Category: Basque economy (page 1 of 4)

February 10, 1925: Collapse of emblematic Basque bank Crédito de la Unión Minera

On February 10, 1925, one of the most well-known Basque banks, Crédito de la Unión Minera (Mining Union Credit)–an early Bilbao banking institution founded in the spring of 1901–suspended all payments as a prelude its collapse as a result of the financial downturn in the 1920s. Curiously, the full liquidation of its assets would drag on a further seventy-five years, culminating at the dawn of the new millennium.

Crédito de la Unión Minera was established in 1901 on the back of both significant growth in Bilbao itself (as a consequence of the strong mining export market) and the inflow of capital from former colonies following the fall of the Spanish empire. As its name indicated, this particular bank was associated closely to the mining sector on Bizkaia. Thereafter, the “Crédito” managed to retain its independence, in the wake of a series of fusions among other Bilbao banking interests, thanks to a successful aggressive commercial policy that saw its share price soar on the Bilbao stock market. This initial success was bolstered during World War I (1914-1918) with Spanish neutrality in the conflict benefiting the important Basque banking sector.

With the end of the war, however, and the economic downturn in the 1920s, those banks that had been especially speculative or adventurous were suddenly in trouble.  Specifically, as a result of over speculation, the Crédito was suffering from a lack of cash flow and on February 10, 1925, it suspended all payments prior to its official collapse.

Interestingly, it was still possible to cash in on the remaining assets of the bank right up until late 2001!

For more on this fascinating story, check out a great article by Eduardo J. Alonso Olea, “El Crédito de la Unión Minera: 1901-2002,” in Historia Contemporánea 24 (2002): 323-53. Available here.

Kerri Lesh interviewed by Basque newspaper Berria


PC to Monika del Valle

This past month, in between traveling from Bilbo to Donostia for the II. Sagardo Forum – Sagardoaren Lurraldea, I was interviewed by Lander Muñagorri Garmendia from the Basque newspaper Berria  about my dissertation project.  As I am constantly improving my Basque-speaking skills, we switched back and forth between Spanish and Euskara over a beer at a local bar while I described my project and findings over the last year as a doctoral student.

Here is a translated portion of the interview from Basque paper:


How did you come to start researching about the use of Basque on labels?

I am a [Teaching Assistant] teacher at the Nevada School of Basque Studies, and I have a small obsession with txakoli: I really like it. I study sociolinguistics, and they told me why I did not connect the two areas. In Northern Europe there is a group [of researchers/scholars] that investigates minority languages and labeling, and from there I started researching. I started with txakoli, and I continued with labels of Rioja Alavesa wine, milk,  craft beers….

Which products are used more in Basque?

Milk, and then cider. And it is  interesting what language is used to export outside the Basque Country, there is a lot of Basque. It is true that it is difficult to make different labels and each with their own destination. [In the case of wine, for example, which is why so many producers make a label focusing on the languages used by the majority, such as English or Spanish].


You have studied the languages chosen on beverage labels. Did you have to try a lot of wine and txakoli?

Yes, a lot. I think that I have chosen a good subject (laughter). I went to several cider houses and txakoli bodegas to study local products, and to consumers as well. For example, I carried out interviews in the txokos [gastronomic societies] of Bilbao, where they serve Rioja wine. Many people know and ask for local products, but most just ask for any Rioja wine, and not specifically from Rioja Alavesa.  It was interesting to observe that.

Does the geographic area affect [language use on labels]?

Yes, I think that in the Northern Basque Country they use a lot of symbols and it’s more folkloric. But this difference is still to be investigated, what people consume and how this language is utilized. As for the difference in the marketing of the Southern and Northern Basque Country, I think that there is a different way of living a language. I am now seeing and starting to understand how people that speak a minority language live. I previously did not understand [how this affected daily life], and from an anthropological point of view I think it’s important to see how this affects many people and causes frustration.


