Month: June 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Basque Country chills and boogies to the sounds of jazz, blues, and folk this summer

In an earlier post we mentioned how rock, pop, and techno festivals are a big part of the Basque summer music scene. And this week sees the start of the jazz, blues, and folk festival season. Here’s a roundup of some of the main events taking place this summer.

Just a quick note, though, in case you are visiting the Basque Country and can’t make it to one of the events mentioned below: Many other smaller towns organize their own eclectic festivals, incorporating all kinds of music, dance, and street theater. These are usually free to the general public, such as, to cite one example, the wonderful Musikaire festival in Elorrio, Bizkaia.

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Tolosandblues is a great start to the season, taking place June 30-July 3 in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, with a high-energy line-up including Canadian blues and jazz vocalist Shakura S’Aida as well as the Basque Country’s very own Elkano Browning Cream.

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The first of the major jazz encounters, meanwhile, is the fortieth edition of the Getxo Jazz festival in Getxo, Bizkaia, from July 1-5, with headlining acts including Hermeto Pascoal, the Dee Dee Bridgewater Quintet, and Esperanza Spalding’s latest project, Emily’s D+Evolution.

The Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival, held in the capital of Araba, takes place July 12-16, and has been described by The Guardian newspaper as among the ten best jazz festivals in Europe. This year’s artists include the Taj Mahal Trio,  Pat Metheney and Ron Carter, Jamie Cullum, and the Joshua Redman Quartet.

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From July 14-17, Hondarribia in Gipuzkoa will host the Hondarribia Blues Festival, featuring (among many others) Junior Watson, Henry Gray, and the Etta James Experience.

Closing up the main jazz festivals is Jazzaldia, in Donostia-San Senbastián, from July 20-25. This year’s line-up includes Diana Krall, Gloria Gaynor, and Ellis Marsalis Jr. as well as his son Branford Marsalis, who will feature alongside special guest Kurt Elling.

The last of the major festivals takes place once more in Getxo, with a celebration of folk traditions from both the Basque Country and beyond. The Getxo International Folk Festival will be held September 1-4, with this year’s final line-up still to be announced.

Tales from Basques in the United States: Gregorio de Ajuria’s Role in Nineteenth-Century Mexican History

Today’s story from our series of snapshot biographies of immigrant Basques in the US is taken from vol. 1 of Basques in the United States. It would be misleading to call this a minor anecdote in the history of Basque immigration in the US; we think this more approximates a significant slice of US and Mexican political and economic history in the nineteenth century, in which our Basque immigrant to the US took a center-stage role.

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Rafaela Cota de Temple, Gregorio de Ajuria, and Jonathan Temple, c. 1855

Born in Bilbao in 1818, Gregorio (Francisco Lorenzo) de Ajuria Arria emigrated first to Mexico in 1838 and then later to California in 1845, living initially in Monterey and later in LA, where he set up as a successful merchant. It was there, too, that he met and married California-born Francisca Borja de Jesus Temple in the City of Angels in 1848. This alone could have served as the basis for our story today, with de Ajuria becoming a key figure in the early development of LA, but we’re going to focus on another side of his own fascinating story.

Francisca was the daughter of Jonathan Temple (1796-1866), the first member of the Temple and Workman families to live in LA and after whom present-day Temple Street in the city is named. He had left his native Reading, MA, sometime in the first half of the 1820s and relocated to Hawaii, which had, in 1819, been opened up to American missionaries and merchants from Massachusetts. Temple’s stay in the Islands as a merchant was brief, however, and in 1827 he moved to California, arriving in San Diego that summer. The following year he became the second American or European (after Joseph Chapman) to settle in LA and opened the pueblo’s first store. Temple’s success in LA was rapid and he became the owner of a significant section of the pueblo that would later become downtown LA and what is now the site of City Hall. He also owned the 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos, encompassing most of Long Beach and surrounding areas, and amassed other significant landholdings. Intriguingly, however, through his contact with de Ajuria, Temple would also lease the national mint of the Republic of Mexico, which he obtained in 1856. The story melds with a larger one of the seemingly annual parade of revolutionary movements and political and military strife that engulfed Mexico in that period; and interestingly for our purposes here, it directly involves Temple’s son-in-law, Gregorio de Ajuria.

