Bilbao rainwater for sale … and why not?

News comes our way of a rather unique business idea: marketing Bilbao rainwater! Why not? This is, after all, Bilbao! A city not renowned for its modesty but definitely known for its bilbainadas. As Joseba Zulaika observes in That Old Bilbao Moon (p. 180):

The bilbainada is a too-muchness that, except in Bilbao, is unaffordable. It is the city’s alter-ego behavior, the extravagant antidote to the frustrations of an understated, modest lifestyle. Going for the Guggenheim Museum was for many a typical bilbainada. What for an outsider seems a braggard’s exhibitionism is for Bilbainos ritual consumption.

As the saying goes, “The only virtue that is lacking for Bilbainos to be perfect is modesty.” It goes with such grandiosity that there can be nothing greater in life than being from Bilbao.

Just by way of clarification, if the initiative takes off, the intention is to make the product in centers for people with mental disabilities and donate part of the profits to worthy local causes. If you’d like to get your own particular bottle of Bilbao rainwater, click here.

Basque chef Eneko Atxa interviewed in TheWeek

Check out a short but interesting interview with star Basque chef Eneko Atxa, who not only runs Azurmendi just outside Bilbao, but also has a more informal London restaurant, Eneko.

We picked up on a couple of things he mentions and think they’re pretty important when it comes to understanding Basque culture. For Atxa, “Basque people are born around the dinner table. We are unique in that when we are eating we are also speaking about our dinner; we are just crazy about our food and it dominates our conversations every day.” So true! It’s one of the first things those of us not born into Basque culture notice when hanging out with Basques on their own terrain … they not only love preparing and eating food, they love taking about it as well, while they are actually eating it! And just a heads up for anyone who didn’t know, if you ever get invited into someone’s home in the Basque Country for a meal, be sure to compliment the chef early on into the meal (“Zer goxoa!” “How tasty!”)…

Atxa continues: “my mother and grandmother always showed me the importance of the kitchen and healthy eating, and giving pleasure through food. I understood that it could be one language that could translate and transport people to a space and a culture.” Food as a language! What a great idea! Of course, we as humans communicate through food. It’s one way we transmit our tradition, culture, and love… in fact, what better way to do that than by sitting round a table enjoying great food, great conversation, and great company? Isn’t this the very basis of society, sitting down and sharing common sustenance? We think so!

See the full interview here.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to take a look at Hasier Etxeberria’s On Basque Cuisine, a publication of the Etxpeare Basque Institute free to download here.

 

Colombian chef Leonor Espinosa wins Basque Culinary World Prize

It was announced today, July 18, that Colombian chef Leonor Espinosa of the Restaurante Leo has won this year’s Basque Culinary World Prize. The prize is awarded by the Basque Culinary Center and the Basque Government and is intended to celebrate, in its own words, Basque “values such as hard work and compromise, the capacity to excel, a vocation for transformation and the creation of equal opportunities for men and women.” In the words of the jury:

We believe that through awarding the prize to Leonor we recognize all those people ho are working hard today so that the city and rural communities can come together through gastronomy. Leonor’s work shows the possibilities that come when chefs acknowledge that biodiversity, ecology, culture, ad the traditions of local communities matter. Her work gives voice to the silence and anonymity of indigenous and Afroamerican cultures. We found this inspiring and powerful.

From the Basque Culinary World Prize website:

Leonor Espinosa is known for taking great pride in the cuisine of her country, as well as nurturing and promoting the value of its biodiversity. Through the Funleo foundation, Espinosa revives the ancestral knowledge and know-how of mainly indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples. She supports rural development based on food sovereignty, and promotes routes to market for small producers as well as spaces for education, nutrition, enterprise and tourism in ethnic locations. In addition to gathering support for opening a Comprehensive Gastronomy Centre in Chocó as an alternative framework to drug trafficking, she urges Colombia to raise awareness of its culinary richness, and wants its communities to take responsibility for transforming their biological, cultural and intangible heritage into tools for socio-economic development.

Zorionak Leonor!

