Historical Figures

Biography of the most prominent historical figures of Mutriku.

Cosme Damian Churruca:

A renowned scientist and brigadier of the Royal Navy. He was born in Mutriku, at the Arrietacua Palace, in 1761.  He undertook his first studies at the Conciliar Seminary of Burgos, while contemplating becoming a priest. However, he showed interest in the navy from a very young age.  In 1776, when he was only 15 years old, he entered the Cádiz Academy as a midshipman, graduating at the Ferrol Academy in 1778. He was trained as a mathematician and astronomer and was soon promoted to Sub-Lieutenant.
In 1781, he participated in the siege of Gibraltar (1781-1782) and, in 1788, he sailed in a second expedition through the Strait of Magellan, guided by Antonio de Córdoba. Churuca was responsible for the astronomical and geographic aspects of the expedition, from which he published one of his most cited works, Apéndice al Primer Viaje de Magallanes (1795). 

Upon his return from this expedition, he was posted to the Navy Observatory in San Fernando. Later, and after a brief period of rest at his place of birth, Mutriku, he participated in a new geographical expedition to South America (1792-95), organised in order to create a sea atlas of North America. His health was severely impaired during this voyage and he returned earlier than expected. In later years he made several journeys of far-reaching implications throughout Europe, while not fully recovering, and in 1802 he retired again to Mutriku in order to restore his health. During his stay in the village of Churruca, he assumed the mayorship of the municipality, handed down after the death of his father.

In 1805, after the outbreak of the conflict between Spain and England, Churruca took command of the ship of the line San Juan de Nepomuceno, with which he participated in the Battle of Trafalgar. Unfortunately, he died during the course of this battle.

Antonio de Gaztañeta:

Antonio de Gaztañeta was born in Mutriku in 1656.  He was a seafarer, military officer and engineer and a pioneer in the field of shipbuilding. He came from a family with a long tradition in this field. After several years of training, at age 16, he embarked on the ship Aviso bound for Veracruz, under the command of his father. His father died in the course of the voyage and as a young man had to assume responsibility for the return voyage to Europe.
In 1686, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean on several occasions, he joined the Royal Navy as senior navigator and was commissioned as sea captain. Further ahead, he would be named Admiral and at a later stage Royal Admiral of the Navy, without leaving his post as senior navigator.
In 1696, he served in the Canary Islands, and during the same year he published the "Norte de la Navegación hallado por el Cuadrante de Reducción", key works that introduced the use of the quadrant in Spain.
In 1702, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out and during the 13 years that the Gaztañeta conflict endured, he would be appointed various posts. At the time, he was made Superintendent of Factories and Plantations along the Cantabrian Coast, a post in charge of the management of the shipyards and wood plantations of Cantabria.  Shortly after, he was given the mayorship of Mutriku, while he was in charge of the defence of the Biscayan ports. From this period, his second great treatise on shipbuilding was completed: Proporción de las medidas arregladas a la construcción de un bajel de guerra de setenta codos de quilla, published in 1712.
In 1718, he played a very prominent role during his participation the unsuccessful attempt to take of Sicily under the orders of Philip V. However, his fleet was defeated by the forces of the War of the Quadruple Alliance (Holland, Austria, Great Britain and France).  After this fateful episode, he returned to his work as a shipbuilder and published his last great work in this field: Proporciones de las medidas más esenciales para la fábrica de navíos y fragata, in 1720. During this same year he was promoted to lieutenant general. In 1721, a royal decree was issued, which required the that the guidelines developed by Gaztañeta for the construction of seagoing vessels be followed, both on the peninsula and overseas.

During the last years of his life, he was given charge of the Fleet of the Indies and as the commanding officer he achieved resounding success when, from between 1726 and 1727, he managed to bring back to Spain 31 million pesos while mocking the British blockade. He died suddenly in Madrid on 5 February 1728, leaving behind an important legacy for the naval industry at the time.

Evaristo Churruca:

Despite being born in Izu, Navarra, he moved to Mutriku as a child, the place where his family had came from.
Evaristo became an engineer of international fame, responsible for the construction of the outer port of Bilbao, and the adaptation works along the estuary.  The Basque engineer was also behind some of the large infrastructures built in South America and Europe at that time.
The extension of the Mutriku Port at the end of the 19th century was also of his doing.
Due to his successful career, King Alfonso XIII granted him the title of “Conde de Motriko” in 1908.

Juan de Landa:

Born in Mutriku in 1894, Juan Crisóstomo Pisón Pagoaga y Landa, better known as Juan de Landa, was an prominent actor between the 1930s and the 1960s.
His career in the opera took him to study in Italy where he made his debut at La Scala in Milan. However, he did not prosper in the harsh world of bel canto. With the help of Ignacio Zuloaga, a friend of the family, he travelled to New York where he tried his luck at the opera, once again without much success.
Shortly after he moving to Hollywood, he would do better in his role as an actor. Here, he worked for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for several years. Between 1932 and 1939, he also worked for several studios in Madrid, and after the Spanish Civil War he emigrated to Italy, where he became very successful, participating in numerous adventure films.
He passed away in Mutriku in 1968.