February 10, 1925: Collapse of emblematic Basque bank Crédito de la Unión Minera

On February 10, 1925, one of the most well-known Basque banks, Crédito de la Unión Minera (Mining Union Credit)–an early Bilbao banking institution founded in the spring of 1901–suspended all payments as a prelude its collapse as a result of the financial downturn in the 1920s. Curiously, the full liquidation of its assets would drag on a further seventy-five years, culminating at the dawn of the new millennium.

Crédito de la Unión Minera was established in 1901 on the back of both significant growth in Bilbao itself (as a consequence of the strong mining export market) and the inflow of capital from former colonies following the fall of the Spanish empire. As its name indicated, this particular bank was associated closely to the mining sector on Bizkaia. Thereafter, the “Crédito” managed to retain its independence, in the wake of a series of fusions among other Bilbao banking interests, thanks to a successful aggressive commercial policy that saw its share price soar on the Bilbao stock market. This initial success was bolstered during World War I (1914-1918) with Spanish neutrality in the conflict benefiting the important Basque banking sector.

With the end of the war, however, and the economic downturn in the 1920s, those banks that had been especially speculative or adventurous were suddenly in trouble.  Specifically, as a result of over speculation, the Crédito was suffering from a lack of cash flow and on February 10, 1925, it suspended all payments prior to its official collapse.

Interestingly, it was still possible to cash in on the remaining assets of the bank right up until late 2001!

For more on this fascinating story, check out a great article by Eduardo J. Alonso Olea, “El Crédito de la Unión Minera: 1901-2002,” in Historia Contemporánea 24 (2002): 323-53. Available here.

Running with Iñaki Etxaniz Tesouro and the Basque Love in Reno

Not only in honor of Valentine’s Day, but to show some love from the Center of Basque Studies, one of our new visitor’s, Iñaki Etxaniz Tesouro, decided he would brave the cold weather this last weekend to benefit a local korrika -the Reno Run 4 Love.  Iñaki and I decided to partake in this run that benefited Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada and St. Vincent’s this last Sunday morning.  It was brisk weather to say the least, but with chocolate and champagne waiting for us at the end of the race, we were able to finish strong.

Here is some information about our new arrival from the Basque Country and some good memories already made from before, during, and after our race:

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you are here:

I am Iñaki Etxaniz Tesouro, graduate in History from the University of the Basque Country. After the degree, like many other history students, I decided to do a Master’s in Secondary Education, which is necessary to be able to work as a high school teacher. After finishing this first M.A., I decided to do a second in Contemporary History. All three of my degrees were earned through the University of the Basque Country. I have gone through all three campuses of this university, but if I had to choose, I would stay with Araba’s (Vitoria-Gasteiz) campus, to which I keep a special affection and in which I made great friends.

After finishing this second Master’s degree, I had to decide if I wanted to start as a high school teacher, or if I wanted to do a PhD. I decided to start with a PhD., and in January 2015, the University of The Basque Country granted me with a pre-doctoral contract for the realization of my research. I am in the last year of my PhD program, and hope to present my thesis titled, “The labor crisis and employment policies during the Second Republic: The case of public works in Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba”, around mid-December.

What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies?

Currently (January 31-April 30), I am doing an international stay at the Center for Basque Studies, at the University of Nevada, Reno where I have coincided with some great PhD students. During the stay at the Center, I will make a comparative analysis between New Deal policies and the employment policies initiated by both the city and provincial councils of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Araba.

What are some of your hobbies, or things you like to do in your free time?

I will say that my hobbies are mountain climbing, running and reading a good novel (quite typical). Not forgetting to be with friends and people whose company I enjoy. I suppose I will also have to include History among my hobbies.

It’s great to have your energy and enthusiasm here at the Center for Basque Studies, Iñaki (and as a running partner!)  Ongi etorri!

