Getting to Know Basque Books: Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors

Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors by Maite Gonzalez Esnal is a beautifully written book about the life experiences of Esnal, all under the three themes; her journeys as an adult linguist, the fruits she associates with her school days (figs and pomegranates) and the neighbors of her childhood home growing up in the Basque country during Franco’s dictatorship. 

Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors  is one of my favorites of the books we publish here at the Center for Basque Studies Press for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it is written so well, at times it feels as though you are reading poetry, you can see how red the pomegranate juice is, you can smell the coffee the Good Samaritan gives her. There are quotes that cut deeply and explain emotion and memory in a way only fantastic writing can. I was talking to the editor here, Daniel Montero, last week about how the author not only wrote this novel, but did her own translations from Basque to English, and I was amazed. To be this gifted at writing, not only in your native language but to be able to translate it into another language and have such beautiful, almost surreal imagery translate, was an unimaginable talent to me.

Maite Gonzalez Esnal; to read more about the publication of Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors, click here: https://bit.ly/2M03wXc

Maite Gonzalez Esnal; to read more about the publication of Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors, click here: https://bit.ly/2M03wXc

This novel, aside from the beauty of it, is also an incredibly interesting story, my favorite being the “neighbors” section of it. It is so heart-breaking, yet innocent, since Esnal wrote it from her experiences as a child, she hints towards tragedy in a way that makes it even more devastating than if she had blatantly said it. Despite the tragedy in the last section, there is a comforting glimmer of hope at the end of the book. The other sections are also great, the “journeys” section being a incredibly detailed travel journal and the “fruits” section being a bit more of a short story collection. It is hard to put this book in a box, which makes it even better. From anyone who liked Eat, Pray, Love to The Book Thief, this book has something for anyone.

September 8, 1749: Birth of Dominique-Joseph Garat, early advocate of Basque political unity

On September 8, 1749, Dominique-Joseph Garat was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. An important political figure in the Northern Basque Country, he drew up plans, which he presented to Napoleon, to unite all the Basque provinces in one political unit–New Phoenicia–that would have remained an autonomous part of the French Empire. Napoleon, however, rejected the idea.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After studying law in Bordeaux, in 1777 Garat moved to Paris where he worked as a journalist (covering the American Revolution) and teacher. In 1789, he was elected representative of the Third Estate for Lapurdi and in 1792 he was appointed the minister of justice in Revolutionary France, charged with communicating to King Louis XVI his death sentence. Garat resigned after this decision and was arrested twice by the Jacobin authorities. However, following the Jacobin fall from power, from 1794 to 1795 he led the commission charged with implementing the new educational system and in 1798 was named French ambassador to Naples. That same year, he was elected president of the Council of Elders (the upper house of the French Directory) and later became a senator in Napoleonic France.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As a senior statesman, Garat subsequently used his political influence to present a plan to Napoleon to create what he termed New Phoenicia, incorporating all the Basque provinces north and south of the Pyrenees. This would, in Garat’s scheme, be an autonomous political unit within the French Empire, and serve as a buffer state between the French Republic and the Kingdom  of Spain. He lobbied to implement his plan on several occasions between 1803 and 1811, but ultimately to no avail. In part, wider events–including the course of the Peninsular War of 1807-1814 (covered in a previous post here)–hindered the feasibility of the scheme.  After opposing Napoleon during the events associated with the arrival of Louis XVIII on the French throne and Napoleon’s subsequent (although brief) return to power in 1814–15, he retired from his post in the senate. He abandoned politics altogether and settled once more in Iparralde, where, in Basusarri, on December 9, 1833, he died.

Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga discusses the importance of Garat at length in his The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.  According to Ahedo (p. 53):

Garat is a key figure in the political history of Iparralde for his role after the abolition of the Basque institutions with the triumph of the French Revolution. Furthermore, he is also important for the plans he drew up to unite the Basque provinces of both Iparralde and Hegoalde in one political unity: New Phoenicia, a confederation that would have formed a part of the Napoleonic French empire.

 

Diaspora Day

The very first Diaspora Day was held last Saturday, September 8th, a date designated by the Basque government because the date coincides with the first global circumnavigation in 1522 by Juan Sebastian Elkano and his crew.

People posing by Basque monument in Reno, Nevada  People gathering around

The day focuses on the Basque diaspora and different Basque organizations and communities would each find a way to celebrate. The idea is to bring more attention and celebrate the Basque diaspora. The Reno diaspora decided to do a walk from the Basque Sheepherder Monument to the Sheepherder Exhibit. To learn more about Diaspora Day and how it came into being, check out the blog post by Kate Camino on the new holiday: https://bit.ly/2CH80Tn.

