Month: July 2015 (page 2 of 3)

What’s in a Name? Some Basque Place Names in North America


Cape Alava and Ozette Island. Photo by Kimon Berlin, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the weternmost point of the contiguous 48 US states is called Cape Alava, and was named after a Basque, José Manuel de Alava, who was born in 1843 in Vitoria-Gasteiz? It’s in Clallam County, Washington, and forms the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. It was named after Alava in 1794 for his role as commissioner during discussions leading to the Nootka Sound Conventions, agreements between Great Britain and Spain that averted a war between the two empires over overlapping claims to parts of the Pacific Northwest in the 1790s.

What’s more, Arizona may also be a Basque-derived name, according to the National Park Service’s page, as explained here at Buber’s Basque Page.


Downtown Durango, CO. Photo by Sascha Bruck, via Wikimedia Commons

What appears less open to question is the Basque connection when it comes to the name Durango, whether in Colorado, Iowa, or Texas, even if it did come via a town of the same name in Mexico, since the Mexican town derives its name from Durango, Bizkaia. Nor is there any doubt as regards Port aux Basques, the oldest of the collection of towns that make up the present-day Channel-Port aux Basques in Newfoundland, Canada. Similarly, Key Biscayne, an island in Miami-Dade County, Florida, owes its name, reputedly, to the fact that a “Biscayan” (which at that time meant a Basque) had lived on the lower east coast of Florida for a while after being shipwrecked. What’s more, a seventeenth-century map shows the place name Cayo de Biscainhos, the probable origin of today’s Key Biscayne.

Other place names with some Basque connections include the following (in a by no means definitive list):

  • Anza, Riverside Co., CA (named after explorer Juan Bautista de Anza)
  • The Les Basques regional county municipality in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, Canada
  • Navarre, Santa Rosa Co., FL
  • St. Ignace, Mackinac Co., MI (after the Basque Saint Ignatius of Loiola/Loyola)
  • St. Xavier,  Big Horn Co., MT (after the Basque Saint Francis Xabier/Xavier)
  • Uvalde, TX (a corruption of Ugalde, the Basque last name of a Spanish governor at that time).

Moreover, the name of Bayonne, Hudson Co., NJ, seems to be connected to Bayonne (in Basque, Baiona) in Lapurdi, although there is some disagreement as to whether this is actually the case. And Jean Lafitte, in Jefferson Parish, LA, is named after a famous privateer who was possibly born in Biarritz, Lapurdi.

Do you know of any more Basque-related place names in North America?

Flashback Friday: Against the King’s Will

On July 17, 1134, Alfonso I, King of Navarre and Aragon, known as “the Battler,” escaped from Fraga (Huesca), where the Moorish military forces had defeated the Christian army. Despite a series of successful military campaigns in the central Ebro Valley in the years before, Alfonso’s troops had encountered a stronger Almoravid resistance that they had expected in Fraga. Two months after the defeat of Fraga, Alfonso passed away. The succession to the throne resulted in quarrels between different aspirants, which undermined royal government power and weakened its military presence at frontier lines. In turn, the Muslims, although only momentarily, took advantage of this situation to gain back lost territory. Finally, the deceased King’s brother, Ramiro I, became King of Aragon and García Ramírez was crowned King of Navarre. After Alfonso’s death, then, the Kingdoms of Aragon and Navarre were separated.

alfonso battalador

Portrait of Alfonso I

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

Zulaika co-presents petition to free Basque activist

On Wednesday, July 15, Joseba Zulaika took part, alongside writer and professor Laura Mintegi, in the presentation of a list of a list of prominent American scholars and public figures who support the freeing of Basque nationalist leader Arnaldo Otegi from prison as a means to encouraging the ongoing Basque peace process.


CBS Faculty Member Joseba Zulaika

As well as Zulaika, the list of figures asking for Otegi’s release also includes CBS Emeritus Faculty Member William A. Douglass, together with Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, William Ramsey Clark, Peter Coyote, Mike Farrell, Cornel Ronald West, Haskell Wexler, Mark Kurlansky, Dave Boling, Rosalinda Guillen, Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan, Jeffrey St. Clair, William (Bill) Gerald Fletcher, Jr., Eva Golinger, James Petras, Rick Halperin, Jihad Abdulmumit, Peter Bohmer, John Catalinotto, Dr. James D. Cockcroft, Sara Flounders, Nozomi Ikuta, Matt Meyer, David H. Price, and Simona Sharoni.

