Month: June 2017 (page 2 of 3)

June 14, 1959: Famous Basque woodchopper Latasa achieves major feat

Ramon Latasa Elizondo (1930-1991)

On June 14, 1959, in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, the renowned Basque aizkolari (woodchopper) Ramon Latasa achieved one of his most memorable feats: that day, on the basis of major betting on the outcome, he cut through the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree with a girth of just under 17 feet (!) within 4 hours; specifically, in 3 hours and 17 minutes, and with 5,259 ax blows.

 

Ramon Latasa Elizondo was born on the Aguria baserri in Sunbilla, Nafarroa, in 1930 into a poor family. At age 17 he began working in the logging industry, gaining special fame among his coworkers for his woodchopping prowess. His most famous feat took place on April 26, 1959, when he won a legendary challenge in competition with Luxia (Juan Jose Narbaiza Ibarbia), from Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa.  In this “challenge of the century” (as it was termed at the time), the humble woodchopper from Sunbilla finished a whopping 5 minutes before his rival, leaving onlookers stunned at the feat.  Latasa continued taking part in thee challenges through the 1960s and even into the 1970s, retiring at age 47. Remembered by many as the greatest aizkolari of all time, he died in 1991.

New exhibition celebrates Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 visit to the Basque Country

We’ve already discussed in a previous post how a lot of Hollywood royalty, like Charlie Chaplin for example, spent time in the Basque Country (and we’ve still to tell the tale of Ava Gardner and Errol Flynn’s time there…but for that, watch this space!). Now it has come to our attention that the Didam art gallery in Baiona recently premiered an exhibition (running through September 3) celebrating Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 visit to promote the movie Vertigo at the Donostia-San Sebastián international film festival that year.

Hitchcock in the Basque Country, from the Bayonne website.

After arriving at Biarritz airport, “Hitch” and his wife, Alma Reville, spent four and a half days taking in the sights of Donostia and Pasai Donibane in Hegoalde (dining in the famous Camara restaurant in the latter) as well as Hendaia, Biarritz, and Baiona in Iparralde, all accompanied, perhaps not unsurprisingly given that this was a promotional visit, by numerous (and prolific) photographers. The exhibition curator, photographer Pedro Usabiaga, researched the project for five years, checking out different archives and sources. Some of the photos, such as Hitchcock posing in the pulpit of Baiona Cathedral, reveal a playful side to the master of suspense but would most likely have been banned from appearing in any publication in Franco’s Spain at the time.

Read the exhibition program (and see some of the pictures) here.

See a report on the exhibition (in French) in Sud-Ouest here.

Winnemucca Basque Festival

Continuing on our summer Basque Festival tour of the West, some of us at the CBS and Jon Bilbao Basque Library had the chance to visit Winnemucca and attend its 39th Annual Basque Festival. Once again, we got up early (but thankfully not as early as the weekend before) and set off east toward Winnemucca. On the way there, we had a lovely breakfast in Lovelock!

Cowpoke Cafe in Lovelock

Mmm…breakfast

Once in Winnemucca, we watched the Basque Festival Parade. Many of the dance groups and clubs had floats parade down Winnemucca Blvd. The local fire and police department were also present. It seemed as if all of the town had gone out to watch the parade, and the children were giddy with excitement over the candy being thrown to them from all of the participants.

Parade

More parading!

Next up, we headed to the convention center. Right outside, on the Nixon Lawn, festival goers had set up for the picnic, and everywhere you looked, you could see young boys and girls dressed in their traditional outfits ready to have fun.

Txiki dancers

Inside the convention center, everyone was buying tickets for the lunch and merriment. The Boise Basque Museum had set up a table with various gift items and souvenirs. Our Basque Books Editor was also present with a display of our many publications and eager buyers.

Inside the Convention Center

Our Basque Books Editor!

Before the eating began, the national anthems were sung and dance performances kicked off the event. Throughout the day, various groups danced and competitions were held. Among them, dance-offs and weight lifting competitions. A professional wood chopping display was the highlight for me. Stephanie Braña did a great job! To learn more about her, see the following article in Euskal Kazeta.