Temple and his wife, Rafaela Cota, a Santa Barbara native, had one child, Francisca (b. 1831), who, as noted, married Gregorio, an up-and-coming merchant with many contacts in Mexico, in 1848. While the couple remained in LA, living with the Temples through at least the 1850 census (actually taken in early 1851), the de Ajurias moved to Mexico City and then relocated to NYC and Paris several times over the years. They had five children and de Ajuria’s personal wealth, estimated be $10,000 in the 1860 census, was not insignificant.

Indeed, it was his financial position that brought him into contact with Ignacio Comonfort, a military officer and politician from Puebla, Mexico, who had designs on the presidency of the Republic of Mexico. Comonfort was a military commander in the state of Guerrero in the 1830s who was elected to the Mexican Congress in 1842 and 1846, though both times the body was dissolved by the federal government. After fighting against the US in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Comonfort was elected as a senator and appointed the customs administrator for Acapulco. In 1854, he joined the Revolution of Ayutla, an attempt by Juan Álvarez to unseat Gen. Antonio de Santa Anna as president of Mexico. Comonfort traveled to SF and then NYC seeking funds for the revolution and had little luck until he landed in the latter and met with de Ajuria.

De Ajuria was not only a friend of Álvarez but his mercantile company had an office in Acapulco when Comonfort was the city’s administrator (incidentally, Jonathan Temple also held significant land interests between Acapulco and Mazatlán, perhaps due to the assistance of his son-in-law). For a loan of 60,000 pesos, which came in the form of cash and weapons, de Ajuria was promised 250,000 pesos in return if the revolution was a success. With the cache of weapons that Comonfort obtained, thanks to de Ajuria, the revolt moved forward and Santa Anna resigned his office in early Aug. 1855. Álvarez then assumed the presidency of Mexico and Comonfort became the Minister of War, though within months Álvarez resigned and Comonfort took his place as the leader of the country.

Upon assuming power, Comonfort issued a manifesto the Mexican nation noting that, among the debts that had been contracted in service to the revolution, the first repayment was to be sent to D. Gregorio de Ajuria, who had provided funds for the revolutionary movement in the South. While it is true that this business had been significantly beneficial to the lender, Comonfort noted, it was important to underscore the fact that, without the assistance he provided, it would have been impossible to sustain the revolution, which was in immediate danger of losing capital. Comonfort, however, went on to state that while he was on principle opposed to leasing the country’s mint, the government lacked the funds to manage it itself, and had succumbed in this case, as in some others, to the law of imperative necessity.

The “imperative necessity” was arranging for Jonathan Temple to assume the lease by a cash payment, said to have been $500,000, an enormous sum for the era, especially from a small-town merchant. There was a precedent, however, because from 1847 on the Mexico City mint had been leased to foreigners. as a result, in addition to the advance payment, de Ajuria (and, perhaps, Temple) made loans of almost $270,000 in 1856 to the government. Temple’s lease of the mint was on a 10- year contract and was managed initially by Alejandro Bellangé, another supporter of the Alvarez-Comonfort coup, and then by José Mendizabal. Ultimately, Comonfort was unseated in yet another revolt in early 1858 and fled to the US (he did, though, return to Mexico as a general in the fight against the French invasion and died in the fall of 1863).

Meanwhile, de Ajuria also became an exile in Paris, where he died in 1864. Although the French Empire in Mexico sought to annul the lease, Temple was able to override this by more loans to the new government. After Jonathan Temple died in the spring 1866, an
extension was signed with his daughter and de Ajuria’s widow, Francisca, as the leaseholder. The Mexican government rescinded the contract a couple of years later, but chronic financial shortages led it to reverse its policy after Francisca Temple de Ajuria came up, in 1871, with a substantial loan of $130,000 to the government. For two decades, the lease stood, presumably on 10-year agreements, but Mexican president Porfirio Diaz finally stepped in and demanded the return of the mint to the government.

In 1892–93, Antonio de Ajuria, Franciscoaand Gregorio’s son and Jonathan Temple’s grandson, acted as the agent on behalf of his mother, then living in Paris, and worked out an indemnity of some $75,000. With this, the mint reverted to Mexican government ownership in Feb. 1893 after almost forty years in the hands of the Ajuria Family. Francisca passed away in Paris in 1893.

