Month: February 2017 (page 1 of 2)

February 16, 2015: First edition of rare Basque manuscript discovered

Cover of Dotrina christiana (first edition, 1617), by Esteve Materra. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On February 16, 2015 it was announced that a unique first edition of Esteve Materra’s Doctrina Christiana (Christian Doctrine, Bordeaux, 1617) had been discovered in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark. The discovery was made by the Aziti Bihia linguists’ and philologists’ association, a group of doctoral students at the University of the Basque Country whose interests lay predominantly in historical linguistics linked to Basque philology. The young people involved in the find were Borja Ariztimuño, Dorota Krajewska, Urtzi Reguero, Ekaitz Santazilia, Oxel Uribe-Etxeberria, and Eneko Zuloaga.

Flyer to promote the official announcement of the find, February 16, 2015. From the Aziti Bihia website.

Doctrina Christiana was one of the first ever books published in Euskara, the Basque language, and is written in classical Lapurdian. Its author, Esteve Materra (or possibly Materre), was a Franciscan monk and abbot of the La Réole monastery in southwestern France when the book was first published, although by the time it went to a second edition (1623) he had moved to the Franciscan monastery in Toulouse. Although not a native Basque-speaker, Materra spent some time in Sara, Lapurdi, where he had been sent at the height of the Counter Reformation to bolster the rearguard action of the Roman Catholic Church, including in its Inquisition policy. In barely twelve months in the Basque Country he learned Basque, although the very clarity and perfection of the text makes the members of Aziti Bihia suspect that he may have received help in writing it. Masterra himself notes in the prologue to the book that he was aided by Axular. Pedro Axular (1556-1664) was the parish priest of Sara and author of the first great literary text in Basque, Guero (1643). Whatever the case, the book is an important work when it comes to understanding the historical development of written Basque.

The first edition of the work is relatively simple in appearance, as if written for children or young people, in question and answer style; by the second edition, however, an additional section had been added, specifically for seafarers, and the work as a whole was more serious in tone and longer. This is important because originally the Aziti Bihia group had been working on transcribing the second edition of 1623, a copy of which is housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, before stumbling across a reference to the earlier edition in Denmark.

For more information on the text itself (including transcriptions) click here at the Aziti Bihia website.

 

From an Early Basque Literature Connection to a Playground for Hollywood Royalty: The Remarkable Story of the Etxauz Château

Set amid the lush green hills surrounding Baigorri in Lower Navarre, the Etxauz Château is one of the most important buildings, historically and culturally speaking, in Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country.  It is thought to have been constructed around 1555 on the orders of Grazian Etxauz, Viscount of Baigorri, a member of one of the oldest noble houses in Lower Navarre (whose family name has historically also been spelled Echauz, Eschaud, (de) Echaux, and Etchauz). Thereafter it enjoyed a remarkable history that included some illustrious owners and guests.

The grandson of Grazian Etxauz, Bertrand Etxauz (c. 1556-1641), inherited the title Viscount of Baigorri together with the property on the death of his father Antoine, who had been breadmaster to King Henry II of France (an important position at the French court). Bertrand entered the Church and, possessing good connections as an almoner to both his kinsman King Henry IV (Henry III of Navarre) and his successor Louis XIII, was appointed Bishop of Baiona in 1599. Then in 1617 he was made Archbishop of Tours, a post he held until his death in 1641. Bertrand Etxauz was a strong advocate of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, especially in response to the rise of Calvinism in the Basque Country in the sixteenth century (on which see a previous post on Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre) and also took part in organizing the Catholic Church’s witch hunts. In regard to the latter, however, it would appear that Etxauz called for clemency where possible and a peaceful solution o to the issue of suspected witchcraft. In The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and Their Traditions, Philippe Veyrin notes (p. 179): “on the advice of the prelate [Etxauz], who was disturbed by the excesses of the criminal commission [on witchcraft], Henry IV recalled the cruel councilor De Lancre who had been unwisely granted overextended powers.” Etxauz even intervened personally to save the lives of five priests who had been condemned to death for alleged witchcraft activities.

Bertrand Etxauz (c. 1556-1641).

