Mikel Ezkerro la «memoria viva» de los vascos en Argentina

Mikel Ezkerro was born in Rawson, Chacabuco, Buenos Aires province, and studied at the Jesuit school in Bilbao, in the Basque Country.  He continued his education at the Jesuit school of Salvador in the city of Buenos Aires. 

He’s a historical researcher, specializing in the Basque Country’s 19th- and 20th-century history, and the community of Argentines with Basque origins and their institutions in Argentina. 

Also, Ezkerro is a member of the American Institute of Basque Studies and the Arturo Campion Center for Historical Studies and Basque Nationalism.  He is the former director of the Cultural Department at the Argentine Basque Entities Federation (FEVA) and author of The History of the Laurak Bay Basque Center of Buenos Aires, published by the Basque Government.

Today, we’re going to increase our section on Basque chronicles with a triple article by Mikel Ezkerro, in which he narrates the biographies of the three Irujo brothers from his personal experience.  To have an article by Mikel Ezkerro on our blog is an extraordinary honor. This Basque-Argentine is an unquestioned expert on the collective Basque memory in that country and throughout South America.  The debt we as a people have with him and his work cannot be overestimated. Fortunately for us, the great strength that has pushed Mikel to carry out this work has been the same that’s guided all great Basque patriots: his love for his Homeland and his commitment to its defense. 

Professor Ezkerro had the opportunity to know these three pillars of the Cause of the Basque People well, and took some notes about his experiences with the three brothers for the book the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima published to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Tour of the Americas Lehendakari Aguirre had in 1942, which we’ve blogged about before.

Now we have the opportunity to share these texts that help us so well to understand the profile of these three Basque patriots so well, as well as to discover a small part of the awesome political and cultural work they did as part of the Basque Diaspora, in this case from Argentina, defending the Cause of the Basque People. 

We were hesitant as to whether we should share this in three entries or in only one.  We opted for the latter because we thought that the work of these three brothers quite well  summed up the work that these three Basque patriots did from exile in the different fields in which they fought for the survival of our nation: institutional, political, and cultural. 

That’s why we thought they should go together, offering up a joint vision of these three brothers that Mikel Ezkerro presents to us from his personal viewpoint, sharing the values of these three extraordinary patriots. 

The three Irujo brothers, Manuel, Andrés María, and Pello, as well as Mikel himself, are links in the chain that ties us to our history as a nation and in maintaining that “continuum of history”.  Aita Barandiaran was thinking of people like these when he reminds us that “we are because they were, and because we are, they will be” (Izan zirelako gara, garelako izango dira).

We owe an immense debt to all of these people, which can, and must, be paid only one way: following their example, and picking up where they left off.

Foto familiar al completo en la huerta de la casa de Lizarra. De pie, izquierda a derecha :Eusebio, Manuel, Delfin. Jose Ignacio y Josefina. Sentados: Rosario, Eusebio Ollo(tío),Pello Mari, Aniana y Andrés. (foto de irujo Etxea)
Photo of the whole family in the garden of the house in Lizarra.  Standing, left to right: Eusebio, Manuel, Delfin, Jose Ignacio, and Josefina. Seated: Rosario, Eusebio Ollo (uncle), Pello Mari, Aniana, and Andrés. (photo courtesy Irujo Etxea)

On Manuel, Andrés María, and Pello de Irujo Ollo

Texts by Mikel Ezkerro. Prepared for the book published by the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Tour of the Americas led by Lehendakari Aguirre.


Manuel Irujo 1938
Manuel Irujo 1938

Manuel de Irujo

“There are men within a Nation who can be pointed out as archetypes of a generation, a few chosen ones who transcend generations.  One of those chosen ones is Manuel de Irujo Ollo.”

This is the statement I made under the pseudonym Lekunberri in the magazine La Baskonia, Second Edition. Year 3, Issue Nº 1698, 1981, pp. 42—43.

Thirty-six years later, they still ring true.

