One of the world’s most prestigious broadcasting institutions, the BBC, produces a radio show titled The Food Programme for its Radio 4 network. This show includes a special series on endangered foods, part of international project created by Slow Food to save foods at risk of extinction, titled the Ark of Taste, which among its many fascinating reports has included short descriptions of both the Euskal Txerria Pig and the Red Onion of Zalla (Bizkaia) – both topics covered here at our humble blog. In both cases, too, the reports make a compelling case for the intersection between food and human culture.
Click here to listen to the report on the Euskal Txerria (3 min 56 sec). See a couple of posts we have done on Basque pigs here and here.
Click here to listen to the report on the Zalla Onion (3 min 57 sec). See our post on these wonderful red onions here.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
On August 11, 1936, in an early and telling act on the part of General Franco’s cultural strategy during the Civil War, rebel troops carried out a public mass book burning of Basque-language texts in the Old Square of Tolosa; the historically important Gipuzkoan town that had been one of the epicenters of the so-called Euskal Pizkundea, the Basque cultural renaissance based on a flourishing of artistic creation in Basque.
Book burning in Tolosa, August 11, 1936
The rebel troops had recently occupied Tolosa in their drive westward across Gipuzkoa. Once entrenched in the town, they entered the printing press of Ixaka Lopez Mendizabal, a writer, editor, and printer at the heart of the aforementioned renaissance and removed all the books they could find in either Basque or concerning Basque culture. Repeating their search in the municipal and school libraries, they stacked their loot up in the Old Square before proceeding to burn the pile in a very public act of cultural negation.
In February 1937, Franco’s rebel government passed an official order to cleanse the Basque Country of all such “seditious” books.
While reading Bizkaia to Boise I couldn’t help but have the image of Pete Cenarrusa as the dashing male protagonist in a Golden Era of Hollywood film directed by Frank Capra. He fit the role perfectly, a child of Basque immigrants, grew up on a ranch and knew all about agriculture, did not speak English when he first went to grade school but worked his way to become a graduate at the University of Idaho, a fraternity member, a skilled boxer, a Marine Corps pilot that served in World War II, and a passionate teacher and politician. He was friendly, caring and determined. If his life story could have been written about 60 years earlier, you just know it would have been adapted into a screen play and Cenarrusa would’ve been played by the likes of Jimmy Stewart or Carey Grant. There was no doubt that Cenarrusa was a classic example of a true American man.
All the while, Cenarrusa was still undeniably Basque. The child of Jose Mari Zenarruzabeitia-Muguira from the countryside of Munitibar and Ramona Gardoqui from Gernika, Cenarrusa always spoke Basque at home. His interest in his heritage extended to his time at University of Idaho, where he was often found at the library researching the current events of Euskadi, which at the time were troubling, WWII was brewing and he researched as well the recent bombing of his mother’s hometown of Gernika and the dictatorship of Franco. Based on this research, Cenarrusa was up on and involved in Basque politics for the remainder of his life, and even planted three seedlings of the tree of Gernika in the Boise.
Lt Governor Brad Little with Pete Cenarrusa from Emmett, Idaho via Wikimedia Commons
It is clear that Cenarrusa was a person of great character, even in the arena of politics, where most people reputations are tarnished and their worst sides are pointed out, Democrats and Republicans alike couldn’t say much bad about Cenarrusa. It seems that in the end, Cenarrusa just wanted the best for his family, his state and his country, and was one of the few who got in and took action to do what he thought was best for the future. In the end, I think the best way to summarize this book is a quote from the intro of Bizkaia to Boise written by C.L. “Butch” Otter: “There is no one I know in the public life who is more respected, more admired, and more beloved than Pete Cenarrusa. After reading this book, I think you’ll know why.”
On August 6, 1994, the town of Urretxu in Gipuzkoa played host to the first Euskal Encounter, a LAN party or a gathering of people with computers or compatible game consoles in which a local area network (LAN) connection is established between the devices, primarily for the purpose of playing multiplayer video games together.
Image from Euskal Encounter 22 (2014). Photo by Fernando Loz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The initial event–originally termed the Euskal Amiga Party–took place over the course of one day in the Ederrena fronton and included thirty-six participants. Today, the Euskal Encounter has expanded to become a general meeting place for computing professionals an enthusiasts. The latest edition of the event, Euskal Encounter 26, was held over a four-day period between July 26 and 29 in the Bilbao Exhibition Center (BEC) and was attended by five thousand people.
See reports on the event in Basque and Spanish below.
There’s a great quote by Wilhelm von Humboldt from his study Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert (The Eighteenth Century, Gesammellte Schriften vol.2, 38) that goes: “The individual can only represent the ideal of human perfection from a single angle (i.e., from his own uniqueness). However, comparative observation of many of these partial and different representations draws us closer to a clear idea of a comprehensive view of Man.” I first came across this quote while reading Selected Basque Writings: The Basques and Announcement of a Publication by Wilhelm von Humboldt. He was talking about comparative anthropology, but I enjoy the image it provokes. That we in our own uniqueness are in ourselves a variety of human perfection, but in only one interpretation, and that it takes various perspectives and “different representations” of perfection to discover what it truly means to be human. Humboldt’s view of what it means to be human is apparent in his account of his travels through the Basque Country. Just as the quote above, it shows his value not only for the study of anthropology, but for the human experience.
Being the first English translation of Humboldt’s account of his travels to the Basque Country in 1801, these Selected Basque Writings are often praised as an essential work in the study of the Basque Country and its culture.
WIlhelm von Humboldt by RaphaelQS via Wikimedia Commons
The book is broken up into chapters, each of which describe a different area in the Basque country with vivid description, from the path into mountain wilderness in Deba to the “sea with its pyramid of mountains” in Somorrosto to the industrial sights of Victoria-Gasteiz. Not only does Humboldt describe the Basque landscape in great detail, but the Basque people, as he admires their strength and independence, as well as their ways of governing themselves with a strong sense of nationalism to their homeland. Humboldt also looks into the Basque language, dress, food, dance and many other aspects of culture.
Fiestas en la localidad de Deba by Vicente Martin via Wikimedia Commons
An incredibly insightful and interesting read, it has something for anyone interested in anthropology, politics, philosophy, history, travel or just anyone looking to better understand the Basque Country and its culture.
On July 30, 1965, Richard Tardits was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. Originally a rugby player, after going to college in the United States he took up football and went on to play linebacker for the New England Patriots between 1990 and 1992.
Tardits played rugby at junior level for Biarritz Olympique, and represented the French national side at the same level. Moving to the United States to attend college he took up football and played for the Georgia Bulldogs. There, he held the record for most sacks (until surpassed by David Pollack in 2004), earning the nickname “Le Sack.”
He was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals in 1989 but never played for the Arizona team, instead going on to play twenty-seven games for the Patriots in three seasons in the early 1990s. Following his NFL career, he took up rugby once more, playing for the Mystic River Rugby Club, and represented the US national team on twenty-two occasions between 1993 and 1999.
I read My Mama Marie by Joan Errea about a month ago and while reading it, I was reminded of the summer vacations my family and I would take to my mom’s childhood house outside Enterprise, Oregon. My mom’s family raised sheep when she was growing up and have been in and out of the ranching business for generations, so there were many stories in My Mama Marie that reminded me of sitting around in my mom’s childhood home looking through old photographs, letters and books, while my older relatives told stories that we had all heard a million times and walking around the hills of rural Oregon that used to be my grandfather’s sheep’s grazing grounds. Both the book and the experiences I have with my mom’s family are a way of understanding people who have been gone for years, that we can only know through the memories of others and photographs and trinkets they left behind.
Family is a complex and defining part of life, often shaping the foundation for the way we live and view the world through the course of our lives. Errea in her book My Mama Marie shares her memories of growing up on the ranches of rural Nevada, focusing on her relationship with her mother, Marie Jeanne Goyhenetche.
Farmland near Enterprise, Oregon by Adam Vogt via Wikimedia Commons
Errea goes through the course of her mother’s life starting with her childhood in the French Pyrenees to her immigrating to the United States and starting a family with Errea’s father, Arnaud Paris, on the ranches of rural Nevada. My Mama Marie is full of stories of celebration, heartbreak, love and understanding. Though there are many stories of what it is like to live on a ranch and what it is like to live in rural Nevada, My Mama Marie is at its core a story about how a daughter begins to understand her mother, which I think is why in the end it is so relatable.
Currie, Nevada Depot by Mark Hufstetler via Wikimedia Commons