Month: February 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Basque Mural To Be Installed in Gardnerville, Nevada

Tuesday, March 1: Weather permitting, the Main Street Gardnerville Basque-themed mural project will be completed tomorrow, when the 12-foot by 16-foot work of art is installed on the building owned by the Masons/Carson Valley Lodge No. 33, F & A M at 1421 Hwy 395 N in Gardnerville, Nevada.


The full color mural, 16′ tall by 12′ wide and painted on 6 4’x8′ panels, which will be assembled on March 1. By permission of Beverly Caputo.

Designed  by local artist Beverly Caputo, the project has been in the works since 2012.

See a report on the event here.

Check out this other Basque-themed mural that Beverly did for Sharkey’s Casino in Gardnerville:


Mural in Sepia brown tones painted along with a series of historical works at Sharkey’s Casino in Gardnerville. By permission of Beverly Caputo.

Quoting Nancy Zubiri’s A Travel Guide to Basque America: Families, Feasts, and Festivals: “Gardnerville, founded in 1879, was an important sheep center in Nevada, and Basques first came here to raise sheep around the turn of the century . . . The heart of the Basque community is Gardnerville’s Main Street, where basque food is still served in the old style. The two remaining old-style Basque restaurants are the Overland Hotel and J and T Bar and Restaurant., which may be over 130 years old, according to its owners. There is also a lovely restaurant by the golf course, the Carson Valley Country Club Bar and Restaurant.”

Gardnerville is also home to the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba Basque club.



February 22, 1926: The Urola Railroad Inaugurated

On February 22, 1926, the Urola railroad, linking the towns of Zumarraga and Zumaia in Gipuzkoa, was inaugurated by the Spanish king, Alfonso XIII. It was the first electrified railroad in the Spanish state and operated until 1986, closing definitively in 1988.

It was originally envisaged as both a passenger and freight line, connecting key towns in the nascent industrial and demographic growth of this river valley in Gipuzkoa. Starting at Zumarraga, a station on the main Madrid-Irun line, this narrow-gauge railroad followed the Urola River, stopping at towns like Azkoitia and Azpeitia, as well as important destinations for many visitors like Loiola (the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loiola and home to the Sanctuary bearing his name) and the Zestoa spa, before finishing at the port town of Zumaia.

Zumaia station

Zumaia station. The terminus for the old Urola railroad line.

In its early years it was transporting just under 400,000 people annually, and during its most successful period in the 1950s and 1960s, 800,000 people used the line annually (with a record number of just under a million in 1962). As regards freight, it transported around 55,000 metric tons annually until the mid-1950s, when freight services began to decline in part due to improved road connections (by the end of its lifetime the Urola line was only transporting 2,000 metric tons annually).

In the 1980s, a Basque government report stated that, without significant investment, the line would have to be closed (to be replaced by a bus service for passengers).  Despite significant protest, including a 1988 demonstration involving 7,000 people, the line was ultimately closed.


Steam locomotive “Portugal” E205 with railroad cars on the line between the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia and Lasao. Photo by Nils Öberg, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, however, the Urola railroad is enjoying a new lease of life, at least in part, through the auspices of the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia. Here, as well as visiting the impressive collection, enthusiasts old and young alike can enjoy a charming ride to Lasao and back (a 10 km/6 miles round-trip) on an old steam train. Having done this myself last year, I’m still not sure who enjoyed themselves more on that ride, the kids or the drivers!

Check out this short article on the Urola line, part of a wider series of articles about the railroad in Gipuzkoa that also includes an interesting piece here on the Basque Railway Museum.

Modern railroads, and especially the new project for a high-speed train service in the Basque Country and beyond, are central to Nagore Calvo Mendizabal’s argument in her compelling study, Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building.  If you thought that railroads and nation-building were a relic of the past, of nineteenth-century industrialization and growth, think again. Railroads are still a highly political, as well as economic, issue, and impact people’s very group identity, as adeptly demonstrated in this remarkable work.

CBS students and faculty to participate in the Annual CLAGS symposium


This weekend, February 26th and 27th, both students and faculty will be involved in the College of Liberal Arts Graduate Symposium (CLAGS).  The presentations will focus on “Re/Considering (In)humanity/ies”. All four of us, Iker Saitua, Ziortza Gandarias, Horohito Norhatan, and myself will be presenting while some of the faculty will help in moderating the panels.  This is an exciting year for the symposium as we have Prof. Beauvais Lyons as the Keynote, presenting  “Prank Theory” on Friday night from 7:00-8:00 pm (reception prior to and following presentation) which is open to the public.  He will also be putting on a workshop Saturday morning from 10:30-11:30 am on the main floor of the Knowledge Center.

Check out the weekend schedule and more information by visiting:

CLAGS homepage


Basque Country: High in the Mountains . . . East of Sparks, Nevada???