Interestingly, a 1584 letter written in Basque by Etxauz to his brother is housed in the French National Library and he was clearly involved in Basque cultural circles.  He was a friend and patron of Pedro Agerre, “Axular” (c. 1556-1644)–widely considered the most prominent among a productive school of writers of religious literature in the Lapurdian dialect of Basque in the early seventeenth century–whom he appointed parish priest of Sara, Lapurdi, in 1600; and this in the face of some protest because Axular was considered in some quarters a “foreigner,” having been born in Urdazubi, Navarre. Indeed, and probably at Etxauz’s insistence, Henry IV even had to write a letter supporting the appointment of Axular to the post – an extraordinary act in many ways, given that he was just a humble parish priest in a relatively quiet backwater of the kingdom. Toward the end of his life Axular published Guero (Later, 1643), one of the classic founding works of Basque literature, in which he included a dedication of thanks to Etxauz. What’s more, another writer and poet associated with this school, Joannes Etxeberri of Ziburu (c. 1580-c.1665), also included a dedication to Etxauz in his Eliçara erabiltçeco liburua (A book to use in church, 1636).

Imaginary portrait of Pedro Agerre “Axular,” with the title page of Guero in the background. Drawing by Jose Eizagirre Aiestaran. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The château remained in the Etxauz family, which had married into another noble family, the Caupenne d’Amous, until the nineteenth century, when the last Etxauz-Caupenne d’Amou–Jeanne Marie Marguerite de Caupenne d’Amou (1772-1830) and her husband Jean Harispe died childless. In 1848, Jeanne Marie Marguerite’s niece, who had inherited the property, sold it to Jean-Charles d’Abbadie d’Arrast (1821-1901), who lived there until his death. He was the son of a well-to-do family with a father from Ürrustoi-Larrebille (Arrast-Larrebieu) in Zuberoa and a mother from Dublin, Ireland (in fact, the couple’s children were born in Dublin). One of his brothers, Arnaud-Michel d’Abbadie (1815-1893) was a geographer who explored and wrote about the geography, geology, archaeology, and natural history of Ethiopia. Arnaud-Michel was accompanied on his travels by older brother, Antoine Thomson d’Abbadie d’Arrast (1810-1897), the great explorer, geographer, ethnologist, linguist, and astronomer, who was also a key figure in promoting Basque culture in the nineteenth century.  Antoine had his own château in Hendaia, Lapurdi, which remains an important site of historic and cultural interest to this day (see an earlier post on this château).

Following Jean-Charles’s death in 1901, the château remained in the family and was used as vacation home by subsequent generations. Prominent among these younger members of the family to use Etxauz was Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast (1897-1968). Born in Argentina, Harry served in the French army in World War I and later became a Hollywood screenwriter and director, being nominated at the 4th Academy Awards for the now defunct category of “Best Story” for the film Laughter (1930). In the 1920s and 1930s he also entertained many Hollywood luminaries at the Etxauz Château in the heart of the Basque Country, including Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Gloria Swanson as well as frequent guest Charlie Chaplin (who visited in 1925, 1926, and 1931). Harry had been an assistant director on Chaplin’s classic The Gold Rush (1925) and the two formed a friendship as a result (a friendship that later withered resulting in Harry’s name being removed from the credits during future screenings of the movie). One anecdote goes that Chaplin was not best pleased with the badly functioning out-of-date phone at the château, so on one of his visits he brought his own phone with him, which he subsequently left there and which became a feature of the residence.

Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast and and his wife Eleanor Boardman.

In yet another amazing twist, the château was occupied by Nazi forces in World War II. Many of the soldiers stationed there were actually Austrians from similarly mountainous regions back home, They left their physical mark on the place, drawing murals that still survive to this day. Harry no longer returned to Etxauz after the war. He had married retired silent film actress Eleanor Boardman (1898–1991) in 1940 and after he died in Monte Carlo in 1968 she sold the estate, which had been in the family for over 100 years, in 1976. The new owners did not treat the property so well, unfortunately, and it was left to decay. That said, in 1989 it was officially classified as a historical monument (monument historique), the designation given to a site of national heritage in France. And in the mid-1990s it was bought, restored, and turned into a guesthouse. Then in December 2003 it was bought by a Miami-based businessman and his wife (from Erratzu in Navarre).

