while he traveled into Germany, eventually to escape with his family via Sweden to Brazil.0

Minister Leizaola now assumed authority of the Basque Government and sent Aita to Bordeaux to find a suitable site for the government’s offices.  The French Government was already relocating its offices there.  Aita, Ama and Begona went to Bordeaux and sent Mirentxu with Tia Juli farther south, to Biarritz.   

On June 14, Paris was handed over to the Germans without a shot fired in its defense.  On June 16, Marshall Petain assumed control of the French Government, sued for peace, and established itself in the town of Vichy.  From there, the French exercised control over the southern half of France while the Germans occupied the northern half.  Meanwhile, seeing that it would be futile to stay in Bordeaux, and unable to return to their Paris apartment to gather their belongings, Aita and Ama decided to go with Begona on to Biarritz to rejoin Mirentxu and Tia Juli.  Between 1940 and 1944, German occupation authorities confiscated over 38,000 apartments in Paris, along with furnishings.  Among these was the Amezagas’ apartment, which was lost to them forever.

The trip from Bordeaux to Biarritz took three hours.  Biarritz is one of the most famous seaside resorts in the world.  In southwestern France it is located on the fringe of the Basque country.  It has broad sandy beaches perfect for swimming and sun bathing.  Cliff walks forming a grand promenade are one of its most enduring attractions.  The town was once a simple fishing and whaling village that became an elegant resort in the middle of the nineteenth century when the Emperor Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie and other members of European royalty were frequent visitors.  Now the beaches were empty and the streets were full of German soldiers who inspired terror.

The Basques in Biarritz began to receive reports that a number of Civil War refugees caught in Vichy-controlled France – including the Catalan President Luis Companys – had been turned over to Spain for trial and had been summarily executed.  Aita decided to go to Marseilles, the last spot in France where Basques were still relatively safe.  In the last months of 1940, Marseilles had become a safe haven for Jews, leftists, stateless persons and numerous others attempting to leave Europe by ship.  In order to cross the line of demarcation between German-occupied France and Vichy territory, my father had to obtain permission from the German authorities, or he had to cross illegally, perhaps with the aid of one of the many guides, known as passeurs, who smuggled people back and forth from one zone to the other.  Either way the trip was extremely dangerous.  He went to the local Kommandantur, or German military headquarters, and somehow obtained the papers necessary to cross into Vichy-controlled France. He intended to attempt to book passage for himself alone to a port in the Americas.  Before he left for Marseilles, the family had time for at least one more outing near the beach at Biarritz, where this photo was taken, the last of Mirentxu with her father until they were reunited in Montevideo.



Aita knew at once that his life was in danger in Biarritz.  He could have been deported to Spain where he would have been killed.  The dreadful moment of leaving came again.  This time was worse because they had two small children.  So he decided to sail to England alone.  But after waiting in vain with other people to board a ship to London he decided to go to Marseille where he might find a ship to England more easily.  But it was still dangerous to move with the entire family, so Ama, Tia Juli, Begona and me remained in Biarritz, where this photo of the two girls on the beach was taken.  Ama had lost all their possessions.  She cried alone at night.  The only thing left to do now was to look after her two baby daughters and to wait for news from her husband.   When he got to Marseilles, Aita found it extremely difficult to arrange passage, but he soon learned that a ship might be available soon.  Although the ship would accept only male passengers, Aita still wanted Ama to join him in Marseilles until the ship left. 

Communications between Aita and Ama were next to impossible during these days.  Telephone communications had been cut and mail was intercepted and read by the Vichy French government.  Aita found a Basque who served as a courier carrying secret messages between Marseilles and Biarritz, and he managed to send this cryptic message to Ama: “Leave everything and come.”  Although Ama’s maternal instincts told her to stay with her daughters, she felt that Aita needed her more at that moment.  Encouraged by Tia Juli, she left several days later, after lunch.  We were taking a nap.  She looked at us (she told me later) for a long time and gave us a tender kiss full of love, tears and pain.  She was crying as she had a fear of what was going to occur later.  And she left to go to the train station. Her plan was to return to Biarritz in a matter of weeks.  This photo was the last taken in Biarritz before her departure. 

