Category: Basque history (page 1 of 28)

July 14, 1970: Death of popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano

On July 14, 1970, the popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano died in Paris. Although born in Hegolade, the Southern Basque Country, he became an idol of stage and screen in post-World War II France, where he was one of the biggest stars of operetta. Four months before his death in 1970, already ill for some time with what could have been an untreated case of hepatitis, he wrote: “I was born in a wonderful country that is called the Basque Country.” And his popularity both north and south of the Pyrenees in the country of his birth resounds to this day among many people.

Luis Mariano (1914-1970). Image by Karta24. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mariano Eusebio González y García was born in Irun, Gipuzkoa, on August 13, 1914. On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, together with his parents, he fled north of the border. Settling initially in Baiona, Lapurdi, he joined the Basque exile folklore group Eresoinka, with whom he traveled and performed across Europe in the period 1937-1939. He was also accepted by the music school of Bordeaux, where he studied opera singing and also sang in cabarets by night. His talent was quickly spotted by Jeanne Lagiscarde, who ran the classical department of a Bordeaux record store, and she began to manage his career, relocating him to Paris in the process.

There he continued to perform in stage shows and also in a minor role in the first of several movies he would appear in throughout his career. These were the years of Nazi-occupied Paris, and in the period 1943-1945 he first came to prominence in the world of operetta, performing alongside the likes of Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. His career really took off after the war, however, as he performed in both operettas and movies. As the operetta genre waned in the 1960s, he moved into television performances, yet remained just as popular. In the late 1960s, though, he fell ill and was forced to cancel various shows on account of a nagging fatigue. This culminated in his death in July 1970.

Grave of Luis Mariano in Arrangoitze. Photo by Tibauk. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As per his express wishes, he was buried in the Basque Country, in Arrangoitze (Arcangues), Lapurdi, where he had owned a home for many years. In regard t the Basque Country, he is reported to have said: “I will come to rest forever in this land.”

July 8, 2014: Closure of the iconic Begoña Elevator in Bilbao

On July 8, 2014, at 11 pm the Begoña Elevator, an iconic feature of the late twentieth-century Bilbao cityscape, ceased to function after nearly seventy years of service.

The walkway at the top of the Begoña Elevator. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1940s, Begoña–once a separate town but incorporated by Bilbao in 1925 as part of its major growth in the twentieth century–was a neighborhood in expansion. Yet despite its geographic proximity to the city center, it remained disconnected on account of the steep hill one had to navigate between the two districts. A project was thus conceived to link Begoña to downtown Bilbao precisely at the point of what was known at the time as Bilbao Aduana train station (later San Nicolás, and currently the Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo Euskotren-Metro Bilbao intermodal station).

Viewing area at the top of the elevator. Photo by Bachelot Pierre J-P. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Designed by architect Rafael Fontán, the biggest challenge was to insert a significant structure into an already congested cityscape. He achieved this by taking an existing building as its base and as regards the actual design of the elevator, he opted for a stark modernist structure, in contrast to the older surrounding buildings; this decision, to contrast so starkly the new structure from the vicinity, arguably ultimately contributed to creating its iconic status–at least as regards form–quickly becoming one of the city’s emblematic structures.

Begoña Elevator from Itxaropen/Esperanza Street. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was made out of reinforced concrete and included a walkway and enclosed vantage point over the city at the Begoña entrance, lending the structure a machine-like form in appearance. In this sense, it resembled an architectural model developed in Switzerland during the early twentieth century. When finished, it came to measure 150 feet in height and immediately stood out in the Bilbao cityscape. It was inaugurated in 1947 and served generations of bilbaínos but it began to lose customers in the 1990s, with the construction of the Bilbao metro and a competing elevator as well as other elevators and escalators that were constructed to link the city center to the hillier surrounding neighborhoods.

The structure remains in place, however, and there is much debate over what could be done with this iconic physical testament to an important part of Bilbao’s recent history.

If architecture is your thing, check out Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain, a fascinating work that examines Gehry’s buildings as a kind of narrative.

More general urban studies published by the Center include That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika; Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal; and Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

What’s more, Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, is available free to download here.

 

 

Musikene and the CBS Compile the History of Basque Music

The Center for Basque Studies and the Higher School of Music of the Basque Country, Musikene, have organized a conference on the history of the Basque music from Prehistory to the present times. The conference took place on June 28 and 29 at Musikene in Donostia-San Sebastian and the pianist and professor Jokin Okiñena offered a piano recital.

