beyond the river
My father was very private and reserved about revealing his intelligence to others. Yet, a common thread of curiosity between father and daughter is our Basque heritage. As a child, I observed the closely guarded relationship he had with his own father, also Basque but was born in Yucatan Mexico. I would fantasize about how their bond was filled with divine secrets and that if only, I would become privileged enough, they might one day be revealed to me like discreet whispers in my dreams.
When his own father passed in 1977, the expectation for understanding my father’s heritage during his lifetime was displaced. With each year that past, he became ever more private and reclusive. My grandfather’s own father was often described to me in a similar fashion, and in this way, there were three generations of elusiveness, intellect, and obstinacy. We would eventually learn that he was one of the great mathematicians of his day, Don Mauro Graciano Ricalde Gamboa.
There was a deeper level of curiosity planted inside of me that resurfaced like a blaze in my gut after my own father died in 2004. It intensified the day that my paternal uncle recalled my grandfather’s disclosure, “Our family is in history books”. However countless searches revealed very little until we understood the name’s origin and more about Basque history.
Shortly thereafter, we learned that Ricalde is the Latinized spelling of Rekalde (often spelled Recalde). I swelled with compassion when learning that there was ever a time when Euskera, the language of the Basque Country was feared or outlawed anywhere in the world. Knowing a bit of the language revealed that Rekalde comes from the Basque words, ‘erreka’ and ‘aldean,’ which translates to “beside the river”. Its significance is the Basque tradition of using the location of the home when establishing names to navigate soldiers and conquistadores on their return to the family. Inspired by the idea that once you locate the town of origin, the clues in the name will almost lead you to a physical address, I came to believe the name mightreturn me on my own journey home.
Recalde history revealed curious people of place and time that originated from the Askoitia lineage, Guipuzcoa Province near Bilbao. This village is located on and around the upper Urola River Valley. At the center of the valley is where Don Beltrán de Loyola built his fortress. Today the castle is the shrine recognized as the home of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Loiola). Long-time neighbors of the castle were Recalde – a family of the original descendants of the Royal Knights of Santiago. This family served the Kingdom for centuries and were instrumental in navigating the early seas.
When Saint Loyola was canonized, his name was originally documented as Lopez-Recalde. While some sources consider this erroneous, the house of records burned with the substantial evidence of his documented birth in 1491. It may be an impure thought, but remains a curious possibility due to proximity and his father, Don Beltran’s many documented affairs.
Monument in Valladolid, Yucatan Municipal building etched with names of founders from Spain
Monument in Valladolid, Yucatan Municipal building etched with names of founders from Spain.
That investigation aside, another Lopez-Ricalde emerged from this area during the same years and also served the King as the Royal accountant for Columbus’ and Magellan’s Voyages. Likely a brother, his name was Juan Lopez-Recalde. After being jailed over suspicion of misappropriated financial and land gains, he journeyed to Yucatan and became one of the founding residents where he would live out his last days.
A few years later, Juan Martinez Recalde who was also of Guipuzcoa descent married the Duke of Medina Sidonia’s sister. He dedicated his life to the service of the Pope and Crown as an accomplished navel officer and was also a Knight of the Order of Santiago. He served under the Duke as an Admiral of the Armada and advised the Duke on Battle Plans. His assignment on the Spanish Armada was greater celebrated after the discovery of the “Curious Papers” in the late 20th century.
As rich as the Ricalde-Recalde-Rekalde history has revealed, the exclusivity of the name to a relatively small group of people from around the word that descended from Basque Country is a sacred bounty. The proliferation of Ricalde-Gamboa and Gamboa-Ricalde families in other parts of the world such as the Philippines and Mexico consummated the tradition that Monarchs held on to territory gained in conquests by the occupation of these territories. Conquistadors were often rewarded with large grants of land and they would send for family members, wives, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews. These families would govern these lands for generations.
About five years ago, I formed Ricalde-Recalde-Rekalde Group on Facebook to celebrate our Basque history with descendants from around the globe. It is now a virtual home to 974 descendants and we share remarkably similar stories and family legends spanning across the globe, Argentina, Mexico, Philippines. We also recipes and music.
We know we are related! Many remember the precise grand legends of our Basque roots passed down through stories by grandparents that coincide with others, despite living vast distances from each other. We are one family from Basque Country and many of us never knew the depth and riches of our heritage that sprouted from this land. I never imagined finding so many cousins, distant and near, willing to share their stories.
When my father died, the curiosity within me to uncover my family history increased exponentially. My passion is deep. My quest, seemingly never ending. My father’s incredibly strong connection with his heritage influences me in every e-mail,phone call, or new piece of research that reveals another part of the family history. By connecting with my Basque bloodline, I am somehow completing the circle left open between my father and me.
We believe we are descendants of St. Loyola, Major Conquistadores of the early seas by more than one degree. I have a great degree of documents and research to back this up. Please give me an opportunity to share with you more, as this is a remarkable untold story of history that the world shares.