Aita and Ama waited in Marseilles until word came of a ship available to take refugees to American ports, and was also accepting women and children as well.  They sent an urgent message to Juli that she should bring the girls to Marseilles and all five of them could leave France together.  Juli replied that she was going to return to Las Arenas, to be with her father who was ill and she would take the girls with her.  She said that the journey on the ship was dangerous and the girls would be safe and well cared for with their grandfather and aunts and uncle.  Aita and Ama should leave by themselves and the family could be reunited in America or, in the best of cases, in Spain soon.

That was the last Aita y Ama heard from Juli.  She took the girls across the border into Spain, left Mirentxu in Las Arenas with her grandfather Inocencio, and took Begona to San Sebastian where she planned to open a fashion design business. Apart from the girls’ birth documents, Juli had no documentation granting her authority over them and had no legal authority to take them out of the country of their birth.  That she was able to do this was due apparently to the fact that while in Paris she had designed and sewn clothes for the wife of the Spanish ambassador to France, Jose Felix de Lequerica.  The ambassador made it possible for her to cross the Spanish border with the two girls (and fourteen trunks of fabric, dresses and designs with which to start her business in San Sebastian), with no questions asked by the border authorities.

 The courier on whom Aita relied for communication was caught by the Germans and executed, leaving everyone in the dark about what the others were doing.  Faced with this most anguishing decision, Aita and Ama arranged passage on the ship, the Alsina, and on January 15, 1941, they departed Marseilles en route to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo.  They would not see Mirentxu again until 1948 and Begona was never reunited with the entire family.  Aita did not see her until he was near death in Caracas many years later.  Although Mirentxu did eventually rejoin her parents, the fracturing of the family in this way left scars that healed only slowly over many years.

I was 28 months old and my sister only a year, both of us too young to be separated from our mother.  That painful decision brought sadness to our hearts for the rest of our lives.  Several months later they embarked for America without us.  Ama’s sister Juli didn’t want to go to Marseilles and deliver us to our parents as my mother begged her to do and my mother couldn’t go back to Biarritz. 

Before they left Marseilles, my mother saw a street painter and asked him to paint a picture of her children.  She gave him to copy the picture of the two girls on the beach which is on the preceding page.  The painter felt her pain and he reproduced a large colorful painting that she held against her heart.  That painting was always in a place of honor in our home for the rest of their lives.

When the Alsina weighed anchor in Marseilles, it carried 700 passengers, including about 300 Jews, 180 Basques, 38 of them children from 1 month to 14 years of age.  When they got to Dakar in what is today Senegal, the captain informed the passengers that he could not continue the trip.  As the ship was of French registry, the British Royal Navy would not let it leave Africa for ports in the Western Hemisphere.  The only options open to them were all bad: remain on the ship in port indefinitely, return to France, transfer to a Spanish ship, or try to leave French West Africa over land to some neutral country.  They chose the least bad option: remain in port indefinitely.  Food was severely rationed, diseases spread through the ship, the crew threatened to mutiny, and Aita and Ama began to think that they had been right to leave the girls in Europe.  Finally, after nearly five months, the ship’s owners decided to return the ship to Casablanca, disembark all passengers, and refund most of their passage money.  They reached Casablanca on June 10, 1941.

In Casablanca, the ship’s passengers were divided into three groups; two groups (including Aita and Ama) were sent to concentration camps outside Casablanca and the third group was returned on the ship to Dakar.  The Vichy French government refused them permission to travel to the Americas because of the danger posed by both German and British war vessels.  Conditions in the camp were horrendous.  Food was scarce, hygiene was difficult, the heat was unbearable, and disease was everywhere.   Finally, under diplomatic pressure from a number of Latin American governments, especially Argentina, France relented and granted permission for the trip to continue.  By this point, the Alsina had been replaced by a ship registered in neutral Portugal, the Quanza. 