After a concert Prof. Okiñena gave in Reno in 2016, he and Xabier Irujo spoke about the existing void in relation to the history of Basque music since the publication of Arana Martija’s work in 1987. To carry out this task, the Center for Basque Studies signed an agreement with Miren Iñarga, director of Musikene.

The resulting volume coordinated by professor Okiñena will be published by the CBS. The project, which emerged thirty years after the publication of the last historical analysis of Basque music by Jose A. Arana Martija, will systematize the history of the Basque music from prehistory to the present and will include a separate section on the contribution of women to this relevant aspect of the Basque history. This is a novel project whose first sketch emerged in 2017 with the signing of an agreement between Musikene and the Center for the celebration of a conference and a piano recital and the publication of a book.

The conference has brought together nine experts on different aspects of the Basque music. Prof. Elixabete Etxebeste lectured about the history of the Basque music from Prehistory to the Middle Ages; Prof. Sergio Barcellona talked about Renaissance and Baroque; Prof. Jon Bagüés about Enlightment; Prof. Isabel Díaz about Basque Music in the 19th century; Prof. Iosu Okiñena about Basque music and Nationalism, Itziar Larrinaga lectured about the Basque music during war and dictatorship (1936-1978) and Mikel Chamizo about contemporary Basque music (from 2000 to the present.) Finally, Prof. Patri Goialde and Mark Barnés lectured about Basque jazz and Prof. Gotzone Higuera focuses on the contribution of Basque women to music.

Program

June 28:

10:00 Opening

10:30 Prof. Elixabete Etxebeste. Prehistory, Antiquity and Middle Ages

11:30 Prof. Sergio Barcellona. Renaissance and Baroque

12:30 Break

13:00 Jon Bagüés. Basque music and Enlightment

14:00 Lunch

15:30 Isabel Díaz. Basque music in the 19th century

16:30 Gotzone Higuera. Basque music and women

17:30 Break

18:00 Patri Goialde y Mark Barnés. Jazz in the Basque Country

20:00 Piano recital by Josu Okiñena

 

June 29

10:00 Josu Okiñena. Basque music and nationalism

11:00 Itziar Larrinaga. Basque music during war and dictatorship (1936-1978)

12:00 Break

12:30 Mikel Chamizo. Basque music in the 21rst century

13:30 Conclusions

14:00 Lunch and meeting of the scientific committee

 

July 5, 1846: Birth of mathematician Zoel García de Galdeano

On July 5, 1846 Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas was born in Pamplona-Iruñea. In later life, he came to be regarded as a champion of modernizing mathematics in the Spanish state according to the latest developments in Europe and beyond.

Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas (1846-1924)

After García de Galdeano’s father was killed while on active service in the Spanish military, he was raised by his maternal grandfather José Yanguas y Miranda (1782-1863), a historian, jurist, and well-known figure in Navarrese political life in the first half of the nineteenth century, promoting a kind of pro-foral liberalism. The young García de Galdeano was thus raised in a learning environment receptive to new ideas. In 1871 he obtained his doctorate and thereafter began a lengthy professional journey teaching math at several high schools throughout the Spanish state as well as promoting the so-called free institutes (experimental secular high schools that emphasized liberal values such as civic responsibility and modernization in its various guises). At the same time, he published voraciously with the aim of introducing the latest European mathematical currents into the peninsula.

Finally, in 1889 he obtained a tenured professorship in analytical geometry at his alma mater, the University of Zaragoza, where he worked until his retirement in 1918. Once established at the university level, he began lobbying to provide more adequate networks and platforms for sharing and disseminating mathematical knowledge.  In 1891 he founded El Progreso Matemático (Mathematical Progress), the first strictly mathematical journal published in Spain; and he was the first mathematician in the state to begin attending international conferences on a regular basis. Most significantly, García de Galdeano was present at the famous 1900 speech of influential German mathematician David Hilbert at the Sorbonne in Paris, in which he posed a set of problems that to a large extent came to define the direction of the discipline through the twentieth century. Moreover, he was one of the main figures behind the creation of the Spanish Mathematics Society in 1911, and became its president in 1916.

He died in Zaragoza in 1924, having played a critical role in modernizing the study of mathematics in the peninsula.

 

June 29, 1854: Death of first Basque-language woman writer Bizenta Mogel

On June 29, 1854 Bizenta Mogel died in Abando, Bizkaia at the age of eighty-two. She should be considered not just the first women to publish a book in Basque, but the first author in children’s literature in the language.

