Month: October 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Flashback Friday: The Resistance

On October 30, 1512, during the conquest of Navarre, troops loyal to the Navarrese King Juan de Labrit surrendered to the forces of the Spanish King Ferdinand II of Aragon in Lizarra (Navarre). Some months earlier, on July 25, after the Spaniards occupied a large part of the territory of Navarre,  the Lizarra nobility had rejected the authority of the new Spanish monarch and legitimized Juan de Labrit’s power. Indeed, only the Navarre noblesse of Lizarra and Tutera, as well as that of the Erronkari, Zaraitzu, and other valleys, did not recognize Ferdinands’ authority. These so-called Navarre legitimists organized themselves to overthrow Ferdinand’s rule. Thus, on October 5, they rose in rebellion to take over the city of Lizarra. Some days later, Ferdinand’s army, for its part, counterattacked the rebellion. The resistance persisted during the whole month of October.  On the 30th day, eventually, the Navarrese defenders of Labrit surrendered, after they signed the agreement to lay down their arms.


Portrayal of Lizarra

On the history of Navarre, see Navarra: The Durable Kingdom, by Rachel Bard.

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



Researchers Oihane Sanchez and Leire Baztarrica at UNR

The Center is welcoming the visit of art researchers Oihane Sanchez and Leire Baztarrica. They will be in residence until December 21.

Oihane Sanchez

Oihane is a second-year graduate student at the School of Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. Her project consists in relating the Guggenheim Museum with the metropolitan area of Bilbao in general, and with the local artists in particular. She plans to compare these relationships with those taking place in the American Far West–in cities such as Reno.

Leire Bastarrica 2

Leire Baztarrica

Leire is a photographer and designer. She is a fifth-year student specializing in Creativity and Design within the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. The project she plans to develop is a study of Reno’s neon lights, analyzing their formal aspects, colors, and symbolic content, as well as cataloging them. As part of her research, she also plans to interview and photograph local people. See some of Leire’s work here.

Blow for Basque language as French Senate fails to ratify minority language charter

October 27: after five hours of debate, the French Senate voted on a motion that ratifying the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages would be inadmissible as any such ratification would be unconstitutional. The motion was passed by 180 votes to 155.


Bilingual road sign in Iparralde. Photo by Harrieta171, via Wikimedia Commons

The charter is a treaty established in 1992 by the Council of Europe (an intergovernmental body promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law among its member states, in effect practically all European countries) to protect and promote regional and minority languages in Europe as a means of encouraging linguistic diversity on the continent.

France signed the charter in 1999  but has not yet ratified it. In January 2014, the French National Assembly (the lower house) adopted a constitutional amendment permitting ratification, but approval by the Congress (the body formed by both houses of the French parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate), any amendment to the French Constitution, and the actual ratification of the charter are still pending. And with this latest vote, it would seem that any such ratification is still unlikely.

The charter has been ratified, however, by 25 of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, including both European Union members (such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Poland, and Hungary) and non-members (such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Ukraine, and Armenia) alike.

For further information on the vote in Basque click here; in French click here and here; and in Spanish click here.

On Saturday, October 24, there were simultaneous and coordinated demonstrations throughout the French Republic–in Baiona (Bayonne) in favor of Basque; in Montpelhièr (Montpellier) in favor of Occitan; in Aiacciu (Ajaccio) in favor of Corsican; and in Karaez (Carhaix) in favor of Breton–to support ratification of the treaty as well as to demand greater protection and respect for minority languages and cultures.  See reports on the Baiona demonstration in Basque here and in French here and here.

On the importance of official measures to protect and promote minority languages see Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio.


Basque Lecture Series


We at the Center for Basque Studies are having our Basque Lecture Series again this fall. The series not only presents information about the graduate students and professors in the department, but also showcases other departments on campus with speakers this semester from Anthropology.  This last week we also enjoyed hearing about the Basque Diaspora from visiting Professor Monika Madinabeitia before she returns home to Mondragon University, where she teaches in the Innovation and Intervention in Multi-Cultural, Multi-Lingual Context program, part of the Faculty of Humanities and Education. The series is open to all who are interested and it is held every Thursday from 5:15-6:00 in the Basque Conference Room, 305, on the third floor (north entrance) of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center (map).  A schedule of the lectures have included:

“Dreaming in Basque, Dreaming of the Motherland,” by Ziortza Gandarias.

“Basque Inspired Community Based Economic Development,” by Horohito Norhatan.