The event was reported in Gara (in Spanish) here, in Berria (in Basque) here, and in Mediabask (in French) here.

For more information on the campaign, including a full list of global figures who endorse it, click here.

Discover the Basque Country: The Añana Salt Valley

For those of you who may be lucky enough to get to visit the Basque Country sometime, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite places with you.


The weird and wonderful landscape of the Añana Salt Valley. Photo courtesy of the Fundación Valle Salado, via Wikimedia Commons

Toward the western extent of the Basque Country, less than 20 miles from Vitoria-Gasteiz, lies the Añana Salt Valley, next to the town of Salinas de Añana / Gesaltza Añana, Araba. This weird and wonderful landscape, made up of thousands of  salt pans, springs, channels, wells, and storage facilities, is a living testament to human development of a single, vital natural resource: salt. This is said to be one of the oldest continuous salt production sites in the world, stretching back some 6,500 years.


Working the salt pans. Photo courtesy of the Fundación Valle Salado, via Wikimedia Commons

In recent years special efforts have been made to revamp this site of major historical and cultural importance, so that there are now guided visits around the salt pans, and visitors can even take part in the salt production process themselves. What’s more, the area also now hosts other kinds of initiatives such as festivals and shows.


Evening sound and light show in Salt Valley. Photo courtesy of the Fundación Valle Salado, via Wikimedia Commons

Just in case you didn’t realize just how important salt was and is in human history, check out the epic tale, Salt: A World History by a great friend of the Center, Mark Kurlansky. Mark is, of course, also the author of The Basque History of the World. Check out Mark’s books at his website here.

July 18: Basque Soccer Friendly


San Mames Barria, the new stadium of Athletic Bilbao. Photo by Euskaldunaa, via Wikimedia Commons

This Saturday, July 18, the Basque Country’s very own Athletic Bilbao (commonly referred to as Athletic Club, or just Athletic) will take on Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente  (commonly referred to as Xolos de Tijuana, or simply as Xolos) in a professional soccer friendly match in Albertsons Stadium on the campus of Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, at 7:00 pm.

All proceeds from the Basque Soccer Friendly will be for the Basque Studies Foundation to support scholarships and Basque Studies programming at Boise State University and soccer scholarships for Idaho youth provided by the Idaho Youth Soccer AssociationFor match details, including how to purchase tickets and merchandise, click here.  

CBS graduate Mariann Vaczi recently published a study of soccer that focuses on Athletic Bilbao: Soccer, Culture and Society in Spain: An Ethnography of Basque Fandom.  Mariann also edited Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, a collection of varied articles on different dimensions of sport, in which her own chapter addresses Basque soccer rivalry from the fans’ perspective.    


From the Backlist: The Selected Basque Writings of Humboldt

The renowned scholar and statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) founded the University of Berlin and devised an educational model in his homeland, Prussia, which had a strong influence on the US education system. Humboldt’s other significant American connection was his early interest in, and significant contribution to, the study of Native American languages.


Zortziko dance in Elorrio, Bizkaia, 1801. Engraving by Pedro Eriz based on sketch by Esteban Pannemaker, Reproduced in El Oasis. Viaje al País de los Fueros (1878-80) by Juan Mañé y Flaquer

In Humboldt’s Selected Basque Writings: The Basques and Announcement of a Publication, we are treated to a rare and privileged description of Basque life on the cusp of the modern age. He visited the Basque Country twice, in 1799 and 1801, and this work is the result of his observations on those trips. In the work he is keen to see how culture thrives, and just what makes the Basque Country “Basque.” Here in English translation for the first time, these accounts will be of interest not just to scholars but anyone fascinated by what life was like in the Basque Country before the great nineteenth-century industrial changes. Let’s take a look at these writings via snippets that reveal the keen insight of this famous scholar.