It was so great to hear from so many of you after reading the article-thank you all for the love, support, and opportunity to continue learning…





Kerri Lesh presents a panel on Basque “terroir” for the American Anthropological Association

Before heading across the better half of the continental USA, I had a chance to reintegrate with a little action in Washington DC just a couple of weeks ago. I was nervous and excited to chair, present, and  co-organized, alongside Anne Lally, the panel “Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter” at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting. My panel was titled “The sociolinguistic economy of terroir: constructing and marketing identity in the Basque Country”. In this paper I discussed how the concept of terroir was directly and indirectly translated into Basque within various gastronomic contexts. The result was to show how this multi-faceted concept of terroir provides a lens for looking at which components become most salient to Basques in the process, and what that in turn shows about the values portrayed in social, linguistic, and gastronomic production.

It was an amazing opportunity as I was luckily enough to secure Amy Trubek, one of my academic idols and author of “Taste of Place;  A Cultural Journey into Terroir”. It was well attended with questions to follow that provide further food for thought. Afterward, it was everyone to the bar for a round of drinks, which was my favorite part-not because I love wine, but because it is at these AAA meetings that I feel I have found my academic family. Cheers, and stay tuned to see what becomes of the panel! Rumor has it, it’s not over yet…

The Academy of Urbanism names Bilbao as the 2018 Best European City

Earlier this month, the Academy of Urbanism named Bilbao the 2018 European City of the Year. The other finalists were Ljubljana and Vienna, but Bilbao won the coveted position. Two years ago, another Basque city, Donostia-San Sebastian, was also recognized by the academy. As a Bilbotarra, I’m not surprised, we’ve known Bilbao is the best city in the world for a long time.

Th chair of the Academy, David Rudlin, described the city as follows:


Bilbao is a great example of the wholesale transformation of a former industrial city – not just physically, but socially, economically and culturally. The rejuvenation it has achieved over the past 30 years is nothing short of remarkable. All of this has been achieved through bold and effective leadership, the likes of which has seen the city run debt-free since 2010.

To read more, visit the About Basque Country website as follows:

Grad Student News: Horohito Norhatan

Horohito Norhatan is a graduate student at the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno. Throughout his research, he has had the opportunity to investigate the impact of the cooperative business model on poverty eradication and job creation in the Basque region.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, he taught PSC 211, “Introduction to Comparative Politics.” He plans to teach courses including International Relations, Basque Political Systems, and Basque Cooperativism during the upcoming academic year.

During his tenure as a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno, Horohito has taken deliberate action to perfect his research by submitting academic papers and participating in academic conferences pertaining to his research topic. He has participated in several CLAGS (College of Liberal Arts Graduate Symposium) on economic development and cooperation. As a concrete accumulation of his research experience, he has also submitted several manuscripts to major scholarly journals including Economic and Industrial Democracy, the Community Development Journal, Economy Society, the Journal of Co-operative Organization and Management, and the Journal of Comparative Economics.

The Basque Country might be benefited from economic opportunities following the Brexit

                 The hysteria and hype of Brexit (The British Exit from the E.U.) might not be over yet. Every region in the world from Tokyo to Brussels has expressed their concerns regarding the doomsday scenarios of such an epic divorce between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). However, like anything else in the world, a bleak situation might offer a glimmer of light that brings the unthinkable opportunity into reality. Following the aftermath of a financial crisis in 2008, many Basque scientists left their homes to find work in the UK. Close to a decade later, these capable scientists have produced major patents and have contributed to the advancement of technology in a foreign land far from home. With Brexit, the pendulum swings back again and this time around it swings to the Basque side. Many of the Basque scientists will find the UK less favorable for the progression of their careers following Brexit, as Theresa May’s Government declines to secure the working permits of highly-skilled migrants once the UK leaves the EU. Such a momentum is a great opportunity for the Basque country to lure their capable scientist home after Brexit.

The regional government of the Basque Country has dispatched Ivan Jimenez, the head of Bizkaia Talent to win over Basque engineers and scientists and bring them home by alluring them with comfortable salaries and generous research funding.  Several headhunter apps have been established to recruit Basque scientists in the UK and arrange job interviews with tech firms in the Basque Country. These experienced scientists will bring their patents and technological advancements to  Basque firms. Thus, it will cement and potentially enhance the Basque Country’s position as a leading-edge producer of science and technology-related products and services. This strategy will also help ease some of the brain drain challenges that the region’s financial hub, Bilbao, has endured due to a dire shortage of high-skilled laborers. The decision to attract Basque scientists to come back home is actually perceived as a good opportunity by the many talented Basque men and women in the UK. The UK based companies where they currently work might soon lose their privileged access to the European market which affects companies’ ability to pay workers high salaries and provide them with bright career paths. Therefore, fulfilling their civic duty at home is not a bad choice after all.