Thousands of pages have been written about Manuel de Irujo Ollo (1891-1981) in Europe and the Americas, analyzing his multifaceted personality as a Navarrese “and therefore doubly Basque” as he liked to put it, as a Basque patriot, Europeanist, democrat, humanist, jurist, defender of Human Rights, etc.

In this article, I will focus on giving my opinions born of my contacts with Mr. Manuel in our encounters in Paris (1971-1975), St-Jean-de-Luz (1971-1975), Buenos Aires (1975), and Pamplona (1978-1980).

My first encounter with Manuel de Irujo Ollo was in his office at the Basque Government Headquarters in Paris on Rue Singer nº 50.  Mr. Manuel knew, thanks to letters from his brother Pedro María, the director of the monthly Eusko Lurra—Tierra Vasca, published in Buenos Aires, that I wrote for that publication every month, using four pseudonyms.  Mr. Manuel read from A to Z, and appreciated everything published, and sent his brother his favorable opinion, or not, of all that notes that appeared, and did so until the last issue was published in September of 1975.

As for me, I had read all of Mr. Manuel’s books, which had been published in Buenos Aires by the Ekin Basque Publishing House, co-founded by his brother Andrés and Dr. Isaac López Mendizabal, as well as his articles in “Alderdi”, the official newsletter of the Basque Nationalist Party that was published in Bayonne, in “Euzko Deya” in Mexico, etc.

When we met in person for the first time, we were physically separated by 47 years, and while we agreed about Basque Nationalism, we had different opinions regarding political ideology, but I could clearly tell from our first words that I was standing before a man who strictly practiced Montaigne’s saying: “It is good to rub and polish our brain against that of others”; that is to say, dialog!

From that point on, and until our last encounter, one year before his death, neither of us hid our differences, but we did reaffirm our agreement about Nationalism, and I always found Mr. Manuel to be willing to listen, as we were both convinced that neither of us had the “monopoly on the truth”.

Mr. Manuel had a visceral concern about being up-to-date about the ideas of the generation that had been born and grown up under a régime like Franco’s, strictly violent, and the consequences that that would have on that generation over time.

He had ideological concepts and party fealty that he was loyal to during his almost 72 years as a card-carrying member of the Basque Nationalist Party.

We had many extended conversations, which began at the headquarters of the Basque Government on Rue Singer.  They then continued in his small study, similar to a hermit’s cell, on Rue Boulanvilliers; at the quaint Hotel Euskalduna in St-Jean-de-Luz; at my house in Buenos Aires; or at his flat on Aoiz Street in Pamplona, where we saw each other for the last time on January 17, 1980.  In those conversations, I got to hear “yes” to some of my ideas, a resounding “no” to others, but always in the context of a strong dialog.

I also learned from him many things about the history and geography of Navarre, even getting excited in St-Jean-de-Luz when, in rich detail, he described the town of Baraibar, where my great-grandfather, Miguel Andrés Azpiroz Apezteguia, the last Basque speaker in my family, had been born.

¡¡¡Nabarra !!! What a word coming from the lips of Mr. Manuel, Navarre, “anai zabarra”, “big brother”, since the Basque Country extends to the north and south of the Pyrenees.

I saw Mr. Manuel de Irujo Ollo get emotional and cry like a baby when José Luis Garay played the melody “Illun Nabarra” on the txistu at the ceremony organized by the Amigos del País in Pamplona to pay homage to him.

In our walks through the Boulonge Forest, he told me that his first calling was to be a musician, a pianist.  He also told me how he had to act as a parent, alongside his mother, as a substitute father, to help her raise his younger brothers Andrés and Pedro María, after the death of their father, Daniel de Irujo Urra, the defense attorney for Sabino de Arana Goiri.

Sabino Arana en la carcel de larrinaga
Sabino Arana at Larrinaga Prison

He also told me about how he met Arana Goiri in 1896, when his father took him to visit him at Larrinaga Prison in Bilbao, or how, when I’d asked him, he told me all about his extensive debate by letter with another great Basque patriot, Eli de Gallastegi.