Fort Socoa, Donibane Lohizune, by Charles Mercereau (1822-1864), with sardinières in foreground, bottom right, via Wikimedia Commons

On Basque women:

Regarding industriousness, it seems as if the sexes in the Basque Country, specifically in the French Basque lands, have switched roles. I have never seen as much and wearisome work carried out by women as here. In the Spanish part, they often break the harshest and hardest of soil while hunching over the abrasive laya, an implement for tilling that I will describe later. In Bilbao, they unload the ships, carrying the heaviest of weights on their heads, especially the much-traded iron rods, from the river to the storehouses. I even saw them hammering away on the anvil in the smithies. The most remarkable thing is, however, that their unusual strength is equally matched by their quickness and agility.

I grew accustomed to admire this especially among the sardinières or sardine carriers of whom I encountered many on my way to Donibane Lohizune. It is a weird sight to see a row of five or six, sometimes even ten or twenty mostly tall and scanty female bodies trotting toward you, one by one popping up behind a hill, each carrying big, round, covered baskets of fish on their heads while keeping their bodies motionless and stiff. Each one hurries to be the first to market their sardines in Baiona, and so they jog the whole way, slowing down only where the terrain ascends. I was assured that during the fishing season they carry their load to the market even twice a day. Thus they cover the distance of about three French miles four times on the very same day in spite of a road without shade and the sun burning down on them.

On Basque food:

in Markina they told me that they have meat at every lunch, always have wine in the evenings, and their midmorning snack is abundant, too. I once took part at one such family elevenses. The patron, his two sons, his menial, and a day laborer sat around a bowl with cut pieces of bread that was fried in lard; with it they had omelets and a good wheat bread given that cornbread is a worse and paltrier nourishment. The woman stood behind them and merely watched them, as she had already eaten at home.


There are various ways of eating the corn. In some areas they make a mash of it and they either eat it fresh or bake it and cut it into pieces. In others they make bread out of it. As this always remains solid, moist, and cakelike, they eat it seldom as we do our bread. Instead, they cut it into thin slices, roast them on the fire, and sometimes cover them with ham. This is then called chingarra. Sometimes, they take a piece of corn bread, heat it on the fire, add cheese to it, and knead it into a ball in their hands. Such a ball is called marakukia and commonly part of their breakfast. These taste not bad at all, but a lot depends on the hands that make them. As long as the chestnut season lasts, four consecutive months that is, this fruit is the only food that the Lower Navarrese eat in the morning and in the evening. For lunch they will have a soup of beans, without any fat, but with a lot of red pepper. Meat, with the exception of ham, and wheat bread can only be seen in the houses of the wealthy … In Lower Navarre and the little land of Lapurdi I noticed an odd way of boiling milk. Instead of putting it on the fire, they throw glowing pebbles into it. It swells up at once and acquires a burned taste, but the people seem to love it.

On Basque dance and traditions in general:

Unlike elsewhere, in Biscay such popular things (like dance and revelry) are not left to the private sphere, but are, in a sense, part of the constitution, subject to public supervision. They are steadfast traditions handed down, truly national, and, moreover, traditions that have a fixed form depending on the individual’s place of birth. The character of the Biscayans, for the most part, recurs on these very things, and it is these aspects of their character that are praised, in preference to other nations. It reinforces the Basque’s tie with his land and his compatriots, and nothing can supersede the power of this tie in terms of the beneficial influence it has on the strength and the upright integrity of his character. Even the highest of culture could not fully take its place as it cannot lend itself to all branches of society; love for the homeland and national ambition, however, are readily adopted by both, the beggars and the elites of a people, if in different shape. It is only natural, though, that with increased commerce with foreign countries, these institutions will ever more fall into oblivion. In fact it is deplorable that the authorities have ceased to see to its preservation. Thus, one public custom after the other continues to fall asleep.

Interestingly, Humboldt concluded that, despite his obvious affection for the Basques, he could see little future for either their language or culture. In fact, he thought it only a matter of time before both disappeared for good, swallowed up by their more powerful neighbors.