They are now looking to sell and this has prompted a grassroots campaign to buy the property, which this campaign refers to as Etxauzia, to be used by the local community in the service of Basque culture and transformed into the Nafartarren Etxea (the home of the Navarrese). This is a campaign intended to mobilize all the Basque Country and the diaspora in order to create a singular meeting point in one of the most important historical Basque buildings still in existence.

Check out the campaign website here.

Sources:

Nagore Irazustabarrena, “Etxauz: Axular eta Chplin lotzen ditun haria,” Argia (May 31, 2015).

“A Thousand Years of History,” Part 1 and Part 2 at the Etxauzia website.

 

 

 

Basques abroad

It is hard to believe I am finally here in the Basque Country.  I’m tempted to say that I’ve waited a long time to get here to Euskalherria to start my fieldwork, but that wouldn’t be a completely accurate statement.  I could even say with some certainty that this year’s work and life in the Basque Country will represent both a reduction and culmination of my life’s interests and experiences, however, that would be limiting to the extensions of those same interests which lead me here:  languages, culture, wine, travel, food, diversity, and making connections with people around the world.  So, before sharing the amazing experiences I’ve already had while studying here, I would like to highlight those which were had before my arrival to the Basque Country this January.

Knowing I would be conducting fieldwork here for a whole year, I wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity to travel to South America with my father.  In 2014, I spent an amazing time learning about the production and wine-making process in Casablanca, Chile.  With so much Basque heritage there, I was delighted to discover that the Basque diaspora still held its roots firmly planted in this South American country.  Finding the popular Basque wine called Chacoli was an adventure I won’t forget (see previous blog to read more about Chacoli in South America), discovering the ways in which a culture can change and be maintained across the globe.  But before returning to Chile, my dad and I checked out some Basque culture in Argentina.

I had come to know of a Basque restaurant from a man who had wandered into the Center for Basque Studies  before my departure.  He told me about his family and how one of them had started a restaurant in Buenos Aires.  I mentioned I’d be heading there soon, so he gave me the information to find Leiketio.  The food and drink which combined aspects of both Basque and Latin American cuisine were amazing. However, the most satisfying part of the meal was being able to use the little Basque I had acquired from the previous summer to speak to a server who had recently moved from the Basque Country.

My second encounter with Basque culture in South America happened after my dad had returned to the US, and I had moved on for my second visit to Chile.  I was in the beautiful, historic town of Valparaiso, listening to music and enjoying the warmer weather when a couple had passed me speaking Basque.  I started talking to them and found out they were the band Niña Coyote and Chico Tornado (and very well known I might add in the Basque Country! See below for a clip of their music).  Also turns out the family of one of the members lived on the same street that I currently live now here in Euskalherria!

Just goes to show that si, el mundo es un pañuelo! Hau bai mundu txikia! It’s a small world!

I hope to keep making these cross-cultural connections over the next year here.  Stay tuned for more adventures in fieldwork from here in Euskalherria!

 

Basque phrases for Valentine’s Day

If you’ve ever watched Vaya Semanita or are familiar with Basque Country stereotypes, you may have heard that it’s impossible to ligar, or hook up… basically to find your own valentine. But we’ve got some tips for you, our loyal readers. Here are a few phrases and words in Basque to flirt or perhaps pay a loved one a compliment, gozatu!

  • maitea/maitia : my love
  • laztana : darling
  • bihotza : my heart
  • Nire bihotzeko laztana : The darling of my heart
  • Nire bihotzeko azukre koxkorra : The sugar lump of my heart
  • jatorra : nice
  • alaia : happy
  • baikorra : positive
  • (oso/asko) Maite zaitut :  I love you (a lot)

Neskentzat/For girls:

  • polita/panpox : pretty
  • Ze neska puxka : What a girl!

