July 10, 1904: Birth of Ticiana Iturri, first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia and pioneer in women’s health issues

Anyone who studies women’s history invariably comes up against the wall of conventional tropes that underscore the significance of major public events in which, routinely, women have been excluded from the central narrative. When it comes to documenting and interpreting the lives of women in the past, then, one must frame the study within different sets of analytical parameters that emphasize an extra dimension that women have faced historically in stepping outside socially prescribed roles as wives, mothers, daughters, and so on. Ticiana Iturri Landajo, born in Portugalete, Bizkaia, on July 10, 1904, is one such example. Her story is, in many ways, modest, within the aforementioned terms of the “big” events in history; yet framed another way, her achievements and contributions to Basque society are inumerable.

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Iturri was born into a middle-class family in Portugalete, one of the significant industrial and maritime centers flanking Bilbao during the city’s spectacular economic boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the family moved to Seville when she was still very young on account of her father’s work, it retained close ties with Bizkaia, returning each summer to vacation there. After completing her medical studies in Madrid, she obtained an official post as a consultant doctor in Bizkaia. She was officially approved as member number 553 in the medical association of Bizkaia in 1932, the first woman member, and opened a clinic in Bilbao specializing in pediatrics, gynecology, and obstetrics.

As the first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia, she faced significant opposition and criticism from the more traditionalist members of her profession. In general, though, she was supported by the medical association and most of her peers. A noted feminist, through the 1930s she worked intensively on many women’s issues, and was especially active in defending the rights of single mothers. She also collaborated in the Basque nationalist women’s group, Emakume Abertzale Batza, through which she organized nursing classes. After the war, she worked in the School of Pediatrics in Bilbao, where she helped to improve hygiene measures, and in 1955 she obtained a position as a gynecologist in  the official social welfare system of her home province.

She dedicated the rest of her life to her work and the reproductive rights of women, especially single mothers. She died in 1969.

In recognition of her contribution to women’s health issues in Bizkaia, the medical association of Bizkaia named the classrooms on the fourth floor of its headquarters the “Iturri classrooms.”

June 30, 1834: Deadly floods ravage Gipuzkoa

Although a land accustomed to used periods of intense, heavy rain, there have also been infamous examples of major flooding in the Basque Country. One such example occurred on June 30, 1834 in the Deba Valley of Gipuzkoa, and came to be known as the San Martzial Urak, the “Saint Martial Waters” (coinciding with the feast day of Saint Martial).

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The River Deba forms one of the river valleys so typical of the maritime zone in the Basque Country. That June day, a major summer storm hit the valley, swelling the waters of the Deba and its tributaries to breaking levels. In the town of Antzuola, one of the worst affected places, water levels rose to nearly 15 feet in the main square and one whole neighborhood was completely flooded, uprooting 1,500 trees, destroying various homes, mills, the portico of the parish church,  and the public school, among other major damage.

Alongside Antzuola, the worst-affected towns were Leintz-Gatzaga, Eskoriatza, Aretxabaleta, Arrasate, Bergara, Soraluze, and Elgoibar. In sum, throughout the valley, nineteen mills, twenty-two bridges, seventy-six buildings, and three churches were completely destroyed and major damage done to many other edifices. As regards the human cost, many people took refuge in churches, pleading for clemency, although several of these sites were among the worst hit places.

"The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point." Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

“The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point.” Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

In the aftermath of the disaster, it was calculated that eighty-nine people had been killed by the floods–seventy-six of whom had been washed downstream and whose bodies appeared on the beach in the town of Deba itself.

Source: K.O., “La inundación más catastrófica se produjo el 30 de junio de 1834,” Diario Vasco, February 23, 2014.

 

June 23, 1944: Birth of Begoña Sopelana, pioneering aid worker

There is a long tradition in the Basque Country of international aid work.  Among the illustrious roll call of names through history that we could mention, today it’s time to remember the figure of Begoña Sopelana Basauri. Born in Iurreta, Bizkaia, on June 23, 1944, she studied education, graduating in 1962.