Mondragon Model: Independent and Community Based Development


The cooperative business model has been implemented across the globe to improve the living of lower income populations in many parts of the world. Birchall (2004) notes the cooperative movement contribution in reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in poverty eradication. In South Africa, cooperatives have become an alternative source of income in the face of growing unemployment and under employment among the low-income population (Khumalo, 2014). Nevertheless, not all cooperatives in the world perform well. Prior study on the cooperative movement shows that self-determination, grassroots participation, and nongovernmental intervention are the basis of a successful cooperative (OCDC, 2007). On the other hand, the government mobilization model tends to obstruct the competitiveness of cooperatives, as evidence shows how cooperatives in the less developed countries have a low survival rate due to governmental intervention, which has created a group of opportunists among members of the cooperatives who take advantages of governmental subsidies and assistance (Nyambe, 2010; Dyi, 2011). One cooperative that seems to be successfully withering the internal issues related to self-determination and internal conflict is the Mondragon Cooperative in the Basque Country, Spain.

The Mondragon Cooperative represents the prime example of how cooperative entrepreneurship based on community participation and democratic structure eradicates poverty and creates sustainable living for the members. The social entrepreneurship of Mondragon is rooted in the cohesiveness and collective tradition of Basque culture. As a result, Basque traditions have cemented the members and community dedication and efforts to establish an autonomous cooperative movement. In contrast to outdated stories of failed cooperatives, the Mondragon Cooperative has grown extraordinarily since its infancy, and it still progresses in terms of real-growth of revenues and workforce (MCC, 2015). During the early years of this cooperative’s development, the Mondragon founders successfully mobilized the local community to establish their grassroots efforts to fight against their economic constraints by establishing cooperatives. The founders focused on maintaining their independence and kept the cooperatives out of the governmental influence. Admiring the success of Mondragon model, Clamp and Alhamis (2010) stipulate that the independence  of Mondragon contributes to its maturity and growth into a complex of cooperative networks, a concept that should be replicated elsewhere, and the spirit for self-determination and community efforts should be the basis for building a successful cooperative in developing countries. One example of such implementation is how the Mondragon cooperative has served as a model inspiration for CODC (Cooperative Ownership Development Corporation) in New Mexico, which aims at developing businesses that serve the local economy (Clamp & Alhamis).

If managed well, cooperatives can be a critical instrument in the poverty eradication effort across the globe. Prior study in the developing world shows how cooperatives have stimulated economic activities in smaller communities in which large enterprises cannot operate due to small profit margins. However, in order to function properly as a grassroots based institution, cooperatives must remain independent and free from political intervention. Instead, the government should facilitate policies that enable cooperatives to function as autonomous entities, and to provide managerial and administrative training.


References for Further Readings

Birchall, J. (2004). Cooperatives and the millennium development goals. Geneva: International Labour Office.

Clamp, C. A., & Alhamis, I. (2010). Social entrepreneurship in the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation and the challenges of successful replication. Journal of Entrepreneurship, 19(149), 149-177.

Dyi, L. (2011). Status of co-operatives in South Africa. East London, South Africa: The South African Department of Trade and Industry.

Khumalo, P. (2014). Improving the contribution of cooperatives as vehicles for local economic development in South Africa. African Studies Quarterly, 14(4), 61-79.

Mondragon Cooperative Cooperation (MCC). (2015). History | MONDRAGON Corporation. Retrieved from

Muthuma, E. (2012). Do co-operative development policies really lead to the development of co-operatives?: Lessons from Kenya. Africa Insight, 41(4), 176-191.

Nyambe, J. (2010). Workers’ cooperatives in South Africa, an assessment and analysiso of conditions of cuccess and failure. In DGRV-South Africa-working paper no. 6. Berlin: Deutscher Genossenschafts und Raiffeisenverband.

Overseas Cooperative Development Council. (2007). Pathways to economic, democratic and social development in the global economy. Washington, DC: US Overseas Cooperative Development Council.

Flashback Friday: The March on the Basque Country

On July 10, 1977, in the context of the Spanish general election that was held one month before, hundreds of people from different parts of the Basque Country marched toward Iruñea, the capital of Navarre, in a large demonstration against the Spanish government and the new political direction after Francisco Franco’s death. Billed as the “March of Freedom” (Askatasunaren Ibilaldia), this demonstration demanded a complete amnesty for all political prisoners, the acknowledgement of Basque national identity, the right to self-determination, and the removal of all the Spanish law enforcement bodies from the Basque Country. Four distinct columns of demonstrators departed walking from the towns of Gernika (Bizkaia), Zarautz (Gipuzkoa), Agurain (Araba), and Lodosa (Navarre). These four columns finally joined together in Aratzuri (Navarre), where they celebrated a closing event on August 28. Although their first intention was to conclude the march in Iruñea, a last-minute prohibition of this demonstration in the historic capital forced them to change the initial plans. This event was the largest demonstration ever seen in the Basque Country after the end of Franco’s dictatorship.