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

 

Boise and Bilbao: Two Boomtowns

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A recent report by the Idaho Statesman looks at the links between two boomtowns, Boise and Bilbao. The visit of a Basque delegation, led by Basque President Iñigo Urkullu, to Idaho last year enhanced the historic connection between the two regions. There have been economic ties between the city of Boise and the Basque Country since the nineteenth century, when the burgeoning sheep industry in Idaho increased the need for talented sheepherders from the Basque Country. A century later, these connections were still evident through cultural events such as the Basque Soccer Friendly and Jaialdi in 2016, celebrating the Basque heritage and culture. These events only served to take the exisitng economic and cultural exchange to new heights.
Bilbao. Pasarela del Campo de Volant’n o Zubizuri y las torres P

This year, a business delegation from the Basque province of Bizkaia visited Boise to renew the economic and cultural partnership between Boise and Bilbao. According to Asier Alea Castaños, General Manager of Trade Promotion for the Bizkaian Government, at present over a million people reside in Greater Bilbao with a GDP per capita reaching 122 percent of the European Union (EU) average. Bizkaia’s economic competitive advantage is backed by higher education institutions that rank higher than the rest of Europe in terms of research and development. And this Bizkaian economic and technological edge, coupled with the existing links between the two cities, provides the Boise business community with huge opportunities.
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Boise has itself experienced technological booms in recent years with high-tech projects such as Trailgead poised to attract investment from the Basque Country. With a cost of doing business only one-third of that in California or Washington, Boise can be an attractive investment option for Basque investors.

Boise has extensive business clusters in software, environmental technology, advanced energy, hi-tech manufacturing, hardware assembly, national call centers, and agricultural technology. And Boise’s comprehensive business cluster complements that of some of the main industries in and around Bilbao such as the aeronautic, automotive, electronic, information technology, energy, and maritime sectors. It would appear, then, that there are multiple opportunities for new links to be developed between these two Basque boomtowns.

Read the full article here.

The Center has published several books on the Basque economy. For a general introduction, see Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

Tow other works address innovation policies in the Basque Country:

Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera, free to download here.

And Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, available free to download here.

For some general historical background on the particular tax and finance system that so defines the particularity of the Basque Country, see Basque Fiscal Systems: History, Current Status, and Future Perspectives, edited by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga and Eduardo Alonso Olea.

Another key feature of the Basque economy in recent years has been its urban transformation. This process is examined in Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

And for a wonderful monograph of one of the most controversial economic issues in the Basque Country today, namely the plans for a new high-speed rail network to create a single interconnected “Basque city,” check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

A “21st-Century Michelangelo” Basque Artist Paints Floor-to-Ceiling Murals in Church

0612_500w_0005_arts-255x255With the approval of Bishop Miguel Jose Asurmendi, the bishop of the Diocese of Victoria-Gasteiz, and the pastor of the Iglesia de San Miguel in Antezana/Andetxa, Araba,  the Basque muralist Xabier Egaña is painting the walls, floors, and ceilings of the church in the style of a contemporary Michelangelo. The mural includes a three-level scene that follows Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (at the bottom) to the Last Supper (in the middle) and Christ ascending the cross (at the top). In addition, the mural also encompasses reflections of war, peace, and social justice. Egaña further explains the narrative of his mural, which incorporates upended towers from a nuclear power plant and tombstones from a Jewish cemetery in Prague, positioned alongside Jesus in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Last Supper with Roman soldiers as ominous shadows, and Christ appearing to fall and rise simultaneously from the cross.

rsz_arts_spanish_muralThe 72-year-old Egaña, from Getxo (Bizkaia) though resident in Zarautz (Gipuzkoa), works alone and unpaid with his brushes and buckets of paint, although some volunteers do also offer assistance. Egaña further elaborates his enthusiasm with his project: “It gives me great satisfaction at my age to do such a work at this grand scale. It is gratifying that the humble townspeople value all that I am doing and make it their own.” The goal of the project is to demonstrate religious, cultural, social, and spiritual themes, while at the same time incorporating the human condition. The color, figures, and forms applied on the painting serve as a pathway for enhancing one’s individual beliefs, regardless of any specific religious attachment.

For further reading please visit the following websites:

http://cadenaser.com/emisora/2015/07/08/ser_vitoria/1436359758_695765.html

http://www.noticiasdealava.com/2015/06/20/araba/puesta-de-largo-de-la-asociacion-ormandetxea-reabierto-por-obras-en-antezana

Basque rockers Gatibu embark on US tour

Calling all rock fans: Gatibu, one of the most popular Basque bands, may be coming to a city near you! The band embarks on its US & Mexico tour in Brooklyn, NYC on Monday, June 27, at The Basement, and these are followed by dates in Mexico City (June 28), San Francisco (June 30), Chino (July 3), and Washington, DC (July 7) as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

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Fronted by showman supreme Alex Sardui, Gernika band Gatibu offers a great blend of melodic, high-powered rock and legendary live performances. This is a great chance to hear some great rock music, sung in Basque!

