Category: Basque gender issues (page 1 of 7)

August 11, 1972: Birth of cyclist Joane Somarriba

Cycling is one of the most popular sports, both spectator and participation, in the Basque Country and one of its most successful and renowned  exponents is Joane Somarriba Arrola. Born in Gernika on August 11, 1972, she faced a tough start to her cycling career. While preparing to take part in the summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, she suffered complications from minor surgery, resulting in her missing the games and putting her budding career on hold. She fought back to fitness and was competing on the pro-circuit by the mid-1990s.

At the end of that decade she really hit her golden period, winning the Giro d’Italia (now known as the Giro Rosa), Italy’s premier road race, in 1999 and 2000, as well as the famed Tour de France in 2000, 2001, and 2003. Moreover, in 2003 she also won the World Time Trial Championship. She brought her illustrious career to a close in 2005 by winning the Trophée d’Or Féminin in France, one of the principal women’s stage races.

She was named best athlete of the year in Spain in 2003, and she was also honored with the Universal Basque Award in 2004, one of the most prestigious honors for Basque people, for her contributions to gender equality in Basque sports and for raising awareness of the Basque Country abroad.

If you’re interested in the topic of Basque sports, check out the CBS Press publication Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi, also available free to download here.

July 20, 1818: Birth of philanthropist Casilda Iturrizar

Some of you will have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to stroll through the Doña Casilda Park in Bilbao. But do you know after whom the park was named? Casilda Margarita de Iturrizar y Urquijo was one of he most important and influential women in the city in the nineteenth century, and it is her story we recount today.

Casilda Iturrizar (1818-1900). Image by Lole, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Casilda Iturrizar (1818-1900). Image by Lole, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although born into a family of reasonable economic means, following the bankruptcy, jail, and eventual death of her father in 1833, Casilda Iturrizar was obliged to find work and obtained a position as a servant in the household of one of Bilbao’s richest entrepreneurs and a co-founder of the historic Bank of Bilbao, Tomás José Joaquín de Epalza y Zubaran. Although married, Epalza eventually went through a lengthy divorce process, stretching from 1849 to 1857. In 1859, Casilda and Tomás were married. After his death in 1873, she started signing her name “Epalza’s widow” and, with the couple not having had any children, proceeded gradually to donate most of the incredible fortune she had inherited to worthy causes and cultural initiatives. She herself died in 1900.

 

Monument to Iturrizar in the Doña Casilda Park. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monument to Iturrizar in the Doña Casilda Park. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She funded the building of schools and a hospital, sponsored operatic societies and religious bodies, and created grants for deserving students from poor backgrounds as well as funding part of the original institution that would become the University of Deusto and being a major investor in the construction of the Arriaga Theater. And what is more, she also donated a significant piece of land in central Bilbao to the City Council, which ultimately became the park named in her honor that was opened in 1920.

Doña Casilda Park today. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Doña Casilda Park today. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Excluding maritime dedications, she is reputed to be the only person to have two public spaces named in her honor in Bilbao: the aforementioned park and  a street by the name of Epalza’s Widow.

July 15, 2003: Death of Luz Zalduegi, first woman veterinarian in the Basque Country

We try as much as possible here in our Flashback Friday post on the CBS blog to give a voice to overlooked figures in history. These are often women and they were invariably involved in day-to-day matters rather than major political events or wars or the like. That said, this is the essence of social history, and within the seemingly prosaic context, we have come across real treasures when it comes to individual life stories. Such is the case of Luz Zalduegi Gabilondo, born on the Osma baserri or farmstead in Mallabia, Bizkaia, on June 1, 1914.

Luz Zalduegi (1914-2003)

Luz Zalduegi (1914-2003)

Her parents encouraged all their children, two girls and two boys, to get a good education, and the family stuck together in their schooling. When the oldest of them, Miguel Félix, went to Madrid to study veterinary science in 1928, his siblings accompanied him. While both her other brother and sister ultimately decided on careers in education, Luz opted to follow in her eldest brother’s footsteps and train to be a vet (needless to say, in the 1930s this was a bold decision for a  young woman to make). She eventually graduated in 1935, only the third woman in the Spanish state to obtain the title of veterinarian, and the first Basque to do so.

As in so many of the stories we have covered here, the outbreak of the civil war in 1936 had a tremendous impact on her life. She returned to Mallabia, where she was in charge of food distribution in the town during the conflict until Franco’s troops ultimately invaded and occupied Bizkaia. She subsequently found work as a food inspector in both Bermeo (Bizkaia) and Eibar (Gipuzkoa). In 1940, she married a classmate from college, Leandro Carbonero Bravo, and the couple prepared to apply for veterinary positions in the Spanish protectorate of Morocco. However, while Leandro was accepted, she was turned down on account of her gender. The couple spent five years there, during which time she had two children and, in the event that Leandro was unavailable, carried out inspections in an unofficial capacity.

