This article was translated by John R. Bopp
The impression Basques have left on Venezuela is wide, deep, and fruitful. For example, their history, for better or for worse, has been marked by the 18th century creation, development, and influence of the La Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas (Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas).
But alongside the great economic and political events, there is this Basque presence in Venezuela, and a history of people which is made up of the faces and contributions of so many Basques who reached this “Land of Grace”.
On July 9, just a couple days ago, they celebrated the 80th anniversary of the beginning of a time of arrival of Basques to Venezuela in which the two facets joined perfectly. On the one hand, with political action, and on the other, the life stories of hundreds of Basque who went to that country to get their lives and futures back, all while contributing a great deal to their adopted homeland.
After the victory of the Francoist insurgents, the Basque Government in exile maintained its support structures for Basque refugees who found themselves far from their land, with no resources, and still in shock about what had happened back home. The objective of that model government was to tend to and care for its citizens.
It was necessary to find a location and means of living for those families, and among their many solutions was having them be taken in in several New World countries.
Venezuela was one of the most important destinations, and it took in many Basques, who found refuge and a dignified life far from the Fascists who would kidnap their country for forty years. The Basque Government reached an agreement with the Venezuelan Government, then represented by President Eleazar López Contreras. They reached an agreement for Basque refugees to go there, and the Venezuelan Government accepted the Igarobide, or passport issued by the Basque Government, as an official, legal document.
The Venezuelan press commented broadly on the arrival of the Basque refugees. The daily Ahora dedicated a page to them and the event, with a great deal of photographs. They highlighted that among the new arrivals were doctors, engineers, accountants, farmers, and specialist workers.
Jazoera is a publication which collects the history and activities of the Basque-Venezuelan community. It was born as a newsletter for the Eusko Etxea of Caracas, and was run by Pedro Javier Arriaga Aguirre. We’ve spoken about this publication before. Its extraordinary work helps us stay abreast of their current activities, and the history of this Basque community that has contributed so much to the history and development of their adopted homeland.
And to honor this date, this publication has printed a special article discussing the history of the emigration of the Basque patriots, on their way to an exile with a future. In this publication, we can find the stories of the groups of Basques who arrived in those terrible years and the magnificent welcome they received in their adopted homeland.
Of those Basque refugees was born one of the most active and committed Basque communities in the world. It’s a community that has joined together many other Basque communities throughout the world to defend the Cause of the Basque People, and collaborated in keep Basque institutions alive in those difficult years.