On this day, September 9, in 1767, a Basque institution that has never ceased operations since, overcoming all the obstacles history has thrown at it, fulfilling the mission it was given when founded by the Guild of Our Lady of Aránzazu of Mexico City, was opened: the Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola – Vizcaínas school.
Those Basques who got together to create this institution, the Guild of Aránzazu, came from Gipuzkoa, Álava, Navarre, and Biscay. They founded it under the protection of Our Lady of Arantzazu, just like similar guilds that were founded throughout the New World colonies when Basques began organizing. Of them, and especially of the one in Lima, which is the oldest of them all, we have spoken on many occasions on the blog.
One of those groups of Basques’ main missions was to carry out social work, tending to the needy. In 1732, those Basques in Mexico City decided to create an institution to take in, protect, and educate the women of New Spain, especially girls, young women, and widows who most needed it.
It was a long road from that decision in 1732 to the school’s opening in 1767, a long and windy road full of obstacles. This wasn’t due to organizational or economic matters, but rather to the determination of those Basques to create a secular institution that was free of the tutelage of the Church and the public powers. That is, an autonomous institution.
And, in the end, they did it. They created an autonomous charity organization which, as we said, has never closed, and is the first lay school for women in the New World.
Almost three centuries have passed since those Basques decided to set this project in motion. There was a War of Independence, a war with the United States, French invasions, revolutions, changes in government… and still, the school never closed its doors.
History has proven those Basques right in their vision to create an institution with no strings attached, which could run itself, and whose main goal has always been the one it was founded with.
Of that guild of Basques, which was dissolved in the 19th century, there is still the memory of its members, many of whom played important roles in Mexican history. But, especially, there is their longest-lasting work, the one which has helped thousands and thousands of Mexican women, and for the last century, men, to get an education.
Even today, the school’s coat of arms is the Laurak Bat, the coat of arms of the four southern Basque territories, with the Mexican coat of arms at the center.
The Museum of the Colegio de las Vizcáinas is proud of its origins and of the role the Basques played in its creation. This can be seen in the short video they shared for their “birthday”, telling the story of the Tree of Guernica that is thriving in one of their patios, just like the spirit and the legacy of the Basques who founded this institution.
Zorionak on the anniversary of this school that is much more than a school: it is a top-level cultural institution, a role model in education and preservation of historical legacy, and a permanent memorial to those 18th-century Basques who decided to push for education.
We’ve spoken of this school, the longest-lasting Basque institution that is still active in the world (except for the Society of Jesus), on many occasions. Below, you can find two of our favorites about its history: