Month: September 2018 (page 1 of 2)

September 22, 1956: First ship to repatriate Basque refugees from Soviet Union sets sail

On September 22, 1956 a ship carrying refugees from the Spanish Civil War, principally from the Basque Country, set sail from the port of Odessa in the then Soviet Union, bound for Valencia. Many of the refugees had spent nearly twenty years in exile, and most had left as children.

We have posted previously on the plight of Basque refugee children fleeing the effects of the bloody civil war in the 1930s: on the anniversary of the famous 1937 evacuation from Santurtzi, Bizkaia, on the Basque Children of ’37 UK association, and on the tireless work of individuals like Dame Elizabeth Leah Manning to ensure these children found sanctuary from the horrors of war. Today, however, we remember an equally significant date: that moment, twenty years later, when some of those children, now adults, were allowed to return to the Basque Country, despite the dictatorship in Spain.

While many of the other Basque children exiled in countries like the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland had been allowed to return through the 1940s, those that had been evacuated to Stalin’s Soviet Union were regarded with the utmost suspicion by the Franco regime. Only Stalin’s death in 1953 and the gradual reincorporation of Spain into the international political fold allowed for a slight relaxing of relations between the two countries. This led, in turn, to an agreement on the part of the Franco regime to allow the exiles back, although as noted it was nearly twenty years since many of them had fled.

Despite being reunited with their families, after up to twenty years in exile, readapting to life back in the Basque Country was by no means straightforward for the refugees. For many of the “Russians,” as they were called, life in the Franco regime was hard, and they even ran into hostility and suspicion both on the part of the public authorities and the general public. Some even went back to the Soviet Union, which had in their opinion treated them better.

This date, then, serves to reinforce the tremendous impact of war, violence, and displacement on modern and contemporary Basque society.

If you are interested in the broader impact of conflict on modern Basque history, check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott (description and free download here); Basque Nationalism and Political Violence by Cameron Watson; Our Wars: Short Fiction on Basque Conflicts, edited by Mikel Ayerne Sudupe; Empire & Terror: Nationalism/Postnationalism in the New Millennium, edited by Begoña Aretxaga, Dennis Dworkin, Joseba Gabilondo, and Joseba Zulaika (description and free download here); and States of Terror, by Begoña Aretxaga.

Getting to Know Basque Books: A Man Called Aita

After reading My Mama Marie this summer, I decided recently to read Joan Errea’s other book in our collection, A Man Called Aita.


 
The book was a quick read, a collection of clever poems all about Joan Errea’s father Arnaud Paris and Errea’s experience growing up on the ranches of rural Nevada. Arnaud was a kind and gentle man who was a sharp contrast to Errea’s experience with her stern mother Marie. The poems are clever and playful, complimented by the fun illustrations at the beginning of every poem, including sketches of the Paris’s sheepdog “Queenie” and the pigs that had gotten into Aita’s stash of cider. It is definitely a worth-while book to check out, especially those who are fans of My Mama Marie .

 

Paul Laxalt Dead at 96

Paul Laxalt, born in Carson City, Nevada, on August 2, 1922, died on August 5, 2018 at the age of 96. Laxalt served as both the Governor of Nevada (1967-1971) and a United States Senator (1975-1987), and was involved in politics throughout his life, serving also as a chairman of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns and working with Reagan to clean up Lake Tahoe.

Laxalt went to college at Santa Clara University in California, then enlisted in the Army in World War II as a medic. Under the G.I. Bill, he went on to the University of Denver to earn his law degree. In 1950, Laxalt was elected Ormsby County’s (in northwestern Nevada, which contains Carson City) district attorney and served for one term. Laxalt was elected lieutenant governor in 1962.

10/6/1983 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Paul Laxalt Bob Michel Corrine Michel and Carol Laxalt watch the Performance by Oak Ridge Boys during the Barbecue for Members of Congress on the South Lawn by Reagan Presidential Library via Wikimedia Commons

10/6/1983 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Paul Laxalt, Bob Michel, Corrine Michel, and Carol Laxalt watch the Performance by Oak Ridge Boys during the Barbecue for Members of Congress on the South Lawn by Reagan Presidential Library via Wikimedia Commons

Laxalt was the brother of Robert Laxalt, who was the author of Sweet Promised Land, a groundbreaking novel for Basque culture in the United States, and the grandfather of Nevada’s Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt, who is now running for Governor of Nevada.

