My father was born in Nanclares de la Oca (Araba, Basque Country), in 1949. Nanclares is a well-known infamous place for its state prison. In fact, my father was born in prison. His father, from Araba itself, had been recently transferred to the prison as officer. He was in the military and state prisons paid much better than being a Captain in the Spanish Army.
The prison was located near a convent of the Brothers of Christian Instruction (Lamennais Brothers). The convent had previously been a spa and casino. At that time, the prison had political prisoners, debtors, and former nazis hidden in Spain after the Second World War. My grandfather used to play chess with Otto Skorzeny, the Waffen-SS Colonel who led the Gran Sasso raid, the rescue mission that freed Mussolini from captivity, after his fall in 1943.
Conditions in Nanclares prison were appalling. Barracks were overpopulated and some inmates were held in the subterranean wells of the spa. Infections and diseases were common among the inmates. My father's family lived in the former spa building, near those same wells. Both inmates and prison officers received assistance and food from the Lamennais Borthers.
My grandfather was born in Armiñon. He was one of the seventeen siblings in a poor family in Araba. My great-grandfather was a teacher, and used to move throughout Araba working in state, provincial and municipal elementary schools. Most of the siblings were sent to Catholic seminaries and novitiates. Parents couldn't afford their education. My grandfather was in the seminary when the Civil War of 1936 broke out. He immediately left it, and joined the nationalist side, like his younger brother, who joined the Carlist requetés in Navarre. My grandfather remained in the army after the war, and his brother came back to the Redemptorist novitiate.
I've never had a strong identification with my Basque origins, and I can't feel proud of them. However, as I said several years ago, these are also my origins and I have to accept them. Perhaps, even I have the opportunity to correct them.