Reno Zazpiak Bat 50th Annual Basque Festival

This past weekend was the Reno Zazpiak Bat’s 50th Annual Basque Festival and it was packed with activities and Basque spirit. My weekend actually kicked off in Sparks, at the Thursday Night Marketplace event, which collaborated with Zazpiak Bat to have a Basque theme. Besides the farmer’s market, there was dancing by the Zazpiak Bat Basque Dancers and the public. Later in the evening, Errebal, a music group from the Basque Country, had their first performance. It was a great way to start the weekend!

Dancing in Sparks

Errebal

The official schedule of events began on Friday at the Santa Fe, with the President’s Dinner and subsequent performance by Errebal. After plentiful dining alongside merry Basques, Julen from Errebal helped us learn the different steps to euskal dantza. You could tell who had experience and who didn’t, although we all had fun! To end the night, Mercedes Mendive played the accordion accompanied by much dancing.

Aita Antton

Basque Mass

Winnemucca Dancers

Saturday’s events were held at Wingfield Park, by the Truckee river in Downtown Reno. Bright and early, Apaiza Aita Antton gave the mass. After a welcoming from the President of Zazpiak Bat, Joe Leonis, the Winnemucca Dancers performed, and it’s always a pleasure watching them. Throughout the day, there were different herri kirolak demonstrations, including harrijasotzaileak (weight lifters), aizkolariak (woodchoppers), and Txingas, a competition that was open to the public. There was dancing at all times, and of course, I can’t forget the food and drink. Accompanied by the warm weather, the festivities in the park made the day fly by.

 

But that wasn’t all. Saturday evening, Errebal had their final performance at Louis’ Basque Corner. It was packed! People danced, drank, and were merry! Overall, it was a great weekend and I can’t wait till next year!

July 13, 1955: Birth of pilotari Panpi Ladutxe

On July 13, 1955, one of the great characters in the modern age of pilota (also spelled pelota) was born in Azkaine, Lapurdi: Panpi Ladutxe (also spelled Pampi Laduche). The son of another famous pilotari or Basque handball player, Joseph Ladutxe, he began his career in the four-walled trinkete (closed court) version of the sport more common in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, where he was from, becoming world champion in this version at the tender age of 19. He later switched to the three-walled (open court) fronton variety more common in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country in his mid-20s, winning two doubles titles in 1987 and 1989, partnered by Joxean Tolosa.

Ladutxe stood out in many ways, being the first player from Iparralde to gain success in Hegoalde in the modern age. After retirement he went on to promote and develop the sport in and train fellow players from Iparralde, two of whom in particular–Sebastien Gonzalez and Yves Salaberri or “Xala”–went on to enjoy great success, following in his footsteps. He has also been a great showman away from the court, enjoying some success as a singer of traditional Basque songs both live and in the release of two records: Aitari (1995) and Chansons du Pays Basque (2002).

Highlights from the 54th National Basque Festival

Just in case anyone out there hasn’t seen this, we’re posting this charming video showcasing the music and dance of the 54th National Basque Festival that took place recently, June 30-July 2, in Elko. As you’ll see, a good time was evidently had by all!

The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca

Somebody recently mentioned to me that the Martin in Winnemucca is one of the oldest restaurants in Nevada, so I decided to look into it. In fact, according to http://www.onlyinyourstate.com, the Martin is the oldest in the state, opening in 1898. As they put it:

The Martin was established as a rooming house for area cattle ranchers in 1898. Today this beloved family-style Basque restaurant continues to draw travelers and townfolk alike. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s a bit of the restaurant’s history, according to the Martin Hotel’s website:

A lithograph dated 1881 shows a residence on this property.  Sometime between 1898 and 1908 Alfonso Pasquale opened the Roman Tavern and Restaurant here.  In 1913 Augustine A. Martin and Elisee Henri Martin, both of France, acquired this building and the business was named The Martin Hotel.  In 1920, after a fire, the building was reconstructed with twenty-five rooms.

