Author: Iker Saitua (page 2 of 4)

Flashback Friday: Keep Walking

On October 9, 1988, Nafarroa Oinez (“Navarre Walking”), the annual festival in favor of the Basque language and supporting Ikastolak (Basque-language primary and secondary education schools), was held in the town of Lesaka (Navarre). This annual celebration was first held in 1981, intending to both foster the Basque language and raise money for the improvement of Basque language teaching schools or the establishment of new ones in Navarre. In 1988, the “Tantirumairu” school in Lesaka organized this event under the following slogan: Euskarari Eutsi, Euskaraz Hezi (“Hold Onto Basque, Be Raised in Basque”). At the event, they raised enough money to build a new teaching facility. Next year, in 1989, the same event was held in Etxarri-Aranatz. As in Navarre, other Basque provinces organized parallel events with the same purpose: in Bizkaia, Ibilaldia (“Walk”); in Gipuzkoa, Kilometroak (“Kilometers”); in Araba, Araba Euskaraz (“Araba in Basque”); and, in the Northern Basque Country, Herri Urrats (“A People’s Step”). These festivities are still celebrated today.


The 1988 “Navarre Walking” logo sticker

The CBS publication Equality, Equity, and Diversity: Educational Solutions in the Basque Country addresses in part the ikastola phenomenon. Download a free copy here.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.


Flashback Friday: Blacklisted

On October 2, 1576, Boniface Lasse, a judge in Lapurdi in the Northern Basque Country, ordered the execution of a woman from the town of Uztaritze, Marie de Chorropique, who was prosecuted for witchcraft. In particular, Chorropique was accused of committing infanticide and using children’s bodies to prepare magical potions. The judge condemned her to be hanged and burned. Besides Chorropique, another forty Basque women were accused of witchcraft and burned to death too. Thirty four years later, in 1610, the case of those Basque women went to trial and a new judge validated and reaffirmed the decision of the previous judge. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Protestant and Catholic churches alike hunted and persecuted alleged witches, who were accused of serving the Antichrist.

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Engraving of two witches preparing a potion

Check out Begoña Echeverria’s historical novel The Hammer of Witches, which will immerse you into early seventeenth-century problems, religious and spiritual issues, and court procedures concerning witchcraft in the Basque Country.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: Privileged Fleets

On September 25, 1728, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” (La Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas) was established in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. An early eighteenth century Spanish reform had established a system by which the government issued royal licenses for the establishment of commerce companies endowing them privileged positions in colonial trade. This system followed the Dutch, English, and French models, by which the government granted some companies permission to be the sole merchants and have monopoly rights on certain trading routes between the American colonies and the Old World. In this way, moreover, the chartered companies became important mainstays of the Spanish empire and its military rule in America. Thus, those privileged fleets were allowed not only to consolidate their positions in transatlantic markets, but they played an even larger role in Spanish foreign relations abroad. Following its Basque predecessor’s steps–the“Company of Honduras” established by Diego de Murga in 1714–the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” was created with the intention of establishing a shareholding company between Venezuela and the Old World. In 1742, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” obtained the monopoly of trade to Venezuela. Through the establishment of this and other commercial companies, Basque merchants took an active role in the Atlantic trade of different kind of products in the West Indies during the eighteenth century.

The Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas logo

The Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas logo


The Royal Gipuzkoan Company’s business headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, in the 1940s

Check out Gloria Pilar Totoricaguena’s book Basque Diaspora: Migration and Transnational Identity, which will give you the whole picture of this and other stories about the Basque presence overseas (available free to download here). On the eighteenth century, see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (2003).

For further discussion on Basque emigration, see: José Manuel Azcona Pastor’s Possible Paradises: Basque Emigration to Latin America (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004); and William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao, Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1975).

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: Strike!

On September 18, 1911, early in the morning, a major strike started in the streets of Bilbao (Bizkaia). At the beginning of September, Basque steelworkers from big factories, like the “Great Furnaces of Biscay” (Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, S.A.), had gone out on strike against the poor working conditions and the central government position, because it supported the big corporations’ coercive mechanisms against workers. In previous years, the labor situation had dramatically deteriorated in Bilbao and the whole Bizkaian mining area. Governmental authorities reacted with full force against workers, violating the strikers’ civil rights. Eventually, the fighting in the streets of those Basque industrial centers grew in intensity and spread to other regions, followed by the events of September 18. On this day, labor conflicts in the Basque steel industry reached their highest point when other labor organizations in Spain joined in the fight against the government-sponsored corporatism. The general strike was a symptom of the growing influence of labor unions in the major industrial centers, such as the city of Bilbao and the surroundings. Furthermore, it showed the strength of the organized labor’s commitment to strategies of resistance against the excesses of big capitalist corporations. The decades between 1890 and 1910 witnessed the expansion of a unionized industrial workforce and labor organizations in the Basque Country.


Strikers preparing barricades to meet the police

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Police officers cordoned off the center of Bilbao (Bizkaia)

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: The Triple Alliance

On September 11, 1923, the so-called Triple Alliance was formed between Basque, Catalan, and Galician nationalists when they signed an agreement in the city of Barcelona (Catalonia). Signed on the same date commemorating the fall of Barcelona to Spanish Bourbon forces in 1714 under the reign of Felipe V (which then became the national day of Catalonia), the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians agreed on a goal of the liberation of the three historical territories and demanded of the Spanish government their full rights as sovereign nations. However, Spanish unionists and conservatives reacted harshly to this nationalist movement. Two days later, on September 13, military officer Miguel Primo de Rivera carried out a coup d’état and imposed a dictatorship in Spain that lasted until 1930, when he resigned his position.


The emblem of the alliance between the Basques, Galicians, and Catalans

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.


