Month: June 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Historic travel guide to the Basque Country available online

The Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea Library, the principal archive of Gipuzkoa, is home to a lot of great online sources for anyone with an interest in Basque Studies.

Luminous Guide

One such source is an early travel guide (of sorts), written for British forces taking part on the Liberal side in the First Carlist War (1833-39), and published in 1836 in Baiona (Bayonne). Titled, in the rather long-winded fashion of the day, A Luminous Guide for the British Cooperative Forces in Spain on the Principal Subjects Connected with Particular Information Relative to the Basque Provinces, the book was authored by Sotero de Goicoechea, a lieutenant in the Liberal forces of Bilbao.


Luminous guide extract 1

“Curious English, Spanish and Basque Vocabulary of Different Most Useful Words,” with the author pointing out that he uses the Basque of Markina, it being the only place where “purest Basque” is spoken in Bizkaia.

After a brief summary of the current political situation from an unabashed pro-Liberal perspective,  Goicoechea provides a general introduction to Bizkaia: its physical and human geography, some of its customs (music and dance), and system of governance. He then goes on to describe specific towns in the province in more detail, concentrating on their location and social and economic status. Particular emphasis is also given to the area in and around Bilbao. The guide then lists the distances, in English miles, between selected towns, before providing the names and prices of inns, restaurants, and coffee houses, and even detailed pricing of wine and basic provisions. Finally, the book provides a basic dictionary including everyday terms that these British troops may need to know with various translations from English into French, Spanish, and Basque.

This is not really travel literature as such, but what the book does offer is a snapshot of everyday life in Bizkaia in the 1830s. To read the full text, click here.

To learn more about the social and political singularity of Bizkaia at this time, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition, by Gregorio Monreal Zia. This is a comprehensive account of the specific legal structure that Bizkaia enjoyed within the Kingdom of Spain.

To read a pro-Carlist account of the First Carlist War, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign in Navarre and the Basque Provinces, by C.F. Henningsen. This is a first-hand account of the conflict between the spring of 1834 and summer of 1835 written by a English volunteer in the Carlist ranks.      

Flashback Friday: The Return of Urdaneta

On June 26, 1536, Andres de Urdaneta (1508-1568), a Basque explorer from Ordizia (Gipuzkoa), dropped anchor at the port of Lisbon, Portugal, after a long transoceanic voyage. Eleven years before, in 1525, the Spanish Emperor Carlos V had sent this expedition headed by García Jofre de Loaísa to colonize the Maluku Islands or Moluccas (in present-day Indonesia) against his rival, the Crown of Portugal. The expedition included seven vessels. Urdaneta took to sea at an early age on the ship Sancti Spiritus under the command of Juan Sebastian Elkano. Most of the men in this expedition, including Elkano, died. Only one vessel reached the Moluccas. Among the survivors was Urdaneta himself who, after arriving in those archipelagos, lived there for nine years side-by-side the native people and Portuguese settlers, later returning to the old world. Andres de Urdaneta’s story illustrates the dynamics of Basque explorers and their place in early modern transoceanic imperialism.


Iconic portrait of Andres de Urdaneta


A map of the Moluccas, 1640

Check out anthropologist William Douglass’ new book Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, which will give you the whole picture of this and other stories.

Basques, Broncs, and a Jack


Ramon Montero Orquin from Oronoz’s great-grandson Trenten Montero competes in the bareback riding and the bull riding at the Reno Rodeo.