Bizenta Mogel (1772-1854)

Bizenta Antonia Mogel Elgezabal was born in Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa, in 1772. She came from a literary family. Her brother, Juan Jose Mogel (1781-1849), was also a writer, while her uncle, Joan Antonio Mogel (1745-1804), was the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, Peru Abarka (published posthumously in 1881).  Indeed, it was the latter who would play a pivotal role in her education. Orphaned at an early age, together with her brother she went to live with her uncle in Markina, Bizkaia. He taught both siblings how to read and write in Latin, Spanish, and Basque, and she impressed with her obvious intelligence and love of learning.

She married Eugenio Basozabal, with whom she went to live in Abando (now part of Bilbao). He later inherited a printing press on the death of his father, and this helped immensely in her efforts to publish her work.  In 1804 she published Ipui onac (Moral tales), which, according to Jose Manuel López Gaseni, “Translated Basque Literature,” in Basque Literary History (p. 315):

brought together fifty of Aesop’s fables that she translated thanks to her knowledge of Latin, learned from her uncle—the sort of training few women of the period could obtain. The intent of this collection was moralistic and educational, as can be deduced from its subtitle: “Good stories in which young Basque people will find edifying lessons that will help them lead their lives down the right path.” It attempted to substitute traditional stories that, according to the prologue, were considered pernicious and were rejected by the educational institutions of the period.

Moreover, as Mari Jose Olaziregi notes in “Worlds of Fiction: An Introduction to Basque Narrative,” also in Basque Literary History (pp. 140-41), its

significance as the first published work written by a woman also signals the birth of children’s literature in Basque. Although the didactic style and sense of moral purpose is prevalent in the text, we should underscore the importance of the book as a primary example of a new type of fiction as well as being an exponent for a new type of reading public, more literary but still somewhat removed from a more controlled aestheticism. Ipui onak is in fact a translation and adaptation of Aesop’s fables and proved an inspiration for a whole group of fabulists, although in most cases verse was the preferred form of writing. Bizenta’s case is altogether exceptional since it is estimated that only 15 percent of women were literate in the Basque country at that time … It is important to note that Bizenta subscribed to John Locke’s educational model in her work, a model that perceived fables as a useful resort to educate children.

The work was a major success and went through several reprints. Bizenta Mogel went on to publish other books, and she was also a renowned writer of traditional Christmas bertso-paperak (printed verses for popular consumption), but she was most remembered for her first and groundbreaking work. She was also a teacher and interestingly, she was known for her wide knowledge of medicinal plants, a knowledge she put to great use in helping people with illnesses who came to her in search of a cure.

The Center publishes Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi, an ambitious work that traces the evolution of various literary styles in the Basque language.

Check out this charming representation of Bizenta Mogel’s life in illustrated form (with commentary in Basque):

 

June 21, 1813: Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz

On June 21, 1813, combined Iberian and British forces led by the Duke of Wellington defeated the French army under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan at the Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz, a turning point in the Peninsular War (1807-1814). Coming in the aftermath of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, it could be argued that this battle served to underscore the beginning of the end of Napoleonic dominance of Europe.

Monument to the battle in the Virgen Blanca Square, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Basotxerri. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, French forces had been forced to retreat northward. In May 1813, Wellington’s coalition forces moved quickly from northern Portugal toward the French border to cut off their escape route, and the French were forced to retreat to Burgos. And on June 21, the two sides engaged in the battle, about two miles outside the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in the valley of the River Zadorra.

Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz (1813). Map by Gregory Fremont-Barnes. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The French forces occupied the south side of the river, encircled by the coalition forces to the west and north. Wellington divided his attack into four columns, striking at the French from the south. west, and north, while the final assault was aimed at the French rearguard. Perhaps the key moment came when the column led by General Thomas Graham appeared from the north along the road to Bilbao, around noon. Seeing this, the French realized they were encircled and began to retreat toward Vitoria-Gasteiz. At the same time, their escape route toward the north-east (Pamplona-Iruñea and Baiona) was also cut off by troops commanded by the Bizkaian Colonel Francisco Tomás Anchia, aka Francisco Longa. Finally, the combined coalition forces managed to cross the Zadorra and push the French back further still. The morale of the latter collapsed, and tens of thousands fled the battle along the only escape route possible, toward the east and Agurain (Salvatierra).There were approximately 5,000 deaths on each side.

Model recreation of the battle in the Araba Armory Museum. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By the end of the year, Wellington’s forces had captured both Donostia-San Sebastián, Pamplona-Iruñea, and were encamped in France. The Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz had proved to be a turning point in the war.