Begoña Sopelana

After working in an administrative capacity through the 1960s, in 1968 she took up a new challenge and spent two years in El Salvador on a volunteer program, teaching daycare techniques as well as working as a medical advisor. On her return to the Basque Country she went on to study sociology and in 1977 she returned to El Salvador, where she worked in the field of education for marginalized persons. It was there that she met, and worked with,  Archbishop Óscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 for speaking out against the injustices of the regime in his homeland.

She worked in the violent unstable atmosphere of El Salvador through the early 1980s, principally in the field of providing a basic education for the children of the economically impoverished and socially excluded. In 1987, she was central to the construction of Las Vueltas, a purpose-built community in which she organized classes to train people to become teachers. She was especially interested in empowering women in this regard as well as in promoting community projects.

In 1993 she returned to Iurreta on account  of her failing health. She died in her home town in 1999.

On November 14, 2012, Las Vueltas was declared a city with zero illiteracy. This was officially communicated as the “Begoña Sopelana” declaration.

In 2015, a monument was erected in her honor in Las Vueltas.

If you’re interested in the topic of international aid work and Basque involvement therein, check out the CBS publication Development Cooperation: Facing the Challenges of Global Change, edited by Koldo Unceta and Amaia Arrinda. The book is  available free to download here.

 

June 19, 1920: Birth of famous bertsolari Xalbador

We have already come across one of the great bertsolariak, improvisers, Fernando Aire Etxart, better known as Xalbador, on a couple of other occasions here on the blog. He was present during the events surrounding the creation of the San Francisco Basque Club, as noted here,  and he was involved in one of the most (in)famous moments in the history of bertsolaritza or Basque improvised oral poetry, as recounted here.

A dedication to Xalbador in Urepele. Photo by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

A dedication to Xalbador in Urepele. Photo by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Born on June 19, 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Aire took the name Xalbador from that of the family baserri or farmstead, “Xalbadorenea.” Interestingly, his mother had been born in Los Angeles, into a family from the same area, before returning to the Basque Country.  He remained in Urepele all his life, working as a shepherd, and from an early age discovered a talent for improvising verses. He married Leoni Etxebarren in 1943 and the couple had four children. In his bertsoak, verses, he was serious and at time melancholic, but also highly lyrical and poetic, and was at the top of his game in the 1960s. He died of a heart attack in his home village of Urepele in 1976.

For more information about bertsiolaritza in general and Xalbador, see Voicing the Moment, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

June 14, 1931: First public call for Basque-Navarrese autonomy statute

Nowadays, a defining feature of political life in the Basque Country is the system of autonomy that allows for a significant amount of decentralized decision-making authority. Currently, there are two different statues of autonomy for the Basque Country and Navarre. In the early 1930s, however, prior to the passing of a constitution for the Second Spanish Republic, a project for joint statute for the four provinces in Hegoalde was agreed on at a meeting of Basque mayors at the Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea.

The Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea. Photo by Eaeaea. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea. Photo by Eaeaea. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The draft Statute of Estella as it was known, drawn up by Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society of Basque Studies), was approved on June 14, 1931 by a varied collective of mayors, with a Basque nationalist and traditionalist Carlist majority, from the four provinces of Hegoalde. One interesting feature of this draft proposal was to reserve the right for the projected Basque-Navarrese autonomous region to establish a separate and distinct relationship with the Vatican.

Ultimately, however, this draft proposal was never implemented and it was not until civil war broke out in 1936 that an autonomy statute was granted to the provinces of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.

To read more about the political development of Hegoalde, check out Modern Basque History by Cameron Watson, available free to download here. And see Basque Political Systems, edited by Pedro Ibarra and Xabier Irujo, free to download here.

 

 

June 3, 1795: Sentencing for those responsible for Lapurdi deportation

One of the grimmest episodes in the whole French Revolution took place in 1794 with the forced deportation of thousands of Basques from several border communities in Lapurdi, a forced population transfer (long before Stalin’s infamous demographic machinations) that was part of the Jacobin excesses associated with Robespierre’s reign of terror and that resulted in deprivation and death for many innocent people; an event we covered  in a previous post here.