Mutilentzat/For boys:

  • zangarra : darling, brave
  • dotorea : handsome
  • prestua : nice
  • kementsua/ausarta : brave
  • indartsua : strong
  • trebea : skilled
  • Hau mutil katxarroa : What a guy

Piropoak or Losintxak/Compliments

  • Txora-txora eginda naukazu : You drive me crazy
  • Gatza bera ere gozatuko zenuke : You’d make salt sweet
  • Zure begiek mintzen naute : Your eyes hurt me (but in the sense that they’re so beautiful)
  • Zu zara nire saltzaren perrexila : You are the parsley to my sauce
  • Hi haiz nire bihotzak behar duen taupada : You are the beat my heart needs
  • Egun ilunenak arigtzen dituen distira zara : You are the brightness that lights dark days
  • Zu zara nire neguko berogailua : You are my winter heater
  • Ni pirata eta zu nire altxorra : I’m a pirate and you’re my treasure
  • Hain begi politak dituzu… non… non… originaltasuna agortu zaidan : What beautiful eyes you have…um…um… my originality finishes there
  • Zu etxerako : You, with me for my house!
  • Harrapatuz gero : If I catch you…
  • Zu ogia bazina eta ni tomatea, hori ogitarteko ederra : If you were bread and me a tomato, that would be a great sandwich!
  • Bizitza zu gabe afari bat ardo ona gabe bezalakoa da : Life without you is like dinner without a good wine
  • Egunsenti guztiak zu bezain ederrak balira, goiz esnatuko nitzateke egunero : If every dawn was as beautiful/handsome as you, I’d want to wake up early every day
  • Haritz zaharren modura sustrai sendoak dituzu nere bihotzean : Like the old oaks your roots reach deep down into my heart
  • Ai zelako irriparra, hura da nire iparra, gidatzen nauen izarra! Oh what a smile, he/she’s my north, the star that guides me!

Now for some Vaya Semanita humor, sorry it’s in Spanish!

Elko publication sheds light on Basques’ contributions

The Elko Daily Free Press is celebrating the city’s centennial in its series Elko 100, “The people who helped make Elko what it is today”, written by Toni R. Milano.  It goes without saying that a few Basques are on that list. Here’s a recap with links to all of the articles:

Stockmen’s in Elko

First off, we have the stories of Dan Bilbao Sr. and Jr., of Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino.  Daniel Bilbao Sr. was born in 1902 in Errigoiti (Bizkaia). He immigrated in 1914 to Mountain Home and then to Boise, where he owned a restaurant on 1916 N. 9th St.  By 1952, he bought Stockmen’s with two partners, and eventually bought them out. His son took over in 1974. To learn more, check out the article on them.

Anacabe Family

Elko’s General Merchandise

Next up is the Anacabe family, owners of Elko’s General Merchandise, the go-to place for Basque sheepherders in Elko. Joe Anacabe was born in 1883 in Berriatua (Bizkaia) and immigrated to the United States in 1901. He spent time in Idaho and Northern Nevada as a sheepherder before opening his first store in 1924. He had a son, Frank, with his first wife Fabiana Guenaga (born in Ondarroa). They briefly moved back to Bizkaia, but then returned to the States, spending some time in Berkeley. General Merchandise was opened in 1936, the place to shop in those days. He was widowed in 1952, but remarried to Margarita Olabe, also from Bizkaia. They had a daughter, Anita, who still runs the store. The Anacabe family must have so many stories to tell! Check them out here.

Alice Goicoechea

Alice Goicoechea was born in 1926 on the Diamond A Ranch, to parents Benito and Daniela Larios. She moved to Elko to work for her aunt and uncle at the Star Hotel, and later met Elias Goicoechea, whom she married and had 4 children. She was quite involved in the community and an inspiration to many. To learn more, visit the article on her life.

The Star Hotel

Anyone who’s been to Elko has probably eaten or had a picon punch at the Star Hotel. Pedro Jauregui Gomeza was born in 1880 in Muxika (Bizkaia). At age 18, he immigrated to California, working as a sheepherder. By 1908, he was in Elko and in 1910 he opened the Star Hotel, with his wife Matilde Eizaguirre, who had worked with him at the Telescope Hotel. They had many businesses together, selling and re-purchasing the Star throughout their career. Check out their impact on Elko here.

Jesús “Jess” Lopategui

Jess Lopategi Laucirica was born in Muxika (Bizkaia) in 1938, and arrived in Elko in 1957 and worked as a sheepherder. He married Denise Arregui in 1967 and worked at his in-law’s blacksmith shop. He was and is very involved in the Basque community in Elko, including starting its club and broadcasting a radio show in Euskera. Check out his ELKO 100 post here, and to learn more about him, listen to his interview for Ondare Bizia.