Rene Martin, Augustine and Elisee’s son, wrote in 1980, “My parents catered to the sheepmen and cattlemen.  Although they were not Basque, the sheepherders and stockmen  made the Martin their home when in town.  It was not unusual for a herder to come in from this long stay with the sheep, be paid off in full for his work and give the entire sum over to my father.  The herder would then stay at the hotel, eat in the restaurant, play cards, visit with friends and drink in the bar.  My father, keeping the account, would advance him pocket money when asked for and when the sheepherder’s money started to run out, father would tell them so and help them line up a new job.  Then off the sheepherder would go for another long stint with the sheep.”

During prohibition, the hotel and restaurant downstairs prospered while a speakeasy thrived in what is now the attic.  The story is told that when the revenuers found the whiskey, they dumped it all down Melarkey Street and people turned out with cups to sample it as it flowed by.

The Martin Hotel continued as a restaurant after Augustine Martin died.  It was owned and managed by Basque families stretching into the 1970’s; Yruetas, Bengoa, Bilboa, and Sil and Rosie Uriguen.

The Martin Hotel today is a internationally known Basque and American family style restaurant, still home to stockmen as well as a wonderful cross section of people from Winnemucca and around the world…and as always , “where friends gather”.

Now my point isn’t to make you hungry. Ever since moving to Reno, I have been struck by how so many people know about the Basques and frequent their establishments. Having grown up in California, I constantly had to explain my name, origin, etc. Here, everyone knows about Basques, loves picon punch, and has an opinion. When I visited Winnemucca for the Basque festival a few weeks ago, I was impressed by how many people from the greater community were part of the fun. So, besides recommending you to visit the Martin, this post is dedicated to the strength of Basque culture in Nevada!

Ogden’s Royal Hotel

The Basque Librarian recently shared an article with me about a unique hotel in Ogden (Utah), “Royal Hotel Served Basques and African Americans,” by Miriam B. Murphy. Published in the History Blazer in October 1996, it sheds light on the Basque community in Ogden and compelled me to look into it. I was surprised to find that the Royal Hotel is not mentioned in William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao’s Amerikanuak, Jeronima Echeverria’s Home Away from Home, or even Nancy Zubiri’s A Travel Guide to Basque America! However, all three books do mention the particular situation of Ogden in the Basque experience of the American West.

Douglass and Bilbao do refer to two hotels in the town, one French-Basque and the other Vizcayan. Ogden stands out as a site of transit for many Basques traveling West. It was there that “many Vizcayans changed to the spur line that curved northward into southern Idaho. Others continued on to northern and western Nevada and San Francisco” (373). The two hotels served these Basque migrants on their journeys and were centers of Basque community. According to Echeverria, “These Ogden ostatuak also became popular stopover spots for vacationing Great Basin Basques, places for local and regional Basque ranchers and sheepmen to conduct business, and the scene where young couples gathered with their families to conduct marriage ceremonies and the festivities afterward, as well as spend their honeymoon” (162). However, besides these remarks, Echeverria concludes that “No further information could be gleaned on these establishments” (162). It’s a good thing Murphy brought the Royal Hotel’s story to light!

Lastly, Zubiri mentions an amusing anecdote about the Basque community in Utah

…isolated within the vast Mormon population, the pockets of Basques in Ogden, in southeast Utah, and later in the Salt Lake City area developed almost unbeknownst to one another. When the current Basque club, based in Salt Lake City, filed its application with the state for incorporation in 1973, the group was surprised to learn that a Utah Basque club had previously existed in Ogden. “Nobody alive knew anything about it,” said Mary Gaztambide–not even the oldest Basques in the community. Her husband Jean kept a copy of the incorporation application of the earlier group, which had been filed in 1914! (465)

So without further ado, here’s the article from the Utah Division of State History’s website:

Hotel Served Basques and African Americans

ROYAL HOTEL SERVED BASQUES AND AFRICAN AMERICANS 
Miriam B. Murphy
History Blazer, October 1996

Built in 1914 at 2522 Wall Avenue, Ogden, the Royal Hotel has filled a unique role in the city’s history. A modest three-story masonry building, the hotel originally provided housing for blue collar railroad workers and travelers. Shops, cafes, and offices filled the front spaces of the street floor, and modestly priced hotel rooms on the second and third floors accommodated the needs of local working men and minorities. The original owners were John H. Maitia and John Etcheverry. In 1935 Sam Maruri, a hotel tenant, acquired the Royal. He and his family, immigrants from Spain, catered to fellow Basques who worked for the sheep industry locally. For many years both the wool clip and lambs were shipped by wool buyers and meat packing houses from Ogden by rail.