Interestingly, the battle was the inspiration for Beethoven’s Opus 91, titled “Wellington’s Victory, or, the Battle of Vitoria” (Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria) or just the “Battle Symphony” or “Wellington’s Victory,” which portrays the battle as musical drama.

 

June 11, 1967: Xalbador jeered at national bertsolaritza championship in Donostia

On June 11, 1967, one of the most controversial incidents to ever take place in the history of berstolaritza–Basque oral improvised verse–occurred during the national championship in the main fronton or pelota court of Donostia-San Sebastián: on hearing that the bertsolari (improviser) Xalbador had been selected by the judges over a more popular opponent, Joxe Migel Iztueta aka Lazkao Txiki, to advance to the head-to-head final to compete against Uztapide, a section of the audience began to jeer. The reason for this? He was from Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country in France, and they did not understand his dialect of Basque so well.

Xalbador (1920-1976)

Born in 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Fernando Aire, aka Xalbador, was arguably the most renowned bertsolari in modern times from Iparralde. He began to perform in public after World War II, and by the 1960s was regarded, together with Manuel Olaizola, aka Uztapide, as one of the leading exponents of the art form. However, Xalbador stood out from most of his contemporaries for a number of reasons: first and foremost, he used his natal dialect of Basque from Lower Navarre; besides that, though, he also incorporated melodies that many people in Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) were unfamiliar with; and finally, he also stood apart from many of his rival bertsolaris for the sheer lyrical quality of his verses as well as his ability to draw profound reflections from seemingly inconsequential things. Indeed, his poetic sensibility was such that, following his death in 1976, the famous Basque singer-songwriter Xabier Lete dedicated a song to him, “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), which subsequently became one of the most famous and repeated Basque songs, still sung to this day. And the 1989 national champion bertsolari, Jon Lopategi, also dedicated his winning verse to Xalbador. That all said, he never won a major championship, finishing fourth in 1960, third in 1962 and 1965, and, ultimately, second in 1967.

In the infamous 1967 championship, as mentioned, some members of the audience jeered on hearing the judges’ decision to advance Xalbador to the final head-to-head contest against Uztapide (it should be noted that it remains unclear whether they were jeering the bertsolari or the judges, or both). As per the rules of the competition, Xalbador was obliged to step up to the microphone and compose a verse in response to the decision. As he began his strophe, he found it difficult to make his voice heard, but, gradually, the power and beauty of his words turned the audience around. He sung:

Anai-arrebok, ez, otoi, pentsa
neu’re gustora nagonik,
poz gehiago izango nuen
albotik beha egonik.

Brothers and sisters, do not think
that I am happy;
how much better would I feel
looking on from some corner.

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik…

If you are not happy
it is not my fault…

At this point, the jeers subsided and, incredibly, the audience began to cheer. Xalbador, in turn, his voice barely able to continue with emotion, repeated and concluded the verse:

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik,
txistuak jo dituzute bainan
maite zaituztet orainik.

If you are not happy
it is not my fault:
in spite of your whistles
I still love you.

By the end of the verse the audience had risen to its feet and was applauding the bertsolari from Urepele. The story remains one of the great moving moments in the history of berstolaritza and in Basque culture more generally. This moment was, remarkably, captured on film:

To learn more about bertsolaritza, check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

Another great resource is Bertsolaritza, El bertsolarismo, Bertsolaritza by Joxerra Garzia, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute, free to download here.

On the rich Basque dialects, see The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo.

 

The Civil War in Enkarterri

Enkarterri Museoa inaugurated on June 2 an exhibition with 70 illustrations of newspapers of different ideologies during the War of 1936, and held a conference about this period in Bizkaia.

The president of the parliament of Bizkaia, Ana Otadui, opened the exhibition “Cartoonists at war. 1936-1939”. Historian and illustrator Aline Soberon, and historian Txema Uriarte are the authors of this exhibition that aims to “reflect the warlike conflict from another point of view”. Each of the 70 illustrations was redrawn by Aline Soberon, following the original technique. The exhibition will remain open until October 14.

   

At 11:30, the museum hosted the conference titled “Civil War in Enkarterri”, organized by the Enkarterri Museum with the presence – among others – of researchers Aitor Miñambres, Xabier Irujo and Jone M. Gil, who spoke about the War of 1936 in this region of Bizkaia. Xabier Irujo spoke about the German, Italian and Spanish air forces’ terror bombing campaign in Enkarterri.

