This article was translated by John R. Bopp
This year, at the end of August, we’d like to state for the record what happened on August 30, 1866, which was a clear example of the ability of Basque communities around the world to resist and overcome.
We’re referring to the event the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima, which we’ve blogged about many times before, underwent. This came about because in 1865, the Brotherhood was hit with what seemed a mortal blow that would inevitably lead to its disappearance.
That was the year the Government of Peru decreed that it would expropriate and disentail all the Brotherhood’s assets. Those of our readers who have read some articles on this, the oldest Basque entity in the Americas, founded in 1612, will remember that this Brotherhood was born to attend to the material and spiritual needs of the Basques who lived in or were visiting Lima. Its activities grew until it became a broad social-action network with an extraordinary reach, and had become the go-to organization to meet social needs at the time.
That decree, at least from a legal point of view, eliminated a Brotherhood that had, since its inception, had acted autonomously in relation to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The only alternative that seemed to remain was to turn into a cofradía, dedicated exclusively to religious matters, under the control of Church authorities. That would mean they would lose not only their property, resources, and functions as a Brotherhood, but also the spirit with which they were created in 1612 by the “members of the Basque nation” in Lima. It would mean losing the founding goals of the Brotherhood, the means to carry them out, and the independence to make the necessary decisions; decisions which, on the other hand, when made, were made unanimously, by all the members.
A few months later, on August 30, 1866, twenty-four families that had made up part of the Brotherhood got together and decided to keep this Basque community alive, even if it was with an “unofficial” structure. They decided to press on and maintain the egalitarian and committed spirit of those Basques who had maintained it for over 250 years.
They turned the National Club of Lima, where they had been meeting since its foundation in 1855, into their new headquarters, and from there, just as they had from every place life and business had taken them, kept the Brotherhood alive, and continued its social and cultural activities, even to our day.
Since then, every year on August 30, they join together to remember that historical decision and to pay homage to those who made up that Basque community even before them, for over four centuries.
That decision, and the commitment of different generations to fulfill it, has allowed this Basque institution to stay alive so that today it can help create a new Euzko Etxea which will probably be the first to have a presence in headquarters throughout the Americas, following the lives and destinies of the members of those 24 families who, on August 30, 134 years ago, did not allow themselves to be beaten by a decree that seemed to condemn them to oblivion.
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