It’s Reno Rodeo time here in Reno and it has all of us thinking about cowboys, but what about the roots of our Basque cowboys? A disclaimer, this post is a lot about my family, but as I’ve been working on our massive upcoming 2-volume compendium Basques in the United States, family roots have been on my mind a lot lately. The Reno Gazette Journal posted a really nice article about my nephew, Trenten Montero, and in it I found listed at least one other Nevadan Reno Rodeo competitor with Basque descent, Victor Ugalde  from Kings River, who will compete in the team roping. I was curious and looked up the entries for both of these cowboys’ immigrant descendants, and thought I would share with you all the entries that will be forthcoming in the Basques in the United States. Among the many striking things about these entries, the dangers and hardships, the hard work these ancestors put in and that their great-grandsons have put in to make it to the Reno Rodeo, what I want to highlight is that both of the ranches mentioned here, Leonard Creek Ranch on the Pine Forest Range, and 9 Mile Ranch in Kings River (both in my birthplace of Humboldt Co., NV) remain with these respective families. That says a lot about roots, Basque and cowboy, and how they’ve come together in our little corner of the West. Also maybe something about the central place of the Basque baserri in Basque culture (see for example, Zulaika and Douglass, Basque Culture) and how it relates to “Home on the Range.”

Trenten’s great-grandfather Ramon (from Volume 2: Iparralde and Nafarroa):

MONTERO ORQUIN, Ramon. Born in Oronoz to Antonio Montero and Ignacia Orquin. They were nine siblings and he sailed from LeH aboard La Lorraine, arriving in the US on Dec. 8, 1902 when he was just 18. While at the train station, Ramon was steered into the right train by a black woman, who noticed his tag attached to the jacket. Montero did not know how to thank her, but in his heart he did so, and profusely. Arrived in Los Angeles and herded sheep for Echenique, earning $25 a month. It took him six months to pay for the trip from Oronoz to California. At age 31 he married Fermina Frantziska Bidegaray. She was 21, from Eiheralarre and the marriage took place on Jan. 13 (or 16), 1918 at Our Lady Queen of Angels’ church in Los Angeles. The witnesses were Fermin Montero and Dominica Bidegaray. Frantziska’s parents were Juan Bidegaray and Juana Maitia (from Iparralde). Montero eventually came to Winnemucca and became a sheepman. He and Michel Bidart bought the Leonard Creek Ranch and for a time they ran 10–12,000 sheep. The ranch is isolated, so there was plenty of room for the sheep. They had donkeys, which are the best for herding sheep, and one day a fellow came looking for a jack donkey to breed his female. Montero had a jack and made a good deal when he exchanged the jack for five cows. That was the beginning of the cattle operation at Leonard Creek Ranch. Ramon’s son Albert (born in Winnemucca) in a memoir published in Herria in 2011, shares a detail worth replicating here. He told the interviewer Miel Elustondo that when his father was young growing up in Nafarroa, he smuggled contraband across the French-Spanish border (which by-the-way, cut the Basque Country in two). The interesting thing was that Ramon’s father was a border guard, working for the Spanish state.

And Victor’s great-grandfather, Antonio, who was born in Ea, Bizkaia (from Volume 1: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa):

UGALDE CHACARTEGUI, Antonio. Born Feb. 9, 1889. Arrived in 1904. On Jan. 2, 1915 he married Paula Erquiaga (native of Natxitua) in Winnemucca. In 1917 he was a rancher and a stockman and worked the 9 Mile Ranch in Kings River. He was living there with his wife and his first 2 children. In 1930 he was living in Summit Lake. He died Nov. 3, 1933.


Taking Cooperative Solutions to the Next Level




Cooperatives at the grassroots level have played a significant role in providing solutions to many of the social problems in society, from supplying the growing population of the world with foodstuffs to supporting local business in the competitive and globalized market. However, the crucial challenge that most cooperatives must face today is how to cooperate with each other to address the major common challenges related to sustainability and global competition. Therefore, the next revolutionary vision in the cooperative movement should bring cooperatives together at a global level to solve global challenges.  Cooperation among cooperatives is crucial to the continuity of the cooperative movement in the globalized era. Globalized consumers are pampered with more product and service choices from around the world. Hence, cooperatives can no longer expect members and communities to support them simply because they are a cooperative. Cooperatives can only survive if they can provide better quality products and services than their competitors.

