Author: katu (page 1 of 47)

May 13, 1757: Birth of writer and dramatist Rita de Barrenechea

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment found its expression in the Basque Country primarily in the Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del País (Royal Basque Society of Friends of the Country). This was a multifaceted body whose members came from the privileged classes and it sought to encourage the scientific, cultural, and economic development of the Basque Country along the new liberal Enlightenment values. One figure that benefited from the encouragement of this group was María Rita Nicolasa de Barrenechea y Morante de la Madrid , who was born in Bilbao on May 13, 1757. 

Portrait of María Rita de Barrenechea (1757–1795) by Francisco Goya. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait of María Rita de Barrenechea (1757–1795) by Francisco Goya. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1775 she married Juan de Sahagún de la Mata Linares, the Count of Carpio, and the couple settled in Barcelona, later moving to Madrid. Their homes became salons for Enlightened debate and she took up writing. Her two best known works are both comedies: Catalin, a one-act play that charts the difficulties a young couple from the rural hinterland outside Portugalete, Bizkaia, have in getting married.  Interestingly, the work includes a traditional song in Basque; and La aya (The governess), a rumination on how children should be raised and educated.

Barrenechea died in Madrid in 1795.

Cameron Watson discusses the impact of the Enlightenment in the Basque Country in Modern Basque History.

 

May 8, 2010: Volcanic ash from Iceland leads to closure of all Basque airports

The eruption on March 27, 2010. Photo by Boaworm. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The eruption on March 27, 2010. Photo by Boaworm. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In late March 2010 the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted, throwing volcanic ash into the atmosphere that subsequently scattered all over Europe. This led, on May 8, to the unusual and unique closing of all the main Basque airports: in Biarritz, Loiu (BIlbao), Hondarribia (Donostia-San Sebastián), Noian (Pamplona-Iruñea), and Foronda (Vitoria-Gasteiz).

April 27, 1435: First group of Romani people arrive in Basque Country

Arrival of Romani group in Bern, Switzerland, 1485. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Arrival of Romani group in Bern, Switzerland, 1485. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Romani (colloquially known as Roma or Gypsies) have been a long established presence in the Basque Country and even developed their own distinct tongue, Erromintxela, which is a mixed language that incorporates most of its vocabulary from Kalderash Romani and its grammar from Basque. The first documented presence of the Romani in the Basque Country dates from April 27, 1435 when a group of fifty people passed through Olite, Navarre, on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The group was led by “Thomas, the Count of Lower Egypt,” and received a donation from Blanche I, Queen of Navarre.

Document signed by Miguel García de Barasoain, secretary to Queen Blanche I of Navarre, detailing the donation, 1435. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Document signed by Miguel García de Barasoain, secretary to Queen Blanche I of Navarre, detailing the donation, 1435. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

April 24, 1898: Birth of Fidela Bernat, the last native-born speaker of Eastern Navarrese Basque dialect

The fortunes of the Basque language have historically paralleled those of the Basque Country itself, with high points and low points, triumphs and defeats. Fidela Bernat Aragüés would ultimately be the last native-born speaker of what Koldo Zuazo (see below) classifies as Eastern Navarrese Basque, the Basque spoken in the Erronkari and Zaraitzu Valleys of Navarre.

Fidela Bernat and her husband Pedro Ederra.

Fidela Bernat and her husband Pedro Ederra.

She was born in Uztarroze, in the Erronkari Valley, on April 24, 1898 and married Pedro Ederra Lorea in 1925. The couple went on to have six children. Herv husband died in 1988, and she passed away on February 23, 1991, at the age of ninety-three, the last native speaker of Eastern Navarrese.

Eastern navarrese was one of the more distinct dialects. According to expert Zuazo, “The Basque forms in Erronkari and in Zaraitzu have been grouped together. Those two valleys used to be influenced from both the north and the south, but for a long time now their main source of influence has been Navarre, to the south. However, they retained their own special character and did not become completely assimilated into the other areas of Navarre and, because of that, I decided to call this dialect ‘Eastern Navarrese’ Basque.”

Check out Koldo Zuazo, The Dialects of Basque.