Compared with what they had just been through, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, even if long.  After stopping for varying periods in Bermuda and Vera Cruz, Mexico, the Quanza docked in Havana and the passengers were all put ashore.  There they waited for three months for the arrival of a third ship, the Rio de la Plata, from Argentina, which carried them on to their final destination: Buenos Aires.  They arrived on April 15, 1942, 15 months after leaving Marseilles.  They sold the only thing of value they had left, Mercedes’ earrings, and with this tiny sum they began to create a home in a new land.

Meanwhile Mirentxu and Begona remained in the Basque Country staying with their uncle, aunts and grandparents.  Here are the two girls with their Tio Ino Iribarren, Ama’s brother, (in San Sebastian) about 1941, shortly after crossing the border into Spain, and their Abuelo Iribarren, Ama’s father (in Las Arenas) about 1943. 












Argentina and Uruguay: 1942-1955

Uruguay is often referred to as the Switzerland of Latin America but actually New Zealand is a more apt comparison.  Like New Zealand, Uruguay is a small country with large neighbors, with whom they compete with vigor.  Its economy depends on the export of livestock, especially sheep.  Its population is very nearly homogeneous and European in origin, the indigenous peoples having been pursued very nearly to extinction.  And it very largely has been outside the mainstream of world affairs for most of its existence, and certainly in the past century or so.

In 1516, the Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis led the first European expedition to the broad estuary formed by the union of several great rivers to flow into the Atlantic Ocean.  The estuary came to be called the Rio de la Plata but neither was it a river nor did it lead to silver as the name implied.  None of this mattered to Diaz de Solis as he and virtually his entire expedition were wiped out by the indigenous people, known as the Charrua, who fought ferociously against European intrusion and paid for their resistance by being destroyed. For more than a century no European came back to the Rio de la Plata to stay.  The Spanish eventually established a colony near the origin of the estuary on the western side some distance from the ocean, a colony that grew to become one of the world’s great cities, Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.  In the 1680s, the Portuguese sought to counter Spanish control by founding their own colony on the eastern side across from Buenos Aires.  In a counter-move to block the Portuguese, the Spanish decided to establish a foothold on the eastern side at the point where the estuary empties into the Atlantic.  On Christmas Eve, 1726, the Spanish governor of Buenos Aires, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, founded Montevideo. 

By the beginning of the twentieth century the warring factions had resolved most of their principal grievances and began to settle down into the Uruguayan version of two-party electoral politics.  The “Whites” (“Blancos”) were the conservative party representing the largely rural population and the Church; the “Reds” (“Colorados”) were a more progressive party that promoted a program of advanced social legislation.  During the presidency of Jose Batlle y Ordonez (1911-1915), the Colorados enacted an extensive set of social laws and programs that earned for Uruguay the reputation of being the most progressive of all Latin American countries. 


Throughout these decades of national development, several important characteristics of Uruguay determined the special nature of its capital city, Montevideo.  First, the country’s economy was based largely on livestock husbandry (cattle and sheep) and the sale abroad of the principal products of the range: hides and wool to begin, meat after the advent of refrigerated steamship service to Europe in the latter decades of the nineteenth century.  Such an economy could support a large and sophisticated capital city largely devoid of heavy industry or manufacturing.  Likewise the extractive industries like coal and oil were absent from Uruguay.  Second, the colonists had virtually wiped out the country’s indigenous population and their place was taken by waves of European immigrants, primarily British and Italian, from the 1880s to World War I.  As a result, Montevideo, with a population of about one million by 1947, was one of the most European of all Western Hemisphere cities.  Moreover, its location on a beautiful beach with a mild climate year-round gave the city the flavor of a tourist resort.

  Add in the progressive nature of the Uruguayan regime in the 1940s and you begin to understand why Montevideo offered such a warm welcome to the Basques and other Europeans fleeing the violence of civil war and World War II.  And you can also understand why the Amezaga family would feel at home there, or at least as much at home as people living in exile can ever feel anyplace but their own homeland.










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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


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

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:
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