In 1945 the family moved to Madrid, where Luz found employment in the Institute of Animal Biology. In 1955, she moved to the Department of Agrarian Statistics in the Ministry of Agriculture, where she was president of the higher agrarian council between 1982 and 1984.  She never lost contact with the Basque Country and remained a qualified veterinarian in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa as well as in Madrid. The family, moreover, spent most of its summers at the ancestral baserri in Mallabia. She died on July 15, 2003.

In 1995 the Veterinarian’s Association of Gipuzkoa honored her officially and and in 2014 the town councils of Mallabia and neighboring Zaldibar carried out a public act in recognition of her work and contributions.

For more information, check out Uxune Martinez Mazaga, “Luz Zalduegi, veterinaria con convicción (1914-2003),” at the blog Mujeres con ciencia.

The CBS is committed to Basque women’s studies. If you are interested in this topic, check out Feminist Challenges in the Social Sciences: Gender Studies in the Basque Country, edited by  Mari Luz Esteban and Mila Amurrio, free to download here.

See, too, Amatxi, Amuma, Amona: Writings in Honor of Basque Women, edited by Linda White and Cameron Watson.

 

 

July 10, 1904: Birth of Ticiana Iturri, first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia and pioneer in women’s health issues

Anyone who studies women’s history invariably comes up against the wall of conventional tropes that underscore the significance of major public events in which, routinely, women have been excluded from the central narrative. When it comes to documenting and interpreting the lives of women in the past, then, one must frame the study within different sets of analytical parameters that emphasize an extra dimension that women have faced historically in stepping outside socially prescribed roles as wives, mothers, daughters, and so on. Ticiana Iturri Landajo, born in Portugalete, Bizkaia, on July 10, 1904, is one such example. Her story is, in many ways, modest, within the aforementioned terms of the “big” events in history; yet framed another way, her achievements and contributions to Basque society are inumerable.

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Iturri was born into a middle-class family in Portugalete, one of the significant industrial and maritime centers flanking Bilbao during the city’s spectacular economic boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the family moved to Seville when she was still very young on account of her father’s work, it retained close ties with Bizkaia, returning each summer to vacation there. After completing her medical studies in Madrid, she obtained an official post as a consultant doctor in Bizkaia. She was officially approved as member number 553 in the medical association of Bizkaia in 1932, the first woman member, and opened a clinic in Bilbao specializing in pediatrics, gynecology, and obstetrics.

As the first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia, she faced significant opposition and criticism from the more traditionalist members of her profession. In general, though, she was supported by the medical association and most of her peers. A noted feminist, through the 1930s she worked intensively on many women’s issues, and was especially active in defending the rights of single mothers. She also collaborated in the Basque nationalist women’s group, Emakume Abertzale Batza, through which she organized nursing classes. After the war, she worked in the School of Pediatrics in Bilbao, where she helped to improve hygiene measures, and in 1955 she obtained a position as a gynecologist in  the official social welfare system of her home province.

She dedicated the rest of her life to her work and the reproductive rights of women, especially single mothers. She died in 1969.

In recognition of her contribution to women’s health issues in Bizkaia, the medical association of Bizkaia named the classrooms on the fourth floor of its headquarters the “Iturri classrooms.”

June 23, 1944: Birth of Begoña Sopelana, pioneering aid worker

There is a long tradition in the Basque Country of international aid work.  Among the illustrious roll call of names through history that we could mention, today it’s time to remember the figure of Begoña Sopelana Basauri. Born in Iurreta, Bizkaia, on June 23, 1944, she studied education, graduating in 1962.

Begoña Sopelana

After working in an administrative capacity through the 1960s, in 1968 she took up a new challenge and spent two years in El Salvador on a volunteer program, teaching daycare techniques as well as working as a medical advisor. On her return to the Basque Country she went on to study sociology and in 1977 she returned to El Salvador, where she worked in the field of education for marginalized persons. It was there that she met, and worked with,  Archbishop Óscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 for speaking out against the injustices of the regime in his homeland.

She worked in the violent unstable atmosphere of El Salvador through the early 1980s, principally in the field of providing a basic education for the children of the economically impoverished and socially excluded. In 1987, she was central to the construction of Las Vueltas, a purpose-built community in which she organized classes to train people to become teachers. She was especially interested in empowering women in this regard as well as in promoting community projects.

In 1993 she returned to Iurreta on account  of her failing health. She died in her home town in 1999.

On November 14, 2012, Las Vueltas was declared a city with zero illiteracy. This was officially communicated as the “Begoña Sopelana” declaration.

In 2015, a monument was erected in her honor in Las Vueltas.

If you’re interested in the topic of international aid work and Basque involvement therein, check out the CBS publication Development Cooperation: Facing the Challenges of Global Change, edited by Koldo Unceta and Amaia Arrinda. The book is  available free to download here.

 

Zorionak to Dr. Kerri Lesh on successful PhD defense!

“If you can’t market in your own language, what you are communicating implicitly then is that Euskara is only worth something when used to market traditional, historic, old products… this is inadmissible, it tramples on the rights of any language that you want to revitalize” (Estitxu Garai, May 12, 2017).