Dantzaris

Wood-chopping

Lunch was delicious! We had salad, beans, lamb stew, and steak, accompanied by wine and bread. Hats off to the cooks! We then had the chance to watch more performances but left before the concerts began. Too bad we couldn’t stick around!

Lunch!

Once again, these Basque festivals and picnics do not disappoint! Not only was it a lovely day in the sun, but we were surrounded by fun people and entertainment. Can’t wait till the next one!

Nothing like the Nevada views

Photo credits: Edurne Arostegui, Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, and Irati U.

An update from Irati, our Basque Library Intern

We here at the blog have decided to check up on Irati U., who you may have read about in a previous post. The following is an update from the Algortarra, who we are happy to have here at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library and at the Center for Basque Studies. She is doing a tremendous amount of work in the archive and it’s a pleasure seeing her every day.

Five months have passed since I landed in Reno and I couldn’t be happier! First off, this is my first experience related to working in archives so I had a lot to learn. When I arrived, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the archives and the materials in them. I couldn’t believe how interesting they are. I’ve found all kinds of documents, some dealing with exile, others with the first sheepherders in the West as well as boardinghouses, and the personal stories behind all of them. On example is the story of the migrant to Colombia “El Cojo” Gómez, who happened to be from my hometown, Algorta. He was a “good” smuggler in the sense that he told on “bad” people, even though he was murdered in retaliation for having killed three men. This is just one of the many stories hidden in the archives of the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

After the process of getting to know the materials, I received training from the library staff in various programs that I’ve been using to catalog archival documents. I think it’s wonderful that they spend time teaching new interns not just how to use the programs but also helping us throughout the way. I still have questions sometimes, but I think I’ve learned quite a bit.

One of the tasks I carry out here besides cataloging is working at the library by attending to visitors and students. It is also my first time working with the public in this way, and I think I’ve improved a lot since I first sat in front of the main desk. Most of the people who come are interested in learning what we do at this library as well as Basque culture and history. Others come because of their interest in their backgrounds, thinking they may have Basque ancestors. We also get a lot of students because our library is quieter than the main library.

We currently have a window exhibit on the bombing of Gernika that I helped to put together. Not only did I record one of the testimonies, that of Mercedes Irala, but I also helped to translate the texts and edit the video on display. The Gernika exhibit is just a small homage to this historic event, but I think it’s important for the diaspora to remember the events that marked our grandparent’s generation.

For now, I’m continuing to discover new treasures that were forgotten in the many boxes that comprise the archive. I’m trying to figure out what it is we have exactly and see if we can create new collections for cataloging. As you can see, I’m working hard and enjoying every minute of it.

Besides working at the library, I’ve had the chance to get to know Reno as well as its surroundings and people. For example, I spent a wonderful weekend at Black Rock Desert for the rendezvous organized by Friends of the Nevada Wilderness and Friends of BRD. I also had the chance to attend the Basque Picnic in Petaluma (CA), which was a way for me to take part in the Basque-American experience. I look forward to traveling more across the West.

Before I end this post, I just wanted to thank everyone at the Basque Library and in the Main Library for giving me this opportunity, especially Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, the Basque librarian, who has to deal with me every day and answer all of my questions. Mila esker!

An Interview with Marta Requejo Fraile, a visiting scholar from the University of Valladolid

Marta Requejo Fraile is a visiting Ph.D. student here at the CBS from the University of Valladolid. After spending a few weeks in Reno, we’ve decided to interview her on her research and stay. She’s a great addition to our summer visiting scholars and we look forward to reading her work.

Marta is from Miranda de Ebro (Burgos) and has a B.A. in Journalism and a Master’s in “Research in Communication as a Socio-historical Agent” (Master en Investigación de la comunicación como agente historico-social), both from the University of Valladolid. She began her Ph.D. in 2014, within the program “Spanish: Linguistics, Literature, and Communication” at the same university. She is funded by a Spanish government grant for University Professor Training (Formación del Profesorado Universitario) and also received the Begoña Aretxaga Travel Stipend for her research stay here.