At the edge of the Pyrenees Estates, where the Basque Country meets Sparks, Nevada.

On a recent sunny weekend, taking advantage of this spring type weather we’ve been having, I continued on my on-again off-again hobby of climbing all of the small and large peaks that make up Reno’s surrounding skyline. On this day I chose Spanish Springs Peak, to the east, part of the Pah Rah Mountains that extend south from Pyramid Lake to I-80 and the Truckee River along the outskirts of Sparks. This was nearly one of my first real forays into this mountain range and the first surprise came when I looked up the mountain’s entry and saw that, to begin the hike, you parked near a sign for the “Pyrenees Estates.” I didn’t really think anything of it when I read this on the website and continued on with my day.

Photo Feb 22, 3 10 25 PM

Google maps showing this re-creation of Basque places on a stony, sagebrush-covered hillside.

Photo Feb 21, 4 53 11 PM

At the intersection of Euskera and Lesaka.

I did park at the sign that marked as “Pyrenees” Estates the otherwise rocky and sagebrush strewn field with no sign of habitation anywhere other than a powerline cross the slope. I climbed up through the sagebrush and juniper land and attained Spanish Spring Peak without thinking too much of my parking place. It was on the way down, going down by the road instead of cross country, that I realized that I was trespassing on someone’s conception of a Basque Country to be installed someday across the wild mountain hillside. I first noticed on Google Maps on my phone that I was walking on Euskera Drive. This piqued my curiosity and I started looking at more of the road names that I passed: the first one, headed off across the hillside toward the north, was Lesaka. Then Pitarra, which I don’t recognize (although one of my colleagues suggests it as “young cider” which is the best variant I’ve seen far), but more and more of them started popping up: Pyrenees, Ispaster, Navarra, Lesaka. There had been a dream of the Basque Country created once across this hillside, now mostly either in very slow transit or abandoned. I couldn’t help but wonder about the names, and about whose vision it had been to create a replica or an either fondly remembered or created Basque homeland to be populated here one this mountain side. And here I was, above Spanish Springs, traipsing again on Basque Country, a sort of replica of the mountainous Basques above their flat land counterparts. (Yes, I know this is a simplification, but metaphorically during a Sunday-afternoon walk it was interesting to consider.)

Photo Feb 21, 5 01 07 PM

A great big open hillside, meant to be remade into a Beloved Basque Country.

There is a Basque expression, “izena duen guztia omen da” that translates as “they say everything that has a name exists.” As I walked home along the lengthening shadows of the afternoon, I considered the names chosen for things. The way the “New World” was remade in so many ways with “New Places”: New York, New Hampshire, New … Building a mirror of former lives here in the great big New World, and how someone had thought to create our little corner of the world (not that uncommon, to be fair, we have plenty of Basque remnant names that are much better attended than this odd one on a nondescript mountainside). By the way, after writing this, a colleague pointed out an interesting point, made originally by Miguel de Barandiarán and included in his Selected Writings:

According to a popular saying, the real is comprised of not only everything perceived by the senses and concluded and affirmed by rea­son, but also everything that has a name. People say, “Izena duen guztia omen da,” which means that if there is a name, there must be a thing. There is this difference, however: what you perceive yourself is certain, it is something personally known and, therefore, it can be expressed categorically, as in these phrases: au ala da, “this is so,” and au esan dute, “this is what they say”; what is known through someone else’s tes­timony, or through references, is not affirmed categorically and without reservation, and the sentences expressing it are prefaced by omen or ei (depending on the region), which refers them to their sources, as in the following examples: au ala omen de, “they say that this is so,” and au esan omen dute, “we are told that they say this,” and so on . . . It is important to keep in mind this difference in category of meaning so we can better appreciate the value of the affirmations of Basque narratives, mythical or not. Myths, of course, belong to the second category today, even in the appreciation of the most innocent. (p. 64)

I thought about the people who had made this and I was a little curious to know more about it (and if any readers do, please share, a very brief Internet search turned up nothing!), but even more so, I was happy to be able to create this world in my imagination, the way a developer once had made it his or her decision to re-create the Basque Country here in this place, these little dirt tracks grandiosely made the Old World.

It is a good reminder of the human aspect behind “civilized” places, and the ways that so many large and small decisions go into things we rarely ever think about. Of course, for a lot more detailed information on Basque in the United States, check out our 2-volume work of the same title, or read Bill Douglass’s Amerikanuak.


Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Jeri Echeverria

Dr. Jeronima “Jeri” Echeverria: Professor and Provost Emerita, California State University, Fresno, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer, California State University System (ret.).

jeri echeverria 2

Jeri Echeverria, inspiring leadership and promoting Basque Studies

Born in 1946, Echeverria grew up on a sheep ranch in Brea Canyon, California, the daughter of Basque immigrants, and earned a BA in history and humanities from the University of California, Irvine, where she also completed a teaching credential. After teaching social studies at the secondary school level for twelve years, she earned her doctorate in history at University of North Texas, with research focusing on Basque-related topics.

