Month: September 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Joan Mari Torrealdai awarded Manuel Lekuona prize

Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Basque Studies Society, has awarded Joan Mari Torrealdai the Manuel Lekuona Prize 2015.

Joan Mari is a researcher, bibliographer, and, above all, an euskaltzale, a promoter of the Basque language and culture.

Joan Mari Torrealdai (L) and Iñaki Dorronsoro, president of Eusko Ikaskuntza.

Joan Mari Torrealdai (R) and Iñaki Dorronsoro, president of Eusko Ikaskuntza.

Unfortunately, some of these activities took him to prison. In 2003 the Spanish National court closed Egunkaria, the only daily newspaper in the Basque language at the time, linking it to ETA. Joan Mari, as chairman of the board of Egunkaria and one of its first sponsors, was arrested with nine other people. When in 2010 all of them were absolved, it was too late for the newspaper.

Joan Mari has been the director of Jakin, one of the main publications about Basque culture, on two occasions: 1967-1969 (when the Spaniard government closed the journal) and 1977-2014.

In Jakin and since 1977, Torrealdai publishes “Euskal liburugintza” (Basque book publishing), an annual analytic report about publishing in the Basque Country. In addition to bibliography, other topics in his research are the everyday use of the Basque language and the censorship suffered under Franco.

Nowadays, Joan Mari Torrealdai is an euskaltzain (an academician of the Basque language) and head librarian at Euskaltzaindia, the Academy of the Basque language.

For more on the Basque language, see the following CBS publications:

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country

The Dialects of Basque

Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture

Cartel Loreak

Photo from the official website of the film

Loreak (Flowers), a Basque-language film directed by Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga, has been selected to represent Spain at next year’s Oscars. But before being finally selected for the Oscars, the film must still pass two more shortlists. We will follow its progress closely.


Ane’s life takes a turn when, week after week, she starts getting a bouquet of flowers at home. Always at the same hour. And always anonymously. The life of Lourdes and Tere is also affected by some mysterious flowers. Every week someone deposits a bouquet in memory of someone who was important in their lives. This is the story of three women, three lives altered by the mere presence of a few bouquets. Flowers will sprout in them feelings that seemed forgotten … But after all, are nothing but flowers.


If you want to know more about the Basque Cinema, click here.

See also this article at the Guardian.

Basque Lecture Series, here we go!

Last week the students and professors of the Center for Basque Studies once again started the Basque Lecture Series. This tradition, which began some years ago, is one of the most entertaining events during the fall semester.

With these lectures the students learn confidence and skills for future conferences and symposiums. The feedback between the professors and students make these lectures something genuine.

Through the last Thursday in November, every Thursday at 5.15 pm in the Center for Basque Studies (Basque Conference Room, 305, Third Floor), students and professors will give a lecture on a topic that they are researching.

You are all invited!

Last year’s flyer, designed by Iker Saitua

Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2015 in Bilbao, Basque Country.

Saturday, September 26, witnessed the grand finale of the 50th Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Bilbao. Relive the event here.

 Video taken for YouTube

If you want to know more about Bilbao or the Guggenheim Museum, check out That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture, and Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, available free to download here. In relation to the event itself, see also Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport.

Flashback Friday: Privileged Fleets

On September 25, 1728, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” (La Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas) was established in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. An early eighteenth century Spanish reform had established a system by which the government issued royal licenses for the establishment of commerce companies endowing them privileged positions in colonial trade. This system followed the Dutch, English, and French models, by which the government granted some companies permission to be the sole merchants and have monopoly rights on certain trading routes between the American colonies and the Old World. In this way, moreover, the chartered companies became important mainstays of the Spanish empire and its military rule in America. Thus, those privileged fleets were allowed not only to consolidate their positions in transatlantic markets, but they played an even larger role in Spanish foreign relations abroad. Following its Basque predecessor’s steps–the“Company of Honduras” established by Diego de Murga in 1714–the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” was created with the intention of establishing a shareholding company between Venezuela and the Old World. In 1742, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” obtained the monopoly of trade to Venezuela. Through the establishment of this and other commercial companies, Basque merchants took an active role in the Atlantic trade of different kind of products in the West Indies during the eighteenth century.

The Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas logo

The Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas logo


The Royal Gipuzkoan Company’s business headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, in the 1940s

Check out Gloria Pilar Totoricaguena’s book Basque Diaspora: Migration and Transnational Identity, which will give you the whole picture of this and other stories about the Basque presence overseas (available free to download here). On the eighteenth century, see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (2003).

For further discussion on Basque emigration, see: José Manuel Azcona Pastor’s Possible Paradises: Basque Emigration to Latin America (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004); and William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao, Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1975).

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

The Far West comes to Bizkaia this weekend

This Saturday, September 26, the town of Mendata in Bizkaia will honor the Basque sheepherders who went to the Americas (and especially the US and Argentina) with a special celebration forming part of the town’s Festival of Saint Michael (Mikel Deunaren Jaiak).


In the words of its town council website, Mendata will, for a day, become “an authentic part of the Far West, with the aim of recognizing their efforts, strengthening public recognition of their work, and celebrating a festival in their honor.”

The program will begin at 12:00 pm with “Caravan to the Far West,”a parade involving sheepherders’ wagons and local people from Mendata dressed as representative figures from the era of immigration to the Far West. This will be followed by the re-enactment of a traditional send-off for a young Basque sheepherder heading for the Americas, accompanied  by the music of Gontzal Mendibil. Then, at 2:00 pm, an aspen tree (lertxun zuria in Basque) will be planted beside a small monument that reads “Mendatako herriak Ameriketan artzain ibilitakoari” (From the town of Mendata to those who went to the Americas as sheepherders). The next hour will be dedicated to country dancing before a family-style lunch at 3:00 pm. Following lunch, there will be rodeo at 5:30 pm, emceed by Basque TV personality Julian Iantzi (who was born in California), and the event will end with a concert by the group Kupela at 8:30 pm.

For more information, see the articles at Euskalkultura and El Correo (in Spanish).

Recently, the CBS paid its own homage to those Basques who went to the US in the form of a two-volume book, Basques in the United States, which contains names and entries for nearly 10,000 first generation Basque immigrants from the 1800s through today.

Check out, too the Diaspora and Migration Series, which includes works on different aspects of the Basque migrant experience. And if you haven’t already, see Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World, the masterpiece by William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao, now in its fortieth year of publication.

Making Connections with Basques in the United States

Jaialdi has come and gone, but what a great experience it was for a first year Basque Studies graduate student.  Not only did I get to reminisce while sipping Kalimotxo about the days in undergrad, and listen to a live band in Euskera, but I also was able to help sell Basques in the United States. Basques in the United States is a collaborative project that has taken years to compile. Thousands of Basque immigrants names are listed, along with intricate details about their lives.

I started selling the book as part of working for publications in the Center for Basque Studies this summer.  However, as people gathered for the lehendakari to speak in Boise, and at a Basque festival in Gardnerville, I was able to better see  the fruits of this labor. This on-going project to gather information about the immigrants who made it across the Atlantic to start new lives came with great surprises.

Below on the left, this woman recognized her relatives found on the front cover of one of the books.  On the bottom right, another woman and her dad do the same and allowed me to take a picture of the tattoo on her wrist.  The tattoo is the exact same signature that is imprinted on the immigration document that is shown on the hanging poster.

I watched other family members eagerly searching for their past throughout these volumes, giving a bit more life to the history, struggle and transition of their ancestors and their heritage.  It was almost as if some of them had found buried treasure-something they had heard about but never seen in real life…Definitely one of the great opportunities I had the pleasure of partaking in over the summer.

If you would like a copy, or have one and would like to help us update information in the books, please contact the Center for Basque Studies online by visiting:  (to obtain a copy of the books) (to update information about immigrants/entries)



Descendants of women on front cover

Descendants of women on front cover



Descendant matching her tattoo of her ancestor’s signature to the one on poster





On the Road to Santiago with Anne Etchegoyen

Yesterday, September 21, Basque singer Anne Etchegoyen set out from her home in Donapaleu (Saint-Palais) in Lower Navarre on an 814 kilometer (505 mile) walk to Santiago de Compostela (Galicia), on the so-called Camino de Santiago. There is a short introductory video explaining the idea behind the walk here (in French).


