Felipe Juaristi, writer by profession, met the Basque folk-singer Imanol Larzabal in his youth, when they went underground in the 'anti-Franco' period. They forged a friendship that continued until Imanol died in 2004. The violence that existed in the Basque Country led Imanol (that was ideologically close to ETA) to hold a public position against terror. In the year 2000, tired of the stifling atmosphere that existed in the Basque Country, Imanol changed his life and went to live in Orihuela (Alicante), where he spent his last years.


Name: Felipe Juaristi Galdos

Age: 55 (1957)

Profession / Position: Writer and journalist / Director of Euskadi Irratia

Family status: Married. Children.

Place of origin: Azkoitia (Gipuzkoa)

GROUP: Friends of victims.


- Felipe Juaristi, writer by profession, met the Basque folk-singer Imanol Larzabal in his youth, when they went underground in the ‘anti-Franco’ period. They forged a friendship that continued until Imanol died in 2004.

- Imanol belonged to ETA for a short time and spent some time in jail. Later he went into exile in France, where he became a musician. During that period, Imanol produced music that made him a benchmark for an audience, among others, that was ideologically close to ETA.

- Imanol returned to the Basque Country after the 1977 general amnesty, as an established musician that, despite not having any connection with violence, was identified with the left-wing nationalist movement.

- The violence that existed in the Basque Country led Imanol to hold a public position against terror. Participating in a concert in tribute to ‘Yoyes‘ and organising the so-called ‘Concert Against Fear‘ implied his public stance against violence, which led to personal consequences.

- In the year 2000, tired of the stifling atmosphere that existed in the Basque Country, Imanol changed his life and went to live in Orihuela (Alicante), where he spent his last years.


“I met Imanol about 30 years ago. We were introduced by a friend of his with whom he had a very good relationship when they had to go underground in what was known as the “anti-Franco” period. He sang and I wrote, and we soon started to talk about issues that are not usually mentioned among friends. It was a start that had its continuity. In those years, I had free time to write and go for walks. We used to go for long walks, we talked, had lunch together. This strengthened our friendship. I will not try to pretend that it was a perfect friendship because we had our differences, but it was always a true friendship. We were friends while he was alive. There were bad times with ideological controversies, but I think even we felt affection for each other even in the hardest times”.

“When I met Imanol, he no longer had any connection with ETA. He still had a rather sentimental and romantic connection with the far left of which he had been a member, because he still had many colleagues, friends and acquaintances there. At the end of his life, with all the love in the world, I argued with him when he joined Basta Ya (“Enough”) and such organisations, because I felt that neither that or the Ermua Forum were the solution. I believed other systems were better. However, I always respected him in that sense. Those were times when if you were involved in any controversy regarding the utility of those movements you were labelled as a terrorist. It never went that far in my case, but I did have doubts about the role played by these movements. I believe they arose due to the need to organise people who rejected terrorism, but I think a time came when people realised and they were no longer necessary, becoming instruments of pressure and opinion. I don’t think he believed in all that, but he provided his public figure, like Ibarrola and Chillida, to strengthen the movement and provide it with a bit of impact”.

“Nor was a rift between us, and we continued to cooperate in all the demonstrations to which we were invited and that we attended. We even prepared a play together called ‘Hitzaren doinuak’ (‘The sounds of the word”). Those were hard times, because you either agreed one hundred per cent or you didn’t and, therefore, there was a polarization of society that was terrible and people felt alienated for a long time. Society became fragmented and Imanol tried to understand why everything was happening, but he was also very hurt by how he had been treated. Therefore, he sought refuge in friends, but sometimes we could not help him, except during those walks, for example. He was not comfortable here. Sometimes, we were walking down the street and people insulted him. He decided to leave. I was very sorry he left, because I think he didn’t have to leave as his family, most of his friends and all his personal history was here. But he felt he wasn’t wanted here and decided to leave, like so many other people. Some of us stayed. People did what they thought they had to do. In the end, his life involved all these conditions. Eventually, he died far from home, family, friends and in a landscape that was not very graceful, especially in winter”.

“I think the time in exile in France at the end of the Franco period was good for his musical training, as it would not have been the same if he had not gone there. He joined ETA, they arrested him and he was sent to the prison in Martutene (near San Sebastian), where he met other historical antifrancoist fighters. Then he went into exile and moved to Paris. There he met Paco Ibáñez and became familiar with the French chanson. It was then that he began to believe he was really a singer, an activist-singer. The lyrics of his first songs supported the cause. Then he evolved, in the best sense of the term. He became a singer-songwriter, a very fine chansonnier“.

