Joan Antonio Mogel (Also spelled Moguel, 1745-1804) was a priest and writer, and the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, the full title of which–El Doctor Peru Abarca catedrático de la lengua vascongada en la universidad de Basarte o Diálogos entre un rústico solitario bascongado y un barbero callejero llamado Maisu Juan–is typically shortened to Peru Abarka. Although written by the turn of the century, it was not published until 1881.
Born in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, he was ordained in 1770 and appointed the parish priest in nearby Markina, Bizkaia. During his time in Markina, however, he was accused of improper behavior with a young woman and was obliged to declare before a trial of the Inquisition on August 22, 1777 in Logroño. Following the inquiry, he was charged with improper conduct and although the prosecutor called for a prison sentence, he was instead sent to a retreat in Milagro where he began to write in earnest.
Mogel’s work, with representative texts, is discussed (pp. 391-401) in Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language, edited by Juan Madariaga Orbea.
Herri kirolak–traditional sports–are one of the defining features of Basque culture. Many of these sports developed out of everyday chores like chopping wood or lifting heavy objects. Neighbors would then challenge each other to informal feats of strength and/or stamina and out of these challenges, the custom of betting on the outcome developed. Nowadays these challenges take place in organized settings, typically during local fiestas for example, and involve formal, regulated competitions.
Check out the following short video from Iparralde that explains in brief form a gathering of competitors in various Basque sports in the town of Donapaleu (Saint-Palais) in Lower Navarre.
The Center has published books on several aspects of sports in Basque culture. See, for example, Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, and Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.
Whatever the level of interest you may have in the Basque Country, whether professional or scholarly or more informal or personal, there are several online resources that offer a wealth of statistical information to facilitate a better understanding of the basic structure of Basque society.
Gaindegia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing social and economic information about the whole Basque Country, Euskal Herria. Likewise, Atlasa, a related initiative, seeks to collate and present this same information in map form.
The Basque Statistical Office, Eustat, meanwhile, serves as a key source of information about the Basque Autonomous Community as does its counterpart in Navarre, (Na)stat.
If you’re interested in this kind of information, be sure to check out Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Gómez Uranga (free to download here) and Basque Society: Institutions and Contemporary Life by Gabriel Gatti, Ignacio Irazuzta, and Iñaki Martínez de Albeniz (free to download here).
On the evening of August 12, 1912, as they were accustomed to doing every day, the fishermen of several ports along the Bizkaian coast set out in small 40-50 feet boats to fish in the waters close to their homes. This was a form of coastal rather than deep-sea fishing, a typical Basque practice and one intimately linked to the traditional culture of Basque fishing communities as a whole. It had been a mild day with a warming southerly wind, but all of a sudden, as the evening drifted into night, there was a dramatic change, and a cold northerly wind came in from an area of low pressure in the far North Atlantic, around Iceland: an unprecedented phenomenon for that time of year. The air temperature fell dramatically, and the sea became increasingly more squally.
At the time a number of these boats were approximately 45-50 miles off of the Bizkaian coast. This would have been just about the moment they were thinking of returning to port with their evening catch, but instead they got caught up in the storm, which carried on ferociously all night and into the morning of August 13. The boats could not cope with such appalling conditions and many sank.
On shore, people realized that their loved ones and neighbors were in danger, and an appeal was made to send out rescue launches, but between the terrible conditions at sea and the time it was taking to alert the authorities in Bilbao, help was not immediately forthcoming.
In total, there were 143 recorded deaths, most of them fishermen from Bermeo, but including others from Lekeitio, Elantxobe, and Ondarroa. A memorial service was held for all the dead on August 23 in Bermeo, to which King Alfonso XIII also came.
The tragedy marked a watershed moment in fishing practices and techniques in the Bay of Biscay.
Check out the following two-part video about the tragedy, recreating life in fishing communities at the time (in Basque):
There’s an interesting report in today’s Naiz.eus (the online edition of Basque daily Gara) about plans on the part of the Basque Wikimedians User Group, the EU Euskal Wikilarien Kultura Elkartea, to consolidate the rather creditable position (for a small language like Basque) of being ranked 31st among the different Wikipedias for the number of articles published (for something of the history of Wikimedia in Basque see a previous post here).
