Month: November 2015 (page 1 of 3)

2015 Books Round-up I: New Bill Douglass, A “Famous” Basque Gunslinger, and Zelestina Urza in Outer Space

In the lead up to the Durango Azoka, we wanted to give all of our readers a round-up of all of our publishing efforts for the year (browse and shop for all of our new books here), which has been really active one. If you are interested in learning more about our new book and other news from the press, sign up for our monthly books email newsletter here.

In the first installment, here are three of the first books that we published this year all of them treating in one way or another the Basque diaspora, Basques who left their homeland to explore different worlds.

BEPO Cover MapBetter2.indd

Basque Explorers in the Pacific Oceanby Bill Douglass.

The Pacific Ocean was for several centuries, from the discovery of the Strait of Magellan in 1520 until Cook’s voyages in the 1700s, considered to be the “Spanish Lake.” However, Spain was never a monolithic entity and this book then considers “Spanish” exploration in the Pacific from the perspective of the Basques, who have an important maritime tradition and were key figures in Pacific exploration. From Juan Sebastián Elkano’s taking over command of the Victoria after Ferdinand Magellan’s death and completing the first circumnavigation of the planet to Andrés de Urdaneta’s discovery of the north Pacific route from the Philippines to modern-day Acapulco, Mexico, Basque mariners and ships were pivotal in European incursion into this vast area.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000033_00034]

Garmendia and the Black Rider, by Kirmen Uribe, illustrated by Mikel Valverde.

An exciting and informative children’s adventure story set in the Old Wild West authored by the celebrated Basque poet and novelist Kirmen Uribe and richly illustrated by Mikel Valverde. Garmendia is our first book in the Angeles Arrien Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education and Research Series, a series that owes its existence to a generous bequest from this same foundation. So saddle up folks, and ride along with famed Basque gunslinger Garmendia. As well-known as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, or Wyatt Earp back in the day, in this lively page-turner Garmendia is pursued by evil Tidy Harry–who runs Clean City–and his henchmen Rat and Bat. Will Garmendia survive? And who is the mysterious Black Rider?

Zelestina Urza in Outer Space

Zelestina Urza in Outer Space, by David Romtvedt.

For a sixteen-year-old immigrant from a Basque village, northern Wyoming, on a cold February day in 1902, seemed as distant and barren as the moon. Zelestina Urza, who had left her impoverished family, had no idea what lay ahead of her. How would she make a life out of what seemed like less than nothing? In his new novel, David Romtvedt, the Pushcart Prize-award winning author of A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know, and Wyoming poet laureate, draws the reader into a complex portrait of the immigrant experience in the American West. Zelestina’s life story is interwoven with that of her close friend Yellow Bird Daughter–a young Cheyenne Arapaho woman–a lifelong relationship that overcomes obstacles and spans cultural differences. Romtvedt’s sharply humorous style, full of pop and literary references, blends the historical and magical into an engaging conversation with the reader. Zelestina Urza is an engaging account of Basque immigration and a piercing look at the American West of the twentieth century, showing two women, one immigrant, one native, both outsiders from the traditional narrative of the Manifest Destiny.




Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen is a philanthropist, philanthropy educator, entrepreneur, and author. She is the Founder and President of the Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen Foundation and has been a faculty member of Stanford University since 2000, where she teaches courses on  philanthropy and social innovation. She also founded and serves as board chairman of Stanford PACS (Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society), which publishes the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) .


Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. Photo by LauraArAn, via Wikimedia Commons

Arrillaga-Andreessen was born in Palo Alto, California, the daughter of real estate developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga, Sr. She received a BA (1992) and MA (1999) in Art History from Stanford University, an MA (1998) in Education from Stanford School of Education, and an MBA (1997) from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is married to Marc Andreessen, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and internet entrepreneur.

Her many honors include the Jacqueline Kennedy Award for Women in Leadership (2001), the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the Points of Light Foundation (2005), the Children and Family Services’ Outstanding Silicon Valley Philanthropist Award (2009), the Global Citizen Award from the World Affairs Council and its Global Philanthropy Forum (2011), and The Commonwealth Club’s Distinguished Citizen Award (2014).

Arrillaga-Andreessen’s book Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World became a New York Times bestseller and has been endorsed by many prominent figures like Melinda Gates and Edward Norton (for more information, see here).


My Little Part of 50 Years of the Azoka


My first day of my first Azoka in 2009. I was so excited to be a part of it all.

