Category: Basque history (page 2 of 25)

Grad Student News: Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain

Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain arrived from Galdakao (Bizkaia) in January from her fieldwork abroad and is in her last year of the Ph.D. program. She is currently writing her dissertation, focused on the analysis of the Basque cultural magazine Euzko-Gogoa, the emblematic leader of the press in the Basque language. As a student, she has presented her papers at numerous conferences in the US and Europe throughout the years and presented this November on a panel for the Western Society for French History’s 45th Annual Conference.

The panel, entitled “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile in the French Basque Country,” was chaired by Robin Walz from the University of Alaska Southeast, with comments provided by our own Joseba Zulaika. First off, Aurélie Arcocha-Scarcia from the University of Bordeaux spoke of Jon Mirande’s “poetic imaginary and the origins of his neo-Nazism.” Next, Mari Jose Olaziregi from the University of the Basque Country presented “The Nazis, a Contested Site of Memory in 21st century Basque Fiction.” Ziortza finished off the panel with her presentation on Eresoinka, the Basque dance, art, and music group formed in 1937. For Lehendakari Aguirre, it was a cultural embassy to share Basque culture throughout Europe. Ziortza’s presentation was entitled “A Basque Cultural Embassy in France: Exile as a Fantasy Space” and it definitely brought another side of exile into the picture.

Ziortza also presented at our own CBS Multidisciplinary Seminar Series in October. In this case, she gave us a look into one of her dissertation chapters, “Transoceanic-Will.” During the lecture, Ziortza focused on the transatlantic history of Euzko-Gogoa, and how the magazine itself could be considered a symbol of transnationalism. Her work on Basque diasporic identity helps us to understand the common history and collective memory of the Basques as presented in Euzko-Gogoa, and its lasting impression in the world of Euskara, elevating the language to what we understand it as today.

We look forward to Ziortza’s dissertation, which she is studiously and laboriously working on. Zorte on!

Grad Student News: Amaia Iraizoz

This year, Amaia Iraizoz has been writing her dissertation, which she will defend this December. She has also participated in several conferences. In March 2017, she attended the Southern American Studies Association’s biennial conference Migrations and Circulations in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she presented the paper “Bringing Modernity to the Homeland: The Hybridization Process in Aezkoa Valley’s Socioeconomic Practices.” That same month, she participated in the Northern Nevada Diversity Summit, presenting a paper on a Basque studies panel.

As we come close to saying goodbye to Amaia, we leave you, our loyal readers, with her own words on her research. Amaia’s impressive work has been possible thanks to the Campos family generous funding. Eskerrik asko, Amaia, Tony, eta Juliet!

I was born and raised in Aritzu, a small rural town in northern Navarre. My family household’s history and personal experiences of migration led me to apply to the Ph.D. program in Basque Studies here at UNR, an institution that is pivotal in the study of Basque migration. I am part of the 5th generation of my household to come to the Americas, and because of this longstanding trajectory of migration, I came with a clear intention of what to study: the influences of migration in my homeland, a topic in Basque migration literature which had yet to be studied.

I was raised listening to the stories of my ancestors’ migratory experiences: uncles, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and so on. My family spread throughout the Americas, from Cuba to Argentina, Mexico and in-between.  Many of them ended up returning to their native household after long periods overseas. Therefore, I turned my focus to the influences of these departures, the prolonged absences of family members and their eventual return, along with the effects these situations had on local rural communities.

Emigration, characterized by transnational encounters and interactions between different cultures and practices, has produced both changes in destination societies as well as in the homeland. My dissertation addresses the influences that these transnational encounters produced in Navarre, concretely in Aezkoa Valley and the surrounding areas. In this context, both emigration and return changed the everyday lives of the people in these rural communities. In that regard, new social realities emerged as a consequence of both emigrants and returnees. The society in the northern Navarrese valleys had to confront new problems, for example the adaptation to the relative’s absences and returns, which not only affected the social relationships inside households but also these communities as a whole.

This research also highlights the relationships among the returnees and the development and modernization of the area. The economic circumstances before mass migration, as well as what happened when those emigrants returned to their hometowns provides a context for the study. I analyze the ideas that they brought from the Americas and how these in turn influenced the economy of their hometowns, through the projects they carried out, such as renovating and improving infrastructure such as transportation (roads, etc.), education (schools), and industrializing the area by creating business that brought wealth to the inhabitants of the area. Returnees should no longer be seen as failed migrants but instead as leading figures of the revitalization and transformation of their rural birthplaces, as pioneers in the industrialization and modernization of Navarre.

None of my research would have been possible without the generous donation to the Center for Basque Studies by Tony and Juliet Campos, establishing a graduate student assistantship for the study of Navarrese migration. I want to give special thanks to them for making this project possible, not only academically, but also by giving me the chance to experience the absence and separation from my family and hometown, which drew me closer to the experiences that many of these emigrants and my relatives faced and lived through.

Esker mile aunitz Tony eta Juliet!