 

 

 

Monday Movies: Duck Crossing

The passage of ducks is a recurring image in the history of cinema. Suffice it to mention such canonical films like The Circus (Charles Chaplin, 1928), Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978), Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974), Black Cat, White Cat (Emir Kusturica, 1998), Five (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003), etc., all of which have a shot where a group of ducks cross the scene. Basque short film maker Koldo Almandoz uncovers this mystery in his ingenious work Duck Crossing.

Koldo Almadoz`s short film Duck Crossing is a fake documentary, a subgenre that became very popular through This is Spinal Tap65 (Rob Reiner, 1984), and which was inspired to a great degree by the first films of Peter Watkins. Almandoz uses the mockumentary genre to show his fine irony in Duck Crossing, and uses many false documentary elements like irony, intrigue, false characters, and the use of archived material. In this work, he reflects about the curiously recurring shot that he calls the passage of ducks. The narrator`s voice over tells us about the significant role that ducks have played in the history of cinema, which lends the story a certain verisimilitude. The illustrating images, a group of black and white photographs of important films seem to verify his words.

A little later, we hear the testimonies of some of the directors who made these films, such as Michael Winterbottom, Emir Kusturica, David Fincher, Roman Polanski or Abbas Kiarostami. All of them praise the quality of the ducks as actors. Besides, the film unites the opinions of Tomás Sarasola, manager of the leading role duck, and the veterinary surgeon Jone Landaribar. Finally, the narrator recovers the thread of the plot to praise the acting talent of the ducks, and the technique of the passage of ducks.

Nevertheless, not everything is false in Duck Crossing. Although the approach and the development of the mockumentary may be absurd, its premise is very real. It is absolutely true that since the most remote beginnings of cinema until today, film directors all over the world have included in their movies a shot where a group of ducks emerges in the scene. The enormous work of research that the director has done—which is the most outstanding and amazing part of the short film—attests to that. It is this unquestionable reality, precisely, which incites the curiosity of the viewer, and captures them in the plot of the director. Once again, suspense defines the short film. But, just as with the most captivating mysteries, in this one there is no answer either. It doesn`t matter. Because what mattered was the road travelled. Almandoz summarizes it perfectly with the last phrases of the voice over of the narrator:

“The absence of a logical explanation disturbs us. But it is, in the end, part of the magic of cinema, which continues to hypnotize us with these small details.”

 

 

Almandoz said this about how he first thought about making this short film:

I was watching A very long engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2004) in the movie theater. I watched the scene where the postman comes, and some ducks cross the screen. I thought that I had just seen the same recently in Así en el cielo como en la tierra by José Luis Cuerda (1995). Then, I came to the conclusion that the world is full of the passage of ducks. In fact, the scene where a group of ducks cross the screen appears in many films. That`s how the idea came. Nevertheless, it took me time to figure out what I would do with this discovery.

 

Duck Crossing (2009) is part of Kimuak, the Basque Government’s program for the distribution and promotion of Basque short films worldwide. Koldo Almandoz is a short film maker based Donostia-San Sebastian, whose short films have gained national, state level and international acclaim.

 

February 3, 1910: Bishop José Cadena y Eleta bans use of Basque names in christenings

On February 3, 1910, José Cadena y Eleta, Bishop of the Diocese of Vitoria-Gasteiz (comprising Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), issued a pastoral exhortation demanding that both priests and parishioners decease from baptizing children with Basque first names. He argued that the official language of the Church was Latin, and that Spanish was also used in parish documents and records within Spain. He then went on to warn all priests in his diocese to observe Church norms in this regard, especially those younger members who, he suggested, were treading on dangerous ground by sanctioning the use of such names; a move, he contended, that only brought disunion and discord among Basques.

José Cadena y Eleta (1855-1918)

Cadena’s initiative was then submitted for Vatican approval, which responded that baptisms should ideally be carried out in Latin and transcribed in Spanish.  However, the Vatican ruling also acknowledged that, in the final instance, if the parents insisted on giving their children Basque names, these wishes should be respected, stating the name in both Basque and Latin during the service, and transcribing it in Basque and Spanish for the parish records. On receiving the Vatican instructions, Cadena informed the clergy in his diocese and instructed them to do everything in their power to avoid arriving at that final instance.