I am really excited to be preparing to journey to the Durango Azoka again, for the 6th time. And to take part in the 50th anniversary of this great cultural event. Trying to explain the Azoka to people here in the US, and especially my academic friends, can be difficult—we are used to book events being stuffy and sparsely attended affairs. Not so the Durango Azoka, it brings thousands of people from all over the Basque Country into the small town of Durango to celebrate Basque culture and the Basque language, Euskara. For a history of it’s standardization (an essential precursor to an event like the Azoka) see our brand new book, Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque.

In preparation for my trip I’ve put together some of my favorite photos from my previous years at the Azoka.

And this year I will be posting special blog posts from the front lines of the Azoka, so stay tuned all next week for live updates!


In 2014 author Begoña Echeverria (left) made the trip with me to help promote her book, The Hammer of Witches. One of her highlights was meeting a favorite author of hers, Itxaro Borda (right)


A bird’s eye view of the controlled chaos that happens every year at Plateruena, the cafe-theatre which serves as meeting place for coffee or drinks, a place to grab some food, and venue for everything from read alongs to concerts to dance classes.


Of all the fun that I have at the Azoka, the absolutely best thing is seeing people, especially kids, take an interest in our books. Here a family peruses our The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi, by Mark Kurlansky


On an off-day, in 2009, I was treated to a visit of the famous Puente Colgante (the hanging bridge) over the River Nervión in Bilbao by an incomparable tour guide, our own contributor Katu.


Taking a break in 2010 I took the stroll from my home away from home in Bizkaia during the Azoka, Elorrio, to stroll to Arrazola, under the shadow of the storied mountain of Anboto


In 2011 a coworker took me to visit the famous sanctuary of Arantzazu, with its famous Oteiza facade of the apostles.


The calm before the storm when the door’s open. They are long days, but it is so worth it to help share and spread Basque culture!


The Liburudenda Donosti, the Donosti Bookstore, another regular stop on my circuit of the Basque Country.


View from my window at the Hotel Elorrio in San Agustín, a hamlet of Elorrio on a morning before making the about 20-minute bus ride down to the Azoka. It’s not all quite this bucolic however, if I pointed my camera a little to the left, we would see the warehouse for the large Basque grocery store chain Eroski, which is an important piece of industry for Elorrio and is nowhere near as photogenic 😉


Bilbao’s Gran Vía, alit for Christmas, in 2014


Given that I don’t usually have a cell phone, it is always an adventure meeting with authors and others. Here, I waited to pick up some books from author Kirmen Uribe, whose children book Garmendia and the Black Rider we just published this year before he and his father-in-law attended an Athletic Bilbao soccer game in San Mamés stadium. Sadly I didn’t get to attend, but it was fun seeing the excitement of fans anticipating a big game.

Flashback Friday: The Wheelbarrow Basque

On November 27, 1885, Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte was born in Iruñea, Navarre. In 1900, at the age of fifteen, he emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He first began working as a merchant sailor. Later on, he moved to Uruguay, where he worked and prospered on a hog farm. Then he went southward to Patagonia and worked for an American Oil Company in the province of Santa Cruz. One day in 1935, Guillermo met another Basque immigrant. The two Basques started yelling at each other over a bet that one could walk northward to Buenos Aires with a wheelbarrow. Without thinking twice and while everybody laughed at him, Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte grabbed a wheelbarrow and prepared it with the essential things he needed to survive. Thus began his long journey from Santa Cruz to Buenos Aires.  In reality, he wanted to start traveling through and exploring the Latin American landscape. Since he had no other means of travel, he embarked on this curious adventure with a wheelbarrow. His story soon began to appear in newspapers and people from different corners of the country increasingly followed his footsteps. Furthermore, people supported him on every stage of the journey, especially from the Basque immigrant community. After his great feat, Larregui never claimed his winnings from the bet. Later on, Guillermo made a further three more trips with his wheelbarrow. He came to be known as “the Wheelbarrow Basque” or even “the One Wheel Quixote.” On June 9, 1948, Larregui passed away at the age of seventy-nine in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. 


Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte holding his wheelbarrow


Front page of an Argentinian newspaper La Nacion of May 25, 1936

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

Interview with CBS author David Romtvedt

David Romtvedt, author of the novel Zelestina Urza in Outer Space, was interviewed by Ander Egiluz Beramendi for our friends at


In the interview, David explains how, through the figure of the novel’s central protagonist, Zelestina Urza, he wanted to portray not just the multiple textures making up an individual’s life and how we as humans can be so touched by personal interaction with someone else, but also more broadly numerous other threads, some intrinsic to Basque culture and history, others concerning American and in particular Western history, and still others more reflective of the human experience as a whole.

