The Fall of 1969 and The Winter of 1973

May 21, 2013Life

I used to have this fantasy years ago about disappearing, and restart my life with a new identity and personal history. Of course that will never happen because I blog, I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as LinkedIn. For someone who borders on the “I want to be alone” edge, I have marked my spot in the various social media venues, and that makes me easy to be found. So I can’t hide from the IRS, the Feds, collection agencies, angry ex-boyfriends, furious wives, future stalkers, curious classmates, or family members.

Now don’t get the impression that I don’t welcome outreach from friends from the past or from members of my family. Those are always lovely surprises and when I get an email or a message on Facebook, I’m flattered that the person made the effort to find me, but then again it’s pretty easy. Narcissist that I am, I have self-portraits plastered all over the interwebs. So, really, there is no hiding for me.

This desire for anonymity strangely dredges memories of my youth in Spain. As I wrote in the Summer of 1969, my mother and I continued to stay in Spain because Americans were being murdered by drugged-out hippies in their homes (well, to be more precise, in two neighborhoods in Los Angeles, CA). And my mother—who had survived the Spanish Civil War in the hot, red zone of Asturias—was no way in hell planning to put her child or herself in danger (at least that was the party line for years). So off we went to Durango—in the Basque country—to stay with my uncle Luis, my aunt Anjelita, and my two cousins Mertxe and Koldo.

And here’s the irony—my mother felt safer in the Basque country where the organization of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA, is based. According to Wikipedia, since 1968 ETA has been held responsible for killing 829 individuals, injuring thousands and undertaking dozens of kidnappings. From Wikipedia, here’s a rundown:

Founded at the end of July 1959 as Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom) by students frustrated by the moderate stance of the Basque Nationalist Party. ETA held their first assembly in Bayonne, France, in 1962, during which a “declaration of principles” was formulated and following which a structure of activist cells was developed.Subsequently, Marxist and third-worldist perspectives developed within ETA, becoming the basis for a political program set out in Federico Krutwig’s 1963 book Vasconia, which is considered to be the defining text of the movement. In contrast to previous Basque nationalist platforms, Krutwig’s vision was anti-religious and based upon language and culture rather than race. ETA’s third and fourth assemblies, held in 1964 and 1965, adopted an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist position, seeing nationalism and the class struggle as intrinsically connected.

ETA’s first killing occurred on 7 June 1968, when Guardia Civil member José Pardines Arcay was shot dead after he tried to halt ETA member Txabi Etxebarrieta during a routine road check. Etxebarrieta was chased down and killed as he tried to flee. This led to retaliation in the form of the first planned ETA assassination: that of Melitón Manzanas, chief of the secret police in San Sebastián and associated with a long record of tortures inflicted on detainees in his custody. In December 1970, several members of ETA were condemned to death in the Proceso de Burgos (“Burgos Trial”), but international pressure resulted in their sentences being commuted (a process which, however, had by that time already been applied to some other members of ETA).

In early December 1970, ETA kidnapped the German consul in San Sebastian, Eugen Beilh, in order to exchange him for the Burgos defendants. He was released unharmed on Christmas Eve.

Nationalists who refused to follow the tenets of Marxism-Leninism and who sought to create a united front appeared as ETA-V, but lacked the support to challenge ETA.

The most significant assassination performed by ETA during Franco’s dictatorship was Operación Ogro, the December 1973 bomb assassination in Madrid of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco’s chosen successor and president of the government (a position roughly equivalent to being a prime minister). The assassination had been planned for months and was executed by placing a bomb in the sewer below the street where Carrero Blanco’s car passed every day. The bomb blew up beneath the politician’s car and threw it five stories into the air and over the top of a nearby building onto a balcony in a nearby courtyard.

For some in the Spanish opposition, Carrero Blanco’s assassination i.e. the elimination of Franco’s chosen successor was an instrumental step for the subsequent establishment of democracy.

I don’t want to portray my mother as an extremist or a terrorist sympathizer, but as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War, and what she witnessed as a child, she had no love for Franco and his henchmen. So if a Guardia Civil officer or any official of the dictatorship was killed by ETA, it was justified because, from her point of view, the Guardia Civil and any of Franco’s thugs were equivalent to stormtroopers, the SS, and the Gestapo.

What has any of this have to do with being found via the Internet? Absolutely nothing with the exception of this: My cousin Mertxe, the one who lives in the Basque country emailed me on Facebook over the weekend. We haven’t been in touch since 1969 when my mother and I stayed a month with her family in Durango. Her email was a wonderful and welcome surprise, and now for the past few days, we’ve been emailing back and forth. And I hope that sometime in the near future I’ll be able to travel to Spain and reacquaint myself with my Basque family members.

Oh, as for the Winter of 1973 that’s alluded to in the title? Well, the day we landed at Barajas airport in Madrid was the day Carrero Blanco himself took flight. When my mother learned of the news, she said with a smug smile of satisfaction spreading across her face, “Bienvenida, Tere.”