After the Royal’s construction in 1914 the area around Union Station became a center
of commerce, entertainment, and lodging into the 1960s. Several other hotels were constructed around the same time, including the Healy and New Brigham hotels on Wall Avenue and the Marion, Windsor, and Helena hotels on 25th Street.

Directly behind the Royal Hotel a comparably sized brick structure was built sometime between 1920 and 1930. Its main purpose was for the playing of jai-alai, a very fast court game for two to four players who use a long basket strapped to the wrist to propel a ball against a wall. The Basque immigrants no doubt saw this game as an important part of their heritage. This building is the only known structure in the state built especially for jai-alai and one of few that embodies the culture of the state’s small Basque population. In the early 1940s large trucks took over the transportation of sheep, bypassing the Union Station area, and the hotel’s association with Basques came to an end.

On May 5, 1943, the Royal Hotel was sold to Leager V. Davis, an Ogden woman originally from Louisiana. She and her husband, Alonzo, wanted a place to accommodate members of the local African American community, primarily the porters and waiters working for the railroads. At that time there were few places where they could stay in Ogden because of segregation and the lack of equal housing opportunities. Other than the Porters and Waiters Club, the Royal was the only hotel designated for the black community. During World War II a basement room in the hotel served as an office for African American MPs.

Leager Davis was very active in Ogden’s black community. During her ownership of the Royal she served on the Board of Directors of the YWCA and the Comprehensive Health Planning Commission and as head of the governor’s Anti-Discrimination Board.

She was also active in the Ogden Chapter of the NAACP, the United Fund, the League of Women Voters, and the Democratic Women’s Club. The Royal Hotel hosted the meetings of many of these community organizations. The NAACP named an achievement award in Davis’s honor. She died in 1973.

The Royal Hotel was recently rehabilitated by Kier Corporation, and the jai-alai building now serves as a parking area for apartment tenants. The Royal is part of the Lower 25th Street Historic District and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Source: Nomination Form, Lower 25th Street Historic District, National Register files, Preservation Office, Utah Division of State History.

Although I couldn’t pinpoint any information on John H. Maitia and John Etcheverry, Sam Maruri does appear in Basques in the United States.  Originally from Amoroto (Bizkaia), he was born on February 6, 1894, and arrived in the US in 1912, at the tender age of 18. He initially went to Boise and married Josefa Osa, from Mutriku, and together they had three children. By 1917, he had moved to Utah to work as a miner, but this was short lived since, by 1920,  he was managing the hotel. As the article states, he bought the Royal in 1935 and ran it until 1940. He died in Ogden in 1974, having received citizenship in 1925.

Lastly, in an interesting turn of events, the Royal Hotel now provides low-income housing for the Ogden community. Read more at: http://fox13now.com/2015/10/25/historic-hotel-turned-housing-for-low-income-residents-in-ogden-gets-new-name-and-new-look/

Dr. Ott’s new book, Living with the Enemy

We’d like to congratulate Professor Ott for her new publication, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration, and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948, published last month by Cambridge University Press. As many of you know, Dr. Ott is a leading expert on the Basques in Iparralde and has spent many years of research on the German occupation of France, specifically the Western Pyrenees. Combining ethnography and history, she brings out the complicated relationships between the occupiers and the occupied. For any of you who have taken her “War, Occupation, and Memory” class, you will remember how passionate she is and her ability to bring this period of history to light. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get a copy of this.

