Zumarraga traces its outline
Hamlet of Zumarraga, Friday 11 December,1383
It was not very far from the house of María de Elgarresta to the meeting place. Accompanied by her maid Gracia, María took the road towards Eizaga.
Along the way she noticed that someone had torn down branches and bark without respecting the custom of felling flush with the trunk and without taking into consideration the time of year when they should be cut. The trees had withered.
Gracia knew that her husband Pedro had participated in that felling. For some time he had become the Lord of Lazcano’s lackey and protégé and that meant collaborating in the acts that he ordered. In exchange, Pedro was assured a salary with which to form a family.
Eizaga, seat of Urrutia.
The signing of an important document.
Those who had congregated came from the country houses of Soraiz, very close to the parish of Santa María, and from the country houses of Aranburu and Elgarresta. They were important people in Zumarraga and wanted to escape from the domination of the so-called Elders.
- Are you sure that this will be the solution?
- I am confident of that. Some hamlets have already done it.
- I am not prepared to see any more of my cattle stolen.
- I want to think that with this agreement we can prevent the Lords, like the Lord of Lazcano, from exercising their own justice.
In the crowd, María managed to spot the scribe Juan Pérez de Otalora beginning to compose the document that would be turned into a neighbourhood agreement between the hamlet of Zumarraga and the town of Villarreal de Urrechua.
From that moment onwards, the inhabitants of Zumarraga would be tied to a number of obligations, such as paying certain taxes in Villarreal or submitting themselves to the justice of its mayor. But they would also enjoy a number of advantages such as being residents of a town, and presumably being beyond the control of the Elders.
63 years later
That neighbourhood agreement failed to put an end to the control of the Elders. The appropriation of goods, the burning of lands and their private justice continued to exist. But apart from exercising this control over the people, the powerful ones fought each other in brutal gang warfare.
For years, Miguel, the son of Gracia and Pedro, had followed in his father’s footsteps.
He had no difficulty being admitted into the entourage of the Lord of Lazcano. Becoming the lackey of a powerful man was practically the only way to survive when someone had no property. And now, despite feeling old and tired, he was keen to take a different path, he had one final service to fulfil: to defend his lord in the battle in which he would fight Ladrón de Balda, the powerful feudal Lord of Azkoitia with aspirations over the territory.
Zumarraga lands, 29 December, 1446
One morning at the end of December, Miguel and the other men summoned by Juan López de Lazcano positioned themselves on the battleground. Beside the Lord of Lazcano was a nobleman from Zumarraga, Pedro de Legazpi. Opposite them the enemy band led by Ladrón de Balda was getting ready.
Juan López de Lazcano emerged victorious after a battle taking several hours. Zumarraga and Villareal de Urrechua remained under his control. The Lord of Balda fled to his tower house in Azkoitia. Miguel had emerged unharmed. Without further ado he could start a new life away from the power of the feudal Lords.
Villarreal de Urrechua: seeking a future
The years Miguel had spent in the service of the Lord of Lazcano had made him not only a whole host of enemies but prestigious and respected friendships as well.
Juan de Aranburu, an influential cobbler who lived and worked in Villareal, had promised Miguel an income if he worked for him. And he had also promised that he would take on his son Peru as an apprentice, thus ensuring him a future that was different from that of his father and grandfather as lackeys of the Lord of Lazcano.
They set out from Zumarraga, crossed the river at Zubiaurre and passed in front of the Urretxu suburb, an area whose growth was bringing Villarreal closer to Zumarraga.
They went inside the town though one of its four gates.
It was 64 years since John I, King of Castile, had granted the place known as Urretxua a town charter, giving it the name of Villarreal. A title granted through a document known as the municipal charter and which Villarreal jealously guarded.
Miguel arrived at the cobbler’s workshop ready to embark on a new life. The past was left behind and the future would soon be in the hands of his son Peru.
43 years later, 1489
Zumarraga had grown, it had long stopped being part of its neighbouring Villareal and had signed a new neighbourhood charter with the Grand Borough of Areria, an area inside the lands of Gipuzkoa made up of various settlements. The old rural hamlet was changing. New buildings made up the first urban grouping in Eizaga. The tower houses had lost their warlike appearance ever since they were cut down to size by royal decree.
This situation of growth drove Peru to return to his village. In Villareal he had managed to secure a good economic position as a cobbler which undoubtedly would open the doors of social advancement in Zumarraga.
For some time Zumarraga had been requesting from the king the right to have more priests. This choice was the responsibility of the Lord of Lazcano because since time immemorial the church was regarded as belonging to him. But the house of Lazcano refused to pay for more than two priests. After several years of lawsuits the Royal High Court of Justice ruled in favour of Zumarraga.
Parish church of Santa María de Zumarraga, Sunday 23 August, 1489
Peru arrived at the church of Santa María early. He was impatient. For the first time the priests due to celebrate mass had not been chosen by the Lord of Lazcano.
The inside of the church was crowded with the faithful. Martín de Gurruchuga, the vicar, began the liturgy. All of a sudden, Bernardino de Lazcano and several armed men entered the church ready to demand their rights.
-I have not chosen Martín de Gurruchaga to say mass! This church belongs to me and I order him to leave forthwith!
The violent behaviour of those armed men caused the members of the congregation and the four priests to leave the church.
- We shall appeal to the King for justice!
Peru remembered the times his father and grandfather had described the robberies and battles they had taken part in on behalf of the Lord of Lazcano. Now in front of him he had Bernardino, the grandson of Juan López de Lazcano, the lord to whom his father had been a lackey.
But now there was no fear of losing one’s goods or being taken prisoner by the Elders. Now Peru, like the rest of the inhabitants of Zumarraga, knew there were mechanisms in place that would curb the use of force. Its inhabitants had the chance to defend themselves by going to the courts of justice. And that is what they did. The agreements and decisions made by the previous generations had not been in vain.
People like María de Elgarresta, Gracia, Pedro, Miguel and, now Peru had collaborated so that, in one way or another, Zumarraga could make its own voice heard. And, in one way or another, they were shaping the new Zumarraga.