Flashback Friday: A Red Winter’s Night

On September 4, 1991, the Basque rock band Negu Gorriak (“Red Winters”) gave a surprise concert at the main young people’s squat –or Gaztetxea– in Bilbao (Bizkaia). Negu Gorriak was a Basque rock band formed in Gipuzkoa, in 1990. Band members included: Fermin Muguruza, lead singer; Iñigo Muguruza, guitar; Kaki Arkarazo, guitar; Mikel Kazalis, on bass; and Mikel Abrego, on drums. They merged together rock, punk, hip hop, and reggae music. In June 1991, the band released its second album entitled Gure Jarrera (“Our Attitude”), to popular aclaim. Negu Gorriak is considered one of the most influential rock bands in the Basque Country. The band dissolved in 1996.

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Promotional portrait of Negu Gorriak, 1991. From left, Mikel Kazalis, Kaki Arkarazo, Mikel Abrego, Fermin Muguruza, and Iñigo Muguruza

negu gorriak

From left, Iñigo Muguruza, Kaki Arkarazo, and Fermin Muguruza of Negu Gorriak

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day

Flashback Friday: No Escape

On August 28, 1937, Joseba Elosegi (1915-1990), a captain in the Basque Army, and other Basque soldiers –-or gudariak–- were imprisoned in the Francoist camp of Castro Urdiales, in Cantabria (Spain). After the war ended in the Basque Country in the victory of Francisco Franco’s army, a considerable body of Basque nationalist troops escaped westward to Cantabria. On August 24, 1937, they were arrested there in Santoña by the Italian Fascist division, the Black Arrows, which was aiding Franco’s army. The Basque Army surrendered to the Italian militia and they signed an agreement, commonly known as the Pact of Santoña. Among other things, the agreement would have allowed all the Basque authorities in Cantabria at that time to leave Spain. Thereafter, however, when Franco received word of this pact, he dismissed the agreement and ordered the immediate imprisonment of the Basques. These Basque prisoners were then moved to El Dueso prison in Santoña.


El Dueso prison in the 1940s

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Related reading

War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, is a collection of articles that examine the impact of war, occupation, and exile on ordinary Europeans in the conflicts that engulfed the continent between 1936 and 1946. Many of these articles focus especially on the Basque experience during this tumultuous decade. The book is also available free to download here.

The events described in the post are also discussed in detail in Cameron Watson’s Basque Nationalism and Political Violence: The Ideological and Intellectual Origins of ETA.

Flashback Friday: The Desolation of Bilbao

On August 21, 1808, early in the morning, Jose de Mazarredo y Salazar (1745-1812), a Basque naval commander, arrived at the city of Bilbao (Bizkaia). Immediately after his arrival, he wrote a letter to the French general Antoine Christophe Merlin, in which he asked diplomatically to move the foreign military forces away from the city. Some days earlier, on August 16, the French army had occupied Bilbao, plundering and pillaging the local population, in response to a Basque military rebellion against Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule. Mazarredo was profoundly affected by what the French occupiers did to his place of birth and its people. Finally, on September 19, the French troops were expelled from the city of Bilbao. Months before this event, Napoleon aimed to make his brother, Jose, King of Spain, after the aspirants to the crown, both Carlos IV and his son Fernando VII, had renounced royalty in favor of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon’s incursion into the Iberian Peninsula, as part of his desire to realize his expansionist ambition all over Europe, initiated another international war that lasted until 1814.


Portrait of Jose de Mazarredo y Salazar (1745-1812)

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day

Flashback Friday: Uncovered

On August 14, 1931, at the onset of the Spanish Second Republic (1931-1939), Justo de Echeguren (1884-1937), Basque priest, was arrested in Irun (Gipuzkoa), when he proceeded to cross the border and meet his fellow Bishop of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Mateo Mújica Urrestarazu (1870-1968). Some months earlier, on May 17, Múgica was exiled in Angelu (Lapurdi), in the Northern Basque Country, because his opposition against the constitution of the Spanish Republic, which had defended the separation of the Church from the State. The Republican authorities seized from Echeguren some documents whose content revealed the intentions of the Catholic Church to alienate its properties to the uses of the new Republican State. Following this incident, on August 20, the central government prohibited by executive order the right to alienate ecclesiastical property. During the Second Republic, the religious question became an acute source of division, which stirred a strong opposition among the right wing circles, including these Basque clergymen.


Portrait of Mateo Mújica Urrestarazu (1870-1968)

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Cover page of “La Traca” Almanac for 1932

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day


Flashback Friday: Born To Make History

On August 7, 1592, Arnaut Oihenart, Basque historian and poet, was born in Maule (Zuberoa), in the Northern Basque Country. His father, Arnaut, was the King’s attorney in the province and his mother, Jeanne d’Echart, daughter of a notary public. The young Arnaut studied law at the University of Bordeaux (France) to graduate in 1612. Oihenart would come to prominence as one of the first non-ecclesiastical Basque writers. His main historiographical work, written in Latin, is titled Notitia utriusque Vasconiae tum Ibericae tum Aquitanicae (News of the two Vasconias, both in Iberia and Aquitaine), which was first published in 1638 in Paris. In this history of “Vasconia,” Oihenart pointed out Basque constitutional origins in Navarre. It provided a legal legitimacy of the Basque Country being constitutionally rooted in the Kingdom of Navarre, by explaining the historical development of medieval law. It gave a unitary meaning to the Basque history, encompassing both sides of the border. This achievement alone makes Oihenart’s work fundamental to the comprehension of the history of the Basque Country. 


Notitia utriusque Vasconiae cover page


View of Maule (Zuberoa) in the early Twentieth Century

To read a selection from Notitia utriusque Vasconiae translated into English, as well as commentary on Oihenart’s life and work, see Juan Madariaga Orbea’s Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day


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