Month: April 2015 (page 1 of 2)

The Tree of Gernika

Dr. Joseba Zulaika presented a lecture, “Trees as Living Symbols,” April 28th at the Keck Museum, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno.  The talk discussed the political  and existential symbolism of trees in Basque and other cultures, including the historical link between Picasso’s “Guernica” and the Tree of Gernika.


Sunday April 26th marked the 78th anniversary of the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika during the Spanish Civil War.  The town, located in Bizkaia, is known for it’s Gernikako Arbola (Tree of Gernika), which was a sacred oak tree under which assemblies were held and symbols of Basque freedom were represented.  The importance of the Tree of Gernika is demonstrated by Jose Mari Iparragirre’s song “Gernikako Arbola,” which transformed the tree into a symbol for all Basques.  He first sang the song in Madrid in 1853.  The first stanza below demonstrates the symbolism and love the Basque people have for the Tree of Gernika.

Original Gipuzkoan text Batua (Standard) Basque English translation
Guernicaco arbola
Da bedeincatuba
Euscaldunen artean
Guztiz maitatuba:
Eman ta zabaltzazu
Munduban frutuba,
Adoratzen zaitugu
Arbola santuba
Gernikako arbola
Da bedeinkatua
Euskaldunen artean
Guztiz maitatua:
Eman ta zabal zazu
Munduan frutua,
Adoratzen zaitugu
Arbola santua.
The Tree of Gernika
is blessed
among the Basques;
absolutely loved.
Give and deliver
the fruit unto the world.
We adore you,
holy tree.

(Taken from


Pablo Picasso’s famous painting of the bombing of Gernika


The old trunk of the Tree of Gernika



Gemma Martinez Presents Special Lecture on the Basque Tax System



The Center for Basque Studies is hosting a special lecture on the Basque Tax system. The guest speaker is Mrs. Gemma Martínez Bárbara,  a graduate in law with a postgraduate degree in taxation. She works as a tenured official (1991) for the Government of Bizkaia. She has been Head of the Tax Policy Unit of the Foral Treasury in the Government of Bizkaia since 1999. She is in charge of tax reform legislative projects to be proposed to the Bizkaia General Assemblies (the provincial parliament of Bizkaia). She gives taxation expertise support to the Tax Coordination Body of Euskadi and is a representative of the Basque Institutions in the D–5 Working Group on the Code of Conduct and on the CCCTB, dependent on ECOFIN, in Brussels. She collaborates as a professor with the University of Deusto and the Chamber of Commerce of Bilbao in graduate programs and with the University of the Basque Country as a lecturer in seminars on tax issues. She is an active writer in several journals dealing with fiscal and European Law matters (European Taxation, Aranzadi, Fitax, and so on). She is a permanent collaborator with the Ad Concordiam Association for the Promotion and Difussion of the Fiscal Pact (the agreement by which fiscal relations between Basque Autonomous Community and the Spanish state are regulated). In 2013, she was the winner of the Leizaola Award for her research on Tax Synchronization and Basque legislative powers.

Txakoli Fest at Craft, Reno

Get ready for Txakolina!  Txakoli Fest will be celebrated May 2nd, 2-6 at Craft.  Here is a schedule of what’s going to happen from owner Ty Martin:

Spring has sprung!

Wait, I can do better than that…

“In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move.”
-Henry Frickin Rollins

My sentiments exactly, Hank!

So here I sit, reading over last year’s May newsletter, looking for a little inspiration about how to talk about only my favorite event of the whole year – Txakoli Fest. I’m actually getting pretty pumped just thinking about all the cool refreshment those crispy bubbles will bring. Of course, you’ll need some Herculean activity to build a thirst mighty enough for this much wine so we’ve partnered up again with the Zazpiak Bat dancers who’ll smilingly run you ragged as you learn some traditional steps. Since that only covers activity and hydration we should probably throw a whole lamb and some chorizo into the mix so you can make it to round two of the dancing. Houston, we have a party. The details: Saturday, May 2nd, from 2pm-6pm. Tasting flights of Txakolina and cider (sagardoa) will be on offer as well as bottles and glasses, a belly-full of food should run you around $12 and yes, because you asked, Matt and Cassie will be here.