 

September 18, 1970: Political self-immolation by Joseba Elosegi

On September 18, 1970, the Basque nationalist activist Joseba Elosegi set fire to and threw himself in front of General Franco, the dictator of Spain, while he was attending an international pelota championship in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Joseba Elosegi (1915-1990).

Joseba Elosegi (1915-1990).

As a soldier in the Basque army in the civil war, he had witnessed the bombing of Durango on March 31, 1937, and was present in Gernika during its infamous bombardment on April 26 that same year. He was ultimately captured and sentenced to death but his was life was spared when he was exchanged for a pro-Franco prisoner being held by the pro-Republic forces. He subsequently went into exile in France, from where he took part in the anti-Franco resistance movement, as well as aiding the Allies in getting airmen whose planes had been shot down across the border from occupied France into neutral Spain. On July 18, 1946, he was involved in one of the most daring acts of civil disobedience against the Franco regime. That day marked the tenth anniversary of Franco’s military uprising and a group of activists hoisted the banned Basque flag, the ikurriña, atop the Buen Pastor Cathedral in Donostia-San Sebastián. He was detained by the police and served some jail time before returning to exile.

In September 1970, the fifty-four-year-old Elosegi carried out an act of self-immolation in protest at the horrors of the Franco regime.  In the words of Cameron J. Watson, in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence (pp. 161-62):

Elosegi, a witness to the destruction of Gernika, in an act of self-immolation,set his own body on fire and threw himself before the dictator, shouting “Gora Euskadi Askatuta!” [Long live the free Basque Country!] He survived, however, and later recalled that the incident represented the last desperate act of a former gudari [Basque soldier] who had obsessively remembered the scenes he saw in Gernika for over thirty years before feeling the compulsion to repeat in his protest the flames he had witnessed in the town that day. “Death does not frighten me,” he later wrote . . .  “it is an obligatory end. When one is born, the journey toward death has begun.” In throwing himself before Franco, he had “symbolically wanted to convey to him the fire of Gernika,” for its destruction, a Holocaust-like offering to the technological advances of Nazi Germany, represented for many Basques an attack on their very existence.

He almost died as a result of the act and spent several days in a critical condition. He survived, only to be condemned to seven years in prison, of which he served three. After Franco’s death, he served as an elected representative in the Spanish Senate for both the EAJ-PNV and later EA, two Basque nationalist parties, between 1979 and 1989. In June 1984, in one final act of civil disobedience, he removed physically a Basque flag from an exhibition in Madrid titled “Flags of the Republican side during the war of liberation,” and was spared legal action against him on account of his position in the Senate.

He died at the age of seventy-four in 1990.

Dr. Sandra Ott’s Living with the Enemy Featured on Historias Podcast

Dr. Sandra Ott

Dr. Sandra Ott

Dr. Sandra Ott, a professor here at The Center for Basque Studies, was a guest on the most recent episode of Historias, a podcast about Spanish history hosted by Foster Chamberlin, who holds a PhD from University of California, San Diego in modern European history. This episode of Historias is about the subject of Nazi occupation in the Basque Country during World War II, Ott talks about her book Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948which was published by Cambridge University in 2017 and how the German occupation in the 1940s affected the Basque people’s way of life.  The conversation between Chamberlin and Ott is full of stories about oppression, daring resistance, and everything from political conflict to how the occupation affected family relations. It is truly a fascinating episode. To check out the episode click the following link: https://bit.ly/2D5IpDH

Getting to Know Basque Books: Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors

Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors by Maite Gonzalez Esnal is a beautifully written book about the life experiences of Esnal, all under the three themes; her journeys as an adult linguist, the fruits she associates with her school days (figs and pomegranates) and the neighbors of her childhood home growing up in the Basque country during Franco’s dictatorship. 

Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors  is one of my favorites of the books we publish here at the Center for Basque Studies Press for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it is written so well, at times it feels as though you are reading poetry, you can see how red the pomegranate juice is, you can smell the coffee the Good Samaritan gives her. There are quotes that cut deeply and explain emotion and memory in a way only fantastic writing can. I was talking to the editor here, Daniel Montero, last week about how the author not only wrote this novel, but did her own translations from Basque to English, and I was amazed. To be this gifted at writing, not only in your native language but to be able to translate it into another language and have such beautiful, almost surreal imagery translate, was an unimaginable talent to me.

