Category: Basque Conservation (page 1 of 2)

Jon Bilbao Basque Library News

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library is experiencing an interesting period in its already long history. Since this time last year, the library’s staff has been working on a number of projects to better serve the Basques of North America, whether they are researchers or members of the public who are interested in Basque culture.

We are especially excited about the archival collections, composed of Basque-American family papers, research collections, and records of Basque clubs around the country. We are transferring all the information about these collections to a new management system that will greatly improve accessibility to them. Improving access to these materials will help researchers to better understand the historical development of the Basque-American community.

Helping to preserve the documentary heritage of the Basque Diaspora is one of our main goals. Are you in possession of any papers or documents relating to your Basque family? If this is the case, please consider using the Jon Bilbao Basque Library as a repository that will enable researchers and members of the community to learn more about your family’s Basque heritage. Please contact the Basque Librarian Iñaki Arrieta if you are interested in this opportunity (email: arrieta@unr.edu).

Photo credits: Jon Bilbao Basque Library

 

 

A rumination on Basque animal breeds

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Basque Latxa sheep. Photo by Iñaki LLM, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We received an interesting question recently asking if there were any native Basque breeds of sheep and pigs in the US, and that got us thinking at the Center. It strikes me that, in the great Basque-American narrative of the sheepherders who developed the American West, very little, to my knowledge at least, has ever been written about the animals themselves: in other words, what breeds were favored, and why.

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A red-headed Latxa ram. Photo by Markel Olano, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So I turned first, and most obviously, to Amerikanuak by Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao, the magnum opus of Basque-Americana. They reveal (p. 219) that, in the  1850s, “the degenerate quality of California sheep strains (the result of years of neglect during and after the secularization of the missions) supported the notion that California was not sheep country.” And although “California sheep were famed for their fecundity,” by the late 1850s, “sheep flocks were improved through importation of Australian stock and merino rams from Europe and the eastern United States. Once the breeds began to improve, it became obvious that in normal years sheep thrived in the California climate.”

It seems, then, that Merino sheep became an important part of the stock in the American West. As regards the Merino breed, though, this is not native to the Basque Country. Merinos most likely originated in North Africa before being introduced into the Iberian Peninsula in the 14th century, thereafter becoming the principal breed of Spain’s central meseta and, in time, being exported throughout Europe and beyond, including to Australia and the Americas.

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Churra ewes and lambs in the Spanish province of Segovia. Photo by Fernando García, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But could that original stock mentioned in Amerikanuak, which had so “degenerated” by the 1850s, have descended from the original Churra/Churro sheep introduced alongside Spanish imperial expansion?  Like the Merino, the Churra were associated with the dry central plains of Iberia, but in regard to the original question, they were and still are also herded in the Cuadrilla de Añana (Añanako kuadrilla in Basque), a district in southwestern Araba. We do know that these sheep were first imported into North America, via the aforementioned colonial expansion, in the 16th century. And that, through trade, they subsequently became an important part of the Navajo economy and culture. By the 20th century, however, Churra sheep felt out of favor–one presumes due to the preference for Merinos–and they all but died out in the US, except for recent efforts on the part of the Navajo to preserve the breed.

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Black-headed Manex sheep in Mendibe/Mendive, Lower Navarre. Photo by Harrieta171, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Otherwise, when it comes to other Basque breeds of sheep, I have been able to find no evidence of a US presence. The traditional sheepherding areas of the Far West, of course, are found in a landscape that lends itself more to Churra or Merino varieties, whereas the classic Basque sheep tend to be more mountain-dwelling breeds accustomed to wet, mild oceanic climates. These classic breeds include the Latxa/Lacha in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country and the Manex/Manech in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, both of which have black-headed and red-headed varieties. A slightly smaller relation of these breeds is the red-headed Sasi/Xaxi sheep (also known as “little” Manex or just “redhead”), which is able to survive in even harsher climes than its more well-known relatives.