Photo courtesy of Craft


Photo courtesy of Craft

Language Rights and Cultural Diversity


The United States constitution does not clearly stipulate the official language of the country, although English is the most spoken language in governmental, educational, and business circles. Maybe the reason for this is because the founding fathers of this nation tried to preserve the values of diversity rooted in early American society by eliminating any official language clause from the constitution. Being the land of the free and the home of the brave, freedom to choose what language you like to speak is unquestionable. However, there are growing concerns among the established English-speaking elites of this country that the expanding immigrant population in America will soon affect what is understood to be the common language in the United States. It is possible that, several decades from now, Spanish will be the major spoken language in America (with the Hispanic population growing so fast). Will this language shift eradicate the established culture in America? Or is it just a part of the phobia of a handful of Americans, derived from a centuries old racism and white supremacy ideas?

One of the Super Bowl commercials last year resulted in controversial reactions among conservative Americans. In the commercial, several American citizens of different ethnic backgrounds sing “America the Beautiful” in many different languages. The subliminal message within the commercial is aimed at provoking the audience’s perspective regarding pluralism in America, which can be manifested in multilingualism and a multicultural tradition. The commercial depicts an ideal interpretation of American society in which people live hand-in-hand in diversity. Yet this has not been the reality, as racial discrimination has been a part of the American History since the inception of the nation. Slavery existed in the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition, nativism is a growing political perspective in the America. Nativist worldviews demand a favored status for the established inhabitants of a nation and, hence, a  lower political or legal status for certain group or ethnicities. One of the items on the political agenda of nativism is maintaining the spirit of mass nationalism, including promoting the use of a national language. Nevertheless, over-enforcement of a national language can potentially lead to language repression and cultural genocide, a centuries old primordial tyranny that has resulted in to the extinction of ancient language and cultures.

The book Language and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio, includes case studies that amplify the loss of the linguistic and cultural richness of Basques, Native-Americans, and French-Canadians. Irujo and Miglio maintain that the lack of political, cultural, and legal support has contributed to linguistic and cultural degradation. Woven throughout the book is a belief in the power of discourse and research to protect and even enhance linguistic diversity. Nevertheless, language preservation is only possible if there is an adequate acceptance of cultural diversity and multilingualism as positive outcomes for the whole nationwide population, not just for a minority. It is also recommended that the concept of a monolingual, monocultural nation-state must be abandoned and instead, the concept of a multicultural state should be adopted. Nevertheless, how a multicultural state can be maintained remains open to question. The fact that there has been significant resistance from some American citizens to embrace the multicultural idea shows that the struggle against cultural genocide is an ongoing fight.

For further reading please visit the following link:

First Generation Basques Center Stage at CBS

Pages from BUS_20150114


A special kind of book about the Basques in the United States is going to be published in the summer, coinciding with the celebration of the Jaialdi 2015 in Boise, Idaho. Basques in the United States: A Biographical Encyclopedia of First-Generation Immigrants. The largest published biographical listing of the original Basques who came to this country. Center publications editor Daniel Montero reports that the book is the first-generation itself, and that there will be a website where anyone will be encouraged to submit even more biographical information and names to continue research on this pivotal immigrant group.

The Center has a long history of publishing on diaspora topics, the most recent publication before this book Pedro Oiarzabal’s pioneering study on the Basque diasporas online connections in The Basque Diaspora Webscape. People with more interest in Basque heritage might also be interested in our previous Oroitzapenak project.

See you at Jaialdi!

April 23, World Book and Copyright Day: Time to Celebrate CBS Books


Celebrate World Book Day with Center for Basque Studies Books.

April 23 is the day set aside by both UN and UNESCO to celebrate world literature. Here at the CBS, our mission is to conduct and publish Basque-related research in a wide range of fields. As such, we would like to join in this celebration of the joy and pleasure of books and encourage anyone reading this to browse our current list of titles. What’s more, we also have a number of books available free to download. Check out the list here.

Here’s some of what other’s have been saying about our books…

Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country  by Sabin Bikandi: “This is a seriously good piece of work . . . The book, with its associated DVD, is a tour de force that seems destined to become a—if not the—definitive work on the subject and is essential reading for anyone interested in three-hole pipe music, or Iberian folk music and dance at large” (Simon Furey, Folk Music Journal).

An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, compiled by Mari Jose Olaziregi: “This anthology is such a milestone” (Maite Núñez-Betelu, World Literature in Review).