Some discussion regarding cooperative solutions can be found in the following readings:

** Horohito Norhatan is a graduate student at the Center who is interested in cooperatives and is sharing with us a series of articles on his favorite research topic, cooperatives, Horohito received his M.L.S. in political leadership and public services from Fort Hays State University. His research focuses on cooperative movement, economic democracy, political economics, and development policy. In his graduate thesis, “Cooperative Impacts on Poverty Eradication in Indonesia,” he investigated the impact that Indonesian cooperative organizations had in reducing the poverty rate, generating community wealth, and increasing the regional gross domestic product. Under the guidance of Dr. Xabier Irujo, Horohito is conducting research related to Basque cooperative organizations and their impact on the development of the Basque economy.

St. John’s Eve: A Key Date in the Basque Calendar

June 23 is Donibane or San Joan bezpera, St. John’s Eve, a key date in the Basque calendar that celebrates the summer solstice eve, with the solstice itself a major occasion for the Donibane jaia or sanjoanak, St.John’s festivities in many towns all over the Basque Country. This is, in short, the sun festival, a celebration held all over Europe.


Bonfires light the evening sky all across the Basque Country tonight

The pagan origins of the festival, which from the Middle Ages onward was imbued with a religious dimension, are clearly associated with the summer solstice and hint at rites representing notions of reawakening or rebirth. St. John’s Eve is typically associated with fire, with bonfires lighting up the night sky all over the Basque Country this evening. And for those brave enough to do so, jumping over these bonfires has been traditionally viewed as not just a demonstration of daring-do but also an act associated with a kind of ritual cleansing. Check out this video of the 2012 San Joan Suak (St. John’s bonfires) in Hernani (Gipuzkoa) here.

But fire is not the only element celebrated on this day.  People also cleanse themselves with the water from certain drinking fountains, streams, and ponds. And during the dawn of St.John’s Day itself, it is also considered lucky to tread the morning dew of the grass in some places. In Errenteria (Gipuzkoa), meanwhile, a soka dantza (rope dance) is performed. And in many farmsteads, there is a tradition of placing small ash tree branches, or laurel or hawthorn leaves over the front door of the house to ward off lightning strikes.


Soka dantza in front of an ash tree on St. John’s Eve, Errenteria, June 23, 2013. Photo by Beñat Irasuegi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On the many festivities associated with this day, as well as many other aspects of traditional Basque culture, see the introductory text, Orhipean: The Country of Basque, by Xamar (Juan Carlos Etxegoien). For more information on Basque culture in general check out the Center’s own Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives by William Douglass and Joseba Zulaika.

Basque Cattlemen: A Neglected History?

With the Reno Rodeo running June 18-27, here at the Center we thought it a good moment to reconsider an arguably neglected part of Basque history in the American West: that of Basque cattlemen.


Photo from Basque Library archive. 

Did you know, for example, that one of the first ever inductees in the Hall of Great Westerners (formerly known as the Cowboy Hall of Fame), in 1960, was a Basque, Pedro Altube, also known as the “Father of the Basques in America”?

Pedro Altube Idigoras was born on May 27, 1827, in Oñati, Gipuzkoa. At age 18 he left his family home for Argentina, where three of his brothers were already established. In 1850, he set sail once more, this time to seek his fortune in the Californian Gold Rush. But such get-rich-quick schemes were not for him and, once his brother Bernardo had joined him from Chile, the two Altube brothers set up a more steadily profitable dairy business in the San Mateo area of California, supplying both San Francisco and the mining camps in the Sierra foothills. After briefly trying his hand at ranching outside of Santa Barbara in the 1860s, in 1871 Pedro once more joined forces with brother Bernardo to establish a huge ranch in Independence Valley, Elko County, Nevada, near the town of Tuscarora, driving 3,000 head of cattle from Mexico to the Great Basin in order to set up the operation.  They named their property Spanish Ranch, which became one of the most prosperous ranches in Nevada. Following his retirement from the cattle industry, Pedro Altube moved to a mansion he had built for himself in San Francisco, where he died in 1905. When Spanish Ranch was sold in 1907, the sale included 400,000 acres of land, 20,000 head of cattle, 20,000 head of sheep (a later addition to the ranch), and 2,000 horses.