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A Basco-béarnaise. Photo by Roland Darré, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If these are the so-called classic Basque breeds, there are others, which for want of a better expression we could term “borderland” breeds. These include the aforementioned Churra, which really originated much farther south than the Basque Country, but also the Basco-béarnaise in Iparralde and its relative, the Karrantza/Carranza breed (also found in black- and red-headed varieties), in Hegoalde.

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The Basque pig. Photo by Eponimm, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to all things porcine, there is a Basque breed par excellence, the Basque pig. In fact, in a previous post, we discussed how this breed had achieved the lofty AOC status in France. In researching for this post, I also came across a great article on the Baztan pig from Navarre, which unfortunately seems to have become extinct through crossbreeding with other varieties. For more detailed information on programs to preserve the Basque pig, download an article by M. Gómez Fernández on the breed here.

It goes without saying that if anyone out there does have more information on whether any Basque stock is being bred in the US, we’d love to hear from you.

And be sure to check out tomorrow’s post, on the Bilbao Mendi Film Festival, which will include among other things some beautiful images from a new documentary charting an attempt to recreate sheep transhumance in the Basque Country.

Note: Be sure to check out, too, the list of Basque breeds and cultivars here at Wikipedia. On a personal note, while my own outlook is admittedly quite ovine, our Basque Books Editor is a bovine enthusiast through and through. Not wanting to recreate the clashes between sheepherders and cattlemen of yesteryear, we coincide in a mutual admiration for goats; and I’d remind him that I did post on the native Basque cow, the Betizu, in a previous post here, as well as on Basque cattlemen here. I’m sure he remembers!

Note: Your Basque Books Editor does remember, of course, but he has spent way too much time on a horse behind a herd of fly ridden, stubborn, and dusty cattle to call himself a bovine “enthusiast”! Goats on the other hand …

 

Senegal TV network reports from Basque Country

The Senegal online TV network Diaspora 24 recently included a short report on Senegalese people residing in the Busturialdea region of Bizkaia. Senegalese make up the most important Sub-Saharan African community in the Basque Country, many first coming to fill positions in the Basque fishing industry and as a result settling in towns and villages along the Basque coastline. However, now the approximately 3,500 people of Senegalese origin reside throughout the country and have their own organization to help represent their interests: the Mboolo Elkar association.

As part of the report, carried out by Gernika-resident Fadima Faye, originally from Senegal, there was a visit to the Urdaibai Bird Center, “An International Airport for Birds,” as one of the emblematic sites of interest in the region. Interestingly, a migrating Osprey named “Cousteau,” which was tagged this year and left the center in September, has been located recently in its winter habitat along the Casamance River in Senegal.

See some pictures of the visit here:  http://www.birdcenter.org/en/news/news/643-2016-11-16-16-49-44

Green Basque Country

There was an interesting article in the Noticias de Álava newspaper recently about a woodland and lumber fair held in Amurrio, Araba, last Sunday. It included the piece of data that, in the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC, made up of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), there are 106 trees per person , with a woodland area covering 396,700 hectares, or 55% of the total terrain. It is estimated, moreover, that the lumber industry accounts for 12 billion euros annually. This all points to the lumber sector being an important part of the Basque economy.

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The Irati Forest, Navarre. Photo by Juanma juesas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In “The Landscape of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country: The Evolution of Forest Systems” by Lorena Peña and Ibone Amezaga, a chapter in Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia, the authors address in detail the complex issues surrounding land use in woodland areas in the Basque Country.

See the original article in Noticias de Álava (in Spanish) here: http://www.noticiasdealava.com/2016/10/24/araba/euskadi-un-total-de-106-arboles-por-habitante

September 11, 2008: Ekainberri replica cave site opens

 

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Exact replica paintings, based on the originals in Ekain, in Ekainberri. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On September 11, 2008, the Ekainberri replica cave site in Zestoa, Gipuzkoa, opened to the public for the first time. It is a replica of the Ekain cave in Deba, Gipuzkoa, which is included in UNESCO’s “Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain” World Heritage Site.

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Outside view of Ekainberri, from the museum website.