 

April 13, 1965: Death of Matilde Huici

The devastation wrought by the Civil War in Spain in the 1930s and beyond led to countless individual stories of exile and the forging of new lives on the other side of the Atlantic, where, as you will all be aware, Basques of the diaspora made significant contributions to their new host countries. One such story concerns Matilde Huici Navaz.

Matilde Huici (1890-1965). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Matilde Huici (1890-1965). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Born into a middle-class liberal family in Pamplona-Iruñea  on August 3, 1890, she obtained a teaching certificate at age seventeen and entered into the world of education taking up a position initially in Donostia-San Sebastián. She later relocated to Madrid where she worked in the Residencia de Señoritas, the first official center in Spain established to promote university education for women as well as co-founding  the Association of Spanish University Women in 1928. She also studied for a law degree in the 1920s.

During the time of Spain’s Second Republic in the 1930s she joined the Spanish Socialist Party together with her husband and through that decade became involved in various educational and legal initiatives of the republic.  This culminated in her appointment as  Spain’s delegate to the Commission for the Protection of Children and Youth at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1935. Following the victory of Franco in 1939, she emigrated to Chile, where she established the School for the Education of Children of the University of Chile, which she directed between 1944 and 1962.

Matilde Huici died on April 13, 1965, aged seventy-four.

April 7, 2011: Korrika kicks off in…. Burgos?

Street sign in Basque and Spanish in Trebiñu-Treviño, Burgos. Picture by Assar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Street sign in Basque and Spanish in Trebiñu-Treviño, Burgos. Picture by Assar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I hope everyone has gotten their running shoes on because we’re coming to the exciting finale of Korrika 21 right now in the Basque Country. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, check out our posts on Korrika, in 2015, in 2017, and even the 2017 edition in Reno. But did you know that, on April 7, 2011 Korrika 17 started Trebiñu-Treviño, an enclave of Burgos entirely surrounded by Araba? While many people in this enclave would like to become a formal part of the Basque Country, to date it remains officially part of the province of Burgos in the autonomous community of Castile and Leon. To the best of our knowledge, then, this is the only time Korrika has started (or indeed finished) outside of Euskal Herria. Now there’s a good fact to impress your friends with the next time you play Basque trivia!

April 2, 1984: Death of Bilbao poet Angela Figuera

The so-called rootless poetry was a genre of lyric poetry that, insofar as it was able to during the Franco dictatorship in Spain, attempted the counteract the more classical version of lyric poetry that received the official support of the regime. One of the principal exponents of this poetry was a Basque, Angela Figuera Aymerich.

Born in Bilbao in 1902, she was a brilliant student who managed, against the social conventions of the time and despite spending much of her childhood raising her siblings on account of her mother’s poor health, to earn a university degree and, by the early 1930s, she qualified to become a public high school teacher. After marrying in 1933 she relocated to Madrid, but following the Spanish Civil War, on which her sympathies were on the losing side, she was stripped of her job and degree. Despite the repression suffered by her family, she managed to develop an incipient career as a writer.Simultaneously, in the 1950s she began working in mobile libraries that served the peripheral neighborhoods of Madrid.  She published sporadically and much of her work was aimed, where possible given conditions of censorship, against the Franco regime, from a feminist, existentialist, and social conscience perspective. During this time, she developed especially close relationships with fellow Basques writing social poetry in Spanish, Gabriel Celaya and Blas de Otero, together with who  she formed was termed the so-called Basque postwar triumvirate. Following Franco’s death in 1975, she was critical of the flaws she saw in the transition to democracy in Spain.

After a short illness, she died on April 2, 1984. In English, see Jo Evans, Moving Reflections: Gender, Faith and Aesthetics in the Work of Angela Figuera Aymerich (London: Tamesis, 1996).

March 24, 1980: Death of Pierre Etchebaster, greatest real tennis player in history

If you haven’t heard of real tennis or court tennis, then check it out . Not only is it the forerunner of modern or “lawn” tennis, but it has a long and important history. Evolving out of hand ball games not unlike the Basques’ very own pelota, it was the sport of the royal houses of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the famous 1789 Tennis Court Oath in the French Revolution was taken in a real tennis court. And real tennis reputedly has the longest line of consecutive word champions in any sport, dating back to 1760.