Ramon Zugazaga (Image from the documentary Amerikanuak)

Ramon Zugazaga, born in Gernika (Bizkaia) in 1946, started out as a sheepherder and even worked for Elias Goicoechea at the Holland Ranch (See post above on Alice Goicoechea). However, his heart was in the restaurant business so he opened the Biltoki in 1983. His other love is soccer, and he coached the Elko Indar Futbol Club for years. Although he’s retired now, he is actively involved in the Basque community in Elko. Read more here, and check out his interview for Ondare Bizia.

Barbara Errecart

Last, but not least, we have Barbara Errecart. Born in Utah, her family moved to Elko when she was quite young. In 1958 she married Jack Errecart, a Basque immigrant from Donibane Garazi (Nafarroa Beherea). After working as a sheepherder for some years, he bought the Silver Dollar Bar and then opened the Clifton Bar and Hotel, where the couple both worked. Barbara Errecart embraced Basque culture and even took up Basque dancing. Learn more in her article.

To learn more about Basques in the United States, be sure to check out the three volume Basques in the United States. Who knows, you may find your own family in there!

February 7, 1842: A controversial marriage, or two

A pandero-jotzaile (tambourine player) and txistulariak (pipe players) lead a traditional Basque wedding procession. Marriage was a key social and economic event because it signified that those joined in union would become the etxekoandre and etxekojaun, the mistress and master of a baserri or farmstead; in sum, the sole proprietors of the central socioeconomic unit of Basque culture and life. Whoever was marrying into the property, man or woman, would bring with them certain possessions: material goods, animals, and even land. Hence the all important wedding procession, typically headed by an ox-drawn cart, which showed off these worldly goods.

On February 7, 1842 Jean Bonepelts married Marie Etxeberri, of the Behorlegi baserri (farmstead) in the Ondarrola district of Arnegi, Lower Navarre. Not untypically in such border areas of the Basque Country, although administratively Ondarrola was part of Arnegi (Arnéguy) and therefore subject to French civil law, in church matters it was part of the neighboring town of Luzaide (Valcarlos) in Navarre. However, the couple were married in the parish church of Arnegi by Father Jean Baptiste Errecart. Again not untypically, the couple were blood relations, on two levels, within the third and fourth degrees of consanguinity. Accordingly, they had been obliged to seek church permission prior to getting married, which they did from the Bishop of Baiona in Lapurdi. However, when word reached the curia (church council) in Pamplona-Iruñea, which as noted had religious jurisdiction over the district of Ondarrola, a formal complaint was lodged with the bishopric of Baiona and, receiving no response to its protest, it declared that, “the wrongly married couple should separate and make up for the error committed.”

That same year, on May 17, there was another marriage between two residents of Ondarrola, Jean Etxeberri and Catalina Caminondo, which also took place in the parish church of Arnegi. This time, the church authorities took stricter measures, with the Bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea excommunicating both couples and prohibiting entry into any church for their respective parents while “their children should remain in that state of concubinage.” In the end, both marriages had to be held again, this time in Luzaide and with the blessing of the Bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea. Etxeberri  and Caminondo went through the nuptial ceremony again in June 1843 while Bonepelts and Etxeberri did so once more much later, in April 1845. Only following these “second” marriages was the excommunication order withdrawn.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), p.185.

With respect to traditional Basque marriage customs, Philippe Veyrin’s wonderful The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre is worth quoting at some length (pp. 328-29):

Once the date of the wedding has been fixed (usually a Tuesday), everyone proceeds, a few days beforehand (generally two), to perform what is called hatüka. This is a matter of transporting to the house where the future couple will live the furniture and the trousseau brought by the newly arrived spouse, male or female. The father leads the first wagon harnessed with oxen in full livery: bells, thick fleeces to conceal the yoke, cloth mantles with wide blue or red stripes embroidered with giant initials. The artfully arranged trousseau is covered with a counterpane with a cushion on top. On a chair tied behind the wagon are placed clogs decorated with copper nails in the shape of an ace of hearts or of spades; there are also a broom, a pick-axe, and a rake. Previously, in the case of the bride, the distaff, the spindles, and the reels were prominently displayed, and these symbolic objects were often finely carved and decorated. On other wagons, more or less numerous depending on the wealth of the bridegroom, pride of place was given to the mattresses and the furnishings, all displayed to their greatest advantage. The seamstress and the joiner, the authors of all these treasures, formed part of the procession; it was they who, on arrival, arranged the bedroom of the newlyweds. Often in the same parade, but sometimes separately, the godfather led a magnificent plump sheep with ribbons and gilded horns to be eaten at the wedding feast—escorted by a whole crowd of ewes with tinkling bells, the tzintzarrada. Not long ago, the procession also included several girls carrying on their heads big baskets furnished with napkins and filled with chicken, loaves of bread, bottles of wine and liqueur, big “spit-baked cakes” decorated with flowers , and so on—all food provided by the guests themselves. A good meal is of course given to all these visitors, and it can be said that the wedding really begins on that day. Two days later, everyone gathers at the square once more: the best men will go to fetch the bride, who gives each of them a fine cambric handkerchief. And, to the sound of a merry zinkha or irrintzina, everyone jostles and bustles to the town hall, and then, with more ceremony, to the church.