Flashback Monday: Ellis Island’s 125th anniversary

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island, which closed 63 years ago on Sunday. Over 12 million immigrants passed through its doors for inspection before entering the United States, and Basques were no exception. From February to May 2010, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum held an exhibition on the Basques, entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques.” Here’s an excerpt from the website, with photos from the exhibit:

“Hidden in Plain Sight” was an interactive exhibit that presented opportunities for all ages to discover the unique origins, language, and history of the Basque people; the factors that pulled them away from their homes; the legendary tales of colorful immigrants; Basque contributions in the United States and the world; and the unprecedented cultural connection with their homeland.

Basques have rarely been recognized for their historic contributions or cultural distinctiveness. Similarly, as they passed through Ellis Island, their nationality, names, and heritage were often disregarded by otherwise well-meaning officials. In many cases they were simply listed as Spanish or French.

Today, even though Basque politicians, scientists, sports figures, business executives, artists, and movie stars may be prominent throughout the US and in many nations around the world, they are still often overlooked as being Basque, perpetuating them being “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

This exhibition was organized by the only museum in the United States devoted to preserving Basque culture and history, The Basque Museum & Cultural Center, in conjunction with and supported by the Basque Autonomous Government.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” opened on February 6 with a special ceremony in the Great Hall at Ellis Island with performances by the Biotzetik Basque Choir, the Oinkari Basque Dancers, and soloist Amaia Arberas. The ribbon cutting was performed by Patricia Lachiondo, President of the Basque Museum & Cultural Center and Guillermo Echenique, General Secretary of Foreign Action of the Basque Government. Performances by the Biotzetik Basque Choir followed. The Oinkari Basque Dancers also performed at Liberty Island later in the afternoon.

Looking at Ellis Island from an international perspective, the New York Times recently profiled it in its Daily Briefing, with links to articles:

Back Story

Ellis Island, the gateway to the U.S. for more than 12 million immigrants, is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its opening this year. Sunday marks the day it closed in 1954.

Many Americans are descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island in a wave of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Upon arrival by ship, steerage passengers were transported to the island for inspections. (First- and second-class passengers skipped that step.)

Those found to have serious contagious illnesses or deemed unemployable could face deportation.

Nearly 70 percent of arrivals didn’t speak a word of English, but language was never an issue, said Doug Treem, a National Park Service Ranger.

Interpreters translated scores of languages — they were required to speak at least four each, other than English. Many were immigrants or children of immigrants.

“I doubt if anyone working as a translator at the U.N. right now could have gotten a job at Ellis Island,” said Mr. Treem.

One translator, the child of European immigrants and a veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, worked in Italian, German, Yiddish and Croatian, while attending law school at night. That was Fiorello LaGuardia, who went on to be a three-term mayor of New York City.

I’m guessing language was an issue for Basques, for I wonder if any inspectors spoke Euskara! What we do know is what awaited these migrants once they were in New York City.  As Douglass and Bilbao note in Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World:

Elderly Basques residing the American West today still retain vivid memories, spanning more than half a century in some cases, of getting off the boat in New York City filled with trepidation, only to hear the welcome words, “Euskaldunak emen badira?” (“Are there Basques here”). pg. 374.

These words often came from Valentín Aguirre’s agents at the Casa Vizcaina, a hotel and travel agency of sorts for Basques in New York. Aguirre sent employees to meet every ship that arrived from Europe. Once the Basque immigrants met up with these agents, they were taken to the hotel where they were welcomed with familiar food in their native Euskara environment. Some may have even played a few games of pelota at the hotel’s fronton. Aguirre would help them reunite with family or find employment in the West. He would purchase their tickets and give them instructions for their second journey across the States, at many times pinning their names and tickets onto their lapels so that they would safely arrive at their destinations.

Although there are many stories of Ellis Island, the horrible conditions and foreign-ness of the place, it was the port of entry for many of our relatives here in the West. With its 125th anniversary, we remember the long journeys our ancestors took to find their new place in the United States. “Euskaldunak emen badira?” Yes, we are here and will remain.

 

Flashback Fridays: Children of priests denied birthrights in Gipuzkoa

By Katu:

November 3, 1653: Children of priests denied birthrights in Gipuzkoa

Wikipedia Commons

Until November 3, 1653, the children of priests in Gipuzkoa enjoyed the same birthrights as any other children of legally married couples. From that date on, however, by order of the Court of Appeals, they were prohibited from enjoying full possession of such rights.

Life and Death in Basque Culture

By KATU:

Today, November 1, is a public holiday throughout the Basque Country coinciding with the Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day. Tomorrow, November 2, is likewise All Souls’ Day, and these celebrations convey the bond between the living and the departed.

From the pre-Christian tradition, likewise, there are hundreds of dolmen and cromlech stone circle sites in the Basque Country. These are believed to be burial places intended to honor the dead and may contain one or several corpses. For William Douglass and Joseba Zulaika, (Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, p. 52), “Generally, the higher the elevation, the smaller and simpler the dolmens, which possibly reflects a basic geographical distinction between lowland and highland peoples in terms of socioeconomic development.” Well into the modern age, on coming across one of these sites on remote mountainsides, shepherds would remove their txapelak (berets) and say a prayer for the deceased there.