Photo of Basque monument by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Photos by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Edurne Arrives Back to Bilbao and the Basque Country

Puerto Viejo, Algorta

Aupa everyone! I thought I’d check in and tell you about my adventures in the Basque Country while conducting my fieldwork for my dissertation. It’s good to be back! As some of you may know, I spent six years here before hopping across the pond again to Reno. My initial trip was for six months and, well, I guess I liked it a bit too much and got interested in Basque history and culture, leading me to complete my M.A. at the UPV/EHU and then two years at the same institution beginning my Ph.D. studies. So, I’m definitely acquainted with the place which makes my research explorations all the more easier.

I arrived mid-July and didn’t have much time to relax since I attended the 56th Annual International Americanists Congress at the University of Salamanca. There, I not only presented but spent time with my co-director, Óscar Álvarez Gila. We participated in different symposia but got a chance to catch up and talk about my plans. As usual, he motivated me and pushed me toward new directions. When it came to the symposium, I took part in “The Visible and Invisible: A Theoretical and Methodological Approach to the Unheard, Unspoken and Unseen in Gender Studies,” alongside sociologists and psychologists studying contemporary manifestations of gender studies. At first, after reading the schedule, I was hesitant: what was I, a historian focusing on the turn of the century and migration, doing on this panel? However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were a small group, so after presenting, we spent two hours chatting and discussing our work. The feedback I received was fantastic! Sometimes you get so into Basque studies (e.g. everything I see is Basque in some way or related in the most far-off way, I’m annoying like that…) you forget to widen your perspective. In all, it was a great way to start off my fieldwork and made contacts for the future.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Next up, I visited a part of Gipuzkoa I’d never been to: Bergara, Antzuola, Zumarraga, and Legazpi. Spending time with an old friend of my mom, she and her brother told me about the connections they and others had with the States, especially Boise. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Arantzazu. Beautiful and bewitching, I marveled at the architecture and views of the valley below. While on that trip, I embarked on a quest for a ceramic txakoli pitcher and cups for my dad. I ended up getting them made in Ollerias, where Blanka Gómez de Segura learned the fading technique from the last potter of the area. She has set up a museum and shop and gladly showed me around. Definitely worth visiting! I ended up buying a katilu of my own and had to resist myself in the shop.

Arantzazu

I’ve also visited Lekunberri (Nafarroa) a few times for various reasons. First of all, it’s cooler (in the sense of temperature) and there’s wonderful cheese everywhere (I’m a cheese addict). But from an academic standpoint, I’ve been put in contact with former sheepherders who have found a home there. Antonio, a neighbor, told me all about his experience in Fresno over a period of 40 years. I look forward to talking to him more in depth. I also became aware of a collection of letters preserved in Elantxobe from a sheepherder in Boise to his sister. The niece, Edurne (!), is willing to let me look through them and talk to me about her family and uncle. Besides, there will be lunch involved so two birds with one stone.

All work, no play…

Sheep! mmm…cheese!

Lastly, I attended the Artzai Eguna (Day of the Sheepherder) in Uharte-Arakil on August 26. Although I regret not taking advantage of my time very well while there (too busy trying cheese and cider), I got to see how cheese is made and specimens of the Latxa breed of sheep. The market was bustling, so my usual strategy of asking older men wearing baseball caps whether they’d been to the West didn’t seem appropriate (although it usually works).

Cheesemaking

Latxa Sheep

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I also wanted to mention that I finally met my colleague on the blog, Katu, in person for the first time. It’s crazy to think you’ve worked with someone for so long, exchanged countless emails, talked on skype for hours, yet never been in the same room. Luckily, we’ll be working together on a project dealing with Basque rock music in the 80s, so there’s more to come.

I’ll be updating you, our loyal readers, throughout my stay. Leave a comment if you have any questions, tips, or suggestions for my fieldwork. Ondo izan.

September 7, 1826: Birth of Armand David, first Westerner to “discover” the giant panda

On September 7, 1826, Jean-Pierre-Armand David Halsouet was born in Ezpeleta, Lapurdi. A renowned zoologist and botanist, Père David, as he was also known, was the first person in the West to record the existence of the giant panda, among other species.

Armand David (1826-1900). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Armand David (1826-1900). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Born into a wealthy and influential family, from an early age he demonstrated an interest in the natural world. He also felt a religious calling and was ordained as a Lazarist priest, but was also able to continue studying the natural sciences at a Lazarist seminary near Genoa in Italy. Indeed, he spent a decade there before being chosen to go on a mission to China in 1862. He was chosen at the request of the eminent scientist Henri Milne-Edwards, then chair of zoology at the prestigious National Museum of Natural History in Paris, to help in the creation of an inventory of what were then relatively unknown Chinese flora and fauna; while at the same time carrying out missionary duties in the country.