A few superstitions, now vanished, used to be in evidence at the nuptial blessing. This was supposed to have the power to sanctify the clothes worn on that particular day; so the bride would apparently cover herself in several dresses, one on top of the other—later, these would be very useful for her, affording her long-term shelter from spells. On his side, if the bridegroom feared the evil spell known as esteka, “physical deficiency,” he had to keep a fold of his future wife’s dress on his knees during the mass.

In several villages, there is a touching custom: after the wedding mass, the newlyweds, slipping away for a few moments from their entourage, go alone to the cemetery and pray at the tomb of the house that they will perpetuate. Husband or wife—whichever of the couple was until then a stranger to the estate—is thus, so to speak, solemnly associated on that day with the cult of the dead of the new family.

 

What’s in a song? Izarren hautsa

Xabier Lete performing in 1971. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Izarren hautsa” (Stardust) first appeared as track 6 on singer-songwriter Xabier Lete’s 1976 LP Kantatzera noazu (I’m coming to sing for you) but most Basque people will (still hopefully) be familiar with this song today, which counts among the canonical works in the Basque songbook.  Lete (1944-2010) is widely regarded as more than just a singer-songwriter and remains among the most important of modern Basque poets, with a clearly poetic sensibility that few other Basque songwriters have managed to achieve. Indeed, he published poetry throughout his life and his final book of poems, Egunsentiaren esku izotzak (Frozen hands of the dawn, 2008) won the Basque Literature Award in 2009.

“One day stardust became life.” Image by Jean-Lucien Guillaume, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In “Izarren hautsa” Lete reflects on the meaning of life from the starting point that, in the final analysis, we are all just stardust.

Here’s the first and last couple of verses from this Basque starman’s epic “Izarren hautsa”:

Izarren hautsa egun batean bilakatu zen bizigai,

hauts hartatikan uste gabean noizpait ginaden gu ernai.

Eta horrela bizitzen gera sortuz ta sortuz gure aukera

atsedenik hartu gabe: lana eginaz goaz aurrera

kate horretan denok batera gogorki loturik gaude.

One day stardust became life,

from that dust, suddenly, at some point, we awoke.

And that’s how we carry on, relentlessly creating our own fate,

without rest: we keep on through work,

all firmly bound together in that chain.

Gu sortu ginen enbor beretik sortuko dira besteak,

burruka hortan iraungo duten zuhaitz-ardaska gazteak.

Beren aukeren jabe eraikiz ta erortzean berriro jaikiz

ibiltzen joanen direnak: gertakizunen indar ta argiz

gure ametsa arrazoi garbiz egiztatuko dutenak.

From the same trunk we were born, others will emerge,

young branches that will carry on in that struggle.

Becoming masters of their own fate and, having fallen, rising again,

those that will walk: through the power and brilliance of actions,

those that will transform our dreams through pure reason.

Eta ametsa bilakaturik egiaren antziduri

herri zahar batek bide berritik ekingo dio urduri;

guztian lana guztien esku jasoko dute sendo ta prestu,

beren bizitzen edargai; diru zakarrak bihotzik eztu,

lotuko dute gogor ta hestu haz ez dadin gizonen gain.

And transforming dreams into the form of truth,

an old people will, through new ways, face up to its doubts;

through everyone’s toil and support, they will receive, firm and upright,

the water of life; dirty money afflicts the heart,

they will control it, firmly and tightly, so it never overpowers them.