So, at a time when Reno dons its Western wear to celebrate Cowboy culture, let’s remember the Basque contribution to the cattle industry of the American West. Let’s remember the Altubes. And let’s also remember their close friends, the Garats, originally from Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, who also ran a major cattle business after establishing the YP Ranch on the Tuscarora Fork of the Owyhee River in Elko County. Because these Basque families were at the very heart of the struggles and achievements of the cattlemen that, together with others, made the American West.

To learn more about the Altubes, Garats, and more like them, if you haven’t done so already, check out the classic Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World, by William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao. See also Nacy Zubiri’s wonderful Travel Guide to Basque America: Families, Feasts, and Festivals, which revisits many of the historic sites associated with the Altubes and Garats, providing useful travel information for those interested in following the Basque trail through the West and beyond.

For a brief online introduction to the significance of Basque ranches in the American West, see the excellent article “Basque Ranching Culture,” by Mike Laughlin. And for a highly evocative first-hand account of frontier life from the perspective of a Basque woman, check out My Mama Marie, by Joan Errea.

Flashback Friday: Before the Conquest

On June 19, 1512, early in the morning, the Cortes of Navarre met at the Royal Palace of Iruñea with the presence of the queen and king, Catalina and Juan, to discuss foreign policy affairs. The extraordinary meeting was prolonged until the next day when the monarchs explained to the Cortes the exact terms of the alliance proposals of both Fernando II, King of Aragón –known as the Catholic–, and the French monarch, Louis XII. The ultimatum given by Fernando II about making new strategic agreements against France aimed to gain sovereignty over the territory of Navarre and avoid any possible alliance between Navarre and France. In the following weeks, Fernando II took the first measures toward the conquest of Navarre.

map 1500

A map of 1500

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.


Basques in Liverpool: The Hispanic Liverpool Project

The Hispanic Liverpool Project is an initiative of Dr. Kirsty Hooper, formerly of the University of Liverpool and now an associate professor and reader in Hispanic Studies at the University of Warwick in England.

While Dr.Hooper herself specializes in the culture and literature of Galicia, the Hispanic Liverpool Project seeks to record the experiences of all communities originating in the Iberian Peninsula and as we can see, Basques were prominent among such networks.


Lime Street, Liverpool, in the 1890s, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Quoting the website, “Through the Hispanic Liverpool Database (coming soon!) and Hispanic Liverpool Forum, the project gathers, records and interprets the stories of the people who inhabited those networks, the trading connections they forged and exploited, the places they lived, worked and are remembered, and the traces we can still find of them today, in Liverpool and elsewhere.”

The importance of Liverpool as the major British port and the fact that it served as a key point of embarkation for transatlantic crossings, especially the Liverpool-New York passage, were key in attracting Basques to the city. While many Basques were just passing through, others stayed. The grandest of these operated shipping and shipbuilding companies, while others started up smaller businesses such as tailors or shoemakers, and interestingly, in a parallel to the New World Basque experience, a  network of Basque boarding houses was established in Liverpool.

Eulalia Abaitua

Eulalia de Abaitua, photographed by Charles Reutlinger.

In the “Stories” section of the website, check out the biography of Eulalia de Abaitua (1853-1943), a pioneering Basque photographer who famously recorded daily life in nineteenth-century Bizkaia. Although born in Bilbao, she was raised in Liverpool, married there, and first studied photography in the city. Abaitua’s work is discussed in Miren Jaio’s A Collection of Prints, published by the Etxepare Basque Institute and available free to download here.

For more on the Basque presence in Liverpool in general, see “Los vascos de Liverpool” by Koldo San Sebastián in the online journal Euskonews. And Helen Forrester’s historical novel, The Liverpool Basque, examines the experience of Basque newcomers to the city.

