In San Sebastian’s harbor there is a beautiful neoclasic monument that has a bronze bust of a man with a normal appearance, dressed with the traditional clothes of the arrantzales (fishermen) from Gipuzkoa, is the Aita Mari. On its base there is a little inscription in basque that says:
YOU GAVE YOUR LIFE TRYING TO SAVE THE SHIPWRECKED
AND TODAY YOU HAVE, ACCLAIMED, THE BIG SEA AS YOUR GRAVE:
SLEEP WITH THE SOUND OF THE DEEP WAVES,… OH ADORABLE MAN:
HONOURED BY YOUR GLORY SAN SEBASTIAN AND THE CANTABRIC SEA .
But, who was Mari?
A heroic life
José María Zubía Cigarán was born in Zumaia in 1809, fishing from a very young age and enlisting when he was 21 in the fleets that sailed to America. With the money he earned he settled down in San Sebastian, where he became in patron of the small fishing rowboat and fished in the proximities of the shore. Everyone said he was sincere, humble and kind-hearted, famous for not leaving to others the more dangerous tasks and for taking care of the families of those that lost their lives under his command.
But what really matters, the reason that transformed Mari into a hero for the basque sailors, was for his selfless rescues. Several times, he used his rowboat to save other sailors in jeopardy, without asking anything in return and moved for his necessity of doing something good for his people. And he kept doing that until January the 9th of 1866, a tragic day in which the Cantabric Sea claimed the life of 38 sailors… including Mari, who was swallowed by a wave while he was trying to help some shipwreck survivors in La Concha.
His legacy is alive
This man, who we honor in our harbor, was one of the biggest heroes in the history of San Sebastian, and more than 150 years after his death we still honor and remember him. Some even keep his legacy alive helping out those in need in the high seas.