On January 1, 1981, Mr. Manuel de Irujo Olla passed away in Pamplona at the age of 89.  On the 3rd, his remains were taken to his hometown, Lizarra-Estella, and, as José Miguel Urmeneta writes, “I was told, since I was not there, that his coffin looked like a little boat rocking above the crowd, in Estella on its way to the church.”

I would like to conclude with a personal reflection: in 2017, today, and in the times that lay before us, I hope, in the land of my elders, with whichever names suits each best, Euskadi, Euzkadi, Euskal Herria, Eskual Herria, for dialog, that amazing human quality that guided the life and work of Manuel de Irujo Ollo.

Mikel  Ezkerro

Pello irujo Ollo
Pello Irujo Ollo

Pello María de Irujo 

“Pello is the archetype of the Basque Resistance fighter.  There may be those who are his equal, but none his superior” (Manuel de Irujo)

It is hard to write objectively about a friend.  To do so about one’s best friend in life, and that’s just what Pello Mari Irujo Ollo was, is even more complex.

In April of 1949, at the age of 39, when Pello Mari Irujo first stepped on Argentinean soil, the series of events that had marked his life up to that point must have played out in his mind, just like in a film:

His childhood at his family home in Lizarra-Estella, Navarre, where his big brother, Manuel, who was twenty years older, was like a second father, helping his mother, since his father, Dr. Daniel de Irujo Urra, who had been Sabino de Arana Goiri’s defense attorney in 1896 and 1902, had died when Pello Mari was just over a year old.

His studies at the Lecaroz de los Capuchinos School, which was one of the first in Navarre to affiliate itself with the new abertzale party, the Basque Nationalist Party.

His studies and graduation as an attorney in Madrid in 1935.

Casa de los Irujo en Estella
The Irujo family home in Estella – Lizarra

His conduct at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, between July and September 1936 in Gipuzkoa, under the control of the Republican government, participating in missions to physically safeguard people who had been affected by the Francoist uprising, whose lives were in serious danger; the most well-known case being that of the archbishop of Valladolid, Monsignor Gandasegui, as told by the canon Alberto Onaindia in his book Hombre de paz en la guerra (Man of Peace in War).

His arrest at sea in September 1936 by the Francoists.  His trial by a Francoist military tribunal, which sentenced him to death, with the order that it be carried out at any moment, and how this would cause important people in Latin America to ask for the sentence to be commuted.  His wait on standby for over three years, until 1939.  His having spent four more years before being released, but with the condition of the prohibition of residing in the four territories of the Southern Basque Country.  His stay in Cuenca, killing time reading Pío Baroja novels until he received a card, where the signer, Juan (who was actually Juan de Ajuriaguerra, the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party), invited him to join the Basque Resistance by asking him to “dance a waltz”.

His immediately going underground in Madrid, joining a group of Basque patriots led by Joseba Rezola.  And how, when Rezola was caught, it would be Pello Mari who would step up and lead the group himself, from 1944 to 1946, taking part in the kind of actions usually told in novels, until he finally crossed into the Northern Basque Country on September 29, 1946.

His leaving the Northern Basque Country for Paris, and then on to the countries of Eastern Europe, as a cultural attaché to the embassies of the Spanish Republic in Hungary and Bulgaria.  And his return to Paris to then come to Argentina.

And there, as I’ve commented, he would be struck by the memory of all those events passing through his head.  It would be another 28 years before he returned to Europe.

In Buenos Aires, he was finally able to once again, after thirteen years, embrace his elderly mother, who would pass away in 1950, his sister, Josefina Irujo de Blanco, and his brother, Andrés María.  They had all been living in Argentina since the beginning of the 1940s.