For further reading please visit:\


How the Basque Country provides intriguing solutions to some of the world’s thorniest challenges


The Democratic Party’s Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took inspiration from Denmark when he proposed a 60 percent income tax increase in exchange for public services. However, American voters apparently did not welcome a candidate who wanted to increase taxes. Had Mr. Sanders taken inspiration from the Basque Autonomous Government instead of northern Europe, he may have had a better chance of gaining support from American voters.

The Basque Country, with a total population of 2.2 million, is the richest and most advanced economic region in Spain. According to an article by Sami Mahroum in the National, “it is among Europe’s top 20 percent of regions in wealth.”It also has the highest percentage of employment for medium to high-tech manufacturers in Europe. Many regard the Basque Country as a robust competitor to the advanced manufacturing regions in Germany. However, the greatest achievement of the Basque Country is how it has overcome local terrorism, globalization, and leadership challenges rather smoothly compared to both the Spanish state and the European Union.

Mr. Sanders could have also learned from the Basque Cooperative economic model. 60 years ago, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta formed the Mondragon federation of cooperatives. Today, Mondragon is Spain’s largest cooperative group, providing employment for more than 75,000 people and contributing 12 percent of the region’s GDP. Mondragon owns subsidiaries in 125 countries around the world. The Mondragon cooperative model is unique, as it has a cap on the CEO’s salary, limiting it to six times the lowest salary offered at the cooperative. Employees put aside 6.5 percent of their earnings toward a foresighted fund as a part of their pensions and contingencies.

The Basque Country’s unique cooperative model provides an inspiration in innovation for the world’s poverty and inequality issues. This model echoes the sentiments of American voters well, who are dissatisfied with globalization, rambling capitalism, big government, and high taxes. The Mondragon model serves as a mutual-capitalism or democratic capitalism model rather than the “invisible hand.”

For further reading:

The Basque Country in Statistics

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).


Basque Economic Agreement Explained

Check out the following video, part of the Bizkaia Talent initiative and featuring Pedro Luis Uriarte (President of the Bargaining Commission of the Economic agreement from the Basque Government side in 1980), which explains succinctly the very special fiscal system that exists in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country.

If you are interested in this topic, check out Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization, by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

See, too, The Basque Fiscal System Contrasted to Nevada and Catalonia: In the Time of Major Crises, edited by Joseba Aguirreazkuenaga and Xabier Irujo.

Interview with Mikel Amuriza, visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia

After a three-month research stay, we’ve decided to interview Mikel Amuriza, a visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia. He has been quite the presence around the CBS and we will miss him dearly.

Mikel Amuriza Fernandez was born in Bilbao in 1978 and studied “Ciencias Actuariales y Financieras” (like Business but more specialized in insurance) at the University of the Basque Country. He currently works at the Biscay Deputation, in the tax inspection department.

1)    What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? How long will you be here?

The Biscay Deputation and the CBS have an agreement for cooperation and to promote the Basque Economic Agreement, so I got the opportunity to spend three months here.

2)    What is the goal of your project?

The main goal of my project is to analyze the American tax system to compare it with the Basque Country tax system.

3)    What makes your research unique?

 It is unique, at least for me, because there isn’t a comparative model of the two systems. It is also a great opportunity to experience this Basque Center, learn a little bit about Basque culture and history in the United States, experience American culture, and, of course, to work on the article on this subject.

4)    What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I have learned a lot about American society,  culture, and its economic system. And I also have learned about the Basque diaspora and its history.

5) Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way?

In many ways: The library’s resources, the incredible people at the CBS, tools to work efficiently like a computer, office, the internet, etc., they have all helped me in my research stay. Also, related to my job, the Nevada Tax office, lawyers, and UNR professors have also aided me tremendously.

But the most important help has been from the people at the center.

6)    Are you enjoying the U.S.?

It has been an amazing experience, so if I can, I will come back, of course! 

7)    What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

My family and my young son Martin.

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