Anne Etchegoyen in concert, Morcenx, November 15, 2014. Photo by Cptcv, via Wikimedia Commons

In Etchegoyen’s own words, quoted in Sud Ouest,  “I need this introspection . . . I felt like leaving, making a break with everyday life, and recharging my batteries, meeting other people, and also crossing paths with artists.” She also hopes to release an album and a film documenting her experiences along the way. “I’m heading off into the unknown, this documentary will allow me to keep track of this experience.” And she is fueling the venture by means of a crowdfunding campaign, funds from which will also go to the Association Landes Madagascar, which promotes developing education, agriculture, and health care in Madagascar and the Projet Vénus, which educates women about screening for breast cancer. For more information on this crowdfunding campaign, click here.

Etchegoyen’s 2013 album Les Voix Basques (Basque voices), in conjunction with the Aizkoa Choir, sold over 60,000 copies in France alone, earning her a gold record there. For a great version of Xabier Lete’s “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), check out this clip here.

And you can follow her journey at her Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as checking out her photos on Instagram.


Linguae Vasconum Primitiae, now in Japanese

The first book ever printed in the Basque language is now available in Japanese. Linguae Vasconum Primitiae, written by Bernard Etxepare and published in Bordeaux (France) in 1545, marks a milestone for Basque culture. Printed almost a century later than the Gutenberg Bible, this collection of religious, autobiographical, and amorous poetry opened the doors of printing houses to a language that some thought was not writable.

The title page of Linguae Vasconum Primitiae. (BNF/Gallica)

The title page of Linguae Vasconum Primitiae (BNF/Gallica)

The book has been translated, especially into Romance and other European languages. Now it is also available for Japanese readers thanks to the work of Sho Hagio and Hiromi Yoshida, two Japanese euskaldunak (Basque speakers) who learned Euskara in Japan. The book is published by the Basque Government and the Etxepare Basque Institute.

You can obtain a copy of the English translation of Linguae Vasconum Primitiae in the Center for Basque Studies bookstore or check out it from the Basque Library of the UNR.

What’s more, you can read a digital edition of the original text by Josu Lavin and take a look at a facsimile edition by Gallica, the French national digital library.

Donostia-San Sebastián Film Festival Kicks Off

September 18 sees the start of the 63rd Donostia Zinemaldia, the Donostia-San Sebastián Film Festival. This year’s edition sees the world premiere of eight movies, including Regression, directed by Alejandro Amenabar and starring Emily Watson and Ethan Hawke.


The Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium in Donostia-San Sebastián, decorated to promote the 2014 Zinemaldia. Photo by Joxemai, via Wikimedia Commons

This year also promises to be an especially eclectic mix, with different festival sections include “Horizontes Latinos,” “Culinary Cinema,” “Savage Cinema,” and “New Japanese Independent Cinema.” In an interview with Basque daily Berria, festival director Jose Luis Rebordinos emphasizes this diversity, citing three examples of films showcasing this year: the surreal French film Evolution, the cool British black comedy High Rise (based on a novel by J.G. Ballard), and the Japanese children’s animation film Bakemono no ko / The Boy and The Beast. Moreover, Basque films on show this year include Amama (When a Tree Falls), Sagardoa bidegile (Cider Stories), Jai Alai Blues,  and Aitaren Etxea. And there will also be a screening of the Basque-themed French movie, Sanctuaire (Sanctuary).

“From art house to mainstream films, from indie to potential Academy-winning features, San Sebastian has it all,” according to Telefonica production chief Axel Kuschevatzky, quoted in Pamela Rolfe’s article in The Hollywood Reporter here.

If you’re interested in exploring more about Basque movies, check out Basque Cinema: An Introduction, by Jaume Martí-Olivella, for a good general overview of the development of Basque film-making. And for a more detailed study of the intersection between film and Basque culture, see The Basque Nation On-Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and Political Violence, by Santiago de Pablo.

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