He started working for the prestigious El Ateneo Publishing House, and, in his free time, helped at the Ekin Basque Publishing House, which had been co-founded in 1941 by his brother, Andrés, and Dr. Isaac López Mendizabal.  He became a scriptwriter and literary consultant for the Saski Basque Artistic, Musical, and Dance Association, which was directed by San Sebastian-born Luis Mújica, and whose members included Father Francisco Madina, the author of the famous work, “Aita Gurea”, or Néstor Basterrechea, who would become a famous sculptor.  It would be Pello Mari who would introduce the popular Dance of the Times, or Baile de la Era, which had originated in the Estella area and which he had danced as a boy alongside the man who would become the mayor of Lizarra, nationalist Fortunato de Aguirre Luquien, assassinated by the Francoists on September 29, 1936.

I met Andrés and Pello Irujo at the Ekin Basque Publishing House at Perú St nº 175 one day in 1953, when I was fifteen.  I went with my mother, a Basque woman born in Bilbao, who wanted to buy some books.

But my deeper relationship with Pello would get started the following year, in 1954, when, upon seeing my interest in Basque history, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, he began recommending books to me, and after a time, he even began to loan me books from his personal library.  My visits with him got more and more frequent, with conversations over coffee.  It is thanks to him that I got the chance to meet and talk with such Basque independence supporters as Argentine Dr. José María Garciarena Aguerre who, alongside Dr. Tomás Otaegui, are, in my opinion, the only two Argentine, and I daresay only two Latin American, theorists on Basque nationalism; and Basques with such storied careers as  Ildefonso Gurruchaga, Justo Gárate, Luis Gónzalez de Echevarri, the ex parishioner at Altsasu, Marino Ayerra, etc.

In December of 1955, after a thirteen-year absence due to the Perón régime in Argentina, Lehendakari Aguirre finally paid Argentina a visit.  That finally afforded me the opportunity to hear him speak at the Buenos Aires Laurak Bat Center.

The following year, the official party body of Basque Nationalist Action would return to the Argentine capital by way of the Eusko Lurra—Tierra Vasca monthly newsletter, paid for from Venezuela.  Managing it were journalist José Antonio Olivares Larrondo, “Tellagorri”, and Pedro María de Irujo Ollo; the former was the director.  “Tellagorri” fell seriously ill and died in 1960.  Pello Mari then took over as the director of Eusko Lurra—Tierra Vasca, and would run it until it closed in 1975.

Eusko lurra 1961
Eusko lurra – Tierra Vasca. September 1961

Reading the complete collection of Eusko Lurra—Tierra Vasca, especially 1960-1975, it’s quite easy to see their editorial stance: democratic, Basque pluralist, and republican.

Pello Mari Irujo was the person who was best informed about what was happening in the Basque Country under the boot heel of Francoism; of the events taking place clandestinely.  He ran a newspaper that was not similar to those existing in the New World Diaspora, aimed at exiles and old émigrés.  The goal of this paper was to be read clandestinely, in Navarre, Biscay, Gipuzkoa, and Araba, though of course it also had readers in the Northern Basque Country, Paris, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Andorra, Formosa, Algeria, etc.

Around 1960-1961, he contacted with men from the new generation of Basques and that explains the appearance, under pseudonyms, of names like José Luis Alvarez Emparanza, Julen Madariaga, José María Benito del Valle, Jose Manuel Aguirre Bilbao, Federico Krutwig Sagredo, etc.

This was all happening when there was an agreement of silence over these people and their political ideology; an agreement Pello Mari Irujo never accepted.  Alongside those names came others, such as Ildefonso Gurruchaga, Marín Ugalde, Gabriel Goitia, Josu Osteriz, Carlos P. Carranza, Mikel Orrantia, etc.

From Buenos Aires, he set up a network of collaborators that would write to him from Bilbao, the Piarist Justo Mokoroa; from San Sebastian, Julio Ugarte; or from Pamplona, Pedro Turullos.  Other well-known names wrote from Mexico and Venezuela.

