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A granddaughter of Manuel Uruchurtu has written a letter to the editor saying the story that he gave up his lifeboat seat on the Titanic is a fabrication by a distant relative.
The letter was published in Reforma, which published a story about Guadalupe Loaeza's novelization of the incident last week. Loaeza posted the letter on her webpage in April.
Gertrudis Uruchurtu said the story was made up by distant relative Alejandro Gárate Uruchurtu, who wrote the introduction to Loaeza's novel. One proof that Gárate has cited was found by MexicoPerspective.com to have no mention whatsoever of the matters he said it contained. Mention of the document in question.
Update, Aug. 21: Loaeza, during a book presentation at the San Diego Natural History Museum, said the introduction to the next edition of her book will reflect that the tale from Alejandro Gárate Uruchurtu was made up. <<<Read more>>>
Mexican author Guadalupe Loaeza (left) has written a novel about the only Mexican who died aboard the Titanic, "El Caballero del Titanic" (Aguilar). The Titanic struck an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912, and sank more than 2 1/2 hours later the morning of April 15. The Mexican who died was Manuel Uruchurtu Ramírez, originally from Sonora state.
According to some Mexican claims, he gave up his seat on a lifeboat so that second-class passenger Elizabeth Ramell Nye, then 29, might live. According to these claims, she told Uruchurtu that her husband and son were waiting for her in New York, when in fact her husband and their only child, a daughter, had previously died. However, Nye biographer Dave Bryceson, author of "Elizabeth Nye, Titanic Survivor," said that in doing 25 years of research into her and other Titanic passengers' lives, he never found any evidence that Uruchurtu was on the lifeboat in question or that he gave up his lifeboat seat for her or that she had told such a story or ever visited Mexico, as claimed by Uruchurtu's family.
Update: Bryceson writes a fuller account on the Encyclopedia Titanica debunking Alejandro Gárate Uruchurtu's story. His June 25, 2012 forum posting.
Nye, a native of Folkestone, England who long worked with the Salvation Army, died Nov. 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Uruchurtu, 39, a congressman, lawyer, author and father of seven, had gone to France to visit with former Mexican Vice President Ramón Corral, who had resigned along with President Porfirio Díaz during the Mexican Revolution in 1911 and gone into exile. Uruchurtu's childhood home now houses the Sonoran Historical Society in Hermosillo.
A distant relative and others have held that Nye, fulfilling Uruchurtu's request that his family be notified about the circumstances of his death, later visited his widow in her native Xalapa and also his parents in Hermosillo around 1915 or 1916. Col. Joaquín Pita is reported to have written in his memoirs that he was present for Nye's visit with the widow. Only a commentary on his memoirs can be found in library repositories, however. The accounts also say a passenger of Lifeboat 11, Edith Rosenbaum, said Uruchurtu had given up his seat for Nye, but Bryceson said there is no evidence of this. The accounts from the distant relative refer to an Aug. 20, 1912 Senate Document #933 as part of his claim about Uruchurtu's heroism. However, Document #933 is actually a British report entitled "Loss of the Steamship Titanic" and makes no mention of Uruchurtu or Nye or Rosenbaum. It does say, on Page 84, that 97% of first-class women passengers, 86% of second-class women passengers and 46% of third-class women passengers were rescued. Bryceson said a crewman manning the lifeboat in question said that women and children were the only passengers ever to have gotten on the rescue craft.
Update: Reforma newspaper reporter Erika Pérez has pored through Pita memoirs published in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal in July 1948, but found no mention of the Titanic, Uruchurtu or Nye.
Loaeza's novel has Nye's ghost wandering the decks of the Titanic, lamenting that her lie caused her to live and Uruchurtu to die. It also misspells the town Nye was from, Folkestone. The first chapter, "My Name is Elizabeth," which reads well, can be seen on the Libros Aguilar website (PDF).
Story, Frontera (PDF). A story and video about Nye. Loaeza's website.
Sonoran Historical Society website.
Update, April 15: Story in Frontera repeating the myth about Uruchurtu ceding his lifeboat seat (PDF). Jump. It says Nye visited Mexico in the 1920s, not in the teens, as other stories said.
Nye wrote a letter to her parents after the disaster, making no mention of Uruchurtu. It reads in part:
We did not have time to go back to our cabins again to get anything, and we did not dream it was serious. I thought I should get back to get more clothes on and get a few other things, but we were put into the lifeboats, and pushed off at once. They put all ladies and children in first. I guess there were 30 or 40 in our boat. It seemed to be the last one lowered with women in it. ''When we got away from the ship we could understand the hurry and the order to get half a mile away as soon as possible. For the Titanic was half in the water. We watched the port holes go under until half the ship, only the back half, stuck up. Then the lights went out, and the boilers burst and blew up. There was a sickening roar like hundreds of lions, and we heard no more but THE MOANING AND SHOUTING for help from the hundreds of men and a few women who went down with her. ''There were not enough boats for so many people. Twenty lifeboats were lowered, and only fourteen boats were picked up. Several men were on a raft that was thrown out, and their cries for help were so pitiful for so long. Only one fellow, about 21 years old, is alive from the raft. He says the men were pushed off to make it lighter. This man was on it for six hours and then saved.
Update, Aug. 15: Loaeza to speak in San Diego on Aug. 21.