This ruling lasted until 1938, when, still during the Spanish Civil War (but with the Basque Country having fallen to the military rebels), the nascent Franco regime banned the use of Basque names outright.

Basque culture, Basque books, and bertsoak bloom in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The Center’s booth at the Western Mercantile

It was our pleasure here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies to be invited to participate in the 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nevada. This year’s festival was focused on the contributions of Basques in the West and included sessions on Basque arborglyphs, Basque poetry, Basque writing, the experience of Basques in ranching—featuring the insight of longtime Nevada resident and stalwart of Winnemucca’s Basque community, Frank Bidart—only 95 years young!

Portrait of beloved Basque sheepherder and owner—and shepherd of generations of 4-H sheep program participants in the Reno area—Abel Mendeguia, by Linda Dufurrena, on display in the Western Folklife Center

One of the highlights of the whole show was the participation of berstolariak, especially those from the Basque Country including reigning champion Maialen Lujanbio, as well as Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran and Miren Artetxe! The Basque bertsolariak were also accompanied by US Basque improvisers Jesus Goñi from Reno and Martin Goicoechea from Rock Springs, Wyoming. From Buffalo, Wyoming, Center author and musician David Romtvedt participated in many musical venues playing generally with his daughter Caitlin, and they were also a common sight to be seen playing after hours, usually in the company of Ardi Baltza accordionist Anamarie Lopategui. Basque-American author and Elko native Vince Juaristi was also in attendance with his stories of growing up Basque in the US. There were also dance performances by Elko’s Ardi Baltza and Elko Ariñak dancers, the latter being accompanied by Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa. Popular Basque musical group Amerikanuak played, led by Jean Flesher from Salt Lake City, a true pioneer of Basque culture in the US (as many of the people mentioned here are), with members from as far away as Berlin, Germany in attendance! The Basque show on Thursday night was hosted by the Center’s own Kate Camino. Center friend and author Joxe Mallea presented on aspen carvings and artist Zoe Bray painted portraits of Basques and presented her portraits at the Western Folklife Center. The session on Basque writing featured the readings from My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, Florence Larraneta Frye, David Romtvedt, who read from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space and Elko’s own Gretchen Skivington who presented on and read from her brand new novel Echevarria. And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or many people, the numbers of Basque participants was truly a wonder to behold.

The Center also participated in the show’s vendors with stand in the Western Mercantile. After hours, the Basque party continued at Elko’s Ogi Deli and the Star Hotel!

We have come a long ways from when cowboys and sheepherders fought range wars in this same part of northern Nevada. It was such a pleasure to be included and for Basque contributions to be recognized by all the cowpunchers! 😉

Graduate Student Plans Spring 2018

Check out what our grad students are up to during Spring 2018! Seems like a busy semester!

Ziortza Gandarias

My last semester at the CBS is coming to an end and it is a bittersweet sensation. I am so excited to be presenting my PhD thesis, the project I have been working so hard on. But at the same time I am sad to say goodbye to what it was my life and my home for the last four years. Nevertheless, before that happens I still have some exciting months full of interesting events showing up on the horizon.

Although the semester will be centered mainly on the writing process, I will have a couple of conferences between March and April. I will be presenting a paper in Boise this coming March in the “Memory and Emotion, Women’s Stories: Constructing Meaning from Memory”a conference organized by the world literature department at Boise State University.  I will also be presenting a poster in the “Northern Nevada Diversity: Challenges, Changes, and Solutions: The Reality of Equity and Diversity within Higher Education and the Community”.

Besides my academic projects, I will hopefully be able to enjoy a few days of  hiking and movie dates to keep me motivated and ready to defend my thesis.  Wish me luck!