Once in China, he reveled in the opportunity to carry out his assigned task and was commissioned to make more scientific journeys throughout the vast country. Ultimately, he made an inventory of hundreds of species of animals and plants, many of them unknown to the West. Most famously, he brought news back of the giant panda, the first European to do so; and the milu or elaphure, a rare species of deer, was named Père David’s deer in his honor.

Plaque in honor of Armand David, Ezpeleta, Lapurdi. Image by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Plaque in honor of Armand David, Ezpeleta, Lapurdi. Image by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He died in Paris in 1900 at the age of seventy-four, a recognized world authority in the study of the natural sciences.

September 8: Basque Diaspora Day

By Kate Camino, for Astero:

Basque Diaspora Day Approaches

Basque GovernmentAs you all may remember, the Basque Government designated September 8th as Diaspora Day last January. The date was chosen after receiving several suggestions from Basques around the world, and because it coincides with the first circumnavigation of the globe, in 1522, by a crew led by Juan Sebastian Elkano who was from Getaria, Gipuzkoa. The hope is, by designating a day dedicated to the Diaspora, activities organized would make the Basque presence around the world more visible. In this its first year, the Basque Government would like to know how your club or Basque community is going to mark this date. Lehendakari Urkullu will be holding his own event at the Lehendakaritza on September 8th where he’d like to share what’s happening around the world. If your Basque club or community is planning an event, please share it with us atinfo@nabasque.eus. If you haven’t planned anything yet, you still have time. This video sums it all up “The Basque Country lives in you.” Ondo ospatu!

 

 

 

Congrats to Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain on Completing her PhD Defense!

On August 30th, the committee of Dr. Xabier Irujo, Dr. Mari Jose Olazregi, Dr. Justin Glifford, Dr. Mario Santana, Dr. Joseba Zulaika, Dr. Meredith Oda and Dr. Sandra Ott all gathered to hear PhD student, Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain’s PhD defense. When asked to explain her dissertation, Ziortza explained “The cultural magazine Euzko-Gogoa was undoubtedly an emblematic leader in the history of the Basque press and a symbol of the resurgence of the Basque language and nation during Franco’s dictatorship. However, there is very little academic research on the contribution that Basque literature in exile made to the secularization and modernization of Basque literature, and even less research about the magazine published in English. Euzko-Gogoa, since its beginnings, played an important role in the Basque culture. The symbolic, idealistic and vocational understanding of culture, which was characteristic of the 1950’s, created such a vital and dynamic movement that it is almost impossible to talk about the Basque cultural renaissance of the 1960’s without properly examining this magazine. The impact of exile was instrumental in the process of planting the seeds for future nation building. With a country defeated and its culture outlawed, it was in the diaspora where the Basque nation could be rebuilt and re-imagined. Euzko-Gogoa created a foundation of ideas that would serve to maintain the dialogue of a desired community while maintaining and developing the Basque language and culture. This dissertation acknowledges the exceptional nature of exile and its impact in the character/identity of the magazine.” The once grad student, passed with flying colors, and is now headed to Boise State University for a lectureship.

Dr. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain

Dr. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain

When I asked Ziortza about how she chose her topic for her dissertation she said, “I admire believers, dreamers and the ones that fight for impossibilities to make a better world. I realized that the cultural projects made in exile/diaspora were many times made by these unlikely heroes that defended actions and projects that were many times bordering fantasy and reality. Their unacceptability to succumb to impositions inspire me to write about them.” Ziortza explained how she loves fantasy, specifically J.R.R. Tolkien and in her words “envisioned myself in this imagined world where I could join the fellowship in the fight for middle earth.  So when I was teaching high school in the Basque Country I felt a yearning still for more education and opportunities. I was extremely lucky to also have met Dr. Olaziregi during my masters and she was always an amazing reference and person of inspiration. So I contacted her to see if there was an opportunity to seek out more knowledge in the Basque diaspora. The dominoes started to fall and sure enough the opportunity presented itself to leave my ‘Basque shire’ and set out on an adventure to research and share the passionate story of Euzko-Gogoa, it’s creator Jokin Zaitegi, and the amazing fellowship he created…Zaitegi was a dreamer who, despite his constant defeats, created a world for the Basque language and culture, for the next generation of Basques such as myself.”

      

Congratulations once again to Dr. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain on all her accomplishments and we look forward to all she will accomplish in the future!

 

Bill Douglass Featured in the Las Vegas Sun

Bill Douglass, the founder of the Center for Basque Studies, was interviewed by Yvonne Gonzalez of the Las Vegas Sun for a Q + A in her piece about the Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada. Since Douglass has been researching and writing about the Basques and Basque culture since the 1960s, he was the natural choice to ask questions about Basque cuisine, culture, history and how all of these aspects helped shape the American West into what it is today.