City Hall in Donibane Lohizune (1823). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

City Hall in Donibane Lohizune (1823). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With the fall of Robespierre and the Jacobins, the Girondins returned to power and set about seeking revenge for their own persecution during the reign of terror. In the Basque Country, this was played out against the backdrop of the deportation, with those responsible being sought out. Thus on June 3, 1795, in Donibane Lohizune, a military judge from the Army of the Western Pyrenees (one of the French Republic’s military forces) sentenced six councilmembers from that town, including the former mayor Alexis Pagès, as well as two people from neighboring Azkaine, to prison for their role in the deportation.

For more information on the French Revolution in the Basque Country, check out Philippe Veyrin, The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, amnd Lower Navarre, available free to download here.

June 1, 1882: Bilbao-Durango railroad opened

Who doesn’t like trains? Well, ok, let’s put it another way: whatever your opinion of trains, in today’s tech-savvy communication obsessed world, let’s remember that railroads once represented the latest in communications technology. With this in mind, on June 1, 1882 the beloved (for some at least) duranguillo, the Bilbao-Durango railroad line, was opened to the public for the first time. It had the distinction of being the second metric gauge railroad line, a narrower gauge than those established previously, constructed in Spain to serve public transport needs.  And its successful implementation, both from an engineering and an economic point of view, established a model of narrow gauge railroad lines for the whole Cantabrian zone. And despite being a mere twenty miles in length, it still serves as an important route today.

After an inaugural run on May 30, trains started circulating on the line on June 1. The line, run by the Compañía del Ferrocarril Central de Vizcaya (Central Railroad Company of Bizkaia), passed from the Bilbao terminus in Atxuri through the stations of Bolueta (Bilbao), Galdakao, Bedia, Lemoa, and Amorebieta before arriving at Durango. On that inaugural run, a giant banner was unfolded in the station at Amorebieta that read “Amorebieta-co erriyac pozes bateric Biscaico burdiñ bide erdigoarrari” (the town of Amorebieta elated at the central railroad of Bizkaia”). This was a true glimpse at the future, at the impact of an amazing new form of technology and communication.

The Etxepare Basque Institute and the Nevada System of Higher Education, in the name of the University of Nevada, Reno, have signed an agreement to collaboratively support research about the Basque Diaspora.

In this cooperation framework, Etxepare and the NSHE are opening this call, “Jon Bilbao Visiting Research Fellow 2019.” The object of this call is to select the Jon Bilbao Visiting Research Fellow for 2019, who will design a research project about the Basque Diaspora and stay for a month at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Applications deadline is June 30, 2019.  The required documentation must be sent to the following address:

Jon Bilbao Basque Library
1664 N Virginia St
University of Nevada, Reno / MS 0322 Reno, Nevada 89557

and additionally by email: arrieta@unr.edu

Find attached the full call (available in Basque, English, and Spanish) and the application form.

May 18, 1924: Basque Mountaineering Federation founded

 

euskal-mendizale-federazioa

As many of you will know, Basques are known for their mountaineering exploits, a topic we have posed on several times in the past. The Basque Mountaineering Federation was founded in Elgeta, Gipuzkoa, on May 18, 1924 to serve as a source of information, organization, and support for the numerous hiking clubs scattered across the Basque Country. Today it is an umbrella organization that, as well as mountaineering and hiking, incorporates a diverse range of disciplines including caving, competition climbing, Nordic walking, and canyoning.

Faculty, Students and Friends of CBS Plant the Tree of Gernika on UNR Campus

Faculty, students and friends of the CBS planted the Tree of Gernika on the UNR campus last week. The event was a commemoration of the sacred tree of the Basques as we sang Gernikako Arbola, and wished the best for the young tree that is now planted right outside of our offices, between the Knowledge Center and the Student union. Many thanks to all who took care of the tree, and enabled its new life on campus!

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