And if you’re still in any doubt, check out Henar Chico’s thoughts about Gatibu coming to the US here (including info on how to buy tickets for these shows).

June 19, 1960: Microphone power outage leads to creation of San Francisco Basque Club

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It’s one of those anecdotes that makes one wonder whether truth really is stranger than fiction, and the lack of any clarification over or proof of what actually happened only adds to its mystique, but for those of you out there who didn’t know how the San Francisco Basque Club got started in the first place, let Pedro J. Oiarzabal, in his Gardeners of Identity: Basques in the San Francisco Bay Area,  pick up the story:

Two Basque homeland bertsolariak or verse improvisers, “Xalbador” and Mattin, accompanied by Charles Iriart, came to the U.S. in June of 1960 for a month to perform at the annual picnics of the Basque communities of La Puente, Reno, and Bakersfield as well as at the picnic of the San Francisco French association, Les Jardiniers, whose membership was also made up of a considerable amount of Basques. Les Jardiniers’ picnic took place at Saratoga Wild Wood Park (today’s Saratoga Springs) on June 19th and was attended by approximately 2,500 people. To the dismay of both performers and Basques attending the Les Jardiniers’ event, power to their microphone was cut off—intentionally according to some and unintentionally according to others.

The reaction of some young Basques was to establish their own organization under the leadership of Claude Berhouet, owner of Hotel de France, in order to protect and promote the culture of their homeland in San Francisco. Michel Marticorena, one of the first members of the club, and Claude sat next to each other in school during World War II in France, during the German occupation, and recalls that “Mr. Berhouet was a very generous and helpful person back at that time as he was in San Francisco.”

Paul Castech and Jean Acheritogaray were present at the meeting that ignited the creation of the Basque Club: “Claude said, ‘Why don’t we organize a Basque club?” Castech, born in 1938 in Ortzaize, came to the U.S. in 1956, and became one of the founding directors of the Basque Club. The Basque Club of California was born in June 1960.

Whatever the case, whether intentionally or not, this just all goes to show how much history can turn on a seemingly inconsequential event. Check out the history of the San Francisco Basque Club here.

Henry Moore sculptures grace seafront promenade in Donostia

As part of the activities being held in conjunction with Donostia-San Sebastián being named European Capital of Culture for 2016, six sculptures by Henry Moore (1898-1986) were installed on Tuesday, June 21 in the city’s Zurriola Promenade in a “Street Art” initiative, and will remain in place, free for all to view, until September 4.

Moore is considered to be one of the great 20th-century sculptors and in bringing the six pieces to Donostia, the organizers–Obra Social “La Caixa” Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation, and the Donostia City Council–are seeking to encourage a posthumous artistic dialogue between Moore and the equally renowned two towering figures of 20th-century Basque sculpture, Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) and Jorge Oteiza (1908-2003), whose works also adorn the city.

This is a unique opportunity to see works by these three masters in the same outdoor setting.

See a video report (in Spanish) on the inauguration of these visiting sculptures here.

There are numerous references to Moore’s work in Oteiza’s Selected Writings, edited by Joseba Zulaika.

Tales from Basques in the United States: A mysterious death and a contested will

This week’s story, adapted from vol. 2 of Basques in the United States, takes us to Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1930s and the strange circumstances surrounding the death of Jean “John” Falxa.

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Born in Banka, Lower Navarre, in 1858, Jean Falxa came to the US in 1882. By the turn of the century, he was working as a successful sheepman in Lower Peñasco, NM. Then one day in June 1930, the body of the by now elderly recluse was found at his home, north of Roswell, NM, by Jessie Manel who used to visit the old man on frequent occasions. Given the reclusive nature of old Falxa, rumors obviously began to circulate about his death. Yet according to the local newspaper, the body “when found was lying under a large cottonwood tree near the Falxa home, face down. Officers who investigated the case today said that without question then old man had gone to sleep in the shade under the tree and had failed to awaken.” What’s more, “the officers declared that the theory of murder in connection with this case had no foundation in fact” and “tales of chickens missing from the farm and a general untidy condition indicating a struggle” were denied (Roswell Daily Record, 6/27/1930).

