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.
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:
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.”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, and look out for the press’s new releases for Spring 2019 at: https://basquebooks.com/.
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).
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.