Edurne Arostegui

This semester will be a wild one indeed. I am happy to have the opportunity to teach “War, Occupation, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands” this term, and even more happy about the number of students enrolled and their interest in the material! Getting to teach reminds me of the reason I’m here: I want to be a professor and love teaching! However, I have other responsibilities to attend to. I’m taking two courses this semester, “History of Women in the United States” and an independent study with Dr. Dworkin at the History department on “Cultural Theory and History.” Luckily, these two courses will keep me on track for my comprehensive exams, which I will be taking at the end of April.

I have a few conferences ahead this semester as well. First off, I’ll be going to Boise for BSU’s Department of World Languages’ “Memory and Emotion. Women’s Stories: Constructing Meaning from Memory” conference this March. I’ll be presenting a paper entitled “Basque Women in the West: Bringing Migrants out of the Shadows,” which will review the historiography on the subject and avenues for further research. In April, I will travel to Santa Barbara for UCSB’s “Verbal Kaleidoscope: First Annual Writers and Scholars in Indigenous Languages and Literatures Conference.” There, I will present a completely different paper entitled “Basque Nationalism with a Punk Voice: The Use of Euskara in Basque Radikal Rock,” a side-project of mine dealing with the renegotiation of Basqueness through musical movements. Later in the summer, I will be traveling to the Basque Country for my field work, and have two conferences lined up: one in Salamanca and the other in Gran Canaria.

My paper “Memoirs of Mobility and Place: Portrayals of Basque-American Identity in Literature of Nevada” has been published in the upcoming book Artes y Diaspora, by Eusko Ikaskuntza. I will also be writing another article on “Gendering the American West” for an edition being published on “América y la emigración Vasca. Procesos de investigación.” Overall, this will be an exciting semester, full of hard work, writing, and research.

Kerri Lesh

This semester I have returned to the Center for Basque Studies and started writing my dissertation after having completed a year of fieldwork in the Basque Country. I am also working as editor to turn the panel I organized for the 116th American Anthropological Association into a special edition for a journal with my fellow panelists. I will attend a conference in March titled “Memory and Emotion, Women’s Stories: Constructing Meaning from Memory”, and am preparing a panel for the Association for the Study of Food and Society conference this summer. Last year was one of the most exciting years on the books, but I look forward to finding more insight into my research as I continue with the writing process and complete my dissertation at the end of this year.

Marsha Hunter

This semester, in addition to a Basque Culture class, with Dr. Irujo’s guidance, I have expanded my coursework to include a Political Science class. Politics is a main area in the development of my thesis and additional courses in this department will be taken over the next several semesters. In addition to class, I plan to travel to Boise for archival research at the Basque Museum and Idaho Historical Museum. Eskerrik asko!

Horohito Norhatan

During the spring 2018 semester, I am teaching PSC 211 “Introduction to Comparative Politics.” In addition, I look forward to defending my dissertation on April 2018. This semester, I am also applying to PhD program in several universities including UNR. My research interests lie in the areas of community economic development, cooperative movement, sustainable development, comparative politics, and international relations. I have dedicated much of my time and energy to refine my understanding of the cooperative concept and its socio-economic potential through my ongoing research agenda at the University of Nevada.

 

 

We are doing exciting things indeed! If you’d like to be part of our lively international cohort, apply for the Basque Tutorial Ph.D. today!

The Tutorial Ph.D. in Basque Studies provides students in the humanities and social sciences with an opportunity to pursue doctoral studies through course work and research for the dissertation. Applicants should hold a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline. For more information, see:

Recruitment-Flyer-Basque-PHD

 

Apply Now! Graduate Assistantships for the Ph.D. in Basque Studies

The Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, has two Graduate Assistantships available from the Fall of 2018 and seeks to recruit two well-qualified graduate students for its Tutorial Ph.D. program. Spread the word, or apply today!

