May 22, 1938: The San Cristóbal Prison Break

On May 22, 1938, some 792 prisoners escaped from Fort San Cristóbal, on Mount Ezkaba, about 2.5 miles outside Pamplona-Iruñea, in what is estimated to be one of the numerically biggest prison breaks in history.  These inmates were prisoners of war who had been detained by Franco’s rebel forces during the Spanish Civil War. There were 2,487 inmates in total in 1938, most of them Republican sympathizers arrested during the war. Condition were brutal, with prisoners suffering torture, starvation, and death.

The escape was planned by around 30 inmates, who used Esperanto to communicate among each other. It started during dinner, when the guards were most dispersed, and different groups of prisoners managed to overpower them within a half hour. Thereafter, they began their escape, but, unbeknownst to them, a soldier had witnessed the events and rushed to Pamplona-Iruñea to inform the authorities there. Ultimately, it was not so difficult to capture the escapees. They were poorly dressed, malnourished, and without any specific plan beyond just breaking out of Fort San Cristóbal. Within a matter of days, of the 795 who originally escaped, 585 were captured, 207 died or were killed, and just 3 made it to the French border and safety. Of those recaptured, 14 were sentenced to death after being singled out as ringleaders.

*Image: Monument to those who escaped from Fort San Cristóbal on the southern slope of Mount Ezkaba. Photo by Jorab, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Usopop Festibala 2017 this weekend

This weekend people lucky enough to find themselves in the Basque lands will have the opportunity, should they wish, to dance gently away to the sweet sounds of the Usopop Festival, a wonderfully quirky mix of roots, folk, rock, and pop music in the beautiful setting of Sara (Lapurdi) and the Lizarrieta Pass between Lapurdi and Nafarroa. Check out the teaser here.

 
 https://www.kanaldude.tv/Teaser-Usopop-2017_v4947.htmlhttps://www.kanaldude.tv/Teaser-Usopop-2017_v4947.htmlhttps://www.kanaldude.tv/Teaser-Usopop-2017_v4947.html

 

Anchovies or Tornadoes?

I arrived in the town of Ondarroa on the second Saturday of May to observe the celebration of Antxoa Eguna 2017.  My bus had arrived a bit early, so I had the opportunity to see everyone setting up their booths in preparation to serve pintxos-all of which honored the anchovy.  As I walked around in the lovely weather, admiring this quaint little coastal town in the province of Bizkaia, I was quickly transported back to my home state of Kansas.

The sound of an air-raid siren filled the air with an ominous howl.  Unlike the famous Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz, I was lucky enough to grow up with warnings of this kind when a tornado had touched down back home in Wichita.  A small part of me instinctively felt the urge to go hide in a basement as I observed people strolling around in the sunny warm weather, free of any funnel clouds.  I later learned that the siren was a call used to notify people that fishermen were returning from sea with the catch.  As my roommate later told me, this signal meant that all hands on deck were needed to unload and get the fish prepared for their auctioning off at the market.

Pretty soon the action started with people arriving at the booths to buy their fried anchovies, croquetas made of anchovies, tortilla with anchovies, and the famous txakoli to wash it all down.  As with many celebrations in the Basque Country, plenty of eating and drinking in the street alongside the sound of the trikitixa (and a good amount of Basque-speakers I might add!) ensued.  The celebration lasted a few hours with families heading home before dinner.  Final observations: I’d take anchovy season over tornado season any day.

 

Photo from Deia, Ramon Basaldua

Deia article for Anchovy Day

A restaurateur, priest, and a rancher…

…Walk into a bar?

No!  “Un restaurador, un ganadero, y un cura…” make Txakoli!  At least that is what the label of Txakoli Uno from Goianea Bodega says.  The Bodega GOIANEA produces wine through the collaboration of Juan José Tellaetxe (priest), Jose Cruz Guinea (restaurant owner), and Jose María Gotxi (rancher).  I met two out of these three guys this last weekend here in the Basque Country during the Arabako Txakoli Eguna 2017 celebration.  This wine uses the autochthonous grapes (Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia) from the Designation of Origin of Álava, and is quite tasty I might add! They had another version aged on its lees and in barrels that was also being served up on Sunday, but I settled on just buying a bottle of the crisper version.  The words seen on the label Bat Gara, meaning “we are one,” caught my eye as I have an appreciation for those that decide on using Basque in their advertising.  Check out the video to learn more about Txakoli Uno from Goianea Bodega, below!

Goianea Bodega Video

 

 

New York Times celebrates Biarritz

Biarritz, photo by Gilles Guillamot via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times has published an article on the flourishing life of Biarritz on the Basque coast in France. Makes me want to go for a visit!!!

Read the article here!

May 17, 1837: The Battle of Irun

On May 14, 1837, around 20,000 Liberal troops under the command of General Sir George de Lacy Evans, head of the British Legion that was assisting the forces of Isabella II during the First Carlist War, rendezvoused in Donostia-San Sebastián before setting out with the aim of taking the corridor of towns toward the French border. Taking Hernani swiftly, their Carlist opponents retreated to the border town of Irun, the ultimate goal for the Liberals. Around 12,000 of the original 20,000 took part in the assault on Irun (including 5,000 soldiers of the British Legion). The Carlists, meanwhile, were hopelessly outnumbered, with many of their number having been committed elsewhere to the so-called Royal Expedition, an attempt to attack Madrid directly and try and wrest control of the throne away from Isabella II. On May 16, the British forces began bombarding Irun and the following day, May 17, they attacked the city. The Carlist forces there, though as mentioned much less in number, defended their position stoically. Following this desperate resistance by the Carlists, though, the Liberals triumphed, pillaging Irun and carrying out widespread reprisals against their enemy. Despite efforts by de Lacy Evans to precvent such reprisals, British troops, too, took part in the pots-battle retaliations, probably due to having been humiliated by Carlist forces at the Battle of Oriamendi on March 16 that same year.  The following day Hondarribia, too, fell to the Liberal forces, who were ultimately successful in their attempt to seal the corridor to the French border.