Bill Douglass

Bill Douglass

He explained how the Basque cuisine is different in the United States than in Euskadi because of the different availabilities to seafood. He also talked about the history of Basque boardinghouses and how it shaped the way we think of Basque cuisine today, as well as the way Basque immigrants have been viewed in the United States and the fluctuating status of the sheep industry. It is a fascinating interview and if you want to learn more about Basque culture, history or the diaspora, this is a great read!

The Basque mural in Gardnerville, Nevada by Beverly Caputo; to read more about The Basque mural, click here: https://bit.ly/2N7E1I7

The Basque mural in Gardnerville, Nevada by Beverly Caputo; to read more about The Basque mural, click here: https://bit.ly/2N7E1I7

To learn more about the interview or The Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada click here: https://bit.ly/2MSKWop

August 27, 1893: The Night of Sagasta’s Shots

On the night of August 27-28, 1893, there was spontaneous public outcry in Donostia-San Sebastián at the refusal of the municipal band to play the politically-charged Basque hymn “Gernikako Arbola” (The tree of Gernika), due to the presence in the city of both the queen regent of Spain and the prime minister, Práxedes Sagasta. The resulting protest was met with force by the authorities and by the morning of August 28 three protesters had been killed and many injured.

The resort city of Donostia-San Sebastián was full of people that Sunday, August 27. As the municipal band was entertaining a large crowd, there were requests to play “Gernikako Arbola” but, on the prior orders of city hall, the band’s conductor declined to do so. The song was considered too political by the authorities due to is defense of the Basque fueros, the specific rights on which a form of Basque home rule had existed for centuries, until their abolition in 1876. With both the queen regent and prime minster of Spain summering in the city, the public authorities took the decision to ban any rendition of the song for fear of causing offense to the illustrious visitors.

Tempers rose among many of those attending the concert and some young people set off firecrackers in protest. A demonstration was quickly organized, with shouts of “Long live the fueros!” and “Death to Sagasta!” as it passed by the Londres Hotel, at which the prime minister was staying. The atmosphere grew tenser as more people joined in the protest, and stones were thrown at the hotel. Some people even tried to get over the barriers outside and enter the premises, which resulted around midnight in the appearance of a squad of civil guards that opened fire on the public. Three people were killed: Vicente Urcelay, Rufino Aspiazu, and Justo Perez.

In the days that followed there were more demonstrations and more confrontations between protesters and the security forces. Meanwhile, other demonstrations were taking place throughout the Basque Country in sympathy with the people in Donostia-San Sebastián. At this moment, the city hall intervened, calling on the central authorities to withdraw their security forces and promising to take the initiative to quell the unrest, which, ultimately, it did; although not without leaving a simmering resentment among certain sections of the Basque population. The issue of the abolition of the fueros was, then, still very important even nearly twenty years later.

In Basque Nationalism and Political Violence (p.67), Cameron J. Watson comments on the events:

The violence of the event certainly brought public attention not only to the level of social protest within the Basque provinces, but also to the actions of the Civil Guard, an organization associated with the institutionalization of the liberal state in Spain. Indeed, it was the raison d’être of the organization to serve the Spanish government, whatever its political complexion, against any opposition. The incident also reflected that although a liberal state had been institutionalized, traditional recourse to force, a staple tactic of Spanish government throughout the century, had not been relinquished. The evidence suggests, then, that the liberal state in Spain was not as tolerant as may have been perceived. That same day, a strong military presence had been posted to Bilbao in order to offset republican demonstrations in the city. It was clear from the level of social protest of varying political persuasions that Spain was suffering a grave domestic crisis. However, what was perhaps most significant about the Donostia–San Sebastián disturbance was the scene of these events itself, a place of liberal tradition and the summer residence of the monarchy.

Check out some other posts on the significance of “Gernikako Arbola” here, here, and here.

Fall 2018 Semester is Here!

A new semester is beginning here at the Center for Basque Studies. Though we mourn the end of summer, it is sure to be a great semester full of new experiences and ways to expand our knowledge of the world.

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada via Wikimedia Commons

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada via Wikimedia Commons

We are offering several classes including two classes taught by our very own Kate Camino, where one would begin to learn the unique and beautiful language of Euskara. Mariann Vaczi is teaching Basque Tranationalism in the United States, which sounds like a fascinating class about the theories of globalization, social identity, diaspora foreign policy, identity construction, and nationalism and how they compare to the Basque individual and institutionalized ethnicity in the United States. Dr. Xabier Irujo is teaching a class on Basque politics, focusing on the history and legal status of Euskadi in relation to Spain and the European Union, as well as post-Franco nationalist movements and party development.  Joseba Zulaika is teaching a class on the Bilbao Guggenheim, focusing on not only the artistic and architectural aspects of the museum, but also its social and political effects on a local and global level. Finally, Dr. Sandra Ott is teaching a course on Basque culture within Euskadi and in emigrant settings, specifically the American West. We can’t wait to see what the next semester holds and wish you all a wonderful autumn!

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