Month: November 2016 (page 2 of 2)

Basques in World War One

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“To its sons who died in the war. The village of Biriatu.” Plaque dedicated to the fallen soldiers in both World Wars of a small town in Lapurdi.

The recent remembrance events associated with Veteran’s Day in the US and Armistice Day/Remembrance Day in Europe serve as a timely reminder of the horrors of war. The origins of these events lie in the close of World War I, the so-called Great War, in which hostilities officially came to an end at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

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“War Declared – Long Live France!” World War I is seen as a catalyst in fostering a more widespread feeling of French national identity. The Basque-language weekly Eskualduna, August 7, 1914, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As in many other parts of Europe, Iparralde lost a whole generation (or more) of young men in the service of the French armed forces during World War I, in which the loss of life surpassed anything previously thought imaginable. With all able-bodied males between 18 and 45 conscripted to fight in the French armed forces during the war, the rural baserri-based economy of Iparralde also suffered from this conflict. It has been estimated that some 6,000 men from Iparralde died during the war, a figure that was perhaps around 5 percent of its total population. In the words of James E. Jacob:

The war proved to be a watershed for the basques in two essential ways . . . For many rural Basque villages, the war simply severely reduced two generations of males and, with them, the reproductive capacity of the village . . . With the youth went the economic future; if the losses of war were not already enough, many of those who remained migrated to the coastal cities and elsewhere and would not return.

The second consequence of World War I was its impact on Basque culture. In these villages of the interior lay the vitality of Basque culture and the burden of its linguistic population. Loss by death was sudden and abrupt. But the return of demobilized Basque soldiers now committed to cultural assimilation into French society posed a longer threat to Basque culture . . . Coupled with the economic marginality of life in rural villages, the incentive to speak french was doubly persuasive; many parents viewed it as the key to success and upward mobility.

Like elsewhere in Europe, young men from the same local communities served in the same regiments or battalions in order to foster a spirit of comradeship. However, seeing the devastating effect that this had on these same communities during and after the conflict, the policy was reversed in World War II (the difference is telling in the list of casualties from both wars in the plaque above). Europe is at present holding a series of 100th-anniversary remembrance events to commemorate the Great War of 1914-1918. Its historical impact on the society of Iparralde should not be underestimated.

Further reading: 

As well as Jacob’s Hills of Conflict, check out Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga’s The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.  For a more general overview see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History, free to download here.  See, too, Eneko Bidegain’s fascinating history of impact of the war on Iparralde, published in both Basque and French. And if you do read Basque, then Xipri Arbelbide’s 14eko gerla 14 lekuko offers a fascinating oral history of the war in the words of eight men and six women from the Basque Country who lived through it.

 

Cross of Gorbeia 115-years-old

On Saturday, November 12, the emblematic Cross of Gorbeia, one of the most distinct features in the Basque Country, will be 115-years-old. Mount Gorbeia, straddling the border between Bizkaia and Araba, is 1,482 meters (4,862 feet) high. It remains an important symbol, especially for Bizkaians, for whom it is their highest mountain. It is equally known for the imposing metal cross that stands at the summit, measuring around 17 meters (56 feet) high.

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The third cross of Gorbeia, erected some time around 1910. Photo of Indalecio Ojanguren by Ojanguren himself, c. early-20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII ordered that crosses be erected on the highest Christian mountains to herald the coming of a new century. As a consequence, a work commission was established in Zeanuri, Bizkaia, organized by the town priest, Juan Bartolomé de Alcibar, and presided over by the archpriest of Zigoitia, Araba, José María de Urratxa, to implement the pope’s orders by erecting a cross on the peak of Gorbeia. The construction project was headed by the architect Casto de Zavala y Ellacuriaga and had a budget of 50,000 pesetas. The original cross was 33 meters (108 feet) high. Delays to the project, however, mean that the cross was not installed in 1900, as originally planned, but a year later, on November 12, 1901. What’s more, the original cross only lasted a month and half, before collapsing as a result of the notoriously strong winds that are common on Gorbeia (local shepherds are reputed to have warned of this possibility from the outset). A second cross was then put up in 1903, although it, too, succumbed to gale-force winds in 1906. A third and final cross, which took much of its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower and was designed by Serapio de Goikoetxea and Alberto de Palacio y Elissague, was erected some time around 1910, this time measuring much less than the first two attempts.

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Mount Gorbeia, as seen from Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly afterward, on October 13, 1912, following the recent creation of the Sporting Club of Bilbao, it organized a hiking excursion to the top of Gorbeia attended by 145 hardy individuals. This set in motion a tradition, that lasts to this day, for Bizkaians of all ages to make at least one visit to the emblematic summit of Gorbeia. This excursion is especially popular on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Information sourced from: http://www.deia.com/2016/11/05/bizkaia/costa/la-cruz-de-gorbea-115-anos-guiando-a-los-montaneros

An Interview with Cristina Fernández, visiting artist at the CBS

You may have read our post on Monday on one of our visiting artists, but it’s now Cristina Fernández’s turn in the spotlight. Cristina is a native of Seville, where she received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Seville. She then moved to the Basque Country and obtained an MA in Contemporary, Technological, and Performative Arts last year from the University of the Basque Country. We are very pleased to introduce her as part of our visiting artists residency program.

