But today’s entry is a bit more special, because he was born on September 5, 1923, in the Huarochirí district of the province of Lima. That was exactly 99 years ago. What that means is that the countdown is now on to marking the centenary of his birth.
Paco Igartua the journalist
It is possible, even likely, that his name will not ring a bell for those of our readers who are not from Peru. But he was the journalist and social and political analyst who had the greatest influence on Peruvian society between 1948, when he founded the weekly Oiga!, to his death in 2004. In those 56 years, every when (when the magazine wasn’t closed, and he was able to write because he wasn’t imprisoned or in exile), Peruvians devoured his op-eds and political analysis. It didn’t matter whether the reader was in favor or against his point: everyone was interested in knowing what Igartua thought. His texts always covered matters that were of maximum import, and they always featured at the center of the debate.
Igartua was a complex, multifaceted person, but his whole life was centered on just a few themes: freedom, democracy, social justice, and the freedom of the press.
Today, Peru, after decades of permanent social and political crisis, is going through rough times, full of corruption, political and social instability, an economic crisis, a legitimacy crisis of State, and outrageous corruption and cronyism. This ends up giving the impression of a country that’s falling apart, which is a shame, because given its wealth and amazing human resources, it was (and still could be) a world leader in its development and advancements in social justice.
In this situation, rereading the op-eds that Igartua published in Oiga until dictator Alberto Fujimori managed to close it for good, means seeing the journalist’s clarity, vision, and bravery. That definitive closure also left him penniless, in his effort to not leave his workers penniless. Despite the closure, he continued using the pen to denounce everything he thought needed to be denounced, especially the abuse of power, the incompetence of the government, terrorist violence, and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the poor. He did so in articles he published under the general title Canta Claros, which were published right up until he died.
Paco Igartua, a committed Basque descendant
Paco Igartua was very aware of his roots and, like so many Basque descendants, felt a deep connection to the land of his forebears. In the article we dedicated to him last year, we covered the close relationship he had with our country as well as his leading participation in the first two World Congresses of Basque Collectivities, which he attended on the express invitation of the Lehendakari himself. He was unable to attend the third because of the machinations of those who had taken over the Basque Center Igartua had helped found. They did not forward the personal invitation the Lehendakari once again to him. No institution, not even Basque ones, are free of human meanness.
His vision of his homeland, and his commitment to it, is well documented in the “canta claro” he wrote on September 7, 2002, where he tells his Peruvian readers of his vision of the “Basque topic” during some truly complicated times.
A year dedicated to Paco Igartua
For us, Francisco “Paco” Igartua is a key person in the Basque diaspora in Latin America, not only for what his work in Peru, but also for his commitment to the Basque Country.
Over the next year, in collaboration with Oiga magazine and Limako Arantzazu Euzko Etxea, founded thanks to the impetus of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Aranzazu of Lima which was founded in 1612 by the “sons of the Basque nation” who lived in that city, we have set ourselves the goal of dedicating a series of articles to him in the lead-up to the centenary of his birth. In them, we will bring you different aspects of his life and work. Moreover, we’ll be organizing different activities and events which will be held in his memory.
We’d like to get this series of articles off with one that was sent to us by someone who knew him well. That would be Josu Legarreta, who was the Director of Cooperation and Development (1991) and the Director of Relations with the Basque Collectivities in the world (1999) in the Basque Government.
In his article, he analyzes Paco Igartua through the close personal relationship he had with him. This article is more than a description or biography of a person. It is one person’s personal insight the life and doings of this Basque journalist and committed individual.
MI DIOS ES LA LIBERTAD
Josu Legarreta Bilbao. Degree in Philosophy from the University of Valencia. He has held several offices in the Basque Government: he was designated the Director for the Promotion of Basque at the Department of Culture (1985), the director of Cooperation and Development (1991), and the Director of Relations with the Basque Collectivities in the World (1999). He managed 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 the 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).