And Dany Told Us: “That Man in the Picture is My Father”

After getting in touch and long conversations with the relatives of Ignacio Ibargüen in Biscay, we’ve gathered more information we’d like to share with our readers.  We’ll also be sharing the information found in the excellent FamilySearch archives.

necrologica muerte madre de Natxo Ibargüen

After Ignacio Ibargüen’s father passed away, his mother, Micaela Moneta y Luzuriaga, died on February 11, 1941 in Valmaseda (Balmaseda), as can be seen in the obituary provided by the family, meaning contact was lost with the family in Biscay.

They went on with their lives, until 1957, at the age of 57, when Ignacio Ibargüen passed away in New York, and his wife, Esperanza Ojinaga, decided to pay the family a visit.

Esperanza Ojinaga’s visit

About 1958, Esperanza Ojinaga came to Bilbao in search of her family and that of her late husband.  Esperanza had been born in Berango, Biscay, in 1911, and reached the US on April 5, 1917, when she was just six years old, accompanied by Juan Sangronis, from “Leguecho” (perhaps Getxo), aged 18.  Waiting for them there was Juan Sangronis, perhaps her maternal grandfather.  According to our information, Juan Justo Sangronis was born on March 5, 1871 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and emigrated to the US.

Esperanza Ojinaga. Entrada en USA procedente de Bilbao
Note in the Immigration Book at Ellis Island on April 5, 1917


When Esperanza arrived at Bilbao, she walked up and down Uribarri St., near number 12, near the home of Felisa, Ignacio Ibargüen’s sister, when a young man at the window noticed her and told his mother.  She came down to ask who she was looking for, and that’s how the two families, from New York and from Bilbao, met.

Earlier, Carmelo Ibargüen, resident of Balmaseda and older brother to Igancio, who had also emigrated to Argentina and been the only one to return, found out about his brother’s death from Gonzalo, train station master in Balmaseda, who had a relative in new York who had told him of the obituary in the local paper.  Then Carmelo got in touch with Esperanza, his brother’s widow, and gave her Felisa’s address in Bilbao.

Once reunited with her sister-in-law, Esperanza visited some other relatives in Balmaseda.  Carmelo had given her the address in Bilbao because it was easier to find than his, when going to Balmaseda was not so easy, as it took an hour by train.  After that visit and returning to New York, they stayed in touch by letter.  It is most likely that it is thanks to these letters that Donald (Dani) found out, as he was working for Pan-Am.

Donald (Dani) Ibargüen’s visit

A few years later, in 1960 or 1961, two men arrived in Balmaseda, one blond and the other brunet, speaking only English.  They turned out to be Donald (Dani, Peter, the Basque) and a friend of his from work.  They spent a few days at Carmelo’s house on Calle de la Cuesta; a few days later, they went on a tour of Spain, reaching Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, and a few other places, before returning to America.

Their later relationship was by letter and, curiously, Donald (Dani) wrote in Spanish and his uncle learned a bit of English.  After that first visit, they continued visiting almost yearly, sometimes even twice a year.  On one of those trips, he attended his cousin’s wedding.  Dani worked at Pan-Am as a flight supervisor, and trips were quite affordable for him.  He always brought gifts for his relatives.

Las visitas de Donald «Dani» Ibargüen 1

On another of those trips, in the 1980s, he brought some NBA shirts for his cousins and other relatives, and to thank him for the gifts, Javier Ibargüen’s wife Mari Pili bought a photo in El Corte Inglés of the workers on the beam at Rockefeller Center, and Javier had it framed to give to his nephew.  Upon opening the gift, Donald (Dani) couldn’t hold back the tears, not for the gift itself, but because it turned out one of the workers in the photos was Ignacio, his father.  That’s how the family from Biscay learned from Donald (Dani) that the “second man from the left is my father.”

Las visitas de Donald «Dani» Ibargüen 2 (reunion con primos y regalo camisetas NBA)
Giving NBA shirts – Meals with the cousins


In later visits, Dani took an interest in the culture and traditions of the Basque Country, and he used to say that he had the best family in the world, with great pride.  He got in touch with the Basque House in New York and took part in the dance group while also learning Basque.  His dream was to retire from Pan-Am and come to live in the Basque County with his great loves, his land and his ancestors.  But the airline went bust in 1991, after the terrorist attack at Lockerbie, Scotland, and he lost his retirement, and had to work at a school to keep his benefits.  

Compañeros de trabajo de Dani Ibargüen tras la quiebra de PAN-AM
Dani’s coworkers after Pan-Am went broke.

Dani Ibargüen Aberri Eguna 1995

He had knee problems and looked into having his operation here at Basurto Hospital, because he said he could only have one operated on in New York.  That was in 1997.

He returned to New York for the last time in 1999, after contracting bone cancer, and died on September 1, 2000.

Donald Peter Ibarguen. Ficha defunción
Donald Peter Ibarguen. Ficha defunción




Harresi – /3/2021 – Euskadi

Y Dani nos dijo: «El de la foto es mi padre»

Sería el año 1958, cuando Esperanza Ojinaga vino a Bilbao en busca de su familia y la de su difunto marido. Esperanza había nacido en Berango (Bizkaia) en el año 1911 y llegó a los Estados Unidos el 05/04/1917, con tan solo 6 años de edad, acompañada por Juan Sangronis, residente en Leguecho (¿Guecho/Getxo?) de 18 años de edad. En la ciudad les esperaba su ¿abuelo materno? Juan Sangronis. Según la información obtenida, Juan Justo Sangronis nació el 05/03/1871, en la ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina y emigró a los Estados Unidos.

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