“Double Think: A Test Case from the Western Pyrenees,” By Dr. Sandra Ott.

“Armenian Genocide,” by Dr. Xabier Irujo.

“Robert Laxalt and Vince Juaristi: Inherited Legacies,” by Dr. Monika Madinabeitia.

…and then in the following weeks ahead the schedule is as follows:

“Language and Urbanity in Siberia,” by Dr. Jenanne FergusonOctober 29th

“Lead the Immigrant to the Land: Basque Labor and Wage System in the Sheep Industry of Nevada during the Progressive Era” by Iker SaituaNovember 5th

Lecture: “Basque Research Database,” by Iñaki Arrieta BaroNovember 12th

“Basque Wine and Culture in Rioja,” by Kerri LeshNovember 19, 2015

Come join us!

Wine in the Basque Country

regions_rioja_wine (1)

Map courtesy of

Most everyone that knows me knows I have an odd obsession with the Basque wine Txakoli.  However, while I find great identity for the Basques in this wine, there are other types that are more internationally known for their deliciousness.  If you are an oenophile of any sort, you probably are familiar with the Rioja wine-making region of the Basque Country.  The wine region is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious in the Iberian Peninsula, and is designated as a Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa), which basically means that the wines produced in this region are protected, regulated, and known for their high quality. There is only one other region in Spain with this high of a rating (DOQ as translated), and that is given to the region of Priorat in Catalonia.  Within the Rioja wine-growing area, there are three sub-zones: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alta. The Alavesa sub-zone just north of the Ebro River is in the Basque Country, and this may or may not be one of the reasons influencing the desire there to be distinguished from the rest of the broader Rioja region. There has been no decision or ruling on what will happen in the future yet, but it seems to be an ongoing topic in the news.  For a recent article (in Spanish) on the issue, check out:



Ostatu, roughly translated as “tavern” is a producer in Rioja Alavesa that has been reported as one of the wineries wanting to differentiate itself from the wider Rioja DOC region. Photo courtesy of

Race to save wild Basque cattle in Iparralde

A report (in French) in Sud-Ouest on October 24 notes that the Iparraldeko Betizuak association, an organization dedicated to protecting the remaining wild Basque cattle or betizuak in Iparralde, has been officially dissolved by its head, Iban Seiliez, in an attempt to “make the state and [different] bodies face up to their responsibilities.”


A betizu on Mount Xoldokogaina, Biriatu, Lapurdi. Photo by Seiliez, via Wikimedia Commons

The betizu–from the Basque behi izua or “elusive cow”–is a breed that still inhabits parts of the Basque Country, mainly in Iparralde and Navarre, numbering perhaps 600 in total truly wild cattle (there are domesticated betizuak throughout the Basque Country). In Iparralde, where there are around 100, they are to be found mainly on the slopes surrounding  Mount Larrun (or Larhun; La Rhûne in French), the Ibardin Pass and Mount Arranomendi (Mondarrain in French), two areas of southern and southastern Lapurdi. According to Seiliez, “it’s one of the oldest breeds in Europe. It was almost made extinct in the 1920s because wild cattle were slaughtered during construction of the Larrun train.” Its characteristics are described here.

For Seiliez, “I think the objective of the association’s goal, which was to promote coexistence between the betizu and other mountain users, has not been achieved. Instead, we have disempowered the authorities.” He thus found it necessary to dissolve the association as a means of forcing more involvement from the authorities. “The betizu is unique in Europe,” he concludes,  which “needs a sustainable management plan and a proper status . . . the authorities must assume this responsibility.” The provincial government of Navarre, for example, established a conservation plan for the breed, ceding land from an abandoned farm in the Urraulgoiti Valley for 45 animals to live in at least “semi-freedom.”

Betizu cattle, known alternately as behigorri (red cow), zezengorri (red bull), and txahalgorri (red calf), were important in Basque mythology as spirits that took animal form in order guard important caves. There are theories, moreover, that link this breed to those cattle represented in the parietal art or cave paintings of Europe’s most famous sites (though many of these paintings actually depict a now extinct type of bison, in some sites there are representations of bulls portrayed in a noticeably reddish color reminiscent of the betizuak). Regarding this mythological status of the betizuak, as noted in the Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography:

They did not allow anyone to enter their dwelling place. In certain cases they kidnap young people who have been the target of some curse and hold them captive in their underground dens . . . It is useful to recall that the same figures that are situated by Basque mythology in caverns also appear painted or engraved by men of the Magdalenian period and earlier on the walls of some of the caves of our country.