The Tutorial Ph.D. in Basque Studies provides students in the humanities and social sciences with an opportunity to pursue doctoral studies about one of the western world’s most intriguing people, the Basques, through course work and research for the dissertation. Applicants should hold a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline.

Program at a glance

Admissions cycle: Fall, Spring
Application deadlines: April 15, Nov. 1
Assistantship types available: Graduate
Director of Graduate Studies: Sandra Ott (D.Phil.)

Why choose this Ph.D. in Basque Studies?

The Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno is the leading academic and research institution for Basque Studies in the United States. The University library has one of the world’s largest collections of Basque-related materials outside of Basque Country, currently at 55,000 volumes. The Center’s four full-time faculty undertake original research in a range of disciplines and participate in international and national networks of scholarship.

Graduates receive a Doctor of Philosophy in Basque Studies with an emphasis on one of the following fields:

Consequently, the degree is in Basque Studies and the student’s transcript will list a major area of study, such as Basque Studies (Anthropology), Basque Studies (History) and so on.

The Tutorial Ph.D. program offers a unique opportunity for the right student. The program suits students who have clear goals and are willing to assume responsibility for formulating, presenting and justifying a program of study and dissertation topic. The center highly recommends that potential applicants contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Sandra Ott (sott@unr.edu), to discuss their proposed research and verify that a mentor will be available for their topic.

How do I apply?

Go to https://www.unr.edu/grad/admissions. Applicants must meet the admissions standards of the UNR Graduate School and submit the following materials online as part of the application:

  • A Statement of Purpose, including a preliminary proposal for doctoral research
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of recommendation (to be provided directly to the Center by the referees)

The program supports admissions in both the fall and spring semesters. The application deadline for fall admission is April 15. The application deadline for spring is Nov. 1.

Is funding available?

The Center for Basque Studies has four, four-year graduate assistantships that are awarded on a competitive basis. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies (775-682-5573, sott@unr.edu) for further details.

What’s next?

You can apply now if you are ready to begin at the University. To learn more about the Tutorial Ph.D. in Basque Studies, visit the Center’s website or contact the Director of Graduate Studies for more information.

 

Recruitment-Flyer-Basque-PHD

 

 

January 27, 1806: Birth of composer Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga

On January 27, 1806 Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola was born in Bilbao. A child musical prodigy and accomplished composer who died young, he was christened “the Spanish Mozart” after his death.

Juan Crisóstomo Arriagha (1806-1826). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Born in Bilbao into a musical family–his father Juan Simón had been the church organist in Berriatua, Bizkaia, although he later earned a living as a merchant in Bilbao–the young Arriaga showed a great aptitude for music at an early age.  Juan Crisóstomo was duly sent to study music in Paris at age fifteen, where he made an immediate impact. Indeed, his progress was such that he soon became a teaching assistant at the Paris Conservatory, where he was especially renowned for  a natural talent for musically sophisticated harmonies, counterpoint, and related techniques. Within four years he composed numerous works and was a well-known figure in the cultural world of Paris, the musical capital of the world at that time.  However, this intense activity would also take its toll on the young Basque, and he ten days short of his twentieth birthday he died, possibly due to a lung ailment like tuberculosis, or possibly even from sheer exhaustion.

“Perhaps,” argues Barbara Rosen (Arriaga, p. 33) , “Arriaga’s predilection for dramatic, austere, and somber laments for voice and orchestra (Medea, Agar, Erminia) can be traced to this characteristic of the songs originating in the Basque areas of northern Spain.”

Today, Bilbao’s principal theater, the Arriaga Theater, is named in his honor.

Check out Barbara Rosen, Arriaga, The Forgotten Genius: The Short Life Of A Basque Composer (Reno: Basque Studies Program,  University of Nevada, Reno, 1988).