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  • What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? The Center for Basque Studies is linked through a collaborative project to the university where I studied.  I will be here for two months.
  • What is the goal of your project? The goal of my project is artistic practice. My research in Reno has to do with the city and how we experience it through the images that people upload onto social websites, so the aim of this project is to somehow define how the city itself participates in these networks.
  • What makes your research unique? My work focuses on physical behavior and how we glance at images when we look through the web and begin to create labels. I try to analyze the use of the internet and multimedia files as recycled material for artistic creation, displaying the accumulated empowerment that we have come to associate with images since the very establishment of social websites in 2002.
  • Accordingly, I have created categorizations and labels to effectively sort groupings of data, reaffirming the idea of the disintegration of the relationship between the actual image from the labels we have come to associate with them.
  • What have you accomplished since you arrived? I am still sorting and organizing images. This month, I will develop the final images.
  • Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way (library resources, people)? They have helped me and are friendly people, making us more comfortable here.
  • Are you enjoying the U.S.? Yes, everything is new for me. There are different and interesting people everywhere and the place is very attractive. It is a new experience.
  • What have you missed the most since you’ve been here? Definitely food. I think the dishes in Spain are more elaborate and attractive with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish … quality. But it is nice to try other kinds of food.

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If you’d like to see some of her work, please visit her website: mcristinafernandez.com

 

 

Basque bread, and some beloved neighbors, featured in the John Deere Furrow

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Abel making his delicious french fries for camp visitors.

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The famous bread oven.

Making bread at their Russell Valley, California, summer camp was quite the project for Abel and Judy Mendeguia. Abel, from Lesaka, was a sheepman for many years from northern Nevada to the Central Valley of California, and the couple’s summer camp was a hive of activity, especially on the days that Abel would bake bread using 50 lbs of flour for the sheepherder camps spread across the range. A story that is reported on in “For the Love of Bread: Part 1: Basque immigrants brought a taste of home with them to the American West” by Laura Read in a recent issue of John Deere’s The Furrow. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but a key part of it is Abel sticking his arm into the bread oven to gauge its temperature. I’m sure anyone who knows Abel can imagine this quite well!

The Mendeguias have been Reno residents for many years since retiring from the sheep business and they are some of the best neighbors anyone could ask for. Abel has volunteered many many years to helping out Reno 4-H sheep project children and they generally invite visiting USAC scholars from the Basque Country and elsewhere to the Russell Camp for a taste of Western life (and some of Abel’s famous fresh cut and made-on-the-spot french fries). His wife, Judy, was from the East and met Abel at a sheep camp on a visit to the West, and then became his lifetime partner.

Abel has an entry, along with thousands of other Basques who came to the US, in Basques in the United States, vol. 1, Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.

Never a dull moment at the Mendeguias’ summer camp!

An Interview with Julen Agirre Egibar, visiting artist at the CBS

Julen Agirre Egibar is one of two visiting artists at the CBS this semester. Originally from Azpeitia, a town in the middle of Gipuzkoa, he received his BA in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country (EHU/UPV) and is now finishing his PhD dissertation, set to defend next spring.

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  • What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? How long will you be here?

The reason that I´m here at the moment is because I obtained a grant from the Fine Arts Faculty (EHU/UPV) in order to do an artistic project in the city of Reno at the Center for Basque Studies. The University of the Basque Country and the CBS at the University of Nevada, Reno have a collaboration program for artist residencies. I´m staying in Reno for two months, having arrived at the end of September and returning at the beginning of December.

  • What is the goal of your project?

My artistic project’s name is ZENTER, and it is connected to my dissertation. I’m carrying out an analysis of Reno, more concretely, I am interested in the urban space that is between the city´s center – downtown in this case – and the periphery. The ZENTER project focuses on this intermediate place, because, in my opinion, these spaces still are not active in a sense, and contain a lot of tensions. This study matches the conclusions in my dissertation. I hope to create an archive and material, in order to bring it into my sphere of work.

  • What makes your research unique?

I don´t know if my research is necessarily unique, but I know that it is a very concrete research field. I am interested in investigating the concept of disturbing strangeness, and, in a sense, I try to demonstrate this concept in places like houses, cities, and non-spaces (suburbs). 

  • What have you accomplished since you arrived?

The city of Reno, precisely its downtown area, is very well adapted to my research criteria, and this feature is very important to the development of my artistic project.

  • Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way (library resources, people)?

For a start, I have a very appropriate space at the Center for Basque Studies to carry out my work, so I am grateful to Joseba Zulaika and the rest of the people at the center. All of its resources, in general, are useful for me.

  • Are you enjoying the U.S.?

This is the second time that I have stayed in the U.S. and  I am obviously enjoying it. I mention the U.S. in my dissertation many times. On the one hand, I analyze the city of Los Angeles, and on the other, I have introduced some American artists, among whom the filmmaker David Lynch, whose work takes up the main idea of my dissertation, stands out.