On May 1 2019, CBS graduate student Kerri Lesh defended her PhD dissertation titled “Through the Language of Food: Creating Linguistic and Cultural Value through Basque (Euskara) Semiotics to Market Local Gastronomic Products.” Kerri’s work met with unanimous appraisal from her committee and the audience. Zorionak, Dr. Lesh!

Kerri’s dissertation committee consisted of Sandra Ott (Center for Basque Studies, UNR) and Jenanne Ferguson (Department of Anthropology, UNR) as co-chairs, as well as Ian Clayton (English Department, UNR), Agurtzane Elordui (University of the Basque Country), and Begoña Echevarria (University of California, Riverside).

Kerri spent a year conducting anthropological fieldwork in various locations of the Basque Country, including intensive language immersion at barnetegis (Basque-only language schools) in order to understand the interfaces of culture, language and gastronomy. Her basic research question was:

Amid ever increasing interest in Basque gastronomy, how can value (cultural, economic, social) be created when using the minoritized language, Euskara, to market gastronomic products in working toward language normalization?

In order to answer this basic question, Kerri conducted dozens of formal and informal interviews with actors in the sectors of gastronomy and language maintenance: Michelin-star chefs, gastronomic societies, milk, cider, Txakolina, Rioja Alavesa and beer producers, Basque professors and sociolinguists, NGOs and interest groups.

In her dissertation talk, Kerri discussed the commensality of Basque gastronomic societies or txokos, and their role for Basque culture and language maintenance against the backdrop of changing gender relations. She talked about the “battle of milk” between the producers Kaiku and Euskal Herria Esnea, and the role of products for social reproduction through language. The Basque sagardotegi or cider house is another gastro-space where Basque “authenticity” is produced and consumed. The audience learned the ways “txakoliscape,” as part of the Basque “semiofoodscape,” is a landscape of value, identity, experience, and political and social contestation.

Kerri concluded that further research should be done in order to learn more about what is valued and why, through food and wine products and commensality, in the Basque Country and beyond. She argued that further effort must be made for language maintenance, and tools related to product marketing may continue to be useful in the effort. Finally, she highlighted the antagonisms between authenticity and integrity versus the commodification of language and goods.

 

  

Below are some of the revealing quotes Dr. Lesh presented from actors involved with food, wine and language in the Basque Country. Once again, congratulations, Kerri, and thank you for sharing the results of what seems to have been an intoxicating fieldwork experience!

 

Kerri’s dissertation committee: Sandy Ott, Jenanne Ferguson, Joseba Zulaika and Ian Clayton. Others attended via video conference.

 “We want to demonstrate that we are committed to a civil activity, to the defense of the products. A defense of territory also exists…many times businessmen cannot compete with products that come from outside, often with poor salaries. When defending a local product, we are defending the local producer.” (Luis Mokoroa, Presidente de la Cofradía Vasca de Gastronomía de San Sebastián (President for the Basque Fraternity of Gastronomy of San Sebastian), Terrigastro, February 13, 2018).

“Internationally I am proud and don’t fear retaliation [for using Basque] …but within Spain, you have to be brave to use Basque on the label” (Itxaso Compañon, text message, Oct. 24, 2017).

 “The label is not important, what’s important is the essence and experience you give…it would be an error to lose the essence and think that you have to translate everything”“focusing on key words would be helpful if one wanted to use a language to market” (Agirre, November 24, 2017).

“The women, in the world of Txakolina back then, as well as in other activities, were limited to doing the manual work often, cleaning bottles, labeling them, selling the Txakolina, and dividing up the money…And now, there are a lot of women in the world of Txakolina, things continue evolving.” (Iratxe Zabala, email to author, August 30, 2018).

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 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 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.

February 9, 1918: Birth of raquetista Irene Ibaibarriaga

Arguably the most emblematic sport of the Basques is pelota in its many varieties, one of which, Jai-Alai, was especially popular in the United States at the close of the twentieth century. Another variety, played with tennis racquets by women, was also popular in the twentieth century, from the 1910s to the 1980s. One of the leading raquetistas of her generation, Irene Ibaibarriaga Ormaetxea, was born in Ermua, Bizkaia, on February 9, 1918.

She learned the sport in nearby Eibar, one of the strongholds of Basque pelota and at the age of fifteen she moved to Madrid, where her older sister Pili played professionally, to begin a career in the sport. She was offered a contract to play professionally in the Americas but turned down the opportunity and, despite her career suffering as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), she still managed to make a living from the sport, playing in tournaments in Valencia, Barcelona, and later Donostia, often playing doubles with her sister. Later in her career she suffered a serious injury when a ball damaged her ear. She subsequently retired from the sport.

In 2013, a special tribute was paid to her on the occasion of the 7th Women’s Pelota Day held in Irura, Gipuzkoa. Ibaibarriaga died in 2014 at the age of ninety-six.

Check out Olatz Gonzalez Abrisketa’s Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic.

Older posts