Marta has been working hard at the library and recently presented her dissertation topic at on of our seminars. Here’s a look into her background and work.

1)    What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? 

The first time I heard about the CBS was in a scholarly article that I was reading for my doctoral dissertation. After that, I have found it cited more and more in most of the works I reviewed. So, I thought it could be useful for my research project to come here because of the Center’s resources. I am going to be here for three months

2)    What is the goal of your project?

I study the role of mass media in conflict resolution, specifically, the Basque case through the analysis of discourse in some Basque newspapers.

3)    What makes your research unique? 

I use Peace and Conflict Research theories to analyze media discourse in the Basque case, something that is not very common in Communication Studies and even less in the Spanish academic world.

4)    What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I have divided my time at the CBS between the empirical analyses of my dissertation and the study of anthropological aspects of terrorism in media discourse in some reference works.

5)  Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way?

Over and above the diversity of the bibliographic resources that the Center for Basque Studies owns about Basque issues, what makes this institution unique, apart from the place in which it is located, is the people that work in it. I think that it is one of the most important forms of support that I have found here.

6)    Are you enjoying the U.S.?

It is an amazing place that makes you feel as if you were trapped in a film in continual progress. I would have never imagined this.

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

Although it sounds like a cliché, we always miss that which is irreplaceable in our lives, like close people. And, in this sense, I think I have not been the exception.

June 4, 1873: Basque rebel priest’s squad of soldiers execute 37 border guards

On June 4, 1873, a squad of volunteer soldiers, under the command of the rebel priest Manuel Santa Cruz Loidi (pictured above), executed 37 border guards on the Endarlatza bridge between Gipuzkoa and Navarre during the Carlist War of 1872-1876. From that moment on the civil and military authorities in Gipuzkoa held annual remembrance services for those executed until the entry of Carlist forces into the province during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, when the service was suspended (despite the fact that during the nineteenth-century war Santa Cruz himself had been condemned to death on account of his sanguinary exploits by the very Carlist forces he purported to support). During that same Carlist War Sant Cruz’s squad carried a black flag with a skull and the inscription “Battle to the Death.”

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 193.

The Carlist Wars are discussed in Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present, available free to download here.

Premiere of Aberne, a short movie about women in pelota, on Sunday

Sunday will see the premiere of the movie Aberne, a short film that was the result of a Master’s thesis by Irati Santiago, from Villabona (Gipuzkoa), at Columbia College Chicago. It was produced by Santiago and written and directed by Emma Johnson. From the movie website:  “Aberne tells the story of a young, Basque woman struggling to be accepted amongst external societal pressures in a region where friends, family and co-workers all come together under one sport, pelota. Aberne seeks the opportunity to break free from the culture’s limitation and prove herself worthy of not only playing pelota, but of the general public’s respect.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165637744″>Aberne Interview H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

The film was shot in the Tolosa district of Gipuzkoa, in Basque, and with English subtitles.  It tells the story of a young woman who aspires to be a professional pelotari or Basque handball player in the face of much resistance, including on the part of her mother, who attempts to convince her to stick to the family bread-making business.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165733435″>Aberne Teaser English H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

See a report on the movie premiere by the Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish) here.

Check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa, which seeks to contextualize this sport within Basque culture more generally.

An Interview with Beñat Dachaguer

As many of you know, we have quite a few visitors throughout the year. In this interview, we introduce you to Beñat Dachaguer, who is doing an internship at the library.

1) Tell me a bit about yourself…

My name is Beñat Dachaguer and I come from Bayonne in the French Basque Country. During this 2016-2017 school year, I am studying Books and Heritage Professions at Grenoble University. Before that, I taught English in high schools for 10 years.

2)    What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies?

For this training course in Books and Heritage Professions, I needed to do a 2-month internship in a library. I am very interested in Basque culture, language, and literature. I applied to the Basque Library and they accepted me as an intern for 2 months. I am here until June 30.