Lyrically, “Izarren hautsa” is an epic song, a tale of human life from its very beginnings to the creation of society, and Lete is profoundly concerned with the kind of society we as humans seek to create. He may, indeed, be interested in underscoring the flimsiness of civilization itself, recalling the warning in Shelley’s famous sonnet “Ozymandias” (1818) to anyone with pretensions to greatness, believing the myth that human power is timeless (And on the pedestal these words appear / ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare / The lone and level sands stretch far away). Lete also composed the music for the song although he enlisted the help of fellow musician and singer Antton Valverde to improve his original composition.

Lete sometimes found that his songs enjoyed more success when sung by others, in particular through the distinctive voice of fellow Basque folk icon Mikel Laboa (1934-2008).  Check out Laboa’s rearranged version of the song here:

Check out a faithful interpretation of Laboa’s version by singer-songwriter Anari (with great audience participation) here:

For a contemporary reworking of Laboa’s version check out the version below by the group Ken Zazpi:

Finally, check out a different reinterpretation of the song by the great Ruper Ordorika that relies more on the original Lete version for its inspiration:

Your call. Which version do you prefer?

If you’re interested in contemporary Basque music, be sure to check out Jon Eskisabel Urtuzaga’s Basque Songwriting: Pop, Rock, Folk, published by the Etxepare Basque Institute and available free to download here.

 

Iker Saitua – Life after a Ph.D. in Basque Studies

Iker Saitua received his Ph.D. in Basque Studies here at the CBS last spring, so we’ve decided to catch up with him and see where life takes you after doctoral studies. His dissertation, “Sagebrush Laborers: Basque Immigrants in Nevada’s Sheep Industry, International Dimensions, and the Making of an Agricultural Workforce, 1880-1954,” explores the ways in which the Basque labor force in Nevada evolved from an object of discrimination into a stereotyped prized sheepherder. It then turns to the immigration policies that allowed Basques to continue supplying the labor force, even after the 1924 Immigration Act, through an analysis of U.S.-Spanish relations during the beginning of the Cold War. Impressive indeed and worth reading every bit! But for now, let’s turn to Dr. Saitua…

  1. What have you been up to since graduation?

Keeping busy. After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2016, I returned to the Basque Country. Having returned home, I presented my dissertation at the University of the Basque Country, getting a second Ph.D. that received summa cum laude honors in History. While looking for an academic position, I am currently finishing a Master’s Degree in Education at the International University of La Rioja. Concurrently, I am revising my dissertation into a book manuscript. During this time, I have also attended various courses and workshops, including the training course for “Teaching of the Basque Language Abroad,” jointly organized by the University of the Basque Country and the Etxepare Basque Institute. I have also acted as an assessor for the interdisciplinary scholarly journal Sancho el Sabio. Revista de cultura e investigación vasca, among other things.

  1. Have you published any articles?

Yes. My article “Becoming Herders: Basque Immigration, Labor, and Settlement in Nevada, 1880-1910” has been recently published in the journal Montana: The Magazine of Western History (Vol. 66, No. 4, Winter 2016). Please see the following link: https://mhs.mt.gov/pubs/magazine/Current-Issue). Also, I am pleased to announce that the Montana Talking Book Library (a regional library of the National Library Service for the blind and physically handicapped) is recording this article for its collection. Besides this, some of my latest articles on Basque immigration in the American West will be published soon in various peer-reviewed journals. Coming soon!

  1. Do you have any new research interests?

Lately, I have become increasingly interested in the pedagogy of teaching history and social sciences. Besides that, I continue with my research in western, labor, social, legal, and environmental history of the Basques and sheep grazing in the Far West.

  1. What do you do to keep busy?

I keep busy writing history articles, researching, and reading new publications on the North American West.

  1. What do you miss the most from the U.S.?

Lots of things. I miss my colleagues and friends there. I miss those midday coffee breaks with other grad students. I miss those family gatherings too. And of course, Reno, Nevada, and the Great Basin! I miss the West and its wide open spaces.

  1. What is it that you were most excited to return to once back in the Basque Country?

Family and friends. Glad to be back home among them.


