2004-04-20 19:09:27 UTC
Interview with Jorge Zorreguieta:
"Máxima inherited the essential virtues of the Basques".
In the window on to Diagonal Norte Street a handwritten sign says
"Fundación Juan de Garay" [Argentine-Basque Foundation "Juan de
Garay"]. It was improvised during the worst days of "corralito"
[financial constrains], when savers claimed beating pots in Buenos
Aires' downtown. "They thought that this office belonged to the bank
downstairs and broke our window. So we had to hang this sign, which is
not really authorized..."
Jorge Zorreguieta has been the chairman for 9 years of this
Argentina-Basque organization founded in 1983. He's also the head of
Centro Azucarero Argentino, and executive in many other organizations,
but Zorreguieta is better known as the father of Máxima, the princess
of the Netherlands. Even Basques are surely more informed about his
being questioned in the Netherlands for his post as Undersecretary of
Agriculture during the last military dictatorship than as head of the
Foundation. That matter made Zorreguieta and his wife, María del
Carmen Cerruti, not to assist to her daughters marriage with prince
William. And also motivated the now grandparents of Catherina-Amalia,
the daughter of the royal couple, to isolate from the press, almost
Nevertheless, Zorreguieta welcomes LA NACION in the austere library
and meeting room of the Foundation, near a bust of Miguel de Unamuno,
a picture of San Sebastián in 1835, a photograph of Adolfo Bioy
Casares and another one of, yes, Máxima and William.
The "Juan de Garay", which annually distinguished personalities of
Basque origin, is celebrating its two decades with the new edition of
"Los vascos en la Argentina" ["Basques in Argentina"], a monumental
volume of 1200 pages and 3.5 kilograms ("we call him the baby ," says
one of its writers) with information of around ten thousand surnames.
And about this, yes, Zorreguieta wants to talk: "We calculate that
about 10% of the Argentine population descends from Basques. And it's
evident that Basques have got a major participation in this countries
life: for example, a 32% of Presidents was of Basque origin," says
with the book in his hand, hoping for a new larger edition.
-Where had you ancestors arrived in Argentina? .
-To Salta. José Antonio de Zorreguieta established there around 1790.
The first three generations remained in Salta, until my grandfather
moved to Mendoza. Later, my father was born in Buenos Aires, as I did.
-What have you discovered about your family when studying the Past?
-I've always been very pride of having a Basque surname, but I've been
able to know much more about my ancestors. José Antonio de Zorreguieta
was a working man who progressed. He married Micaela Maurin and had a
series of children that... Well, the Zorreguietas have been part of
Argentina's history, so to speak. My great grandfather, Mariano
Zorreguieta, for example, was Deputy Governor of Salta and a well
known historian. I've also discovered that, through a family line, I
descended from an Inca princess.
-Where was José Antonio de Zorreguieta exactly from?
-From a place called Elduayén, near Tolosa, in Guipúzcoa. Something
strange happened to me: Once somebody, anonimous, sent me a picture
and a note saying "This is the house of your ancestors. The house of
Sorreguieta." Like that, with an "s", because it was here where the
"s" was dropped and the "z" adopted. I went there during the 80s.
Knocked the door and a lady appeared. When I introduced myself, she
answered: "You cannot be right because there are no Sorreguietas
left." I showed her my passport and said: "This with z, it should be
with an s." When I convinced her, she explained to me that we were
cousins, because she received the property from her Sorreguieta
grandmother. She was very excited. She even gave me a copies of the
family coat of arms, from the "Juanes de Sorreguieta", who had fighted
in the Crusades, in the Carlist Wars, everywhere...
-Did the lady heard about what happened with the Argentine branch of
-I don't know, it was an old woman... I visited once more, after, and
we write each other, but we lost contact.
-Do your siblings interest for these matters?
-Well, I've always given them all the information. Of course, some of
them are more interested in it than others.
-She's interested in genealogy, from where we come from. I think my
daughter has inherited the essential virtues of the Basques: honesty,
character, work and the value of the word.
-Have any of these books been sent to the Netherlands?
-I don't know... I think I sent one to my daughter, but I'm not sure.
Because I've sent her so many things...
-Do you send her many things?
-Well, we send everything that it's for her. Argentineans send her
presents, letters, especially now after her daughter's birth. Unknown
people, spontaneously. They may stay calm, everything is sent.
Besides, I know that Máxima appreciates it, so we do it with pleasure.
-Do you intend to visit her?
-No, not for the moment; I've been there in December. But I have a
meeting in Brussels in May, and then I will try to visit her.
-Do the limitations to be present in Maxima's marriage affect also the
possibility of visiting her in the Netherlands?
-No, I've travelled normally. In fact, things were different to what
was informed here. But I prefer not to talk about the subject.
-If there was a confusion, wouldn't be good to make it clear?
-It was a painful moment. But for me is an old story.
As a marriage present by its 300 members, "Fundación Juan de Garay"
sent Máxima Zorreguieta, its chairman's daughter, a "makila", a
traditional Basque baton, used in the old days by shepherds and now
appreciated as a ceremonial object. "She keep it in a preferencial
place in the living room says her father. Many people see it and ask
about it. It has a point in the bottom. But I wouldn't like to defend
myself from a bear with it..."
LA NACION | 11.04.2004 | Página 14 | Espectáculos