3)    What is the goal of your project?

The purpose of my stay at the Basque Library is to understand the procedures of the Basque Library in the framework of a North American research library. Thanks to this internship, I am also able to gain knowledge about the Library’s archival collections and the holdings in general.

4)    What makes your study unique?

I speak Basque as my mother tongue and as a fully-quaIified English teacher, I am also fluent in English. The internship allows me to learn more about the Basque diaspora and Basque-American identity. It is interesting to see how they manage to keep Basque culture and traditions alive.

5)    What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I enjoy the city of Reno. I think it is a lively and pleasant town where there are many things to do: restaurants, cinema, pubs, casinos…  and of course, I have gone to Louis’ Basque Corner, the Basque restaurant downtown and visited the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder. I also went to Pyramid Lake, which I found beautiful!

6)  Has the Center for Basque Studies and Library helped you in any way?

The Center for Basque Studies has helped me a lot. There are many interesting documents about Basque culture and diaspora. I have to write a report about my stay at the Basque Library, so all the materials available are very useful to me. Besides, the colleagues (library staff, faculty, and Ph.D. students) are really nice. There is a good atmosphere in the library.

7)    Are you enjoying the U.S.?

I enjoy the USA, mainly the Western part. Nevada and California are states where there is a good life quality. I already went to Chino, near Los Angeles, 20 years ago and I have kept an excellent memory of my stay there! I am glad to be back in the USA.

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

I haven’t really missed anything except one thing maybe … actually, in April and May, I usually have fun at Basque festivals like Nafarroaren Eguna in Baigorri or Herri Urrats in Senpere. But this year I was in Reno … so I couldn’t attend these 2 events. However, last weekend, I went to the Basque picnic in Bakersfield, California. It was like being at home, in the Basque Country…I even discovered two new drinks:  Madras and VO+sprite. Next weekend, I am going to visit San Francisco and attend the local Basque picnic there… the show must go on!

SFBC Annual Basque Picnic in Petaluma

Last Sunday, a few of us from the Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library made the trip out to Petaluma for the San Francisco Basque Club’s 57th Annual Picnic. After heading out rather early, we made it to the end of the mass given by Father Lastiri, with music by the Elgarrekin Choir and the Zazpiak Bat Klika, alongside dancing. The Petaluma Fair Grounds were packed, and finding a table was a difficult task. While the chefs prepared the barbecue, we enjoyed the warm weather and pleasant conversation. Even my own parents made it out!

As with all Basque events, food was plentiful. We dug into some cheese and other appetizers until the line formed to stack our plates with the wonderful food provided by the SFBC. The menu consisted of barbecued rack of lamb (cooked perfectly) with beans, piperade, salad, cheese, bread, and of course, wine. Every bite was delicious. After our dessert, we gathered around the court to watch the dancers.

Zazpiak Bat Dancers

First came the Zazpiak Bat Txiki dancers, who did a splendid job considering that this was the first year of dancing for most. The Los Banos group was represented by 3 young boys, who also had some great moves. Lastly, we watched the Zazpiak Bat Dance group dance elegantly. The Klika also partook in the jovial atmosphere. Overall, it was a great time.

As picnic and festival season begins, I hope to attend more events. It’s great to see Basque culture being carried on by the youth and the many Basques and Basque-Americans that come together to share food, fun, and merriment. Don’t forget, next week: Winnemucca’s Annual Festival!

Great new video guide to Kakueta Gorge

There’s somewhat of an end-of-term feeling around here and our thoughts have turned to the approaching summer, travels, and of course the beautiful Basque Country. And once again we will shamelessly borrow a video from our good friends at About Basque Country, this time one that showcases the amazing Kakueta Gorge.

We did already write about this landmark site in a previous post but we also think it’s well worth revisiting one of the truly remarkable spots in the Basque Country, a little piece of Amazonia in Xiberoa/Zuberoa!

This also got us to thinking about other interesting or emblematic sites … especially those off the beaten track somewhat.  So if you have any suggestions why not let us know? We’d be happy to share your thoughts!

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