“Exile was a positive experience in part because it helped him to improve his musical skills and because, in France, he came into contact with another culture and another type of education. When he returned to the Basque Country, he was a different person, musically trained, with clearer ideas, he had made a name for himself… When he returned, he did not have to start from scratch. He had already made a name for himself while he was in exile, performing in France. His music reached us here. When he returned everyone knew who he was. He had his audience and his performances. The truth is that he is one of the singers that have evolved most from a musical point of view; not his voice, which has always been excellent. He became a star”.

“I think he supported violence for a very short period of time, when he belonged to ETA. But he left the band. I do not know how long he was with them, but it wasn’t long. He was in favour of a permanent revolution and of the working class, was very class minded. When I met him, he had completely done away with violence. He didn’t theorized about violence, but about the forms of organisation and on how to make this society progress based on left-wing views. All this was known in the Basque Country when he returned”.

“When they killed ‘Yoyes’, Imanol was one of the people promoting the tribute her friends decided to give her; an event that led to a total breaking point. Imanol was invited to say a few words, to sing. I had a poem I had written on that very day and he sang it. Imanol did a lot in relation to the ‘Yoyes’ event. I think it was like ‘the crossing of the Rubicon’ for him. That tribute implied taking a stance against ETA for many people who, without being part of the band, were close to it. One thing is not accepting violence and another thing is taking a stance against it, which is what the “Yoyes” situation spurred. She was a person who had belonged to ETA and who had decided to leave the organisation; therefore, she was punished and killed. This was one of the main steps taken by Imanol”.

“From then on, his life became more complicated and difficult for him. He still had his contacts, his performances, his friends … Although there was a sector in this society that never forgave him. I don’t think he had a bad life because both the Provincial Council, where Xabier Lete worked, and the Basque Government helped him a lot. There was also another aspect, which was that Imanol publicly spoke up against ETA when he supported ‘Yoyes’ and was no longer ‘non grata’ in certain sectors”.

“After that, graffiti appeared in the neighbourhood of Intxaurrondo, near the area where he lived, that, although I can’t remember very well, I think said Imanol traitor (The graffiti said: Imanol traitor, you will be executed). He then asked them to explain why they were treating him in that way but then didn’t give him any explanation. That’s when he decided to organise the “Concert Against Fear’”.

“The worst situation happened to Imanol after that concert, when he said, you have threatened me and now you are going to see. Along with several friends, he organised a concert in the Velodrome of Anoeta that was a proclamation in favour of freedom and against ETA, the ‘Concert Against Fear’. I think that’s another turning point for Imanol and was the big step from which there was no going back. That’s when a current of opinion against ETA appeared. Later the Ermua Forum, Basta Ya and other civic networks appeared, while Gesture for Peace (Gesto por la Paz) had existed before. Nothing comes from nothing, people were highly aware. But that awareness had to be organised and, therefore, they decided to organise this concert”.

“Lots of people joined in. “Bertso” singers, writers, musicians and all his friends were there. I think this might have been Imanol’s best moment in response to his name appearing on a wall. That event meant something, and it was necessary to cross the border into France to ask for an explanation there or you had to leave this country and hide. If you were threatened because they said you had done something, the threat was never a farce. When that graffiti appeared, Imanol demanded an explanation. They didn’t give him any explanation and he decided to act in a way that was familiar for him, giving a concert. He called his friends, Labordeta, Paco Ibáñez … and they sang”.

“This event had a great impact. Many people who are now flying their pacifist flags became very angry, because it seemed so daring. There were also people who participated and suffered the consequences. Some suffered boycotts or were physically threatened. This event had consequences and some people were blacklisted. But from the beginning, there were many intellectuals, who are now pacifists, who were against this at the time as they considered it a provocation and that it would hinder any attempt at peace. Imanol proved he was brave by organising this”.

“After this performance he had organised, his life became more complicated and he felt that the atmosphere in the Basque Country was unbreathable. I think Imanol was appreciated and esteemed in Basque society. I think he referred more to the environment that existed in general than to a personal level. On the other hand, he was in poor health and ended up leaving. He also started singing in Spanish. He tried to find another type of audience and get away. Several factors influenced his decision to leave and one of them was that he could not stand what he was happening”.

“Imanol was highly appreciated. Some people wouldn’t greet him or stopped greeting him and boycotted some performances… But people from the world of culture were always very fond of him. He was a good man, with a great sense of humour and he had lots of friends everywhere”.