One of the columns marching to Iruñea (Navarre)

askatasun ibilbidea 1977

Crowds gathered in the fields of Aratzuri (Navarre) on August 28, 1977


Basque politician Telesforo Monzon addressed a big crowd at the closing event

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


Discover the Basque Country: The Basque Cider Museum

For those of you who may be lucky enough to get to visit the Basque Country sometime, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite places with you.

Did you know that the famed Greek geographer Strabo (64 BCE-24 CE) wrote of the Basques as a race of cider drinkers? The importance of apples, and especially their refreshing derivative, sagardoa ( cider), is celebrated in the Basque Cider Museum: Sagardoetxea (literally, the “house of cider”). Located in a famed cider town, Astigarraga (Gipuzkoa), this is a fascinating museum with plenty of hands-on activities for everyone to get involved in.

Los futbolistas tolosarras de la saga Alonso (Periko, el padre, y los hermanos Mikel y Xabi, ambos jugadores de la Real Sociedad) han abierto la temporada de sidrerías 2004, con el txotx en la sidrería Petritegi, de Astigarraga. Tras ellos, han disfrutado de la nueva sidra el resto de los asistentes.

Txotx time! Photo by Jon Urbe (Argia), via Wikimedia Commons

Cider houses developed out of traditional farmsteads, and were once no more than converted sheds for farmers to meet up, eat, drink cider, and of course sing. Indeed, there seems to be an intrinsic connection between drinking cider and singing, whether songs or bertsos (improvised oral poems). But cider house culture is also associated with all round revelry and partying. For example, dancing, too, was not uncommon in the cider houses of yesteryear. In The Basques, renowned anthropologist Julio Caro Baroja describes traditional “cider house dances” that consisted of “imitating the sound of a flute and the bass drum with the voice, and then as if one were eating in a casserole dish while having to take off half of one’s clothes, but always singing. Not all, but some, evolved in such a way that it is assumed that they were not at first mere burlesque pastimes.”


Family-style dining is the order of the day in this Astigarraga cider house. photo by Unai Fdz. de Betoño, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, cider houses open their doors to offer a unique gastronomic and cultural experience. The most traditional of cider houses are only open to the public between January and April (although others offer an all-year-round service). Family-style dining is the order of the day, as you sit down to a traditional menu of cod omelet, followed by fried cod with green peppers, a big juicy steak, and finish off with cheese, walnuts, and apple quince jelly, all washed down with as much cider as you want from the surrounding kupelak (barrels). Be sure to keep an ear out, though, for the magic word: txotx! (something akin to “drink up!”), which marks the moment when some brave soul goes to open up a barrel.


Cooperatives over Corporations



Relatively unknown among ordinary people, cooperatives have a substantial presence in America. A 2009 survey by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives found that cooperatives have generated $653 billion in sales and provided jobs for more than 2 million people in the United States. The survey also reveals that there are as many as 30,000 cooperative organizations in America. Cooperative enterprises conduct normal business activities similar to their corporation counterparts, except that cooperatives have a democratic structure, an equitable sharing of income, and vivid commitment to the common good of the surrounding community. Surprisingly, many well-known American businesses are actually cooperatives. The list of widely recognized American cooperatives includes ACE Hardware, Best Western Hotels, Organic Valley, REI, True Value, and WinCo.  All of these companies emphasize their business philosophy on democratic values, humanism, and a community focus. Hence, this fact has challenged the conventional wisdom of many ordinary Americans that the foundation of American economic success lays only in the hands of corporations.

Cooperatives involve large-scale structural reform that ordinary Americans can implement right where they live; giving small groups a pragmatic and effective way to push back against the arrogance and avarice of the centralized, hierarchical corporate model. Not only do co-ops work economically, they also privilege ordinary people, offering real democratic participation and putting some “unity” back in “community.”

For further reading please visit the following websites:

** 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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