From Paris, England, or Saint-Jean-de-Luz, wherever he was, his brother Manuel de Irujo Ollo, who was a cover-to-cover reader of the paper, would send him his comments about the articles that were published, giving his favorable or unfavorable opinion of the same, every month.

Editing was the exclusive responsibility of Pello Mari, as it had been that of “Tellagorri” before 1960.  Through the middle of 1960, I was just there doing administrative tasks, nothing else.

One day, he surprised me by inviting me to write for Eusko Lurra—Tierra Vasca, and I accepted.  From that day on, I wrote four articles per issue under pseudonyms right up until the last issue that was published.  I was never censored, but around some cups of coffee (I believe I drank truly impressive amounts of that ambrosia with Pello), he would tell me where he agreed and disagreed with me.

Pello Mari was my best friend in Argentina; we spent hundreds of work hours together, reading originals and corrections, setting up the presses, taking packages to the post office, sticking on stamps, writing names with different handwriting, putting different issues in different mailboxes.  Everything going south of the Pyrenees was camouflaged in sports magazines, or surrounded by frivolities.

Pello Mari physically lived in Argentina for 28 years, but his head and his heart were always in the Basque Country.

Eusko-Lurra—Tierra Vasca hit issue 231 in September of 1975, and stopped publishing because Pello Mari fell seriously ill, had to be hospitalized, and undergo a long recuperation.

One day in 1977, he told me his brother Manuel was returning to Navarre, and that he was going to go with him from then on, and that’s what he did.  First, in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and then in Pamplona.  There he was, alongside the “Lion of Navarre”, always in the background, with that humility that Father Iñaki de Azpiazu used to comment, “Pello, it isn’t a virtue, it’s a vice from how much you abuse it.”

In Pamplona, first on Aoiz Street and then, after Don Manuel’s death, in the Iturralde y Suit flat, he kept working to bring Navarre and the Basque Country together.

As long as I live, I’ll always remember the huge tears I saw him cry at the Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona when, after extremely lengthy negotiations, it was not, in the end, possible to get just one candidate to run to represent the whole abertzale spectrum in Navarre.

In November 1982, I paid him a visit.  He was hospitalized in Pamplona.  I was there for several hours, and until his nephew, Pello Irujo Elizalde, came, all he did was tell me how necessary it was for the different abertzale forces to coordinate.  It was something he was obsessed about, and that failure hurt him deeply.

That was the last time I saw him.

On February 24, 1983, at the age of 73 years and two days, Pedro María de Irujo Ollo passed away.

More than once, I heard him tell his brother, Don Manuel, “Pello is the archetype of the Basque resistance fighter.  There may be those who are his equal, but none is his superior.”

Pello Mari, expect a well-earned and profound historical study on you from the young historians of the Basque Country.

All I did was try to get close to a man, to my best friend, the patriarch whose commitment to the Basque Country deserves to be known and recognized throughout the land that extends from the Adour River to the Ebro River, because that is what the man who now rests in his beloved hometown of Lizarra-Estella always felt.

Mikel  Ezkerro

Andres de Irujo Ollo
Andres de Irujo Ollo

Andrés María de Irujo 

“My trenches were books”

Speaking of Dr. Andrés María de Irujo Ollo is synonymous with the validity and spreading of Basque Culture among the Basque Diaspora.

In the 53 years he lived in Argentina, from 1940, the year he was exiled, to 1993, when he died, his life was completely and totally dedicated to making known the existence of the Basque Nation and to spreading its Culture.

He started his work in the most adverse conditions possible:  When the Southern Basque Country was living under the oppression of Francoist totalitarianism, which was not only was it anti-democratic, it was also intrinsically anti-Basque.  When the Northern Basque Country was divided into two areas, the one controlled by Nazi armies, and the one controlled by the collaborationist Marshall Petain régime.  When Hitler’s totalitarian régime imposed itself violently on Europe and only Great Britain was able to escape its control.  When Lehendakari José Antonio de Aguirre, in an extremely bold move, went underground, living with a false identity in Berlin, which would cause his other brother Manuel to create the Basque National Council in London, to act as the voice of an ancient people that was demanding its national identity and faith in the values of Democracy and Liberty, both of which were in grave danger at that time, be recognized.

Portada de los libros de la Editorial Vasca Ekin de Buenos Aires
Cover of a book published by the Ekin Publishing House in Buenos Aires

In Buenos Aires, Andrés María de Irujo set out, and achieved, alongside another exiled historian, Dr. Isaac López Mendizabal, an eminent Basque philologist who was considered a patriarch of Basque letters, the co-founding of a publishing house aimed at spreading Basque culture.  The name they chose for their house was “Ekin,” which means “to do” in Basque, but in a concrete, tangible way; “to undertake”.

They got in touch with another Basque who had emigrated to Argentina in 1910, Sebastián de Amorrortu Beitia.  He was, along with his children Pedro, Félix, Victor, and Francisco, the owner of one of the most important graphics companies in Argentina.

Don Sebastián de Amorrortu, at the end of the 19th century in Bilbao, had been not only a personal friend to Don Sabino de Arana Goiri, but also the printer for the newspapers the latter founded, Bizkaitarra and Baserritarra.  He also published all his political and linguistic works, thanks to his being one of the first Basque nationalists.  All of this would mean that during Arana’s life, and after his death in 1903, he would be persecuted by the Spanish administration for his work as a printer.  This persecution forced him to emigrate to Argentina, where he settled down in 1910 and started up a small graphics shop where his whole family worked.  The quality of his work would make his, over time, one of the most important graphics companies in Argentina, and indeed, in South America.

As Andrés would admit in several interviews, without the boundless generosity of Sebastián de Amorrortu, who passed away in 1949, and without his children, Ekin could never have existed, and Andrés would remember the honesty that characterized the former: “No one did more for all things Basque in those days than Sebastián de Amorrortu.”

In 1965, the Children of Sebastián de Amorrortu were the ones who printed the first edition of the Complete Works of Sabino de Arana Goiri in the world.

At Ekin, Dr. López took care of cultural topics, and Andrés María took care of politics and current events.  In total, the Ekin Basque Publishing House published more than 100 titles in Basque and Spanish.  The first of these was published in 1942, and it was El genio de Nabarra by Arturo Campión.

When Lehendakari Aguirre, who had recovered his own identity in Uruguay, reached Argentina, he gave Andrés Irujo a copy of his diary, written while he was in hiding in his saga throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.  This historical document was published by Ekin in Buenos Aires, having been reviewed by Aguirre himself.

Edición del Libro «De Guernica a New York pasando por Berlín» del lehendakari Aguirre. Editorial Ekin de Buenos Aires, 1944
“De Guernica a New York pasando por Berlín” by Lehendakari Aguirre.
Ekin, Buenos Aires, 1944

This book, titled “De Guernica a Nueva York pasando por Berlín” (From Guernica to New York by way of Berlin) was a Basque best-seller back then, and three editions were run.  One of those editions was as a pocket version, so it could be smuggled into the Southern Basque Country more easily by the Basque Resistance.

The same would happen with another of Lehendakari Aguirre’s works, “Cinco conferencias”, an anthology of dissertations he gave at universities throughout the New World on his 1942 tour.

Ekin would also publish other Basque authors’ works, including Vicente de Amezaga, Justo  Gárate, Manuel de Irujo, Isaac Lopez Mendizabal, Lehendakari Jesús María Leizaola, Jesús de Galindez, Father Bonifacio de Ataun, Pedro de Basaldua, etc, etc, etc.  Andrés María de Irujo himself, under the pseudonym A. de Lizarra, is the author of two books: Los vascos y la República española and Los vascos en las Cruzadas.

Ekin also published a Basque translation of a Gaucho poem that had been translated into many languages, “Martín Fierro” by José Hernández, translated as “Matxin Burdin” by Father Txomin Jaka Kortajarena.

The publishing house was always run on a shoestring budget.  Its first office was located in the home of Dr. López, in front of the Laurak Bat Center, though it soon moved into two small rooms on the first floor of an old house located at Perú St. nº 175 in the Argentine capital.

Ekin never had any personnel on staff, as it would have been impossible to pay them.  In the mid-1960s, Dr. López, who was approaching 90, moved back home to be with his family in the Basque Country.

Andrés stayed on in that sanctum sanctorum of Basque culture, where he warmly received anyone looking for books, or to dialog with that man who was also promoting interest in knowledge about everything Basque among Argentines, the children and grandchildren of Basques from both sides of the Pyrenees.

In 1970, Laurak Bat offered him space in a large room, which he shared with the Delegation of the Basque Government and the newspaper Euzko Deya.

Mapa de Euzkadi. Publicado por la Editorial Ekin de Buenos Aires
Map of Euzkadi.
Published by Ekin in Buenos Aires

Among the Argentines, he, along with his brother Pedro María, “discovered” the person this author considers to be the most transcendental Basque-Argentine as regards Basque national ideology of the second half of the 20th century: Dr. Jose María Garciarena Aguerre.

It was the generous patronage of Dr. Graciarena that allowed for the publication of several pamphlets titled Colección Aberri ta Askasuna; one of which included a full-color map of the Basque Country, which was passed around clandestinely in large numbers during the Francoist era, along with a historical map and another linguistic one regarding the Basque language.

Dr. Andrés María de Irujo Ollo and Mr. Joaquin de Gamboa, two exiles, were the ones who wrote and signed the paper presented by Basque natives at the Basque World Congress held in Paris in 1956.  Dr. Garciarena and Dr. Kelmen Muto Ormaechea did the same thing for that of the Basque-Argentines.

Personally, I owe Dr. Andrés María de Irujo for his being my literary and historical tutor and mentor in all things Basque, from the day I met him in 1953, when I was 15.  Our visits were frequent between then and 1975, though the time between visits grew longer from then until his passing.  That first period I wrote about was all about “occupying the seat,” learning about the events and personal stories of Basque History in the 19th and 20th centuries, the period that most interested me about the Basque People, from him.  He even went so far as to loan me books from his personal library on Salta St.

But his work was not limited to Ekin, but also, starting in 1943, to promoting the creation of a New World Institute for Basque Studies, created in the likeness of the Eusko Ikaskuntza Society for Basque Studies, whose activities had been suspended as a result of the political consequences of the war of 1936.  Andrés de Irujo was one of the co-founders of the New World version, alongside Justo Garate, Enrique de Gandia, Enrique de Gandia, and Elpidio Lasarte.

Seven years later, in 1950, this Institute’s Newsletter would appear, thanks mostly to him and him alone.  That Newsletter would publish 173 volumes, but would sadly stop publication upon his death.  By then, he was also its Director, from 1978 to 1993.  The Newsletter reached a large number of universities in the Americas and Europe, as well as many researchers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Andrés de Irujo also belonged to other institutions, such as the Laurak Bat Basque Center, the Euskal Echea Cultural and Beneficence Association, and the Juan de Garay Basque-Argentine Foundation, among others.

I’d like to finish this note with a phrase Dr. Andrés María de Irujo said in interviews with him when he returned to the Basque Country after almost 40 years abroad: “My trenches were books.”

His words are the honest Truth.  His day-to-day life was dedicated to Basque Culture, in a pacific, resolute, and tenacious struggle to spread the word about his Homeland and its culture.

Dr. Andrés María de Irujo Ollo married Dr. María Elena Etcheverry in 1978.  Dr. Etcheverry, his widow, is still at the helm of the Ekin Basque Publishing House, now located at 1880 México St. in Buenos Aires.

Dr. Andrés María de Irujo Ollo passed away on September 29, 1993 in Buenos Aires, at the age of 86.

Mikel  Ezkerro

Last Updated on Dec 20, 2020 by About Basque Country

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