He’s the description from the publisher:

In post-liberation France, the French courts judged the cases of more than one hundred thousand people accused of aiding and abetting the enemy during the Second World War. In this fascinating book, Sandra Ott uncovers the hidden history of collaboration in the Pyrenean borderlands of the Basques and the Béarnais in southwestern France through nine stories of human folly, uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, desire, vengeance, duplicity, greed, self-interest, opportunism and betrayal. Covering both the occupation and liberation periods, she reveals how the book’s characters became involved with the occupiers for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to settle scores and to gain access to power, money and material rewards, to love, friendship, fear and desperation. These wartime lives and subsequent postwar reckonings provide us with a new lens through which to understand human behavior under the difficult conditions of occupation, and the subsequent search for retribution and justice.

  • Reconstructs the richness of wartime social life in nine narratives about ordinary but colorful individuals
  • Takes a unique ethnographic approach to the trial dossiers of suspected collaborators, appealing to anthropologists and historians alike
  • Detailed archival research reveals the role of German prisoners of war as insiders in a post-liberation court of justice, a phenomenon that has not been reported by other historians of the period

Reviews from the back cover text:

Sandra Ott, one of the leading experts on the history of the French Basques, offers an important and wonderfully readable study of the region during the Vichy Years. In Living with the Enemy, her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated “hidden” story of the German occupation and Vichy collaboration in the Basque country. Ott’s compelling narrative and thoughtful conclusions nuance what we know about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Vichy years.

  • John Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of History, Yale University.

A subtle and enthralling exploration of the myriad ways in which Germans and French were drawn together in complex webs of greed and vengeance, generosity and betrayal under the occupation. A magnificent contribution to the historiography.

  • Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History, Worcester College, Oxford

This engaging and important book sees the big questions of France in the Second World War (questions of occupation and collaboration) refracted through the lives of individuals in one particular, and particularly interesting, region. It will be of special interest to those who study twentieth-century France or the Second World War, but it deserves a wider readership as well because it lives up to Marc Bloch’s injunction that the historian should be like ogre in the fairy tale who finds his prey “by the smell of human flesh.”

  • Richard Vinen, Professor of History, King’s College London

If these reviews don’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will. Zorionak, Professor Ott!

July 7, 2008: Three Basque Caves Declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

On July 7, 2008, UNESCO declared three Basque caves–Santimamiñe in Bizkaia and Ekain and Altxerri in Gipuzkoa–to be World Heritage Sites. The Basque Country is at the epicenter of arguably the most important cave complex in Europe, an area framed by the world famous caves of Lascaux, Dordogne in southwestern France and Altamira, Cantabria, in northern Spain. Their designation as World Heritage Sites implied official international recognition for the cultural value of the cave art discovered in the three sites.

In order to preserve the cave art in these locations, they are, naturally, closed to the public. However, we can still get a flavor of what treasures lie deep within their walls. As regards Santimamiñe, one can undertake an amazing online virtual visit (click here to start) as well as view a great photo gallery of the cave and its surrounding area (click here to see).  And when it comes to Ekain, as well as the option of a virtual visit (click here to start), those of you lucky enough to actually set foot in the Basque Country (congratulations by the way, it will be an unforgettable experience!), a replica of the original site exists, Ekainberri, which offers a unique opportunity to experience what it must have been like to live deep underground. Click here to visit the Ekainberri website.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, the only text in English that summarizes the key works of the most important Basque ethnographer of all time. Reflecting on the relationship between humans and animals, that intimate connection that underpins much of the cave art, Barandiarán observes (p. 148):

Among the species that inhabited the Basque Country during the Neolithic were cows, horses, deer, mountain goat, roebuck, chamois, wild boar, fox, mountain lion, the weasel, and the martin. Deer and especially wild boar were the animals most hunted by man.

Sheep already existed in Bizkaia, as we know from their remains in Santimamiñe; this is an indication that the practice of domesticating and using them had already reached this part of the Pyrenees.

*Images

Top: A horse depicted in Santimamiñe, image by ETOR Entziklopedia, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom: The neck and head of a saiga antelope looking left. A bit more to the right is the beginning outline of another antelope and its horn. Image by GipuzkoaKultura, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

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