Month: February 2019

CBS Event: Literatura eta Musika with David Romtvedt

Do you have an interest in the Basque Diaspora and enjoy good music? If so, the CBS and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library is pleased to invite you to Literatura eta Musika featuring CBS author and accordionist David Romtvedt on March 11-12 at 4 p.m. in UNR’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center Rotunda.

David and Caitlin

On March 11, David will be reading from his book Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming. This book is a collection of personal essays written by and about the Basques of Buffalo. These stories illuminate the experiences of the Basques in Wyoming and tie into the broader theme of the Basque diaspora in the American West.

On March 12, David will be reading from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space. In this historical fiction piece, David explores the experiences of Zelestina, a 16 year-old Basque girl in northern Wyoming. Inspired by the real life experiences of two Basque women, the character of Zelestina departs from the stereotype of the Basque immigrant as a lonely sheepherder.

After each talk, David will perform on the accordion and will be accompanied by his daughter, Caitlin Belem Romtvedt, an accomplished musician who specializes in “Brazilian and Cuban music, and old-style swing, blues, and jazz”. After the lecture on March 12 only, Elko-based Basque accordionist Mercedes Mendive will join the duo.

Mercedes Mendive

Admission is free! We hope to see you there!

February 9, 1918: Birth of raquetista Irene Ibaibarriaga

Arguably the most emblematic sport of the Basques is pelota in its many varieties, one of which, Jai-Alai, was especially popular in the United States at the close of the twentieth century. Another variety, played with tennis racquets by women, was also popular in the twentieth century, from the 1910s to the 1980s. One of the leading raquetistas of her generation, Irene Ibaibarriaga Ormaetxea, was born in Ermua, Bizkaia, on February 9, 1918.

She learned the sport in nearby Eibar, one of the strongholds of Basque pelota and at the age of fifteen she moved to Madrid, where her older sister Pili played professionally, to begin a career in the sport. She was offered a contract to play professionally in the Americas but turned down the opportunity and, despite her career suffering as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), she still managed to make a living from the sport, playing in tournaments in Valencia, Barcelona, and later Donostia, often playing doubles with her sister. Later in her career she suffered a serious injury when a ball damaged her ear. She subsequently retired from the sport.

In 2013, a special tribute was paid to her on the occasion of the 7th Women’s Pelota Day held in Irura, Gipuzkoa. Ibaibarriaga died in 2014 at the age of ninety-six.

Check out Olatz Gonzalez Abrisketa’s Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic.

February 3, 1922: Birth of legendary tambourine player Felisa Arribalzaga

Before the advent of the modern recording industry live music reigned in the popular imagination of people in the Basque Country. One of the great “stars” of this age was Felisa Arribalzaga, born in Muxika, Bizkaia, on February 3, 1922. To say that she was just a panderojole (Basque tambourine player) is to do her a tremendous disservice because she was also an accomplished dancer, singer, and irrintzilari (a performer of the irrintzi, the Basque yell).

Although born in Muxika, on marrying her husband, Eduardo Egiarte, she moved to his home town of Amorebieta-Etxano (also known as Zornotza). The couple had met as teenagers on Mount Bizkargi, between Muxika and Amorebieta, while they were tending their respective flocks of sheep. Egiarte was an accordion player and the couple began performing in Bizkaia under the name the Zornotzako trikitilariak (Zornotza two-row diatonic accordionists). During the Franco years, they continued to perform their Basque music, often clandestinely as it was banned by the regime.

Arribalzaga died in her adopted home town on June 30, 2015.

She remains a great example of how music and dance in traditional Basque culture, according to CBS author Sabin Bikandi, form in many ways a single entity, given that it is impossible to truly understand one without the other.  See Sabin Bikandi, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Music in the Basque Country.

For anyone interested in practicing their Western Basque dialect, check out the following 1997 radio interview (with Spanish subtitles) with Egiarte and Arribalzaga:

Visiting scholar Iñaki Sagardoi Leuza discusses controversial Altsasu Case at CBS Lecture Series

Iñaki Sagardoi Leuza (Public University of Navarre) spent a month in Reno at the Center for Basque Studies to conduct research for his PhD dissertation in Sociology and Social Anthropology. In his lecture, he analyzed how seven years after ETA was dissolved, the paradigm of “Basque terrorism” is still present in Spanish political discourse. He presented a case study in which this discourse is invoked in the context of a 3 am bar fight in a small town in Navarre.