*Image: Attack on the Behobia Gate, Irun, by the British Auxiliary Legion, during the Battle of Irun. From Twelve Views in the Basque Provinces illustrating several of the actions in which the British Legion was engaged with Carlist Troops, by Thomas Lyde Hornbrook. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Craft’s love for Txakoli

It’s that time again!  If you are in the Reno area (or feel the need for an adventure to the “Biggest Little City”) this month, Ty and his gang at Craft Wine and Beer are putting together quite the Basque gastronomic experience.  I have learned over here in Euskal Herria that tasting is enhanced when able to simultaneously embrace multiple components of the Basque Culture, so check out the shindig Ty Martin has organized this month to eat, dance, and celebrate one of my favorite wines and the land from which it “stems,” the culture in which it is “rooted” ( bad wine jokes anyone?).

Check out Ty’s announcement as seen in his newsletter:

Next, Txakolina. It slipped out of our normal comfort zone last year but we’re back on track this season. As you can see from the photo that greeted you at the top of this missive we’re loaded for bear. We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, including smoked chorizo from Villa Basque Deli, cidre’ on tap, and if we’re lucky, a few dancers from the Zazpiak Bat dance club. We’ll also be celebrating some May birthdays so if you want to toast some fantastic wine and shake a leg come on down on Sunday,

May 21st from 2p-6p. Flights, glasses, and food will be available.

 

It appears the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community are represented well here, and the warmer weather is the perfect time for indulging in this juice..so hit up Craft, drink txakoli, dance and be merry!

 

 

Four takes on Basque identity from a food perspective

Check out a lovely article on Basque food and tradition in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country from the gourmet food, wine, and travel magazine Saveur, in its continual quest to “savor a world of authentic cuisine.” Now we could get all highfalutin and scholarly about the nature of authenticity in culture as a whole, but seeing as though this is meant to be a fun blog and a downright celebration of all things Basque… we won’t! Yay!! In the article, author Jane Sigal visits a charcutier, a pepper grower, a baker, and a cheese maker in Iparralde to see how the food they make represents the place in which they live. In  a beautiful philosophical turn, cheese maker Raphaël Eliceche comments that, “My cheese is for sale … Not the Pays Basque.”

Check out the full article here.

*Image: Official seal of Bayonne Ham. Photo  by Émile Pujolle, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interview with Mikel Amuriza, visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia

After a three-month research stay, we’ve decided to interview Mikel Amuriza, a visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia. He has been quite the presence around the CBS and we will miss him dearly.

Mikel Amuriza Fernandez was born in Bilbao in 1978 and studied “Ciencias Actuariales y Financieras” (like Business but more specialized in insurance) at the University of the Basque Country. He currently works at the Biscay Deputation, in the tax inspection department.

1)    What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? How long will you be here?

The Biscay Deputation and the CBS have an agreement for cooperation and to promote the Basque Economic Agreement, so I got the opportunity to spend three months here.

2)    What is the goal of your project?

The main goal of my project is to analyze the American tax system to compare it with the Basque Country tax system.

3)    What makes your research unique?

 It is unique, at least for me, because there isn’t a comparative model of the two systems. It is also a great opportunity to experience this Basque Center, learn a little bit about Basque culture and history in the United States, experience American culture, and, of course, to work on the article on this subject.

4)    What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I have learned a lot about American society,  culture, and its economic system. And I also have learned about the Basque diaspora and its history.

5) Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way?

In many ways: The library’s resources, the incredible people at the CBS, tools to work efficiently like a computer, office, the internet, etc., they have all helped me in my research stay. Also, related to my job, the Nevada Tax office, lawyers, and UNR professors have also aided me tremendously.

But the most important help has been from the people at the center.

6)    Are you enjoying the U.S.?

It has been an amazing experience, so if I can, I will come back, of course! 

7)    What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

My family and my young son Martin.

Thousands gather for Herri Urrats 2017

This past Sunday thousands of people gathered together in the sun to celebrate the annual Herri Urrats (A People’s Step) festival in the Senpere lake area in Lapurdi. This is a fundraising event for Basque-language education initiatives in the Northern Basque Country. And this year, specifically, all the money raised will go toward the expansion of the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa (high school), in Baiona, to incorporate a vocational or trade school, thereby offering full technical and vocational training in Basque for the first time in Iparralde. That’s not all, though, as part of an ambitious wider plan, the new site will also incorporate a barnetegi (that is, boarding facilities for adult learners of Basque) and major new sports installations. Exciting times ahead for the Bernat Etxepare Lizeoa!

So that’s the serious side to all this, but Herri Urats is really a fun day out for all the family, a meeting place for old friends, and an opportunity to celebrate the Basque language. And when the sun shines, which is does occasionally, there are few better places to be! See some great pictures from the day here.

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