In 1988, she joined the Department of History at California State University, Fresno, and later served as Chair of the Department, as Associate Dean of the College of Social Sciences, and as Associate Provost before being appointed Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. As provost, she played a leadership role in strategic and academic planning, expanding graduate and joint doctoral programs, supporting student success initiatives, addressing gender and equity issues and diversity hiring, planning for instructional technology, and developing systems to expand grant and contract activity.

Appointed Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 2009, she participated in the national movement to increase graduation rates in higher education, championed a statewide initiative to improve the experience of students transferring from community colleges to four-year universities and colleges, as well as advocating for the quality of academic programs offered to the largest cumulative student body in the United States, the CSU.

Home Away from Home

She currently offers a Leadership Course to doctoral students in two of California’s doctoral programs for educational leaders.  Her goal is the transformation of education and educators, and she focuses her current efforts in California.  Another of her current commitments is leading Lecole: A Learning Community for Ontological/Phenomenological Education, a group of faculty who are committed to introducing the Leadership Course and its distinctions to higher education. For more information on this, as well as an introductory video featuring Jeri herself, click here.

Among her publications are: Home Away From Home: A History of Basque BoardinghousesPortraits of Basques in the New World (edited with Richard W. Etulain), and  Home Off the Range: Basque Hotels in the American West.

We at the Center are also proud to say that Jeri serves as Vice-Chair of our own Advisory Board.

What’s in a Song? Negua joan da ta

“Negua joan da ta” (Because winter’s gone) is a song on the 2010 album Era by the Bilbao band Zea Mays.

An accompanying video was made, featuring educational psychologist Ainhoa Moiua interpreting the song in sign-language. And this simple but moving video helped transform an already arresting song into somewhat of an internet sensation, certainly bearing mind that it’s in Basque. It reached number 1 at Myspace during the first two months after its release, and subsequently enjoyed more than 600,000 views on YouTube. Check out this great song and wonderful video here:

See the lyrics here (with the usual apologies for my own translation!):

negua joan da ta

As the lyrics suggest, this is a song about hope and looking toward the future via the metaphor of the winter snows receding to herald the oncoming of spring; in short, a feel-good, positive tune.

And here’s another version of the song, performed live (it’s so good, why not watch and listen a second time?):

If you’re interested in Basque popular music, check out Basque Songwriting: Pop, Rock, Folk, by Jon Eskisabel Urtuzaga. It’s available free to download here, courtesy of the Etxepare Basque Institute.





February 18, 1770: The final voyage of the Oriflama, the Basque ghost ship

On February 18, 1770, the Basque-owned and operated vessel, the Oriflama (the oriflamme or golden flame), set sail from Cádiz, destined ultimately to become the “Basque ghost ship.”


Diagrams of first and third rate warships, England, 1728. From the 1728 Cyclopaedia, vol. 2, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

William A. Douglass recounts the story in his Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean (pp.  185-86):

      On February 18, 1770, the Oriflama left Cádiz, commanded by José Antonio de Alzaga, with José de Zavalsa serving as master and Manuel de Buenechea as pilot. (All three are Basque surnames.) More than five months later, on July 25, the Oriflama was spotted in the Pacific by the crew of the Gallardo. Its captain, Juan Esteban de Ezpeleta (another Basque surname), knew Alzaga and ordered that a friendly cannon shot be fired in greeting. When there was no reply, a boarding party was sent to investigate. It found that half of the Oriflama’s crew had died of a mysterious plague and the survivors were deathly ill.

Later that day, before the Gallardo could render assistance, the two vessels were separated by bad weather. It was said that as the distressed ship disappeared into the night, it was bathed in a ghostly light. On July 28, some objects from the Oriflama, as well as several bodies, washed ashore on the Chilean coastline. The following spring, Viceroy Amat sent Juan Antonio Bonachea in command of trained divers to search for the shipwreck. They were unsuccessful.


Basque terroir: The cherries of Itsasu and Navarre

Terroir is a French term that expresses the specific set of characteristics a particular geographical area has (soil, climate, altitude, rainfall, sunlight, and so on) that optimize the production of a certain crop and give the resulting product a distinctive quality. In effect, this is a concept explaining the connection between a particular product and a particular location.

In a place like the Basque Country, where all things gastronomic are of special social and cultural significance, where people actually talk about food and drink in everyday conversation (along with the weather), and where people actually talk about and discuss the food that they are eating at a particular moment, terroir is a key–if often unacknowledged–presence.

