José Antonio Gurriarán on the Armenians of Spain

José Antonio Gurriarán

A few years ago, Spanish writer and journalist José Antonio Gurriarán (7 July 1938 – 31 March 2019) presented the story of Armenians living in Spain. He began with King Levon VI, telling about his connection with the Armenian issue.

In the struggle for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, ASALA’s (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia) activity left its mark on Gurriarán. On December 29, 1980, a bomb exploded on the corner of the central square in Madrid, as a result of which Gurriarán was seriously wounded. After this incident, Gurriarán became interested in the Armenian issue and the reasons for the explosion.

Learning about the Armenian Genocide, the Spanish intellectual became one of the most active defenders of Hay Dat (“Armenian Court”). Two years after the incident, he published the book “The Bomb” (La Bomba) which inspired French director of Armenian descent Robert Ketikyan to shoot a film about the Armenian Genocide titled “Une histoire de fou” (“One Crazy Story”).

Having met with the descendants of the Armenians who had escaped from the events of 1915, Gurriarán published the book “Armenians. Forgotten Genocide.” Below is the translation of some fragments from the book:

Armenian King in Madrid

“Levon VI ruled in Madrid in the 14th century, and Armenian merchants established themselves in Andalusia in the 16th century. Today, centuries later, the Armenian community of Spain has 40,000 members (14,000 live in Valencia, 12,000 in Barcelona, 8,000 in Madrid, and 2,000 in Alicante) who are going to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

In the 20th century, there was no Armenian community in Spain as organized and stable as the post-Genocide communities of France, Lebanon, Iran, Argentina, Uruguay, California, and other areas. However, the situation in the economic, industrial, and touristic spheres has changed in the past decade, and now, the Armenians play an important role and are involved in any field.

There are two stages in the history of Spain and Armenia when the presence of Armenians, although not numerous, has been intense and the relations between the two peoples have been productive. The first is connected with the year 1382 when Levon VI established himself in the Palacio de Oriente and began to rule Madrid.

Levon VI was the son of Soldane and John de Lusignan. After the fall of the capital of Cilicia Sis, Leo was captured and taken to Cairo. Through the efforts of clergyman Hovhannes Dardel and through the mediation of John I of Castile and Pedro IV of Aragon, he was released from captivity and went to Europe. In 1383, he reached Castile whose king presented Levon with the city of Madrid.

The second stage of the presence of Armenians in the history of Spain is associated with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Armenian merchants soon became involved in gold and silver trade with the new world.

Today, a few in Spain know about Armenia, a country with a 3,000-year history. The knowledge of the Spaniards about the Armenians, like my own, is very foggy and meager, limited by the knowledge that Charles Aznavour, William Saroyan, and Anastas Mikoyan are Armenians and that restaurants Ararat and Sayat Nova well-known in Madrid are Armenian.

I must admit that before the incident that happened to me in 1980, I had known almost nothing about the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Young Turks during which 1.5 million Armenians died. After the explosion, the first person I spoke to was a French singer of Armenian descent, Rosy Armen, whom I have interviewed as a journalist.”

The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Addressing the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and telling about the work done in this direction, the Spanish humanist summarized: “New projects are being prepared on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide as one historical opportunity to make Turkey recognize the genocide planned and implemented against the Armenian people. Turkey should take an example from Germany which has recognized the Holocaust.”

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