Ekain was discovered in 1969 by Rafael Rezabal and Andoni Albizuri, who on entering the cave came across intricate paintings–33 horses, 10 bison, 2 bears, 2 deer, 4 goats, and 2 fish as well as other nonfigurative marks–that would eventually be dated back to between 10,000 and 14,500 BCE. That same year, José Miguel de Barandiarán and Jesús Altuna began work on excavating the site, a task that lasted until 1975. Their findings were published in 1978 and updated in 1984. In short, they revealed one of the finest examples of cave paintings associated with the Magdalenian culture of the Upper Paleolithic period, on a level equal to that of the renowned paintings of Altamira and Lascaux.

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Exhibition hall in Ekainberri, from the museum website.

Given the obviously delicate nature of the original site it was impossible to allow full public access to these marvelous paintings. The various public authorities involved therefore decided to create a replica site, Ekainberri (“new Ekain”) as near as possible to the original, which would serve as a museum and information center about the people who inhabited these caves and the natural environment in which they lived. Although relatively new, Ekainberri has quickly become a landmark destination for visitors to the Basque Country.

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The actual replica of the Ekain cave in Ekainberri, from the museum website.

See the official Ekainberri site here.

The Basque Country is blessed with numerous cave sites. If you do get the chance to visit and are interested in these remarkable testaments to the remote human past, as well as Ekainberri be sure to set some time aside for a trip to the Cave of Zugarramurdi in Nafarroa and/or the Caves of Sara in Lapurdi.

If you’re interested in the topic, check out the Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, with an introduction by Jesús Altuna.

Our very own Joseba Zulaika, who grew up near Ekain, also talks about the cave and its resonance in Basque culture in his classic study, Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament.

 

 

Basque pig gets prized AOC status in France

Last week the revered appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), or “controlled designation of origin” status in France, was awarded to the Basque black pig breed, from which Kintoa pork (named after a valley in the Aldude area of Lower Navarre) comes. The decision marked a fifteen-year long struggle on the part of pig farmers in Iparralde to gain recognition for the quality of the pork associated with the Kintoa breed, pigs that are still raised on small-scale family farms.

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Basque pigs in Ureple, Aldude Valley, Lower Navarre. Photo by O. Morand, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1990s the Kintoa breeders’ association that has been lobbying for the designation since 2001 had less than a dozen members, a figure that rose to around 30 at the turn of the century, and now stands at around 80.  A Kintoa pork festival has already been planned for October 2017 in honor of this major recognition, and the award will enable producers to preserve the breed and market their pork more easily at the European level as well as ensuring a level of quality and control for consumers.

Read more on this (in French) in Sud-Ouest here and (in Basque) in Gara here.

For more information on the Basque pig, check out this introductory explanation here at the site of renowned breeder and butcher Pierre Oteiza.

Brown bear sighting near Garde in Nafarroa

There was a reported sighting of a rare brown bear near the village of Garde in the Erronkari/Roncal Valley of Nafarroa on August 6. Experts have confirmed it could be a male named Neré, born in 1997 to one of the Slovenian brown bears, Melba, introduced into the Central Pyrenees in 1996. This was part of a controlled program to repopulate the Pyrenees with Slovenian brown bears, genetically similar to the autochthonous but by then extinct Pyrenean bear (the last surviving wild bears in Western Europe). Neré has been recorded in this more western part of the Pyrenees since 2000.

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European brown bear. Photo by Francis C. Franklin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

That said, the presence of brown bears in the Western Pyrenees remains limited, with only two recorded sightings, that of Neré and another male named Canelito. Their numbers are stronger, however, in the Central Pyrenees at around forty. In Nafarroa these sightings have been recorded in the area around the villages Garde and Urzainki, and Mount Ezkaurre.

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Mount Ezkaurre, Nafarroa. Photo by ga, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As noted, the reintroduction of these bears has been part of a coordinated program on both sides of the Pyrenees among different public administrations. It is hoped that the program will encourage so-called green or nature tourism. Should the bears attack any livestock in the area the Government of Nafarroa will recompense local farmers for any losses incurred.

Read more on the brown bear in the Erronkari/Roncal Valley here.

