Make your own free website on




Antecedentes  Travesia   The Lives of Vicente Amezaga y Mercedes Iribarren 

Venezuela: 1955-1969

In 1955, Aita made the difficult decision to explore a job opportunity in Caracas, Venezuela.  The reasons were largely economic.  The family had been in difficult financial circumstances in Montevideo, where Aita supported them all with a combination of jobs, including teaching and translating.  Aita was now in his mid fifties and becoming anxious about the long term prospects for himself and his family.  In the mid-1950s two of Ama’s sisters (Tia Lola and Tia Mari) and a niece (Maria Louisa, daughter of Mari) were living in Caracas and they urged him to come there because the city was experiencing an economic boom and he could certainly find a better paying job.  In particular, Maria Louisa’s husband was looking for someone trustworthy to be the accountant for his company, and since Aita had studied business before he went to law school and had worked as an accountant in Montevideo, they thought he would make an ideal candidate.

The plan was for Aita to go to Caracas alone and stay three months to see how he liked the job and the surroundings.  Ama and the children would join him if all went well, but they all hoped that he would return to Montevideo so they could stay there. 

In my last year of high school I allowed myself to be drawn more and more into the daily routine of the school and the convent.  I was preparing with more joy and the years before for their annual retreat, a period of three days during which the ordinary high school schedule stopped completely to allow each of us to examine the state of our conscience and to meditate on our eternal destiny.  During the retreat silence was supposed to be complete, interrupted only to go to the chapel for prayers and songs, and to hear a series of lectures by the Dominican priests.  This atmosphere made me emerge from the retreat happy and more at peace with myself than I had ever been before.  Now I enjoyed more of the beauty of simple things that I had taken for granted like the beauty of the sky and stars the many-colored flowers in the park, the birds singing and the trees in bloom.

For some reason the retreat molded and impressed me in some way.  The silence of those days spoke to me of a different kind of happiness.  Gradually I was getting detached from the activities of the outside world to concentrate on the school and the convent.  I went to Mass at dawn every day, walking alone through the still, dark streets.  Something brought me face to face with my inner self and inspired in me a growing commitment to the silent world of prayers, and the external things outside the walls of that building faded into the distance.  My academic ambitions continued. Even though I loved biology I only won the awards for attendance and religion, evidence of a desire to be at school every day and as a result of being in good health.  But now my religious horizons were expanded and I was totally involved in learning and deepening my religious faith.  I was more introverted and I found pleasure in solitude in the healing silence of religious life.

I had been many times to the empty chapel by myself to pray for direction.  In the background I heard the angelical voices of the nuns singing which filled the small church and I felt completely transported to another world.  I started to think that I wanted to belong to this peaceful, quiet, spiritual life where there was security, compassion and understanding.  At least that was how I felt.  About this time a very good friend of mine suddenly left her boy friend and decided to become a nun.  Carmencita (now Sister Rachel) invited me to her house to say goodbye.

I was committed to securing a religious life on the firm structure of the convent, which gave me support and which felt consoling in my prayers.  I took this part of my life as solely mine, separated from my parents’ sad world of exiles that I didn’t want to participate in at that moment.  I wanted to belong to my surroundings; I needed that security.  I found in the peaceful routine of the convent life a way to sustain myself.  I loved the beautiful environment of the gardens, the comfort of being in that chapel praying alone.  And I also found strength in the convictions of the nuns.  They gave me the support, kindness and direction that I needed.  I turned to God for direction in my life, for consolation, and I found in this self-denying world of the convent the healing substance of religion, which went so well with my spiritual values and my personality.

Meanwhile I was an active participant in all the religious aspects of the school.  I belonged to the group called “Accion Catolica” (Catholic Action), I went with the school choir to sing in nursing homes, I participated in the Eucharistic Congress that took place in Montevideo’s huge Estadio Centenario, which moved me more than anything else in those moments.  I performed in the theater and attended “Cine Forum” events where we discussed films we had seen.  I was also involved in sports, especially the basketball champion team.  Involved in all these events I had been at some distance from my family so I knew nothing about their economic tensions.  My father’s health started to fail.  He had too much on his shoulders, and a lot of the tension was emotional.  He had four children in Catholic schools, with a job that didn’t pay him what he deserved and a very active social life.  For three months he had been at complete rest as he recovered from Meniere Syndrome, and he was forced to sell his apartment house in Algorta to pay our bills.

Now my closest friends started talking about going to college.  Carmencita went to the convent.  Mary was going to be an architect.  She was a brilliant kid, one of the best in our class.  Sara was going to study in England.  Celina wanted to be