Pierre Etchebaster in 1928, wearing his customary txapela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Pierre Etchebaster in 1928, wearing his customary txapela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Arguably the greatest real tennis player of all time, at least in the modern age, was a Basque, Pierre Etchebaster. Born in Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) on the coast of Lapurdi, in 1893, he naturally grew up playing several of the different types of pelota. Aged eighteen, he was already champion of France in the chistera/xistera variety, the equivalent of what we know today as jai alai or zesta punta. After serving in the French army in World War I he returned to the Basque Country where he continued to excel at pelota.

In 1922 he took up real tennis and became head professional at the Paris court club after auditioning for the post the first time he picked up a racquet! In 1928, already in this thirties, he won his first world championship, wearing his customary blue txapela or beret as a sign of his strong Basque identity. This began a remarkable run of world championship victories, winning his last title in 1954 aged sixty years old! In the meantime, he also spent the 1930s in the United States, where he was a resident professional at the prestigious Racquet and Tennis Club in New York City, where he resided until his retirement in the 1950s.

An excellent athlete, he enjoyed a full and active retirement. He was awarded France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor, in 1955, and went on to publish a coaching manual about the game in 1971. In 1978 he was inducted into the tennis hall of fame. Etchebaster died in the town of his birth, Donibane Lohizune, aged eighty-seven.

Check out this fascinating article on Etcebaster by the New Yorker in 1953.

See also the fascinating book by Olatz González Abrisketa, Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic.

March 21, 1941: Birth of composer Sara Soto

Most of you reading this will be aware of the importance of music in Basque culture and we could quite easily dedicate an entire blog to Basque music alone. Today’s Flashback Friday story concerns an interesting figure in the world of Basque music that is sometimes overlooked in studies of the topic. Sara Soto Gabiola was born in Gorliz, Bizkaia, on March 21, 1941, although her family moved to Irun, Gipuzkoa, when she was very young.

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

She suffered from a muscular illness as a child, which limited her ability to move around easily, and she found an escape from the physical limitation imposed on her by developing a keen appreciation for the arts: she drew and painted and was an avid reader. But in was in music that she found her true métier. Although she did undertakle some formal studies of harmony, she was largeñy self-taught.

Her first compositions, influenced strongly by the Basque artistic collective Ez Dok Amairu and in particular Lourdes Iriondo and Xabier Lete (with whom she established a lasting friendship), she started composing songs for accompaniment by the guitar. Lete wrote the lyrics for several of her compositions, including the popular “Kanta Kanta,” recorded by Maria Ostiz in the late 1960s, and Iriondo recorded her song “Maitasun honek zugan dirudi” in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s the renowned sculptor, artist, and all-round Basque renaissance figure Nestor Basterretxea commissioned her to compose an accompanying soundtrack for what would become arguably his most famous work, the Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series), today housed in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.  The result was the choral work “Karraxis,” based on verses by Basterretxea, which premiered in 1979 in Donostia-San Sebastián with the Ametsa Choir from Irun and some members of the Orfeón Donostiarra choir as well. In the mid-1980s she worked with Basterretxea again to create the “Cripta,” a piece for the organ inspired by the artist’s murals for the crypt in the Sanctuary of Arantzazu.  Although these were her best known works, she composed many more choral and organ pieces and left a profound mark on Basque music. She died in Irun in June 1999.

March 9, 1980: First Basque autonomous parliamentary elections following death of Franco

Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although a Basque parliament was envisaged as part of the 1936 Statute of Autonomy, the outbreak of the civil war meat that it never materialized as such. With Franco’s victory in the war and the dictatorship that followed, it was not until after his death in 1975 that a new statute was passed in 1979, leading to the holding of the first Basque autonomous parliamentary elections in the modern era, on March 9, 1980. This led to the first legislature of the parliament, between 1980 and 1984.

The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today the Basque parliament–Eusko Legebiltzarra in Basque–serves as the main legislative body of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, made up of three provinces in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.  It is made up of seventy-five representatives (twenty-five from each province, despite the significant differences in population size among them)

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