Month: December 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Eguberri On / Happy Holidays

Photo Dec 12, 10 22 49 AM

A child’s wonder before the Christmas tree in front of the Arriaga Theater, Bilbao.

We want to take this moment to extend holiday wishes to you and yours. Thanks so much for reading.

We are going to take a break to spend time with our families and loved ones and so we will not be publishing any more blogs posts from now until we get a fresh start in the New Year. Here is to a wonderful holiday season and here’s looking forward to 2016!!!



Holiday Book Sale!!! / New Catalog Available

Front-Fall 2015 Catalog-web

Happy Holidays everyone! In the spirit of giving we are putting all of our books–new and old–on sale. Go to our choose books to buy, and at checkout enter the promo code zorionak2015 and you’ll get 35% off your entire order. Also, order by Tuesday and we’ll ship them immediately, in most cases they will arrive in time for Christmas!!!

Visit our webstore here

Also, our latest catalog, fall 2015 (cover pictured above), is now available via download from our website, just click here!

Happy holidays everyone from our family to yours!

Offer expires January 8, 2015


End-of-year traditions in Basque culture

With the holiday season almost upon us, I’d like to mention a few traditional Basque customs at this time of year. Thanks in advance to the book Orhipean: The Country of Basque by Xamar (Juan Carlos Etxegoien Juanarena), a charming and beautifully illustrated general introduction to Basque culture from which the information for this post is taken.


An old picture of an effigy of Olentzero being carried through the streets of Oiartzun, Gipuzkoa. Photo by Bernardo Oñatibia,  courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The main folk custom that has become increasingly important during the Christmas season is that of Olentzero. This is a Santa Claus/Father Christmas-type figure, a plump jolly mountain charcoal burner in traditional Basque dress who visits the towns and villages of the Basque Country on December 24. The origins of the name Olentzero are disputed. It could be a derivative of onentz-aro (a time of good will), but Xamar favors the notion of olentz-aro (collection time or alms season) when charitable donations or alms were collected from house to house.


Olentzero and Mari Domingi in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa. Photo at Wikimedia Commons.

The Olentzero custom differs from town to town. Typically, an Olentzero effigy was made, carried through the streets of a particular village, and subsequently burned. This custom continues to this day in, for example, Lesaka, Nafarroa. However, it is becoming increasingly typical for people to dress up as Olentzero and distribute gifts, more in the style of a Basque Santa Claus. Olentzero has even been joined by a female counterpart, Mari Domingi, the protagonist of a traditional Basque folk song.

Another custom with a certain resonance for many of us is that of the yule log, which in Basque tradition was known generically as the bazterreko (literally, from/of the corner or side), but also many other variants such as Olentzero emborra, Xubilau atseko egurra, or Gabon subil, for example. This was a special log set aside to be burned on the home fire during the Christmas season. If the log was big enough, the hope was that it would burn right through the season, from Christmas Eve through the New Year. In other homes, however, each family member would have their own special log to put on the fire. The log and even its embers were considered a good luck charm (for example, it was believed that no untimely accident would befall any of the domestic animals that passed over it).

The evenings of both Christmas Eve (Gabon gaua) and New Year’s Eve (Gabon zaharra or Urte zaharra) are a time of song, with groups of people going from house to house–as in the above videos from Zaldibia and Ataun (both in Gipuzkoa)–or even bar to bar, singing koplak or traditional Basque songs (not unlike carol singers in some respects). Traditionally, in some places such as Elgoibar, Gipuzkoa and Larrauri, a hamlet of Mungia, Bizkaia, as well as many villages in Zuberoa, young women and men would also gather in the main square to dance. Meanwhile, in Bera, Nafarroa, there is a New Year’s Eve custom whereby children go from house doing glin-glanka–a version of trick or treating in which if people don’t give them something (typically walnuts or chestnuts) some mishap will befall them.

Finally, and perhaps most distinctively, the new water custom was observed (and still is in some places today). At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s, groups of young people would gather with empty jugs at village wells, ready to collect the “new water” that they would then take around the village offering to people as a symbol of peace and health for the coming year.

In the words of a traditional verse from Baztan, Nafarroa:

Urte berri, berri                      New, new year

zer dakartzu berri?               what new do you bring?

Uraren gañean                        On the water

bakia ta osasuna.                   peace and health.

Urtets, Urtets!                         A New Year gift, a New Year gift!

We couldn’t agree more!

