Josu Legarreta Bilbao. Graduate in Philosophy from the University of Valencia. He has had several offices in the Basque Government: he was designated Director for the Promotion of the Basque Language in the Department of Culture (1985), Director of Cooperative Development (1991), and Director of Relations with the Basque Collectivities in the World (1999). He led the publication of the Urazandi Collection (29 volumes) and Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas (1998). He is the author of the following works: Desde el Futuro – Nacionalismo es más democracia (2004); Sentimientos compartidos (2011); Udazkenean aske (2015); and La Cooperación vasca al Desarrollo (2016). He is also co-author of: Un Nuevo 31: Ideología y estrategia del Gobierno de Euzkadi durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial a través de la correspondencia de José Antonio Aguirre y Manuel Irujo (2007); País Vasco, ¿un nuevo Estado? (2013); Somos Vasco-Argentinos (2016); Adiós, Madre Patria (2017); and El orgullo de ser agote (2018).
The first article on this series dedicated to the bicentennial of the independence of the New World republics is written by Josu Legarreta Bilbao, a Basque with a profound knowledge of these countries and the role Basques have played in their history.
In his lengthy career as a public servant in the Basque Government, he’s led the way in two key directions in our country’s relationship with the rest of the world. As can be seen in his mini-biography, he has been the Director of Cooperative Development and Director of Relations with the Basque Collectivities in the World.
While at this post, he promoted the Urazandi collection, which has become one of the most important repositories of the history and work of Basques in the world. For us as well it has an immeasurable value, not only for its content, but also for its desire to make this accessible to the whole world: the collection is available in .pdf format and is free to download.
The title of this article fits in perfectly with the “excuse” for which the Limako Arantzazu Euzko Etxea, the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima, the Editorial Fund of Oiga Magazine, and the Euskadi Munduan Association, which is responsible for the About Basque Country blog, set this project in motion: the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence of Peru, celebrated on July 28.
But the article takes a much broader view by taking note of some of the causes that cleared the path for the colonies of the Kingdom of Spain to become the republics we know today. It then ends with some thoughts on the danger that lurks for the survival of the democracies in the 21st century, the loss of ethics in handling “public affairs.” when the people stop being the main focus of the political and economic action of governments, many people’s lives may, or do, become just as unjust as during colonial times. We’ve come too far, and worked too hard, to end up at the same point: a government for the elite.
INDEPENDENCE OF PERU
The commemoration of the anniversaries of dates of independence generally causes contradictory ideological positions. The casuistry of the countries of Latin America regarding Spain is yet one more sign. Author Carlos Fuentes, in his historical reflections in El espejo enterrado (Mexico City, 1992) described this reality with an undeniable intellectual severity: “Positions in favor of or against Spain, its culture, and its tradition have colored discussions of our political and intellectual life. Seen by some as an immaculate virgin, and by others as a filthy harlot; it has taken us time to realize that our relationship with Spain is as conflictive as the relationship of Spain is with herself: unresolved, sometimes disguised, and sometimes resolutely intolerant, she schemes, divided between absolute good and absolute evil.”
Obviously, the claims and struggles for independence are exponents of the feelings of disagreement with the taxation policies of the colonial governments. Due to them, in 1792, Peruvian Jesuit Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán wrote his famous “Letter to American Spaniards,” considered by Rubén Vargas Urgate to be the “first proclamation of the Revolution or act of independence of Spanish America,” published in French in 1799 and then in Spanish in 1801. These feelings of pain led the author to reduce the three centuries of Peruvian history to “these four words: ungratefulness, injustice, servitude, and desolation.”
But there were also some Spanish politicians who, in their reports to the Spanish Monarch, explained the political situation the New World colonies were going through with extreme delicacy; so, José de Abalos wrote a report to Carlos III in 1781 predicting the independence of the colonies and the grave dangers the monarchy was going through, pointedly stating, “I am ever more convinced of the need for a prudent and swift division of many of these provinces, creating in each a monarchy that shares the most excellent branches of Your Majesty’s august family so as to preserve them from the invasions that are currently exposed, from ambition, from jealousy, the love of independence, and from an infinity of enemies.”
Two years later, in 1783, one of the most influential people in the Court at the time, the Count of Aranda, wrote his Opinion to the king regarding the independence of the colonies, stating that “His Majesty should release himself of all possessions on the American continent, keeping only the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico in the north and some other suitable ones in the south, in order to have them serve as a layover or deposit for Spanish commerce,” with a proposal to create three kingdoms: one in Mexico, one in Peru, and a third for the remaining territories, “and His Majesty would assume the title of Emperor,” in exchange, in the case of Peru, for some annual economic contributions to be paid in gold.
But these are references to the past, when really, in the words of Octavio Paz, “the word ‘history’ designates, more than anything else, a process and a search, because it is movement, and movement is to go towards… Where? It’s not easy to answer this question: the supposed purposes of history have disappeared one after the other. Perhaps history has no purpose or end. The meaning of history is us, which we make and which, when made, we unmake.”
With this awareness of active subjects defending the rights of Peru, the Open Cabildo of Lima and its people declared independence, both from Spain and from “any other foreign domination.”
This declaration, of profound conceptual content, also contains its message for the future. This combination of forces of the citizens and the ruling class is the guarantee of the future of peoples. Two centuries ago, independence was declared from Spain, but in this globalized world, it is necessary to make the effort every day, not only for independence from foreign powers, but also from domestic ones. It is a requirement to be free of the dictatorships of one’s own country’s ruling class which reminds the citizens, when necessary, that its votes are needed for power, but forgetting that there are political behaviors that submit the citizens to lives that are just as unfair as they were in the time of the colonists. The People will never enjoy true freedom as long as there is a ruling class, be it political or religious, which does not abandon its deification. The future of the independence of these countries especially depends on ensuring that the behaviors of the ruling class lead to a true ethical revolution.