This article was translated by John R. Bopp
On November 8,1948, the first issue of Oiga, founded by a Basque-Peruvian journalist, Francisco «Paco» Igartua Rovira (1923–2004), was published. And despite the fact that it’s no longer being published, it’s still, even today, a role model in the best journalism in that country, reflecting the life force, commitment and dedication of this Basque in Perú, in whom coexisted love for Peru, love for the Basque Country, and a passion for journalism.
When the first issue came out, Igartua was 25, having spent the previous half decade in this profession/calling, including a stint in prison in 1944 for criticizing the government. The magazine itself had a short run at first, as it had been born to oppose the General Manuel A. Odría dictatorship, landing the founder in jail and the magazine off the presses just a few weeks after bring founded, when the fourth issue came out.
The life of Paco Igartua and that of Oiga are an example of the initiative and ability a natural-born journalist has when making their voice heard. He’s an example of someone committed to their principles, even when they’re wrong.
After getting out of jail, with his magazine shut down by the dictatorship, in 1950, he joined Doris Gibson to found Caretas magazine, for which he was the head of journalism for twelve years. You can still find this magazine at newsstands throughout Peru.
Two years after founding Caretas, he was exiled to Panama but he returned to Lima in secret, and sought asylum at, of all places, the writing desk at the El Comercio newspaper! This means he was able to convince a newspaper’s management to grant him asylum until. He finally managed to get his exile annulled. Just so you can see what kind of character this man had.
In 1962, he decided to restart the Oiga project, which he does in a series of stages, while always maintaining his critical and watchdog nature of governments, be they democratic or not. This attitude got him exiled again, this time to Mexico.
Those searching for the truth and committed to honorably reporting almost always have to pay a high price. In the case of Igartua, it was prison or exile, economic suffocation, and even the loss over the “Oiga” name. His last years were tough, and he could count on the help of only a few loyal friends, while the majority left him behind so as not to anger the the politicians in power at the time, whom Igartua fought so hard against.
Years later, when Paco Igartua had passed away, the Bazán Family who had helped him through those rough years regained control of the “Oiga” name, in order to use it to clean the magazine’s founder’s name and to continue his work.
The result of that was the 2013 Azoka Durango launch of the book Ezkioga, written by Padre Artola. It was published in Peru by the Oiga Journalistic Publishing House with the patronage of San Martín de Porres University in Lima, the University of the Basque Country, Our Lady of Arantzazu Brotherhood in Lima, and the Euzko Etxea of Santiago, Chile. It was a reparation of this journalist’s main creation. His best work “came back to life,” fulfilling the objective not only to remember Paco Igartua but also to join together the Basques of Peru and of the Basque Country.
He led an intense life, which allowed him to meet many of the main players in the history of the 20th century in the Americas and in Europe. He was a committed man who was faithful to his ideas, which are two of the best things you can say about someone. Furthermore, yet another asset of his was that of being a role model for journalists in his country, creating a publication that became a leader in committed, quality reporting.
His commitment to the Basques and everything Basque
Paco Igartua, born in Peru, was very aware of his Basque roots, and maintained close, intense contact both with his homeland and with the heritage Basques had left him in Peru, including the Our Lady of Arantzazu Brotherhood in Lima, and the human and supportive heritage of the Basque Passionist Fathers who, since the beginning of the 20th century, had committed themselves to the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazonian jungle. He was also the founder of the Arantzazu Euzko Etxea in Lima.
A rediscovery of his homeland led him to visit the Basque Country regularly, and establish close relations with it. Among his friendships, one of the most special was with Juan Celaya, the euskotzale, businessman, and patron of Basque culture, who had been born in Oñati, where Igartua’s family was from. Despite the miles between their birthplaces, their common age, interests, and attachments brought them closely together.
It’s hard to measure the breadth and depth of his influence on the development in the relations between Basque institutions and Basque communities throughout the world. But we can get some idea in the words that Josu Legarreta, another close friend, said in a letter inspired by the publication of the book Francisco Igartua, Oiga y una pasión Quijotesca (Francisco Igartua: ‘Oiga? and a Quixotic Passion), published that year and which is a collective work whose goal was to remember this journalist.
It also helps to remember, as Legarreta recalls in that letter, his presence in the first to Basque Collective World Congresses, at the express invitation of the Lehendakari. He made important contributions in them, as was in charge of the events at those congresses.
Josemari Vélez de Mendizabal interviewed him at length, and that interview was published in the always highly recommended (by us) Euskonews, which helps us get to know, a bit better, this Peruvian who discovered, as so many diaspora Basques do, his “Basqueness”, which led to him then feeling intimately connected with his homeland.
He was also in charge of writing up the declarations of support for the different peace processes that coincided with the different Basque Collective World Congresses. He never got to see his so yearned-for peace in the Basque Country, but he undoubtedly helped the peace process along.
His amazing ability to understand the “Basque conflict” can be seen in a paragraph of that 2002 interview:
“Without the ETA, the Basque Country would be able to face the usual Spanish attacks, and the rights of our people would be recognized by the whole world. But with the ETA, the opinion of the world turns against us. I believe the members of the ETA are victims of their own violence. And that’s very serious, since we could all find ourselves inside a vicious cycle.”
He was a man who stands out: his commitment with his land of birth, his commitment with his homeland, his commitment to spreading the truth and the history of the Basques in Peru, his commitment to journalism, and his commitment to his principles.
The figure of Paco Igartua Rovira, the Oñati-Peruvian journalist, is a large one in the history of our Nation and in that of Peru. We don’t know how things might be in that Andean country, but among the Basques, we have a certain tendency to no remember those “of us” who’ve made such huge contributions to our society.
We’re trying, as far as we can, to profile some of these people. This is what inspired us today, on the 70th anniversary of the first issue of Oiga, to remember this extraordinary person.