Zorionak eta urte berri on!




Center’s Xabier Irujo Presents Closing Session for Basque Conference on the Exile of 1936

Expelled from Motherland (35)-blog

Dr. Xabier Irujo, left, was, as a child, a member of the Basque exile in Venezuela, an experience that has shaped much of Dr. Irujo’s work.

On December 15th our own Xabier Irujo, along with writer Arantzazu Amezaga Iribarren presented the closing remarks at the 14th International Conference La otra cara de la memoria historica (The other face of historical memory), which took place in various places in Tolosa and Donostia-San Sebastián from December 10–15, 2015. The subject of this years conference was “Hetorodoxias del exilio de 1936” (Heterodoxies of the 1936 exile). Dr. Xabier Irujo’s work on the exile is extensive and the subject of this talk was “Diálogo ondulado: exilio y heterodoxias” (Ondulating dialogue: exile and heterodoxies).

The annual conference is organized by Hamaika Bide Elkartea, an organization aimed at recoving memory of the exile, together with the GEXEL Group of the Autonomous University or Bareclona, together with Deusto University and the University of the Basque Country. The aim of the this year’s conference is to shed light on the forgotten or understudied members of the exile. Read more, in Spanish, here in the Diario Vasco.

Professor Xabier Irujo has published widely on exile and on the Civil War, most recently publishing with the University of Nevada Press Gernika: The Market Day MassacreThe Center he published an extensive history of the Basque exile, Expelled from the Motherland.

The Basque Economy: Present Reality and Future Prospects


The Euro symbol. By Svilen.milev, at Wikimedia Commons

Two interesting articles on the Basque economy have recently been published by BasqueTribune:

In “How is the Basque Economy Doing?” economist Joseba Barandiaran offers a general overview of the present situation, describing a predominantly service-based economy but with an important manufacturing sector. While noting the healthy state of this “relatively rich economy,” Barandiaran also points out certain major challenges that need to be addressed: improving the technological dimension of Basque manufacturing, increasing RDI investment, and, perhaps most difficult of all, addressing the continuing demographic decline in the Basque Country. Read the full article here.

In “The Basque Country: We Lived in the Future (We Just Were Not Aware of It)” economist Asier Alea criticizes the assumption that advanced economies are merely service-based, arguing for a critical reflection on the place of manufacturing in contemporary societies. In his view, the recent crisis has demonstrated that those economies that maintained a robust manufacturing sector were better able to cope with the ensuing problems. We are, he argues, now on the verge of a new industrial revolution that will also herald new social and cultural changes involving a global vision rooted in strong local identities; changes that, he contends, the Basque Country is well placed to capitalize on, having embraced this vision already. Read the full article here.

If you’re interested in these topics, check out some of the Center publications on the Basque economy and related issues such as globalization and innovation.

Basque Economy: From Industrialization to Globalization, by Mikel Uranga, available free to download here. A general survey of the historical evolution of the modern Basque economy from its roots in heavy industry to the more diverse contemporary situation.

Implications of Current Research on Social innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera. An examination of social innovation in the Basque Country, focusing on knowledge transfer, learning, and innovation.

Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos.  A study of the different ways in which innovation is understood in the Basque Country.

Basque Cooperativism, edited by Baleren Bakaikoa and Eneka Albizu. A comprehensive exploration of why the cooperative movement has flourished in the Basque Country and its response to the challenge of globalization.

Behavior and Organizational Change, edited by Sabino Ayestarán and Jon Barrutia Goenaga. Leadership, management, and cooperation in the workplace are all examined here from the perspective of the Basque Country.

See also a couple of more recent publications that examine the general issues raised in the abovementioned books in more detail:

Innovation and Values: A European Perspective, by Javier Echeverria. Charts the historical development of innovation policies and offers a new line of research that takes into account the history and philosophy of science and technology, but which underscores the profound specificities of the concept of innovation.

Building the Basque City. The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal. A critical examination of different perspectives on nation and state formation in Spain and the Basque Country within a European context, taking economic issues such as the controversial High Speed Train project and European integration as its focus.




Green Basque

Just one example of the thousands of gardens that dot the Basque country from city to countryside.

Well, back in my office from another great Durango Azoka in the books and ready to get started with a whole fresh crop of books for 2016!!!