Welcome to the first in an occasional series of posts on Basque gastronomic products and their terroir (and a brief disclaimer, given how sensitive/passionate folks are about their food: all of these posts reflect my personal knowledge of the topic and I make no claim that they’re in any way definitive… there could be, and probably are, many more places in the Basque Country associated with these wonderful products).


Cherries are among the most prized fruits in the world. Photo by 4028mdk09, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s start with a look at cherries. The cherry (gerezia in Basque) is a fruit originating in Europe and western Asia. Cherries have a very short growing season and thrive in temperate climates although they are also labor-intensive to produce and a relatively difficult crop to cultivate as they are highly susceptible to damage as a result of too much rainfall, for example. All this makes them highly prized and relatively expensive. In the Basque Country, two areas stand out when it comes to cherry production: Itsasu (Itxassou in French) in Lapurdi and Etxauri (Echauri in Spanish), Corella, and Milagro in Navarre.

Itsasu is associated most famously with the beltxa or black cherry, a variety that is considered among the best in the France, but there are other varieties such as the Peloa, and Xapata, as well as the rarer Markichta and Garoua. They are handpicked in early June, when an annual cherry festival is also held in the village, and typically eaten fresh or in a jam or preserve (which can also be used to top the famous Gâteau Basque or as an accompaniment to any duck dish or sheep’s milk cheese). For more information on the Itsasu cherries, see these short introductions here and here. And check out the following video (in French with English subtitles) on cherry production in Itsasu:


Cherry-picking season in Navarre, meanwhile, begins around mid-May and ends in early July, just prior to the San Fermin festival in Iruñea-Pamplona. The Etxauri Valley, for example, is particularly suited to cherry cultivation because of its rocky undulating terrain, favoring good drainage of excess water. The microclimate there, likewise, adds a special shine to the resulting cherries, as the following video (in Spanish) explains.

If food is your thing, check out Hasier Etxeberria’s On Basque Cuisine, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute. You can download a free copy here.

New CBS visitor from the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia

This month we welcome our second visitor from the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (the Provincial Council of Bizkaia), Nieves Pereda Chavárri.  In order to find out more , check out my interview below with Nieves:

Where are you from in the Basque Country, Nieves?

I come from Bilbao, in Basque Country. I have been working for the Tax Department of Bizkaia (one of the seven Basque provinces) for more than 30 years. Currently I am in charge of the tax collection area and I mainly manage bankruptcy procedures, installment payments, as well as tax levy and lien procedures.

Our department tries to help pay taxes for those who want to and tries to act very fast against those who don’t want to pay them… I am totally in favor of our financial system called “Basque Economic Agreement,” that is, a fiscal pact between the Basque Autonomous Community and Spanish state in order to collect our own taxes and to finance our public expenses (mainly education, health, police, roads, and social welfare as well as local services as well) and to pay the proportional part of  the expenses related to goods and services provided by central Spanish government (via a cupo or quota). In 2014, UNR (the CBS) and the Tax Department of Bizkaia signed an agreement to collaborate in the promotion of Basque Economic Agreement. Two tax workers would visit UNR for 80 days to research on U.S fiscal federalism and the Basque Economic Agreement. The first person, Gemma Martinez Barbara, came last year and this year it has been my opportunity. Our Tax Department thinks it is important to let others know about our specific tax system. It can be described like a desirable integration between different tax jurisdictions.

And how long will you be here?  

I’ll be here till April 21st.  On April 11th we´ll have an event to speak about our papers.

What things would you like to accomplish/see while here in Reno/U.S?

For me the most important thing is to know how the CBS works, what they do, and to meet people there. I feel really interested in learning more about the importance and the influence of Basque people in the background of Nevada. I would like to visit some beautiful places around Reno and to know a little bit more about life in the university. I already had some opportunities; for example, last Friday in a meeting with the Provost and teachers at the university.

Tell us about your yourself-family, what Basque town you grew up in or where you live now in the Basque Country, what you like to do in free time, etc.?  

I was born in Bilbao and live there. My family comes from Bizkaia and Nafarroa. The thing I enjoy doing the most is spending time with friends and family–we usually have two or three special meals a week. I also love to invite friends home. In summer time I like traveling, sailing, and spending extra time with friends in the countryside. In general I am interested in reading, listening to music, and walking for a while everyday.

We welcome Nieves to the CBS family and are grateful to have her here!



Electronic Laboa

The group Delorean, from Zarautz (Gipuzkoa), recently reinterpreted the music of Mikel Laboa with an electronic touch at a one-off concert in Bilbao’s Arriaga Theater. Check out this teaser.

According to the band’s Facebook page, while this was just a one-off gig, it is considering doing a whole album covering Laboa songs at some time in the future.

If you’re interested in popular music, check out Jon Eskisabel Urtuzaga’s Basque Songwriting: Pop, Rock, Folk, available free to download here, courtesy of the Etxepare Basque Institute.

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