Three years ago, at this time, we dedicated an article to remembering the tour Lehendakari Aguirre made to most Latin American countries in 1942.  On that voyage, which he took at the hardest time for democracies standing up to the Axis powers in the Second World War, the president of the Basques visited Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Chile.

El Lehendakari Aguirre
Lehendakari Aguirre

On this occasion, with just a year until the 80th anniversary of that tour, we again remember that journey and what it meant.  This is also a part in our series on the bicentennial of the independence of the New World republics.

But this is more a kind of continuation of the article we published a few days ago, recalling another tour he took through the heart of Nazi-occupied Europe in order to reach the safety offered in those hard times by the Americas.

This time, we’re going to focus on the image and the prestige that the young president of the Basques had among the democrats of Ibero-America.  They were all enemies of totalitarianism and refused to be influenced by the propaganda of the Francoist insurgents and were not seduced by the hypnotic power of what seemed to be the unstoppable triumph of the totalitarians. 

That 1942 tour had a goal that was far greater than creating and reinforcing the networks that connected the Basque Government with the Basques who supported democracy in all countries, which was hugely important in itself.

It was a movement, a very well planned movement, to have one person with a powerful support network throughout the whole New World and high esteem in important political and social sectors in Ibero-America spread the message of resistance to fascism, of support for democracy, and of an active posture against the attempts of the Axis to become the dominant power in the world.

The Basques could also offer a network of informants and intelligence, able to gather information about the activity of the fascists in the Americas and Europe.  As we’ve said before, this network was, at least in part, responsible for significant contributions to the Allies’ fight against the Axis.

But, against all logic, the Basque support in the logistical and war effort to finish off the Axis was not well or openly received by all the Allies.  There was a clear reluctance on the part of the British and the Americans to accept support or show any closeness to a government in exile of a country that wasn’t independent.

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Members of the Gernika battalion, in Montalivet, Gironda. April 1945. Archive photo Pedro Ordoqui

The reason for this position, which delayed the start of an efficient collaboration, was the fear of both countries’ leaders of clearly supporting the Basque democrats in exile, or even approaching them, and thereby angering Franco and causing him to enter the war; his neutrality was important.  To this we must also add the British government’s thinly-veiled support of Franco as he was, after all, anti-Marxist and all about order, in their opinion.


To better understand the Basque republicans’ commitment to the Allies against the Axis, which was actively sought by the Basque authorities, we’d like to share with you this work by David Mota, titled:

Unidos en la lucha contra el Eje. El Gobierno Vasco, las agencias de información estadounidenses y el tour propagandístico de José Antonio Aguirre por Latinoamérica de 1942
(United in the fight against the Axis: the Basque Government, American información agencies, and the propaganda tour of José Antonio Aguirre in Latin America in 1942)

In it, all the hard work done to collaborate in the war effort on the side of the Allies is analyzed, and Lehendakari Aguirre’s tour of Ibero-America in 1942 is described.  It also shares with us a story that should be much better known: the intelligence gathering, political lobbying, and propaganda sharing by the Basque exiles in the Americas in favor of the Allies.

In this article, the relationships between the Basques and the Americans regarding propaganda and intelligence is analyzed, highlighting the Lehendakari’s tour as the turning point in those relationships.  It also shares data on the pact they made on espionage, and this tour was considered a necessary first step to establishing Basque information cells in Latin America.

On the other hand, to better understand the prestige and esteem the Lehendakari had in the Americas as the visible head of the anti-fascist republican Basques, we also bring you a document we found especially interesting.

It’s a transcription of a session in the Congress of Peru debating the actions that body, and the Government of Peru, should take to celebrate the arrival of Lehendakari Aguirre on August 30, 1942.

Recibimiento al Lehendakari Aguirre en Lima durante su gira americana de 1942. FONDO EDITORIAL REVISTA OIGA
Lehendakari Aguirre’s reception in Lima during his 1942 tour. OIGA MAGAZINE ARCHIVES

As we said, we found this document to be highly valuable, both for the importance given to the Lehendakari’s arrival and to the reference to other Latin American governments’ similar positions.

This transcription is part of the archives of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima, the first Basque institution in the Americas, founded in 1612.  The members of this Brotherhood played a leading, key, role in making sure that the twelve hours the Lehendakari spent in Lima became a whirlwind of meetings and receptions:

    • He was welcomed by President Manuel Prado Ugarteche, a descendant of a renowned Basque family.  He was the politician who led the countries of Ibero-America in supporting the Allies and whose commitment to democracy was fundamental in aligning the nations of the Americas against the fascists.
    • He was received by the deputies and senators of the Congress of Peru.
    • He was treated as a guest of honor at the University of San Marcos, the oldest in the Americas.
    • He gave a speech which was broadcast on Peruvian National Radio.
    • He was honored in a reception with massive attendance. 
    • He attended a dinner at the Club Nacional.

To understand the reasons why Lima went all-out to receive the Lehendakari, please read the debate that took place in the Congress of Peru.  It shows the esteem José Antonio de Aguirre y Lecube was held to by all democrats.  It was high enough to be immune to the lies told by the Spanish fascists and their South American friends, who did exist, against him.

This image of him as a statesman was forged with his integrity and his commitment to freedom, democracy, and social justice.  But it was cemented by the immense network of “friends of the Basques” that was set up worldwide and thus able to fight the lies of the fascists.

Debate en el Congreso de Perú sobre la llegada del Lehendakari Aguirre

We’ll also leave you with an article by Raúl de Mendiburu that was published in the Peruvian newspaper La Crónica on the same day the Lehendakari arrived.

Artículo de Raul de Mugaburu en el diario peruano Las Crónica el día en que llegó el Lehendakari Aguirre
Article by Raúl de Mugaburu in the Peruvian newspaper La Crónica on the same day the Lehendakari arrived
Artículo de Raúl de Mugaburu en la Crónica sobre la llegada del lehendakari a Lima