The bar fight that took place in Altsasu (Navarre) in the early hours of 15 October 2016 made news in practically all of Spain. Accordingto  the first news  of  the most  relevant  Spanish newspapers,  a  couple of of Spanish policemen (known as Civil Guards)  and  their partners had  been “attacked” by about 50 people linked to the Basque radical nationalist left. They basically featured the version of the Spanish Government delegation in Navarre, which also reported that two of the aggressors had been arrested. Pascale  Davies, journalist  for The  Guardian, subtitled  her story  about  the “Altsasu Case” as follows: “Spanish high court to rule on whether pub punch-up with off-duty police was drunken scuffle or terror attack” (The Guardian, April 14 2018). Less than a month later, following a complaint of “terrorism in connection  with a  hate  crime” by  COVITE or Basque Victims  of  Terrorism Association in the National Court, eight  people  were arrested on November 14, 2016. The trial began on 16 April 2018. The Public Prosecutor’s Office maintained its position and argued that the incident was   “low-intensity  terrorism,  heir to  the  terrorism that  attacked the Basque  Country and  Navarre,”  and that  the  young people  of  Altsasu were  “heirs  to a  political ideology.” This  conclusion was very  much in  line  with the  attestation  and the  reports  drawn up  by  the Civil Guard which, curiously, had been charged with investigating the aggression against two of its agents. Finally, the court rejected the accusations of terrorism, considering that  the terrorist purpose had not been proved. The maximum sentence  of 79  years  for crimes  of  “attacking”  authority agents,  “injuries,  public disorder  and threats” were issued.

Besides working on his dissertation, Iñaki found time to learn more about American culture and Reno. “My month in Reno has served me not only to get to know the city and its beautiful outskirts, but also to immerse myself in a university system remarkably different from ours. When landing in this steppe of neon lights, it is impossible to deny an initial culture shock. But once you overcome it, you feel that you begin to know something more about American culture. It has been surprising, too, to feel the warmth of this small Basque island on the other side of the ocean.”

 

                      

 

 

Basque Women’s Book Club

A group of four Basque women have created a Basque book club, starring the books The Center for Basque Studies Press. So far, they have read A Man Called Aita and My Mama Marie, each a collection of stories by Joan Errea about growing up in rural Nevada with her parents Marie Jeanne and Arnaud Paris, both immigrants from Euskal Herria. They have also read At Midnight by Javier Arzuaga, a memoir of a young Basque priest whose parish was in La Cabaña, the fortress where the accomplices of the disposed dictator who had not fled after the Cuban Revolution were held, and later executed between Feburary and May of 1959.

“Our book group was started by us wanting to read these particular books, and talking about them”, said Florence Frye, the head of the book club. Frye also said that they are deciding on a new book from the CBS Press soon. If you are interested in joining the book club or have any questions, please contact Florence Frye at: nevadalovestory@gmail.com, and look out for the press’s new releases for Spring 2019 at: https://basquebooks.com/.

                          

February 1, 1903: Birth of philosopher Maryse Choisy

The journalist, writer, and philosopher Maryse Choisy was born in Doinibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) on February 1, 1903. She was most renowned for founding a polemical response to surrealism: the suridealism movement.

Maryse Choisy (1903-1979).

Maryse Choisy (1903-1979).

Raised in the Basque Country by wealthy aunts, Choisy studied philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge in the aftermath of World War I. After a brief period of treatment by Sigmund Freud in the 1920s, she became a journalist  and began a prodigious publishing career that also included novels, poems, and essays. Most famously, she took up a position against surrealism, which, she thought, was based on a false interpretation of Freud’s concept of the unconscious. In turn, she published her “Suridealist Manifesto” in 1927. In 1946, she founded Psyché. Revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l’homme ( Psyche: International Review of Psychoanalysis and Human Sciences) and she subsequently established, together with  Father Leycester King of Oxford,  the Association Internationale de Psychothérapie et de Psychologie Catholique (International Association of Catholic Psychotherapy and Psychology). She was an especially important intellectual figure in interwar Paris and gained even wider renown after founding Psyché. She died in 1979.