Cutting-edge Basque technology to harness wave energy premiered

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World Wave Energy Resource Map. By Ingvald Straume. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a recent post we mentioned the fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking Mutriku Wave Energy Plant in Gipuzkoa and it would seem that the Basque Country is indeed at the forefront when it comes to harnessing the sustainable energy of the ocean.

Just today, the Basque company Navacel announced that it will produce a wave energy sensor device, sponsored by the Basque Country Energy Agency and designed by Oceantec Energy, which will be tested this Fall in the marine testing platform Bimep, located in Armintza-Lemoiz (Bizkaia).

The sensor will be made up of three steel plates in the shape of a buoy, with internal mechanical and electrical equipment capable of generating energy out of wave movement. The device will be 42 meters in length, 5 meters in diameter, and weigh some 80 tons. Two turbines located in the upper part of the device will generate the energy.

See a report on this new device (in Spanish) in the Basque daily Deia here.

Mutriku Wave Energy Plant celebrates fifth anniversary

Yesterday, July 18, the Mutriku Wave Energy Plant in Gipuzkoa, the world’s first breakwater wave power plant with a multiple turbine arrangement, run by the Basque Country Energy Agency, celebrated its fifth anniversary. The relatively scarce development of oceanic wave energy makes the Mutriku site a pioneer project at the global level.

The Mutriku Wave Energy Plant has just produced its first gigawatt of electricity from the breakwaters of the Mutriku harbor, enough to supply a hundred homes. But the plant is also also an experimental site, used to test out turbines and auxiliary equipment.

As regards the technical specifications, the plant itself is a hollow, trapezoidal structure with a submerged front opening and an opening at the top. The front opening is 3.20m high and four meters wide. Each of the 16 air chambers in the hollow structure houses a turbine weighing 1,200kg. The turbines are 2.83m high and four meters wide, and work with air. They do not, however, contain a gearbox, hydraulics, or pitching blades.The 16 turbines are connected to an 18.5kW turbo generator. A butterfly valve at the bottom of the generator enables isolation of the generator from the turbines whenever required. Any salts or impurities blocking the blades are removed by injecting fresh water. The plant is also installed with control and power conditioning equipment. The voltage of the current is stepped up using a transformer near the plant. Generated power is transferred through a transmission line.

For further and more detailed information on the project, see “Mutriku Wave Power Plant: From The Thinking Out to The Reality.”

If you’re interested in this topic, check out the Center publication Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia. This is a fascinating study of how global issues such as sustainability are addressed at the local scale, in this case in the Basque Country.

5,000-year-old Livestock Pens Found in Araba

117205_webA join research and exploration initiative between the University of Basque Country (UPV-EHU), the University of Barcelona, and the CSIC-National Research Council, led by UPV-EHU Professor of Prehistory Javier Fernández-Eraso, has discovered 5,000-year-old livestock pens in Araba.

The find demonstrates the use of rock-shelters as encloses for sheep and goats by agropastoral communities during the Chalcolothic period (also known as the Copper Age) in the Basque Country and across the northwestern Iberian Peninsula. The find also complements previous research conducted by the same team, which documented the presence of livestock enclosures dating back to the Neolithic Era, approximately 6,000 years ago.

arqueologia_700Ana Polo-Díaz, a researcher at the University of Basque Country’s Department of Geography, Prehistory, and Archeology added, “This is a piece of pioneering work in the studies on agropastoral communities on the Iberian Peninsula. We have evidence that the human groups that occupied San Cristóbal during the Chalcolithic used the shelter as a pen for goats and/or sheep and that this use, although repetitive throughout hundreds of years, was not ongoing but of a temporary nature linked to a seasonal exploitation of the rich natural resources available on the Sierra de Cantabria. We also know thanks to the microscopic study of the sediments that every now and again they used to burn the debris that had built up, probably to clean up the space that had been occupied and that this combustion process was carried out in line with some specific habits: they used to pile up the debris and on top of them pile up wood remains, perhaps to help to get the fire going before going on to burn the debris.”

See a report on the find here.

 

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