Maite Gonzalez Esnal; to read more about the publication of Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors, click here: https://bit.ly/2M03wXc

Maite Gonzalez Esnal; to read more about the publication of Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors, click here: https://bit.ly/2M03wXc

This novel, aside from the beauty of it, is also an incredibly interesting story, my favorite being the “neighbors” section of it. It is so heart-breaking, yet innocent, since Esnal wrote it from her experiences as a child, she hints towards tragedy in a way that makes it even more devastating than if she had blatantly said it. Despite the tragedy in the last section, there is a comforting glimmer of hope at the end of the book. The other sections are also great, the “journeys” section being a incredibly detailed travel journal and the “fruits” section being a bit more of a short story collection. It is hard to put this book in a box, which makes it even better. From anyone who liked Eat, Pray, Love to The Book Thief, this book has something for anyone.

September 8, 1749: Birth of Dominique-Joseph Garat, early advocate of Basque political unity

On September 8, 1749, Dominique-Joseph Garat was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. An important political figure in the Northern Basque Country, he drew up plans, which he presented to Napoleon, to unite all the Basque provinces in one political unit–New Phoenicia–that would have remained an autonomous part of the French Empire. Napoleon, however, rejected the idea.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After studying law in Bordeaux, in 1777 Garat moved to Paris where he worked as a journalist (covering the American Revolution) and teacher. In 1789, he was elected representative of the Third Estate for Lapurdi and in 1792 he was appointed the minister of justice in Revolutionary France, charged with communicating to King Louis XVI his death sentence. Garat resigned after this decision and was arrested twice by the Jacobin authorities. However, following the Jacobin fall from power, from 1794 to 1795 he led the commission charged with implementing the new educational system and in 1798 was named French ambassador to Naples. That same year, he was elected president of the Council of Elders (the upper house of the French Directory) and later became a senator in Napoleonic France.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As a senior statesman, Garat subsequently used his political influence to present a plan to Napoleon to create what he termed New Phoenicia, incorporating all the Basque provinces north and south of the Pyrenees. This would, in Garat’s scheme, be an autonomous political unit within the French Empire, and serve as a buffer state between the French Republic and the Kingdom  of Spain. He lobbied to implement his plan on several occasions between 1803 and 1811, but ultimately to no avail. In part, wider events–including the course of the Peninsular War of 1807-1814 (covered in a previous post here)–hindered the feasibility of the scheme.  After opposing Napoleon during the events associated with the arrival of Louis XVIII on the French throne and Napoleon’s subsequent (although brief) return to power in 1814–15, he retired from his post in the senate. He abandoned politics altogether and settled once more in Iparralde, where, in Basusarri, on December 9, 1833, he died.

Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga discusses the importance of Garat at length in his The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.  According to Ahedo (p. 53):

Garat is a key figure in the political history of Iparralde for his role after the abolition of the Basque institutions with the triumph of the French Revolution. Furthermore, he is also important for the plans he drew up to unite the Basque provinces of both Iparralde and Hegoalde in one political unity: New Phoenicia, a confederation that would have formed a part of the Napoleonic French empire.

 

Diaspora Day

The very first Diaspora Day was held last Saturday, September 8th, a date designated by the Basque government because the date coincides with the first global circumnavigation in 1522 by Juan Sebastian Elkano and his crew.

People posing by Basque monument in Reno, Nevada  People gathering around

The day focuses on the Basque diaspora and different Basque organizations and communities would each find a way to celebrate. The idea is to bring more attention and celebrate the Basque diaspora. The Reno diaspora decided to do a walk from the Basque Sheepherder Monument to the Sheepherder Exhibit. To learn more about Diaspora Day and how it came into being, check out the blog post by Kate Camino on the new holiday: https://bit.ly/2CH80Tn.

Photo of Basque monument by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Photos by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Edurne Arrives Back to Bilbao and the Basque Country

Puerto Viejo, Algorta

Aupa everyone! I thought I’d check in and tell you about my adventures in the Basque Country while conducting my fieldwork for my dissertation. It’s good to be back! As some of you may know, I spent six years here before hopping across the pond again to Reno. My initial trip was for six months and, well, I guess I liked it a bit too much and got interested in Basque history and culture, leading me to complete my M.A. at the UPV/EHU and then two years at the same institution beginning my Ph.D. studies. So, I’m definitely acquainted with the place which makes my research explorations all the more easier.