Speaking of growing, one of the most suprising things for me, a Nevada boy, coming to the Basque Country in December every year is that unfailingly, everywhere, from the tiniest corner of a bit of land in Bilbao to Elorrio, there are vegetables growing. It is a well known fact that the Basques love their cuisine, but I think the passion is no less for growing food. It is just such a strange thing, however, to see it happening in December. Especially when I’m hearing that it’s snowing back home. (And of course, we all hope a ton!)

For some connections to the Basques and the specific handling of the natural world, check out our Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestaran and Miren Onaindia.

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Jauretsi Saizarbitoria

Born in 1971 in Miami, Jauretsi Saizarbitoria is a digital strategist and curator, writer, consultant, DJ, and filmmaker. Fleeing Franco’s Spain, her grandfather, Juanito Saizarbitoria, from Mutriku (Gipuzkoa), and his wife Carmen founded the Centro Vasco restaurant in Havana, Cuba, which, besides being a meeting place for other Basque exiles, also became a famous hot spot for visiting US celebrities in the 1950s (read about Jauretsi’s visit to the Centro Vasco in Havana here). When the business was nationalized following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the family moved to Miami and the Centro Vasco was re-established there in 1963, with Jauretsi’s parents, Juanito Jr. and Totty, ultimately taking over the business, which also attracted famous figures from the entertainment industry and beyond. Read about her family history in this great interview here.


Jauretsi Saizarbitoria

Raised in the entertainment world of Miami, she later moved to New York where she worked for magazines like Paper, Details, and Jane, and, after a decade in the publishing industry, she directed her first feature, East of Havana (2006), a documentary about hip-hop music in Cuba. She now curates media for a wide range of digital clients. See her profile here.

Saizarbitoria is an ambassador for Oxfam America‘s “Sisters on the Planet Initiative,” which  brings together prominent women in the US who advocate support for US policy that responds to the needs of the most vulnerable, both at home and abroad. And she is also a board member for the WIE (Women, Inspiration, Enterprise) network, which seeks to connect women leaders and help them create valuable networks.

And in case you were wondering, yes, she is related to the famous Basque novelist, Ramon Saizarbitoria, Check out some pictures from a visit she made to the Basque Country here.


Basque music and dance to feature at University of the Basque Country


Sabin Bikandi of Aiko Taldea and Javier Garaizar, the deputy to the vice-chancellor of the University of the Basque Country’s Araba campus, sign the agreement

Congratulations are due to our good friends at Aiko Taldea, which has just signed a cooperation agreement with the Araba campus of the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) to teach a traditional music and dance workshop as part of the university’s EHUskARABAnda initiative that seeks to encourage Basque-language related activities on the campus.

Aiko will teach the first workshop on December 15, and this will be followed by similar workshops every Thursday in Vitoria-Gasteiz as part of the groups’s touring class schedule through the Spring.

Aiko is fast becoming a key cultural point of reference in the Basque Country with its emphasis on fun and popular participation in traditional Basque music and dance. And we at the Center are proud to have worked with the group. Check out some Aiko videos here.

Check out Sabin Bikandi’s wonderfully evocative Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music in the Basque Country, a book is far more than just a biography of this important figure in the world of traditional Basque music; in effect, this is a complete and thorough introduction to both Basque music and dance in general that includes (among many other things) descriptions of instruments used, dance steps, musical scores for the most popular tunes used to accompany dances, and an accompanying DVD with examples of the dances discussed and clips of different Basque instruments, as well as images of different settings for bertsolaritza performances (all with English subtitles).


See, too, Aiko’s  Urraska: a New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak Dances as Interpreted by Sagaseta.  This is a complete guide to the famous jauziak dances–in many ways, the quintessential Basque dances–that includes a book in Euskara and English, 2 CDs, a DVD of dance performances, a guide to the dance steps for performing the jauziak dances, and PDF copies of the text in Spanish and French.



Bilbao Mendi Film Festival 2015

bilbao mendi film festival

The Bilbao Mendi Film Festival starts today, December 11, and runs through December 20. This is a specialist film festival, now in its eighth year, dedicated to all kinds of mountain, adventure, outdoor activity, and extreme sports films.

For more information, click here.

Interview with Basque Librarian Iñaki Arrieta Baro recently interviewed Iñaki Arrieta Baro, the new Basque Librarian at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Inaki Arrieta Baro

Iñaki Arrieta Baro

Iñaki talks about the challenges of moving from the Basque Country to the United States with his family and his hopes for the future of the library a key reference point for Basque-Americans and the Basque Diaspora in general.

Read the full interview here.

Older posts