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Mexican author Guadalupe Loaeza, in an appearance Tuesday night at the San Diego Natural History Museum to promote her novel about the Mexican man who died on the Titanic, said she was writing a new introduction for the next edition of her book to reflect that the premise her story is based on is untrue.
Loaeza said she was attracted to write the book because of a story propagated by a distant relative of Manuel Uruchurtu (right), a congressman who died at age 37 when the Titanic went down after hitting an iceberg in April 1912. The relative claimed that Uruchurtu had given up his seat on a lifeboat to Salvation Army member Elizabeth Nye and claimed she had lied about her circumstances in order to get aboard.
The supposed proofs cited by the distant relative, Alejandro Gárate Uruchurtu, have been debunked by Nye biographer Dave Bryceson and by MexicoPerspective.com.
Loaeza said last night that she felt she had been used by Gárate Uruchurtu, who wrote the introduction to her novel and is sharing in the book's proceeds.
She said that the book has sold well in Mexico, and that the next edition will be printed in about three weeks. It has received favorable reviews in Contenido magazine and other publications.
After the book came out, Manuel Uruchurtu's granddaughter Gertrudis Uruchurtu wrote a letter published in Reforma newspaper saying that Gárate Uruchurtu had fabricated the story about the lifeboat and Elizabeth Nye (right). Loaeza said her new introduction to the novel will refer to the letter. "I have to be fair with Elizabeth Ramell Nye," Loaeza said.
Loaeza said legends, many of them untrue, always surround important families. She said Gárate Uruchurtu had been peddling his version of the Manuel Uruchurtu story for about 30 years. "Can you imagine?" she aked. Loaeza said that while Gárate Uruchurtu is going to be "very disappointed" with her new introduction, "I was more disappointed" (with him). She said the truth is what matters.
Still, she said of her novel: "I think the main thing is not to know if Uruchurtu saved her or not, the main thing is to know that there was a Mexican ... who did travel and who did die" on the Titanic. She said it is important to know that he went to France to visit with former Mexican vice president Ramón Corral, who had fled the country along with Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1911 during the Mexican Revolution.
"What this book does is show Mexico as part of a major international event," Loaeza said. She said it provides a window into the Mexican Revolution and Mexico's relationship with the world following Díaz's 30-year dictatorship. She also noted that Manuel Uruchurtu's nephew Ernesto P. Uruchurtu later became mayor of Mexico City.
Tuesday night's event at the San Diego Natural History Museum was well-attended, and Loaeza moved back and forth from Spanish to English, with the audience aided by a translator and by Loaeza's husband, Dr. Enrique Goldbard, who sat beside her onstage. Many in attendance purchased the book in the store of the museum, which currently has an exhibit about the Titanic that ends Sept. 9.
Loaeza talked about the head of the White Star Line that built the Titanic, Bruce Ismay, who survived the disaster and was widely criticized in the media at the time. While Loaeza's husband said Ismay was not responsible for the sinking, she disagreed. When she dramatically said of Ismay, "I hate him!" the audience burst into laughter.
She said the Titanic story is more interesting to her now than before she wrote about it. She said she had just read Bryceson's 2009 book, "Elizabeth Nye, Titanic Survivor." Loaeza said she was touched to read about Nye's good works as a member of the Salvation Army, calling her "almost a saint" who helped a lot of people during World War I. Loaeza said Bryceson's "book does not say a word about Uruchurtu." She said that Nye, in the letter she wrote to her parents immediately after the disaster, did not mention Uruchurtu, and that his name never came up in interviews Nye gave to those making the movie "A Night to Remember." Bryceson's June 25, 2012 posting on the controversy.
"I am going to continue to do some research. I am sure she was a very fantastic person. I am sure Elizabeth Ramell Nye would tell me, 'I don't care. The important thing is that I was saved, and I could do a lot of things in my life.' " Nye died in 1963, at age 81.
Guadalupe Loaeza and her husband, Dr. Enrique Goldbard, at left, stand with Mexican Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau and Mexican cultural attaché Pedro Ochoa at the San Diego Natural History Museum on Tuesday. The Mexican Consulate in San Diego co-sponsored the book presentation. Gómez Arnau noted that the 1997 James Cameron-directed film "Titanic" was filmed in Baja California. Loaeza wore a reproduction of the necklace that the character Rose wore in the film and said Fox Studios had given it to her.
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Bryceson's book, which sells for more than $100 on Amazon.com, is available for less from other booksellers on the Internet.
Loaeza's brother, Enrique Loaeza Tovar, served as Mexico's consul general in San Diego in the early 1990s. He also was consul general in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Guadalupe Loaeza said her next book is about ancestors who fought in the May 5, 1862, Battle of Puebla.