The conference schedule was the following:

11:30 Inauguration of the exhibition “Cartoonists in war. 1936-1939 “and congress” Civil War in Las Encartaciones “

12:30 Aitor Miñambres. Civil War in Enkarterri

13:15 Jone M. Gil. Patrimony of the Civil War

13:30 Xabier Irujo. Terror Bombing Campaign in Enkarterri

14:15 Break

15:00 Juan T. Sáez Iturbe “Pikizu”. Enkarterri. Historical memory

15:30 Txomin Etxebarria. Balmaseda. 1936-1937

16:00 Nagore Orella. Galdames. Summer rain

16:30 Javier de la Colina. Sopuerta The war according to their dead

17:00 PM Break

17:30 Josu Gallarreta. Zalla A battle of ten days

18:00 Tasio Munarriz. Portugalete. War and postwar

18:30 Koldo López Grandoso. Barakaldo. Eleven months of resistance

19:00 J.I.R. Waiter. Ortuella. Victims of war

Conference on the Stuka experiment in Maestrat

Conference on the Stuka experiment in Maestrat

Eighty-one years later, the bombing of Gernika is one of the international icons that commemorates the suffering of civilians in the course of wars and, more specifically, the innocent victims of aerial bombardments. The one in Gernika was an unprecedented air attack that, according to the historian Xabier Irujo, caused more than 2,000 victims and was a war experiment in order to test the Koppelwurf bombing system and the new cocktail of explosive and incendiary bombs devised by Wolfram von Richthofen, chief of staff of the Luftwaffe on Basque soil in 1937. Moreover, the bombing was a birthday gift that was supposed to happen for Hitler’s 48th birthday.

The Condor Legion, as the Luftwaffe unit that Hitler sent to Franco was called, carried out other experimental bombings preparing for World War II. One of these experiments was the one that the German air unit carried out in Maestrat (Valencia) in order to put to the test the new dive bomber models Junkers Ju87 Stuka and the new 500 kg bombs. The Condor Legion destroyed four locations in order to measure its effectiveness in May 1938, causing many casualties among civilians.

          

A conference organized by Oscar Vives (University of Valencia) took place on May 25-29, bringing together researchers and historians to study this event, where Xabier Irujo from the University of Nevada, specialist in the bombing of Gernika, participated. The conference also featured Dr. Joan Villarroya, who spoke about Franco’s aviation in Valencia and Catalonia, and Dr. Stefanie Schüler-Springorum from the University of Berlin, who spoke about life during the war of young German pilots. The bombings of other territories such as Alcañiz, Alicante, and Castellón were also discussed, as well as the Battle of Levante. A round table was held to close the conference.

In the course of the conference the producer Docsvalència presented the film titled ‘Stuka Experiment’, which is a documentary that studies what happened in “Castellon’s Gernika” 80 years ago.

 

 

June 6, 1849: Death of Basque guerrilla leader Martina Ibaibarriaga

On June 6, 1849, Martina Ibaibarriaga died in Oña, Burgos. She gained renown as a young woman among the guerrilla ranks fighting the occupying French forces during the Penisnular War (1807-1814).

Martina Ibaibarriaga (1788-1849)

Maria Martina Ibaibarriaga Elorriaga was born in Berriz, Bizkaia, on January 26, 1788, although the family later moved to Bilbao, where her father ran a pharmacy. When French troops invaded and occupied the Basque Country during the period 1807-1808, the initial response of the Basque population was to form bands of guerrillas to fight the occupiers, with these bands being overseen by the guerrilla leader from Navarre, Francisco Espoz Ilundain (aka Francisco Espoz Mina). Martina initially joined a group led by Juan de Belar, alias “El Manco” (the one-armed man), which fought the French in the district in around Durango, but soon she rose to command her own guerrilla group, leading some fifty men in operations against the French.

However, several local authorities then complained that her band were appropriating rations and supplies by force and without paying for them. She was subsequently captured by Espoz Mina’s men in Mungia, Bizkaia, in July 1811, and judged before a meeting of guerrilla chiefs in at Villarcayo, Burgos. Eight of her men were executed by firing squad, but she was spared and, indeed, during the rest of war served in another group under the command of fellow Bizkaian Francisco Tomás Anchia, aka Francisco Longa. In 1812, she met Félix Asenjo, a delegate of the Spanish government from Oña, Burgos, sent to instruct the guerrillas. The two married that same year, although she continued to fight, taking in part in the important Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1813, after which, it seems, she came to meet the Duke of Wellington.

After the war, she settled in Oña with her husband, and there she died in 1849.

 

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