The point is made that the moment has come to make a qualitative leap forward in the content being posted, and with this in mind collaboration agreements have been reached and discussions held with both Basque public institutions and the university sector. In the words of member Galder Gonzalez, who was recently in Montreal to attend Wikimania, “whenever we Basques go abroad we’re the exotic people, as in the very active community with that romantic minority language.” In the world of small languages, though, the Basque Wikimedians User Group has become a reference point, providing advice and assistance to other user groups in Scots Gaelic, Asturian, and Welsh, to name but a few.
As regards the challenges ahead, though, one major flaw stands out: despite making up half the world’s population, women only account for 15% of Wikipedia articles. And the Basque-language Wikipedia is now actively committed to overcoming this shortfall. With this in mind, the Wikiemakumeak project has been drawn up to increase the number of biographies about women in Basque. For project member Amaia Astobiza Uriarte, “We’ve created a lot of biographies about women recently but in my opinion, more than a question of increasing the numbers or figures, it’s more important to circulate those biographies in social networks, educational circles, the media, and any other places we can, because that’s the only real way for women to gain visibility.”
See the full report in Naiz (in Basque) here.
Historical memory–the recovering of previously forgotten (consciously or otherwise) events from the past–is a prevailing topic in contemporary Basque and Spanish society, especially in regard to the civil war of 1936-1939, which left a legacy of actively forgetting about crimes perpetrated against the “losers” of that war.
Excavation of common grave site in Dicastillo (Deikaztelu), Navarre
These reprisals were especially brutal in Navarre, and in an effort to regain this memory, the Foral Government of Navarre commissioned a firm to draw up a map of all know common graves (sites in which people killed during the civil war were unceremoniously buried, in many cases without their relatives’ knowledge). The discovery of these sites, and the closure such investigations brings to family members, is an important feature of the emphasis on regaining historical memory. An up-to-date map has just been released showing the sites of various common graves and classified according to those that have been excavated, those that have been initially explored, those that are yet to be excavated, and other potential sites of interest.
The updated map contains information on 22 newly discovered common graves, more information on 38 already studied sites, data on 21 newly identified victims of the Francoist repression, and information on the location of a further 49 bodies.
Check out the map of these sites here.
For more information on this initiative on the part of the Foral Government of Navarre (in Spanish) click here.
War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, examines the wider impact on society of the momentous events that took place within such a short space of time in and around the Basque Country in the 1930s and 1940s. This work seeks to fully explore the effect of war and displacement on ordinary people.
Rioja wine from Araba. Picture by Agne27, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Our resident wine expert, CBS grad student Kerri Lesh, has posted previously (see her posts here and here) on the debate in Araba wine circles over whether to create a new and distinct classification of the wine produced in this Basque province outside the Rioja label under which it is currently categorized. The latest news in this regard is that a tentative agreement has been reached between the Rioja Regulating Council and ABRA (the association representing some 40 Araba winemakers seeking a distinct classification) whereby the latter will forgo its pursuit of a distinct label in return for a new labeling policy that will, theoretically and within two years, list the respective sub-division of the wines produced in the Rioja region (Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, or Rioja Baja) equally in size on the labels (a key part of the demands from certain Araba producers) to the traditional Rioja brand mark. In theory, then, from the 2017 harvest onward, bottles of Rioja originating in Araba will be clearly labeled as such in a font equal to the generic Rioja label, thus allowing consumers to choose clearly from which sub-division of the Rioja producing area they prefer to purchase their wine.
On August 7, 1357 the people of Faltzes (Falces) in Navarre rose up en masse in protest against the retinue of Prince Luis, governor of the Kingdom of Navarre during the reign of Charles II–known as le Mauvais, the Bad.
Faltzes-Falces today. Photo by Ibon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The peasant uprising or matxinada (on which see a previous post here) was the result of Charles II raising taxes in Faltzes in order to finance the battles he was waging in France during the Hundred Years’ War. When the people of Faltzes refused to pay the increased taxes, Charles sent his brother Louis to the area, but on arriving he came across an angry response and fled in fear of his life.
Some of the people involved in the resistance subsequently fled Faltzes, fearful of reprisals by Charles, southward to the Kingdom of Castile. Charles subsequently ordered the destruction of the town’s crops and property, and eight of nineteen people arrested were condemned to death by hanging.
In September that same year, however, Charles offered a general pardon and those individuals that had fled the area returned home.
Charles II having the leaders of the Jacquerie executed by beheading. Illustration from the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, BL Royal MS. 20 C vii, f. 134v, made after 1380. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Interestingly, Charles II is known more widely for his harsh repression of another peasant uprising, the Jaquerie just outside Paris, one year later.