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Falxa certainly left a considerable fortune: $25,000 in cash, bonds, and property, the inheritance of which would ultimately take a long time to resolve. He had two nephews in town: Pierre “Pete” Louissena and Gratian Iriart, and, it would seem, two different wills. In one, dated Jan. 1, 1899, everything was left to his sister, Marie, who still lived in Banka. She was represented by Louissena (who had hired a major law firm). The second will was dated Jan. 1, 1930, and in it, excepting for a small quantity set aside for his family members, everything else was left to Jessie Manel of Rosewell, the woman who had discovered the body. The latter will arrived in the mail while the court was examining the case. It had been witnessed by two Mexican nationals, but they could not be located by the authorities. This led Judge J. Frazier Lake to declare the first covenant valid, while the one presented by Miss Manel was rejected as false.

In the meantime, newspaper reports now acknowledged that, “Falxa had been dead for several days” prior to being found and that “the house showed that it had been ransacked” so that “there were circumstances indicating foul play but nothing was ever done about the matter” (Roswell Daily Record, 2/5/1931). To complicate matters, the final decision over the will also was subject to agreements between France and the US because Jean Falxa was a French citizen when he made the 1899 will, but he had been a US citizen since 1905 and was still so when he died.

The long process was not yet over. In May 1932, the Probate Court of Chaves Co., NM ran advertisements inserted by the administrator Pete Louissena, who had asked to terminate his duties and deliver the estate to the family. In the May 1932 advertisements the county requested the attendance of any person having any alternative claim on the decision on or before July 5 that same year. This date would appear to have passed without any such counter claim being presented.

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

Hidden Mountains in Donostia, Basque Country

Gabriel Urza recently wrote an interesting travel piece for The Guardian on what for some may be a little-known part of Donostia-San Sebastián: the three hills surrounding the city.

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Mount Ulia in the foreground, with Urgull and Igeldo in the background. Photo by Etor – Entziklopedia Enblematikoa, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In many ways, Igeldo, Urgull, and Ulia serve as the frame for the dramatic setting of Donostia next to the bay of Biscay. Igeldo is the most accessible of the three. At the base of this westernmost peak one can find Eduardo Chillida’s famed “Wind Comb” sculpture and an old amusement park. Urgull, meanwhile, is located near the old part of the town and close to San Telmo Cathedral. This is the site of a huge statue of Jesus, looming over the old fishing boats in the harbor. Ulia, the eastern bookend to the city, is the smallest of the three mounts and the least ‘developed’. according to the article, some effort is required to find your way up there, from Gros Beach, but interesting sights certainly await the intrepid traveler. See the full article here.

 

 

BANDtzaldia… a new initiative from Aiko

Many of you will have read several posts we’ve done in the past about Aiko Taldea, a groundbreaking ensemble in the Basque Country that in recent years has come to redefine traditional music and dance by emphasizing, among other things, less spectacle and more participation. A key part of Aiko’s philosophy is that music and dance–and the two should really be considered one and the same–should be experienced first-hand, with people joining in rather than just watching.

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This coming Friday, June 24, Aiko will embark on yet another groundbreaking initiative: BANDtzaldia, a collaboration between Aiko and municipal bands in the Basque Country to offer open-air performances at which people are encouraged to get up an dance; yet another attempt by Aiko to revive the traditional spirit of the erromeria or open-air public dance that was once so typical throughout the Basque Country.  The first of these dances will take in one of Bilbao’s emblematic central squares, the Plaza Barria, and will feature a collaboration with the Bilbao Municipal Band. The music for the event has been composed by Sabin Bikandi and arranged by the composer Joserra Gutiérrez.

Check out a trailer for the show here, in which we see rehearsals taking place for Friday’s event:

To really appreciate what Aiko are all about, and what popular participation really means, check out the following video shot in the “seven streets” or Old Quarter of Bilbao, one hour of pure unrestrained joy!

We at the Center are honored to have collaborated ourselves on a couple of occasions with Aiko.

See in particular Sabin Bikandi’s  Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor in the Basque Country, a wonderfully in formative work that besides recounting the life of one of the great Basque musicians, also functions as a general introduction to Basque music and dance. The work includes music scores and an accompanying DVD explaining various Basque instruments and dances.

Check out too Urraska: A New Interpretation of the Basque Jauziak as Interpreted by Sagaseta. This is a complete guide to the one of the most representative of all Basque dances, the jauziak, collective circular dances that involve short hops and jumps. It includes a book in Euskara and English, 2 CDs, a DVD of dance performances, a guide to the dance steps for performing the dances, and PDF copies of the text in Spanish and French.

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