As you can see, Iker doesn’t seem to have taken a chance to take a breath post-Ph.D! I must say I look forward to reading his upcoming work and wish him the best. He may miss the West, but I’m sure the West misses him too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Douglass to inaugurate “Elorriaga Basque Culture Series” at Boise State University

Bill Douglass will be at Boise State University on February 8 and 9 to inaugurate the “Elorriaga Basque Culture Series,” which will endeavor to showcase various forms of Basque culture. On campus he’ll be speaking to two courses (to which others are invited) on Wednesday, February 8: From 12:00-1:15 he will speak to the “Basque Culture” course on the topic of “Basques in Cuba” and then, from 3:00-4:15 he’ll speak to the “Navigating Identity” course on the topic of migration.

The following day, Thursday, February 9, he will offer a community talk titled “A ‘Basque’ author’s reflections,” which will be an overview of his publications in Basque Studies & beyond.

Click here for more information.

Veteran bertsolari Jon Azpillaga passes away

Jon Azpillaga Urrutia, one of the towering figures–both literally and metaphorically–of contemporary bertsolaritza (Basque poetic oral improvisation) passed away last Thursday, February 2, at the age of 81.

He was born in Pasaia, Gipuzkoa, in 1935, where his father Juan–originally from Ondarroa, Bizkaia–worked in the port. His mother, Veronica Urrutia, was originally from the Torre baserri (farmstead) in Berriatu, Bizkaia. After his father was killed in the Spanish Civil War, when he was barely a year and a half, the family moved back to the baserri in Berriatu. Azpillaga grew up on that baserri, which in total provided a home for 16 people, carrying out the obligatory farm chores.  At age 14 he began earning a living for himself away from home, in a boatyard in Ondarroa, cycling to and from work everyday.  After completing the obligatory Spanish military service, he eventually started his own repair business, alongside his brother and some other partners, in his mid-20s. Now living in Ondarroa, he also joined the local choir as a tenor. He married Maria Arrizabalaga Itsasmendi in 1960 and the couple moved to neighboring Mutriku, Gipuzkoa, where she owned a hair salon. And the couple eventually had 6 children.

By this time, too Azpillaga was already an accomplished bertsolari (versifier), making the final of the national championship in 1960 and 1962 and winning the Bizkaia championship in 1961. He had been somewhat of a child prodigy in this respect, reciting popular verses by heart at age 10. And he had performed his first spontaneous bertsoak (verses) in public, at the village fiestas of Amoroto in 1950 alongside another young bertsolari, Joan Mugartegi Iriondo (b. Berriatu, 1933). After winning the 1961 championship, he went on to perform throughout the 1960s and 1970s, especially in tandem with Jon Lopategi (b. Muxika, Bizkaia, in 1934). These performances, in what has been classified by expert Joxerra Garzia in Voicing the Moment as the “bertsolaritza of resistance” (toward the Franco dictatorship), were framed–where possible–with political references. Indeed, both had on several occasions been detained by the police for the political references they had made when performing bertsolaritza. He continued to take part in championships through the 1980s, reaching the fibal of the national champiosnhips in 1980 and 1982. And in 2000, on the fiftieth anniversary of his first public performance, he appeared once more alongside Mugartegi, just as he had done all those years ago, performing to a crowd of people from the balcony of the Amoroto town hall. Check out the video below of Azpillaga’s last public performance, on July 20, 2013, in Zarautz in honor of the great bertsolari Basarri:

Azpillaga dedicated a lot of his free time in Mutriku to fundraising for the ikastola or Basque-language school and establishing a bertso eskola (a bertso school) there to train young people in the art. The Church was an important part of his life and he even recited the Sermon on the Mount in verse. He also attended the annual July 4 church service and celebration held in honor of Saint Balentin Berriotxoa, one of the two patron saints of Bizkaia (alongside Saint Ignatius Loiola) in Elorrio.  On a personal level, he was always noted as a calm, composed, and fearless bertsolari with a great towering physical presence and a classic exponent of the bertso postura (stance). This all meant that he was invariably asked to begin any bertso session, hence the epithet “Hasi Azpillaga!” (Take it away Azpillaga!), which was also the tile of a free-to-download 2001 biography about him by Mikel Aizpurua.

Goian bego.

Further reading:

Jon Azpillaga Urrutia, at the online Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia.

Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, free to download here.

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