“I couldn’t say whether he had received threats over the phone o by letter because he never talked about that. When he was in poor health, I sometimes went to his house and we would go for a walk. On those walks, I noticed that some people didn’t look at him or greet him, but there were also people who approached him and gave him a hug. If he was threatened I didn’t see it and I don’t know whether he was threatened or not because he never talked about it”.

“When Imanol moved to Orihuela (Alicante) I would ask his sister how he was and she would answer, he says he’s fine, but I don’t know. He did not convey fear or discomfort to the people he loved. Another thing is what he felt inside. I never knew whether he had been threatened in this way, although it is possible. Perhaps, if he had talked about everything that had happened he would not have had to leave. But he didn’t and that takes its toll. I do know that he was cheerful, telling jokes up to the last; he liked being with friends, playing the guitar … there were people who met him on the street and hugged him saying that they loved one of his songs. And that’s the food that the singers live on”.

“I think having to leave spelled death for Imanol. A singer needs his audience and being appreciated by people. What can a singer like Imanol be doing far from his home country, to which he has dedicated his whole life and his work? It was like an implosion. That loneliness and alienation exploded inside him and I am convinced that caused such sadness that it eventually killed him. That sadness, coupled with all his health problems, had a bearing on his death. This was a type of sadness that he didn’t talk about much, because he was not a sad man, he was always cheerful”.

“His decision to leave was not an easy one. Imanol always had lots of plans and his mother and family lived here. It couldn’t have been easy, because when he left he didn’t know how he was going to make a living. Here, he could count on doing concerts, preparing a record with some friends, sing at a high school, on a radio programme… The decision had to be cause by the sadness of seeing that he could do nothing to change everything was going on here”.

“I supported Imanol in those moments that led to consequences, because I thought he was right. I supported him on the issue of ‘Yoyes’, on ‘The concert against fear’, we signed several manifestos together… I had to help him as a friend, regardless of the consequences. But the consequence for him were pretty terrible. Given the situation here, some people decided to leave and others did not. Some people decided it was a way of rebelling against the stifling situation that existed. There were also people who stayed to struggle to stop the unbearable situation. Both positions existed, one is not better than the other. Each person must make a personal choice. I stayed because I have my family, my children, and so on. Imanol decided at one point that he could leave because the things that tied him no longer so”.

“When make yourself seen publically, you get classified and you have to look out for yourself. There have been people who stopped greeting me, people for whom what I write is no longer as relevant, people who have stopped tracking my work… In my case I have suffered more for my friends than for me. I have survived, among other things, because my work as a writer has preserved me from many other things. I write in Basque and there will always be people who will read my work. Sometimes when you publish a book, there is a deafening silence and you wonder why. But that’s one thing; another is being boycotted. And I haven’t gone through that or having my books abused by people. But I can say this because, perhaps, I didn’t make myself as conspicuous at Imanol and I was not as public a figure as he was”.

“I’ve always written what I wanted and I have never been conditioned by fear of threats. A writer writes freely or otherwise ceases to be a writer. If you write what people want you to write, you are no longer a writer. You have to write what you see fit. If people read it, such much the better; if they don’t, that’s fine. A true artist is sincere. A poet who lies is no longer a poet, if not an aesthete. A philosopher who lies is a sophist. And a politician who lies is a demagogue. In that sense, Imanol said what he felt in his songs. You can even track a sentimental path of everything that happened to him by listening to his songs. His world, everything he was going through, is in his songs”.

“In the ‘Concert Against Fear” which was held in San Sebastian, Imanol said fear is free. Many people were asked to display solidarity on that occasion and many said they would not cooperate because they didn’t think it was correct. Imanol said that anyone is free to say that, that fear is free. If someone was afraid, they shouldn’t join the event and if they were not afraid, the could join. There were also people who did not take part, not for fear but because they were against it. And others didn’t because they were afraid of ‘what people would think of me’. There’s been a lot of intimidation of this kind around here. It’s difficult to make stand out here, to stand against certain things in the public sphere. For a Basque singer with a given type of audience to take a public stand was a shock. Or if it were a writer or an “bertso” singer. These are the characters that were really needed and of which there were few. One was Imanol. He never hid what he thought, he was a man with convictions and courage”.

“I remember Imanol a lot, because I was very close to him. We organise a tribute to him every year. I think that if he were around today, in the current context, he would say everything was too late. After what happened to ‘Yoyes’, they could have acknowledged that they were wrong and saved years of tears and blood. Everything comes too late and now it will take a long time to heal the wounds”.