The story and adventures of Eusebio “El Vasco” Zamacola Abrisquet are more than enough for a good book and one of those streaming miniseries that become global hits.
We discovered him on the website of the Argentine network Todo Noticias, TN, in an article by Cecilia Di Lodovico. While researching more information about this amazing person, we came across a magificent article by Javier Echarri on Euskonews (where else, as this is one of the crown jewels of Basque culture and history on the internet).
This Basque was born in Basauri in 1904, grew up in Galicia, and was taken as a replacement soldier to fight in Tétouan against the Berbers who were rising up against the oppression of Spanish colonial rule. After this hard experience, he returned to the Peninsula and became an anarchist and unionist, before emigrating to Argentina.
There, starting in 1930, he became a well-known and popular bandit, as a part of Segundo David Peralta’s “Mate Cosido” band. It can be said that he was the archetype of those bandits that end up getting called “Robin Hood”: he stole from the rich and never from the poor, was well-liked by the lower classes, and never killed anyone.
As Cecilia Di Lodovico explains in her article:
“The newspaper articles celebrated one aspect of his style that distinguished him from Peralta: ‘He doesn’t kill,’ they highlighted. They even let slip a certain admiration for El Vasco: he looted companies that exploited workers and gave part of the money to those who helped him. Another value his contemporaries highlighted: he never stole from the poor.”
Or as Javier Echarri says in his:
“Zamacola was no common man, nor a common criminal. He faced up to a corrupt police force and powerful companies who exploited their workers, maintaining those ideals that caused him to emigrate from the peninsula. He was backed up by the humble people of the Chaco, who he lived with once he’d paid for his crimes. He had courage and ambition, principles and codes, political and social ideals that he never let go of; he kept his word, his solidarity, and his respect for life. All this made Zamacola, El Vasco, a legend in the Chaco.”
As is normal in these cases, he ended up getting arrested in 1938, and spent a long time in jail. There, he told the other inmates, “The worst thing that can happen to a man is for him to become a criminal.”
And that was the sign for a new stage in the life of this Basque in the Chaco. He succeeded in leaving behind his life of crime and became “a good man”, moving to Quitilipi, 140 km (90 mi) north of the regional capital. There, he was an administrator at a sawmill, and where his next eight children were born, having already had two while he was a bandit. He led a quiet life, and retired to Buenos Aires province, where he died in 1983.
This story is, like we said at the beginning, worthy of a series on a worthy streaming service: it’s the story of a Basque in the world that is not well known in our country, and we doubt is well-known even in his hometown of Basauri.
For those who’d like to no more, the author of the Euskonews article we’re bringing you, Javier Echarri, also wrote “Eusebio Zamacola Abrisqueta: Un basauritarra en el Chaco argentino”, which won the Manuel de Irujo Award in 2010 and was published as a book by the Basque Government. It’s available, free of charge in .pdf format on the Basque Government’s website.
TN – 3/4/2022 – Argentina
Las dos vidas de El Vasco Zamacola: asaltos extravagantes con Mate Cosido y buen vecino en Quitilipi
Eusebio “El Vasco” Zamacola Abrisqueta fue pieza clave en la banda de Segundo David Peralta, más conocido por su alias, “Mate Cosido”. Aunque el pasado lo ubica como el lugarteniente del célebre bandido rural, algunos se atreven a asegurar que fue, en realidad, su líder. Todos coinciden en remarcar que fue el único del grupo criminal que alcanzó la utopía: reinsertarse en la sociedad, dejando atrás un tendal de delitos memorables.
Euskonews – 2011 – Euskadi
Eusebio Zamacola Abrisqueta: un basauritarra en el Chaco argentino
El ensayista chaqueño Ramón de las Mercedes Tissera, en un artículo publicado en el Diario El Territorio en 1969, sostuvo: Los bandoleros representan algo muy distinto de las manifestaciones vulgares o tenebrosas de la perversión: el crimen, la corrupción, la servicia, el latrocinio furtivo… Los pocos maleantes que han trascendido el mero campo del delito para convertirse en bandoleros, se presentan como hombres dotados de condiciones especiales. Hasta sus actos más alevosos se revelan como excepciones. Tienen no sólo el arrojo para entregar su destino a la suerte de cada momento, sino que consiguen la solidaridad —manifiesta o íntima— de mucha gente y hasta de sectores sociales que no han renegado de sus principios morales pero ven en ellos una especie de reparación o desquite de sus calamidades, de su pobreza, de sus desengaños.