This article was translated by John R. Bopp
A while back, we announced the debut of the documentary “Aita“, which tells the story of a family, directed by Chema Salcedo, a noted Peruvian journalist who’s the son of a gudari who emigrated to Peru: Jose Salcendo Molinuevo.
Now, thanks to the hard work of the Arantzazu Euzko Etxea of Lima, we can include this documentary among the content of this blog. They wanted to ensure that it could be seen by all Basques, especially those of the Diaspora, and because they also want it to be their contribution from Lima to the events of the National Basque Week held every year in Argentina, organized by the Mar de Plata Denak Bat Basque Center this year.
In the end, this all boils down to the fact that thousands of members of the Basque Community around the world will see themselves in this amazing reunion with the story of their elders, of those who after Franco’s criminal dictatorship was imposed had to flee to exile, especially to the New World, and to start to build a new life.
The protagonist of this story was a young Basque nationalist who left him home in La Arboleda to join the fight with the 77 MAI Irrintzi Batallion of the Basque Army after the military coup against the Republic to defend his homeland. Curiously, he ended up in the same batallion Irish Republican captain Jack Prendergast, who had decided to participate in the fight against fascism on the Basque nationalist side, was fighting in.
That young man fought throughout the war in the Basque Country determined in his commitment for his Homeland and for Democracy; after the defeat and jail, he emigrated to Peru at the beginning of the 1950s to work for a freer, better future, along with his family.
Chema Salcedo, his son, arrived with his family to the port of Callao at the age of 5, and there, following his family’s example, he integrated into his new society as best he could. He paid heed to the message given by the man he heard his father talking about so much, Jose Antonio Aguirre, the Lehendakari and the man his father considered to be his leader. The Lehendakari asked the tens of thousands of Basque who had had to abandon their homeland feeling Francoism to “maintain their commitment to their Homeland” and “to be the best citizens of all in their adopted lands.”
Chema Salcedo is an example of what happens when those two pieces of advice are followed. He has been, and is, everything in the world of communication in Peru: writer, reporter, foreign correspondent, columnist, editor, university professor, essayist, newspaper director, and film director. But he is also a Diaspora Basque, one of the thousands of Basque abertzales who fled to the New World to escape the social and political persecution and the misery that insurgent Francisco Franco brought with his dictatorial régime.
His aita died in 2012, and made two last requests: that his coffin be covered with an ikurriña and that his son read his memoirs as a gudari.
We found many things about this documentary exciting. Many of them are the exact same stories we know from “home”, just with different names. But we found one story in particular especially beautiful, about “building” an ikurriña in Peru to accompany the gudari on his last voyage. It was even more beautiful as it was being told by the person who took care of him in his final years.
From reading those memoirs and the many stories he’d heard about his father’s life, this documentary about seeking and finding was born. This finding happened on many levels: Chema with his father, with the land of his forefathers, with the Cause of the Basque People, and, we’re sure, with himself, his roots, and his people.
On this journey, Checma left Lima when his father was already old, and after traveling through this part of the history of his family and the Basques, he again found his father as a young man, leading the battle for Freedom and his Homeland.
This is the documentary. Enjoy this story, as it is a fundamental part of our history.