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Shakespeare in Euskera in the British Library

The resident of Zumárraga (Basque Country) María Teresa Medrano has spent 41 years living in London translating works of the great British author.

Thanks to María Teresa Medrano the universal author, the great museum, in the country and Euskera will be united forever.

María Teresa Medrano - photo Asier Zaldija - www.deia.com

The translations which Medrano took to London were realised by the Vizcaya Friar Benito Larrakoetxea, a friend of the family, and a pioneer in translating the texts of Shakespeare into Euskera. This story cannot be told without mentioning Serapio Medrano, father of Maria Teresa. Native of Arbizu (Navarra) a fanatic about languages and veterinary by profession. Before the war he was working in Oñati at the petition of the notables.

When the war broke out, he was punished for his militancy in favour of Euskera, leading him to renounce his place at Oñati. He was sent to Alegi, the smallest village, with seven sons to feed. Shortly after, the man who had complained repented asked for forgiveness and was granted the option to choose where to work. Medrano stayed in Zumárraga, given its closeness to Oñati.

Medrano left a grand fortune there. A cultural man who word was his bond, took the opportunity teach all his sons and two of his daughters (Victoria and Josefa) and opened an academy in the village, the first and was used by hundreds of neighbours who could study without leaving the village.

The protagonist of this story started to teach in a school which opened the company Esteban Orbegozo for the children of the employees. She also worked in offices and was at this time playing a secondary role in society. Serapio Medrano offer her and her daughters superior studies, as families did decades later, and sent them abroad to study languages.

Her friend Winifred spent two years in England with her, and later every summer for several years. ‘When I went there for the first time, I was 22. It was the years of Franco and the British society was far more advanced than our own. When I was there I felt English. My English was very good, said the lively 88 year old.

To do so, she counted on her former English teacher, then an intimate friend, Winifred Mary Holdsworth. In Oñati there were many convents, and we had good relationships with all the friars, thanks to our studies. Every year we would often celebrate a meal with several friars in our home. That was when Benito Larrakoetxea asked her to take her translations of the works of Shakespeare to the British Library, and she was charmed.

It was not an easy mission ‘I didn’t know how to get into the library, but my friend Winifred had good contacts. She did all the paperwork and gave me honour to leave the books. After they had examined them, they were very happy’. Medrano donated five volumes of theatre and comic works by Shakespeare translated into Euskera. The books also had pride of place in the family home, with a photo of her friend and a letter sent from the British Library.