In short, these are animals that have been extremely important in Basque culture for thousands of years. One can only hope that a solution is found to help them survive in what is their land as well.

Flashback Friday: In the Claws of the German Eagle

On October 23, 1940, Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco met at Hendaia, Lapurdi, in the Northern Basque Country. The purpose of the meeting was to negotiate the incorporation of Spain into the Axis Powers (made up of Germany, Italy, and Japan) and find out any areas of possible agreement. On the one hand, Hitler saw Spain as a unique geopolitical and strategic territory in his expansionist aspirations. After the occupation of France, Hitler planned to conquer Great Britain as part of his aspiration to control Europe. Hitler thought that Spain, because of its geostrategic position, could play an important role in his quest for expansion. Thus, Franco had to accept the Germans’ conditions and join the Axis powers. On the other hand, the Spanish Dictator, convinced of an imminent German victory over Great Britain and the final Nazi domination of Europe, fully intended to join the Axis. After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), nonetheless, Franco’s Spain was still too weak militarily to combat side-by-side with the Axis powers in the World War II (1939-1945). In turn, Franco asked Hitler for some African territories and military equipment. Eventually, Hitler and Franco did not reach any specific agreement. As a crossroads between North and South Europe, this coastal Basque town became the scenario of this meeting between the Nazi and Franco regimes.


Francisco Franco and Spanish officers greet Adolf Hitler on his arrival at Hendaia

War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, is a collection of essays that explore common themes related to the impact of warfare in Spain and Europe as a whole during this critical ten-year period.

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

Weekend Workshop for Boise State’s Basque Studies Program

Boise Basque-Studies-for-posts-250x134

On October 17-18th, I reconnected with colleagues in Boise and taught a two-day workshop on “War, Occupation, and Justice in Iparralde” with 38 students. Great fun! And on Saturday night the Basque Studies team invited me to join them for dinner at the Basque Center on Boise’s Basque Block. As I watched the local crowd I was so struck by the camaraderie and pride in being Basque American. Special thanks to Nere Lete and John Ysursa for their hospitality and warm welcome!

Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World 40 YEARS!

Amerikanuak (1975), by William A. Douglas and Jon Bilbao, is a cornerstone in studies of Basque emigration and diaspora. Although in the last four decades a lot of research has been carried out on this topic, this book is still essential today.

From October 14 and until December 9, different universities in the Basque Country are honoring this landmark work by holding inter-university seminars on topics related to the book titled “The Basque Country and the Americas: Atlantic Links and Relations.”

October 14: at the University of Navarre, Iruñea-Pamplona: “Navarre and the Americas.”

October 15-16: at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz: “Recovering the North: Companies, Capitals, and Atlantic Projects in the Imperial Hispanic Economy.”

October 23: the University of Pau, in conjunction with Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Basque Studies Society), at the Basque Museum of Baiona: “Research on Basque emigration.”

December 9 at Mondragon University, Arrasate: “The Image and Representation of Basques.”

William Douglass will be in the Basque Country collaborating in these inter-university seminars. For more information about these seminars (in Spanish) click here.

The Center for Basque Studies has more books written and edited by William A. Douglass that you may find interesting, such as: Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, Death after Life: Tales of Nevada, (edited with Carmelo Urza, Linda White, and Joseba Zulaika) The Basque DiasporaGlobal Vasconia, Essays in Basque Social Anthropology and History, and (with Joseba Zulaika) Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives (free to download here).

There is even a candid and vivid biography by Miel A. Elustondo, William A. Douglass: Mr. Basque, which will be of interest to anyone who has followed Bill’s work over the years.


The ethnic bonding of Basque immigrant workers in the American West

In my paper for the recent 50th Conference of the Western Literature Association in Reno, under the title “From ‘Black Bascos’ to ‘White’ Subjects: Basque Sheepherders and Racial Narratives in the American West,” I explored how Basque immigrants learned their place in the new country. From experiencing exclusion and discrimination to an assimilation and legitimization process between the interwar and post-WWII periods, Basque ranch workers in the sheep business consciously pursued adaptive strategies that emphasized their identity with the Anglo-population. In this paper (part of my present doctoral dissertation that I will complete next Spring 2016), I analyzed how the increasing importance of race became a crucial element in the transformation and consolidation of the Basque immigrant community in the West.

You can follow my research on Academia and LinkedIn.


A Basque sheepherder. Dangberg Ranch, Douglas County, Nevada. 1940. Source: Library of Congress



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