Rossetti’s Obsession by Ramon Saizarbitoria: “A thoughtful and engaging novella . . . The translation from Euskera, by Saizarbitoria’s daughter Madalen, is extremely graceful and often elegant. The Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, is to be congratulated for including this title in their Basque Literature Series and thereby giving an English-reading public a chance to become acquainted with one of the most important writers of the Basque Country” (David Laraway, World Literature in Review).

The Basques, by Julio Caro Baroja : “a model ethnography based on a profound knowledge of the Basque region, its history and prehistory, and its folk culture” (David Elton Gay, Journal of Folklore Research).

The Red Notebook by Arantxa Urretabizkaia: “A sensitive and delicate portrait of a woman whose political activities have long kept her separated from her young children . . . The novella’s final pages, in particular, invite serious reflection on the relationship between an intimate yet marginalized language such as Euskara and attempts to translate it into other, more widely spoken, idioms . . . It is a worthy addition to an already distinguished collection of recent Basque writing in English translation. Any reader wishing to get the pulse of contemporary writing in Euskara would be well advised to begin here” (David Laraway, World Literature in Review).

The Challenges of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi: A work  “that exemplifies the important social aspects that need to be considered when doing research on Basque in particular or bilingualism in general” (Itxaso Rodriguez, Journal of Sociolinguistics).

Waking the Hedgehog: The Literary Universe of Bernardo Atxaga, by  Mari Jose Olaziregi:  “Olaziregi’s study is informative and does an excellent job of articulating the extraordinary richness of Atxaga’s creative universe” (Mark C. Aldrich, Confluencia).

Do you want to learn more about the important work we are doing here to publish Basque books in English? Sign up for our books newsletter on our website here, sign up to get our yearly print newsletter here! Or contact us at any time! We never share you personal information with anyone.






Memoria Bizi-Living Memory

Photo Apr 10, 2 11 48 PM

Pedro Oizarzabal provides an overview of the Memoria Bizia Project at CBS

This summer Pedro Oiarzabal will be in the US, collecting new materials for the Memoria Bizia (Living Memory ) project. He is going to be especially working in Nevada. Everybody is welcome to be part of this unique and challenging project.  Anyone interested in participating in the Memoria Bizia (Living Memory) project to collect the personal testimonies of elderly Basques across the U.S. and Canada, as an interviewer or an interviewee, or anyone wanting to establish an interviewing team in their local area or wanting to join an existing one, please send a message to

You can follow us on facebook too.

Iceland Conference Digs Deep into Whaling and Basque-Icelandic Cross-Cultural Exchange, Seeks to Heal Some Very Old Wounds

In September 1615, a group of 31 Basque whalers who had been stranded on the coast of Iceland after their ships were destroyed in a gale, and who had then clashed with local Icelanders, were slaughtered. This year is the 400th anniversary of what became known as the “Spanish Massacre” and in commemoration the Center, various institutions of Basque government including the Extepare Institute and the provincial government of Gipuzkoa, the University of Iceland, the Icelandic government, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the AIB, the Association of Icelandic Friendship in the Basque Country. The conference features, as reported by the Icelandic media outlet a “symbolic act of reconciliation” that will feature the Center’s own Xabier Irujo, a descendant of one of the Basques who died, and Mag­nús Rafns­son, a descendant of one the per­pe­tra­tors of the “Span­ish mas­sacre.”

According to Wikipedia (in an uncited article), this was the last documented massacre in Icelandic history. The conference marking its commemoration will delve well beyond the massacre however, bringing in researchers from around the world to discuss the rich Basque-Icelandic cross-cultural exchange. In addition to the global scholars, dignitaries including  Martín Gar­i­tano, Deputy-Gen­eral of Gipuzkoa and Il­lugi Gun­nars­son, Icelandic Min­is­ter for Cul­ture will be in attendance. Among the many events, the conference will also hold an event to celebrate the publication of William Douglass’s new book, Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, available now!

Click here to see a program of events for the full conference and here to see more Extepare Institute information (in Spanish). In addition to the academic and commemorative events, there will also be, on April 22, a concert featuring Basque musical group Oreka TX and Icelandic musicians.


A view of early seventeenth-century whaling.


Grants for Translators to Study Basque in the Basque Country

Donostia-San Sebastián 2016 European Capital of Culture and  the Etxepare Basque Institute, in collaboration with EIZIE (the Association of Translators, Correctors and Interpreters of Basque Language), have just launched a new program aimed at bringing translators to the Basque Country to study Euskara (the Basque language), with a view to them incorporating Basque as either a pivot or source language for their future translations.