And listen to one of his compositions, Quartet No. 2 in A major: III. Menuetto, below:

 

The Impact of Catalonia Crisis on Basque’s Bid for an Independence

 

The Basque region situated in the northern Iberian Peninsula possesses its unique language, culture and long history of self-determination. In 19th century the Spanish King took an oath under the Guernica tree that the Spanish Kingdom would honor the autonomy of Basque region. Nevertheless, the Basque right to autonomy was scraped in 1876 and had remained so until the brief period of the Spanish Civil War. For many Basques, autonomy was not genuine enough, which perpetuated militant group ETA which aimed at achieving full independence for Basque motherland. ETA, however, formally gave up its violence approach last year when the separatist group handed over weapons to French authorities. It is no surprise that many Basques naturally sympathize the with Catalan independence bid. Tens of thousands of Basques rallied in Bilbao the day before the Catalan referendum to show support for Catalan nationalists.  Nevertheless, the Catalan crisis has markedly increased Basque cautious approach to its own independence bid.

Following the aftermath of the Catalan independence referendum in October 2017, the opinion poll indicated that 63 percent of Basques were not interested in pursuing Catalan’s path to independence and only 22 percent were in favor. In addition, 44 percent of the participants demanded larger autonomy, and just 23 percent were interested in full independence. A Basque author who produces literature in Euskara (the Basque language), Kirmen Uribe argued that Basque citizens were exhausted after 40 years of separatist violence, thus, many plea for a timeout. Uribe added that there is fear that aggressive efforts to gain independence would split the Basque community again, further exacerbating the Basque approach to independence. While it does not end the dream that one day Basque will be an independent country, there is no need to rush the process, according to Andoni Ortuzar, the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party PNV..

For further reading please visit the following website:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/28/world/europe/spain-catalonia-basque-independence.html

 

Women Bertsolari: From the First Attempts to the Current Achievements

The bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry is one of the most intimate practices of the Basque language, where poets improvise and sing a song around a concept provided by the audience, following a set of rules about rhyme, meter and melody. For this reason, bertsolaris are some of the greatest masters of the Basque language. Until recently, however, the bertsolaritza was a strictly male domain. The village frontons, squares, and the National Improvised Poetry Competition featured men only, until a few brave female pioneers emerged to reclaim the voices of women in traditional culture.

In traditional Basque society, the fronton or village square was the public stage for the inculcation of values, the performance of identities, the practice of social control, and the negotiation of power. The main protagonists of the fronton were men: men playing pelota, men singing bertsos.

“How do you remember your great jump into the town square?” one of those female pioneers, Maialen Lujanbio was asked in an interview in 2009 for the journal Oral Tradition, after she became the first ever female txapeldun or champion of improvised poetry. “I started to be known by everyone,” she answered. “Because they put us… where we didn’t`t belong.” Women’s great jump into the town square, into the public sphere of frontons, sport halls and stadiums, is a powerful metaphor for access in a society where such arenas had been reserved for men.

Maialen Lujanbio sings the winning bertso at the 2017 National Championship:

The CBS Seminar Series featured the bertsolari and PhD student Miren Artetxe Sarasola, who talked about the most important landmarks of this journey in her lecture titled “Women bertsolari: From the first attempts to the current achievements.” Miren defined those landmarks in terms of Pathfinders, i.e. the first women poets who affected a breakthrough in a male realm; Networks, or the organizations created by and for female performers; Theorization, or the academic study of this new cultural development within the broader currents of Basque feminism; and Spaces of Empowerment, where female bertsolaris may find encouragement and inspiration for singing bertsos. The main achievements of the past ten years, Miren argues, is that a different consciousness is emerging around bertsolaritza: new themes and contents emerge through women’s participation, creating a more inclusive cultural sphere that also features women’s worlds and experiences.

Following the lecture, three bertsolaris, Miren Artetxe Sarasola, Maialen Lujanbio and Jesus Goñi sang bertsos at the Center for Basque Studies before a crowd of faculty, students, friends and family. The performances were followed by a potluck snack at the CBS, and a poteo in Louis Basque Corner in downtown Reno.

                  

 

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