Altuna y Portu, Manuel Ignacio de

(Azkoitia, 1722-1762)

He was destined to play a decisive role in the Enlightenment project undertaken by the Royal Basque Society but his untimely death prevented this, depriving travel companions and friends, Peñaflorida and Narros, from a lucid, forward-thinking mind, and his knowledge about the latest news from France, particularly in the areas of education and science. During his early years, he was educated at the Jesuits College of his native village (1732-1734), to then go on to the Real Seminario de Nobles in Madrid in 1736, an educational institution also run by the fathers of the Society of Jesus, which at that time was modernized under the first Bourbon reform.

His education culminated with a trip to Italy that led him to the city of Venice in 1743, where he met Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Their shared passions, music and the arts, proved to be the foundations of a solid friendship which continued in Paris, where the Azkoitia native lived between 1744 and 1745. Encouraged by the Genevan philosopher, he completed his scientific studies in the French capital.

In early 1746 he took office as mayor of the town where he was born. He thus began a new chapter in his life characterised by the endeavour to embody the ideas of the Enlightenment in Gipuzkoa's social reality: on the one hand, exercising municipal powers and intervention in the affairs of the province, of which he was the president, and on the other hand, he played a prominent role in academy debates in Azkoitia, working closely with Xabier María de Munibe and Joaquin Eguía. The main areas of focus of this activity were the concerns about educating the youth and scientific-technical practice, two of the major anxieties that years later would illuminate the ideology of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country.

He is also thought to be co-author, along with the aforementioned, of the work Los aldeanos críticos, o cartas críticas sobre lo que se verá (1758) a full-scale replica of the scholastic and Aristotelian hypothesis of Fray Gerundio de Campazas by P. José Francisco de Isla, published the same year; and a defence of experimental science and pedagogic reform of authors such as the Portuguese theologian Luis Antonio Verney.

In the later years of his life, he continued to exchange correspondence with Rousseau, to whom the brief treatise entitled Instrucction d'un père à son fils sur la manière de se conduire dans le monde preserved in the archives of the Historical Territory of Álava is attributed. His translation to Castilian Spanish was presented at general meetings of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country in 1767 by the young Manuel Ignacio de Altuna y Zuluaga, our main character's son.




Palacio Intsausti
Aptdo. 105 – 20720 AZKOITIA
Tel. 943 285 577
E-mail: intsausti.rsbap@gmail.com

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