“E Translating Wikipedia” by Marbora – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons


The translators chosen will be awarded grants to live in at a barnetegi (a boarding school for adult learners of Basque) and complete intensive Basque-language classes there.

This is a great offer for anyone interested in learning (or improving their) Basque as well as using this knowledge professionally. The deadline for applications is May 14. Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!


Anyone interested in studying Basque should check out Nancy Zubiri’s affectionate record here of her journey on the road to becoming an euskaldun or Basque speaker.  And for the experience of living and studying in a barnetegi, see the “Euskaldundu: One Girl’s Journey to the Land and Language of Her Ancestors” blog at the EITB (Basque Public Media Group) website.

If you’re interested in the Basque language, check out Estibaliz Amorrortu’s Basque Sociolinguistics, which examines the social and cultural aspects of Euskara, and The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, a collection of essays that explores the current status of Basque and the challenges it faces as a minority language.

“Bertshow,” the Gipuzkoan reconquest of the United States

Get prepared euskaldunak, for an eventful Summer 2015! Incredibly cool events are taking shape to save us from the summer heat. The Atlantic Ocean is going to become the bridge between the Basque Country and the United States. The Basque “exodus” is about to start… Are you ready?

“Bertshow,” the Gipuzkoan reconquest of the United States, consists of a nine-member delegation that will be performing in American Basque Centers during July and August.  This will be a very interesting transcultural experience based on the Basque oral tradition of Bertsos.

The main goal of this project is to bring Basque culture to the diaspora. The project consists of:  music, bertsolaritza, and Basque knowledge transmission. The group is going to speak about topics that should be of great interest to the Basque diaspora.

Bertshow will be a truly unique two-part performance aimed at building a cross-cultural bridge.  The first part will be a review of Basque music, the famous songs that are part of the Basque history, incorporating a performance made up of both singing and speech. The second part, meanwhile, will consist of the traditional bertso-saio musikatua (bertsos set to music) combined with familiar melodies to an American audience from songs such as “Let it Be,” “Blowing in the Wind,” and others in order to create a unique transcultural experience.

After its trip to the American Wild West, the group will compile their experiences in order to tour the Basque Country and share their new found perspective of the Basque diaspora.

They are going to be here, in Reno,  between the August 3 and 6.  

Basic concepts to understand the goals of this team.

1. Bertsoalaritza.

National sport of words.

2. Musika

Music is a universal language able to demolish the boundaries between cultures. A feature connected with Basque identity is knowledge of oral popular songs.  They want to get to know the Basque heritage in the United States. Combining Basque classical music with its newer counterparts.

  • Maite ditut maite (Mikel Laboa)
  • Eperra (Herrikoia -Zuberoa-)
  • Maiteak galde egin zautan (Imanol Larzabal)
  • Nire herriko neskatxa maite (Benito Lertxundi)
  • Martin larralde (Ruper Ordorika)
  • Lau teilatu (Itoiz)
  • Marinelaren zai (Sorotan Bele)
  • Mendigoxaliarena (Ken 7 –Lauaxeta-)
  • Betazalak erauztean (Katamalo)
  • Txoria txori (Mikel Laboa)
  • Xalbadorren heriotzean (Xabier Lete)
  • Izarren hautsa (Mikel Laboa)

3. Talks

The talks are going to be in Basque, with a simultaneous translation to English.  The talk is going to be divided into three topics: culture (what bertsolaritza is, the history of bertsolaritza from Profazadora’s until Maialen Lujanbio, and the tools needed  to create a bertso); the Basque language (The transmission of Basque and bertsolaritza in diglosic areas and the state of the Basque language over the course of the last two centuries); and finally music (the different melodies used in bertsos, a little history about Basque music).

The Bertsolaris:

Jon Martin

Inigo Mantzisidor ‘Mantxi’

Arkaitz Oiartzabal ‘Xamoa’

Jokin Labayen

Manex Mujika


Haritz Casabal


Ixak Arruti

Urtzi Olaziregi

Eneko Sierra


Boise, Reno, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston.

Anyone interested in bertsolaritza should check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. This is a collection of essays on both bertsolaritza and other oral traditions from all over the world. These articles include chapters on how bertsos are created, bertsolaris in the American West, and the musical foundations of bertsolaritza. The book is available free to download here.

Older posts