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Childhood

When the year 1889 had almost come to an end, more specifically on the last day of that year, Mr. José Miguel de Barandiarán was born in the Perune-Zarre country house in Ataun. He was the last of Francisco Antonio Barandiarán and María Antonia Ayerbe's nine children. Two of the five sons had died in childhood and three of the four daughters had become nuns.

It was José Miguel's father who bought the country house and the fields they farmed and which had previously rented. Apart from being a farmer, he was also a cattle raiser. José Miguel remembers how his father, coming back from the Alsasua or Ordizia livestock fairs, put the money earned in view of the whole family. They were not rich, but they did not suffer from hardship either.

Most families in Ataun were farmers, at that time. Out of the 1,000 inhabitants living in the area of S. Gregorio, there were no more than 20 people who could write their signature.

By the time José Miguel was born, the first bus between Ataun and Beasain had started to run, but still during the first decade of this century, those who used this bus were considered to be wealthy.

The Spanish language was only spoken by the priests and some rich people. It was considered to be the language of the rich and learned.

The atmosphere of the village and its people was filled with mythical and magical experiences. Children greeted the moon calling it "Illargi amandrea" (Mother Moon). They thought that there was a bridge in the village which had been built by Mikolas. In ancient times, the "lamias" used to live under this bridge and witches washed their clothes in the river during nights of the full moon. They also believed that Tartalo, the one eyed cannibal, had lived in the caves nearby and that the "basajaun" (the lord of the wood) lived in the woods.

All these beliefs were alive in the feelings of people and some customs or practices, like protecting the house with branches of hawthorn and ash on the eve of S. Juan or finding protection against witches by placing the eguzki-lore (sunflower) at the front door of a country house, were very common.

Nevertheless, all this was carried out in an atmosphere filled with Christian traditions. Religious vocations were very common. José Miguel's family used to read the lives of the Saints regularly while they shelled corn.

It was in this Christian environment, filled with very ancient myths and traditions, where José Miguel spent his childhood.

José Miguel has always had very vivid memories of this childhood and has always shown a deep bond with his people and home town. While in exile in Sara, he used to visit Larrun, because he could see Ernio from that place and from Ernio he could see the house where he was born. This bond had the memories and nostalgia of his family as a central and main axis. He said it himself: "This warmth of the family leaves deep traces in most cases, above all in the children of the Basque country houses. As this affection is so intense, so constant, it is almost the only one that feeds the life of a man for a long time".

So, let's continue with his family. His father couldn't read or write, but he knew what he wanted. The organist of the village told him that one of his daughters had a liking and a gift for music and thus, without thinking twice, he bought her a piano. A piano which arrived in an oxcart to a Basque country house in Ataun at the end of the XIX century. This piano was brought from Ordizia on a fair day. This daughter entered afterwards in a convent, taught Music in some other convents and was finally organist at St. Bernard de Anglet.

JESUS ALTUNA DK.