Today, Basque language, society, and culture classes are offered through the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool, and the Center’s own Xabier Irujo currently occupies the Manuel Irujo Chair Fellowship at that same university.

Books in the Center’s Diaspora and Migration Studies series address many of the same themes and issues that the Hispanic Liverpool Project is concerned with.

Dr. Iker Arranz philosophizes food

On May 28, I attended the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s lecture at El Presidio de Santa Barbara entitled “Basque Culture, History, and the Study of Gastronomy.” In the talk, Dr. Iker Arranz of UCSB spoke about the philosophy of food – about thinking while we eat. According to him, we are no longer simply eating to consume, to feed ourselves, but to engage in an experience. He raised questions of eating and identity while establishing links between culture and gastronomy in the Basque Country.


Here are some of the exciting things Dr. Arranz has been doing over the last semester at USCB:

What classes have you taught as UC Santa Barbara, and what will you be teaching in the future?

I have been teaching Basque Culture, Basque Language (Levels from 101 to 103), Basque Cinema, Basque-Spanish Fantastic Cinema and Culinary Arts and Identity. I will be mainly teaching the same courses in the future, but we will might try to offer two classes on Culinary Arts and Identity for next year, it will depend on a few factors that we need to study during this summer though.
How did your Culinary Arts class go this last quarter?  

The class was awesome! Apart from the Chef I had 3 different scholars contributing to my class. I had Prof. Hertweck from UNR for one week. He gave 2 lectures for my students and another lecture for UCSB scholars and students. The feedback has been really good, and many students have been using these lectures in their papers. I also had Prof. Galfarsoro from Leeds University and Prof. Alvarez from UPV. They both gave lectures via internet to my students and they really enjoyed the experience. We have been using readings from these two lectures and the students had the chance to ask the authors about their ideas and writings, something that they really appreciated in my opinion. And finally, Chef Aingeru Etxebarria was teaching how to cook traditional and more elaborated “pintxos” to the students. The goal was to offer the chance to taste all the theory on culture and identity to my students and also try to change their habits with some healthy and tasty Basque creations.


Event at “El Presidio” with the Chef


Photo of Dr. Iker Arranz, former student at the Center for Basque Studies, photo courtesy of Rosie Sullivan

For more information and a summary of the event, check out Rosie Sullivan’s article:

The European Cooperative Boom



In the Europe there are more than 140 million people who have become members of cooperatives. European countries have experienced an expansion in the number of worker cooperatives. There are currently more than 83,000 cooperatives businesses in 42 European countries, well over double the number in 1980s. There are some regions in Europe that  have, for the most part, a strong historical background of cooperativism such as the Emilia Romagna region in northern Italy and the Basque Country, with its Mondragon Cooperative. Both the Emilia Romagna and Mondragon cooperatives are networks of cooperatives that produce products and services including sales, finance, machinery, and universities. Favorable local government policies toward the cooperative movement are behind the recent growth of cooperatives in Europe. European cooperatives enjoy tax benefits and supportive legislation that spur their success as the driving force for economic development at the community level. Nevertheless, cooperatives also face several challenges, including just in time production methods, lack of union representation, and loss of solidarity among workers.

For further reading please read the following books and article:

** Horohito Norhatan is a graduate student at the Center who is interested in cooperatives and is sharing with us a series of articles on his favorite research topic, cooperatives, Horohito received his M.L.S. in political leadership and public services from Fort Hays State University. His research focuses on cooperative movement, economic democracy, political economics, and development policy. In his graduate thesis, “Cooperative Impacts on Poverty Eradication in Indonesia,” he investigated the impact that Indonesian cooperative organizations had in reducing the poverty rate, generating community wealth, and increasing the regional gross domestic product. Under the guidance of Dr. Xabier Irujo, Horohito is conducting research related to Basque cooperative organizations and their impact on the development of the Basque economy.

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