I arrived mid-July and didn’t have much time to relax since I attended the 56th Annual International Americanists Congress at the University of Salamanca. There, I not only presented but spent time with my co-director, Óscar Álvarez Gila. We participated in different symposia but got a chance to catch up and talk about my plans. As usual, he motivated me and pushed me toward new directions. When it came to the symposium, I took part in “The Visible and Invisible: A Theoretical and Methodological Approach to the Unheard, Unspoken and Unseen in Gender Studies,” alongside sociologists and psychologists studying contemporary manifestations of gender studies. At first, after reading the schedule, I was hesitant: what was I, a historian focusing on the turn of the century and migration, doing on this panel? However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were a small group, so after presenting, we spent two hours chatting and discussing our work. The feedback I received was fantastic! Sometimes you get so into Basque studies (e.g. everything I see is Basque in some way or related in the most far-off way, I’m annoying like that…) you forget to widen your perspective. In all, it was a great way to start off my fieldwork and made contacts for the future.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Next up, I visited a part of Gipuzkoa I’d never been to: Bergara, Antzuola, Zumarraga, and Legazpi. Spending time with an old friend of my mom, she and her brother told me about the connections they and others had with the States, especially Boise. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Arantzazu. Beautiful and bewitching, I marveled at the architecture and views of the valley below. While on that trip, I embarked on a quest for a ceramic txakoli pitcher and cups for my dad. I ended up getting them made in Ollerias, where Blanka Gómez de Segura learned the fading technique from the last potter of the area. She has set up a museum and shop and gladly showed me around. Definitely worth visiting! I ended up buying a katilu of my own and had to resist myself in the shop.

Arantzazu

I’ve also visited Lekunberri (Nafarroa) a few times for various reasons. First of all, it’s cooler (in the sense of temperature) and there’s wonderful cheese everywhere (I’m a cheese addict). But from an academic standpoint, I’ve been put in contact with former sheepherders who have found a home there. Antonio, a neighbor, told me all about his experience in Fresno over a period of 40 years. I look forward to talking to him more in depth. I also became aware of a collection of letters preserved in Elantxobe from a sheepherder in Boise to his sister. The niece, Edurne (!), is willing to let me look through them and talk to me about her family and uncle. Besides, there will be lunch involved so two birds with one stone.

All work, no play…

Sheep! mmm…cheese!

Lastly, I attended the Artzai Eguna (Day of the Sheepherder) in Uharte-Arakil on August 26. Although I regret not taking advantage of my time very well while there (too busy trying cheese and cider), I got to see how cheese is made and specimens of the Latxa breed of sheep. The market was bustling, so my usual strategy of asking older men wearing baseball caps whether they’d been to the West didn’t seem appropriate (although it usually works).

Cheesemaking

Latxa Sheep

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I also wanted to mention that I finally met my colleague on the blog, Katu, in person for the first time. It’s crazy to think you’ve worked with someone for so long, exchanged countless emails, talked on skype for hours, yet never been in the same room. Luckily, we’ll be working together on a project dealing with Basque rock music in the 80s, so there’s more to come.

I’ll be updating you, our loyal readers, throughout my stay. Leave a comment if you have any questions, tips, or suggestions for my fieldwork. Ondo izan.

September 7, 1826: Birth of Armand David, first Westerner to “discover” the giant panda

On September 7, 1826, Jean-Pierre-Armand David Halsouet was born in Ezpeleta, Lapurdi. A renowned zoologist and botanist, Père David, as he was also known, was the first person in the West to record the existence of the giant panda, among other species.

Armand David (1826-1900). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Armand David (1826-1900). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Born into a wealthy and influential family, from an early age he demonstrated an interest in the natural world. He also felt a religious calling and was ordained as a Lazarist priest, but was also able to continue studying the natural sciences at a Lazarist seminary near Genoa in Italy. Indeed, he spent a decade there before being chosen to go on a mission to China in 1862. He was chosen at the request of the eminent scientist Henri Milne-Edwards, then chair of zoology at the prestigious National Museum of Natural History in Paris, to help in the creation of an inventory of what were then relatively unknown Chinese flora and fauna; while at the same time carrying out missionary duties in the country.

Once in China, he reveled in the opportunity to carry out his assigned task and was commissioned to make more scientific journeys throughout the vast country. Ultimately, he made an inventory of hundreds of species of animals and plants, many of them unknown to the West. Most famously, he brought news back of the giant panda, the first European to do so; and the milu or elaphure, a rare species of deer, was named Père David’s deer in his honor.

Plaque in honor of Armand David, Ezpeleta, Lapurdi. Image by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Plaque in honor of Armand David, Ezpeleta, Lapurdi. Image by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He died in Paris in 1900 at the age of seventy-four, a recognized world authority in the study of the natural sciences.

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