  • What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

I don´t know, I think that I haven’t missed anything since I got here, quite the opposite, this is an excellent experience for my artistic career.


We are happy to have Julen here with us and hope he enjoys his stay. He is a welcome addition to our center.

November 3, 1968: Mountaineer Alberto Iñurrategi born

One of the world’s great mountaineers, Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte, was born on November 3, 1968 in Aretxabaleta, Gipuzkoa. He became the tenth person–and the youngest to that date at thirty-three years of age–to complete all fourteen eight-thousander summits, the highest mountains on earth, in 2002 (see an earlier post we did on Juanito Oiarzabal climbing these peaks here).

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Alberto Iñurrategi Iriarte

He climbed twelve of those peaks with his brother, Felix, who tragically died on the descent of one of them, Gasherbrum II, in 2000. What’s more,  Iñurrategi climbed the peaks in an Alpine style using few lines or sherpas and no bottled oxygen, making him the fourth person to have climbed all fourteen peaks without bottled oxygen.

Here are the figures for his successful ascents of all fourteen eight-thousander summits with the years he did so in parentheses.

  1. Makalu (1991)
  2. Everest (1992)
  3. K2 (1994)
  4. Cho Oyu (1995)
  5. Lhotse (1995)
  6. Kangchenjunga (1996)
  7. Shishapangma (1996)
  8. Broad Peak (1997)
  9. Dhaulagiri I (1998)
  10. Nanga Parbat (1999)
  11. Manaslu (2000)
  12. Gasherbrum II (2000)
  13. Gasherbrum I (aka Hidden Peak) (2001)
  14. Annapurna I (2002)

Iñurrategi thus joins a long line of distinguished Basque mountaineers and today stands, alongside Juanito Oiarzabal and Edurne Pasaban (the latter of whom we have also posted about here), as the most famous member of this intrepid group of Basques.

Beautiful short video spotlights Basque Country

Check out this beautifully shot short video that spotlights the landscapes, cityscapes, and people of the Basque Country. In the makers’ own words, “this film is a collections of sights and sounds from our experience in the Basque Country! Enjoy the ride and go to Euskadi! It’s magic!” We couldn’t agree more!

Credits

Filmed and edited: Jeffrey Alex Attoh • instagram.com/jeffreybigdeal
Drone and timelapse: Andrea De Luca • instagram.com/ghost_grammer
Production assistant: Andrea Valotti

Support NABO through the Amazon Smile Progam

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North American Basque Organizations has teamed up with the Amazon Smile program. Through this Amazon.com initiative, you can support NABO every time you shop, at no additional cost. Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase total, making it an easy way to contribute to NABO’s Educational Fund.

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NABO Treasurer Marie Petracek has been at the center of this effort, which was recently published on NABO’s Astero News Bulletin (http://www.nabasque.org/astero_a11_43.html). All you have to do is visit https://smile.amazon.com/ and log in with your Amazon ID. Then select Educational Fund of North American Basque Organizations Inc. as your organization.

In NABO’s words: “Every little bit helps, and so we encourage you all to participate and thank you in advance for considering NABO when making future Amazon.com orders. Mila esker!”

Sign up today! 

Hendaia honors Portuguese immigrants: Highlights Basque-Portuguese links

The city council of Hendaia (Lapurdi) held a one-day colloquium last Friday, October 28, to celebrate the contribution of Portuguese immigrants to society in Iparralde and beyond. It was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of a Franco-Portuguese  agreement in 1916 that helped facilitate Portuguese emigration to the French Republic, for which Hendaia was often the first point of arrival. An exhibition titled “Sala de Espera” (Waiting Room), featuring images of newly arrived Portuguese immigrants, was held to coincide with the colloquium. If you’re interested in this topic, check out this New York Times article on the Portuguese in France: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/pictures-tell-the-story-of-portuguese-in-france/?_r=0

Between 1886 and 1966, Portugal lost more people to emigration than any West European country except Ireland. As regards Basque-Portuguese links, in Iparralde, there is an important Portuguese settlement in Baiona and people of Portuguese origin are estimated to make up 1.5% of the total population of France as a whole. In Hegoalde, Portuguese settled in both Greater Bilbao and Ermua, Bizkaia, as well as in the fishing towns of the Bizkaian coast and in northern Nafarroa.

One well-known Basque cultural figure of Portuguese extraction is the bertsolari (oral improviser) Xabier Silveira, from Lesaka, Nafarroa. Check out the interview with him (in Basque) above.

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Manuel de Arriaga (1840-1917), c.1900-1909, from Casa Comun – Fundação Mário Soares, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, two(well, one certainly, and another possibly) key figures in modern Portuguese history were of Basque descent: Manuel de Arriaga (1840-1917), the first elected president of the First Portuguese Republic; and, conceivably–Salazar being a recognized Basque surname–António de Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970), the authoritarian ruler of Portugal from 1932 to 1968.

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