Read the full interview here.

Check out another of David’s books published by the Center and coedited with Dollie Iberlin: Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming

Acclaimed Basque author to speak at UNR

The Basque writer Miren Agur Meabe will, together with translator Amaia Gabantxo (who teaches at the University of Chicago), be discussing her book Kristalezko Begi bat, which will be published under the title of A Glass Eye by Parthian Books in 2016.


Two talks, which are sponsored by the Etxepare Basque Institute, will be held on Monday, November 30 and Tuesday, December 1 (more information here).

Agur Oskorri!

On Sunday, November 22, Oskorri, one of the great Basque folk bands, played its final concert at the Arriaga Theater in Bilbao. The concert marked the climax of a farewell tour this fall that has taken in Getxo, Baiona, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia-San Sebastián, Pamplona-Iruñea, and Maule. and coincided with the patron saint’s day of Saint Cecilia, the patroness of musicians.


Oskorri performing at the opening of the 2011 Donostia fiestas. Photo by Darío Garrido, under CC license, at Flickr

Oskorri has enjoyed a 45-year long career, releasing 25 albums and playing over 3,000 concerts. And among its repertoire of songs, this Bilbao group includes several classic popular singalong tunes for Basques.

Check out this 1991 performance of  “Euskal Herrian euskaraz” (In the Basque Country, in Basque), written by the champion bertsolari Xabier Amuriza; and “Gora ta gora beti” (Onward and upward), written by the great poet Gabriel Aresti. See also “Furra furra,” from the group’s 35th anniversary concert, and a video montage with accompanying lyrics for the song “Aita-semeak” (The father and son).

Eskerrik asko eta agur Oskorri!

Xabier Irujo interviewed in Berria about new publication

November 22: The Basque daily Berria featured an extensive interview with the Center’s Xabier Irujo about his new book, Genocidio en Euskal Herria 1936-1945 (Genocide in the Basque Country 1936-1945).  See the full interview (in Basque) here.  Xabier also explains the subject of the book in these short videos (in Spanish) here and here.


The work was formally presented on Friday, November 20, and followed by a roundtable discussion, moderated by journalist Eneko Bidegain, with the participation of Izaskun Bilbao, a member of the European parliament, Juan José Álvarez, a professor of international law at the University of the Basque Country), and the historian Luis Maria Martinez Garate.

Gernika, 1937_WEB

This work also follows on from Xabier’s latest book in English, Gernika, 1937: The Market Day Massacre, which examines the infamous bombing of the Basque market town in 1937.

If you’re interested in these topics, check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, which looks at the effects of warfare on different aspects of European society during this momentous decade.


Joseba Zulaika receives Euskadi Prize

November 19: We are so proud to share the news that Joseba Zulaika received the Euskadi Prize for an Essay in Spanish at the Europa Conference and Exhibition Center in Vitoria-Gasteiz for his Vieja luna de Bilbao. Crónicas de mi generación.

Joseba was awarded the prize by Cristina Uriarte, the Basque Government Minister for Education, Linguistic Policy, and Culture in a ceremony that also included the prizewinners in several other of this year’s categories: Literature in Spanish (Martín Olmos, Escrito en negro), Children’s and Young Adult Literature in Basque (Yolanda Arrieta, Argiaren alaba),  Literary Translation into Basque (Juan Garzia Garmendia, Sonetoak, by William Shakespeare), Illustration in a Literary Work (Ana G. Lartitegui, El libro de la suerte), and Essay in Basque (Joxe Azurmendi, Historia. Arraza. Nazioa).

Listen to Joseba speak about the work (in Spanish) on Radio Euskadi (at approximately 5 minutes 30 seconds) here.

Check out the English language version of Joseba’s book: That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City.

Zorionak Joseba from everyone at the Center!


Flashback Friday: Condemned to Hang

On November 20, 1775, Josefa Arostegui Gaztambide from Bera, Navarre, was hanged by the neck until dead. Arostegui became the first Basque woman condemned to hang. She was condemned for killing her husband and her sentence was death by hanging. Because of the brutality of the gibbet, the defense asked for her to be put to death by the garrote, which surprisingly enough, was considered a less cruel execution than hanging. Despite the opposition of prominent religious figures, Josefa was eventually executed by hanging. In the late eighteenth century, a large number of statutes specified death as the penalty for violations and crimes.


Drawing of a hangman

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


Older posts