With the coming of Christianity, cemeteries became the final resting place for the departed and one interesting feature of Basque cemeteries is the impressive range of funeral stelae (bilarriak in Basque) with their intricate carvings of animals, crosses, stars, suns and more abstract patterns. Moreover, all baserriak (Basque farmhouses) were typically connected to their local churches and cemeteries by means of an hil bide (death road). Moreover, in the words of Douglass and Zulaika, (Basque Culture, p. 296), “a death triggers an all-encompassing series of formal obligations among the survivors defined in terms of their genealogical proximity to the deceased and residential proximity to his or her baserria.”

There are many rituals associated with death in traditional Basque culture. One is the practice of spreading news of a death to not just the local community, but also the animals, especially the bees, for which special respect has always been reserved. A common saying in Bera, Nafarroa was: Etxeko andrea hil da, ta egizu argizeri aunitz, zerua bidaltzeko (The mistress of the house has died, make a lot of wax to send her to heaven). This shows the importance, too, of offering light. Light was thought to be essential when passing over into the other world, and for that reason, all kinds of torches, tapers, and candles hold special importance in Basque funerary rituals. To this day, many Basque homes are adorned with an argizaiola (board of wax), a wooden board with a long coiled candle.

Nowadays, of course, the global reach of Halloween has come to the Basque Country, with people—and especially children—getting into the spirit of things with fancy dress costumes and going out in search of candy. Candlelit pumpkins have even been spotted presiding over Bilbao cityscapes!

Katu’s Pumpkins!

Additional information is taken from Xamar, Orhipean: The Country of Basque.

Check out, too, William A. Douglass, Death in Murelaga: Funerary Ritual in a Spanish Basque Village (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969).

 

 

 

CBS Seminar Series: “The Basque Swastika”

CBS Seminar Series Presents Santi de Pablo`s “The Basque Swastika”

Santi de Pablo is professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country. He specializes in history of the Basque Country and in film history. His last book is Creadores de sombras: ETA y el nacionalismo vasco a través del cine (Originally published in English by the CBS as The Basque Nation on Screen: Cinema, Nationalism and Political Violence in the Basque Country). He enjoyed the opportunity of being William Douglass visiting scholar at our Center in 2009-2010, and now he is researching in the CBS thanks to a USAC grant.

On October 17th he presented in the Center the documentary The Basque Swastika (Una esvástica sobre el Bidasoa), a film produced in 2013 by the Basque film-company EsRec Productions, and directed by Javier Barajas and Javier de Andrés. Santi himself worked as historical advisor to the film, along with professor Ludger Mees.

He explained that the origin of the movie was an academic paper he wrote in 2008 together with a professor of the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. One day he received a phone-call at his University office from the aforementioned film-company proposing to make a movie about the topic of the paper. Two years later, the film premiered in the San Sebastian Film Festival, one of the most prestigious cinema festivals in Europe.

It’s quite unusual for an academic paper to become a film, but in this case the topic of the article inspired curiosity. The authors had discovered in the Berlin Film Archive a German Nazi documentary from 1944 about the Basque Country (Im Lande der basken), which nobody knew of until that moment. This discovery was stunning because it disclosed the interest of Nazis in Basque culture during the Second World War.

On the one hand, The Basque Swastika is cinema about cinema, as it uncovers the story of Im Lande der basken. On the other hand, it’s a film about the history of the Basques, the Nazis and the Second World War. The documentary recalls that the Basque Government and its president Aguirre and the Basque Nationalist Party fought for the Allies and against the Nazis during World War Two, but also that there were some contacts with occupation forces in France. Both the filmmakers and the historical advisers were aware of the controversy surrounding this topic, but they attempted to explain it in an unbiased way. Actually, both Spanish and Basque public televisions co-produced the film, which was well received, and obtained awards at such international documentary film festivals as Nantes (France) and Guadalajara (México).

The screening inspired a fruitful and interesting debate with the audience. Many thanks, Santi, and zorionak!

 

Faculty News 2017: Sandy Ott

Cambridge University Press published Sandy Ott’s book, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948. In his endorsement of the book, John Merriman (Yale) observes that “her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the German occupation…in the Basque Country.” Sandy also contributed to The Oxford Companion to Cheese (Oxford University Press). Sandy conducted further archival research on German POWs in the French Basque Country (1945-1948) and gave a paper on the topic at the annual conference of the Society for French Historical Studies in Washington, D.C. She also lectured at the University of Southampton (UK) on the intersections of anthropology and micro-history. In July, Sandy joined Advisory Board members in the Basque Country for their weeklong excursion. She also (unexpectedly) became interim chair of Communication Studies at UNR, alongside her regular duties in teaching, research and service in Basque Studies. She is also the local organizer of a major French history conference that takes place in Reno soon.

 

    

October 14, 1933: Birth of poet Gabriel Aresti

Gabriel Aresti, arguably the most important poet in the Basque language still to this day, was born in Bilbao on October 14, 1933. Although his father was a Basque speaker, the family did not transmit this language to the young Aresti and he learned it on his own as a young man. After studying business at university, he went on to become an accountant in his home city, but it was in the field of Basque culture in general, and more specifically poetry, that he really made his name.

Gabriel Aresti (1933-1975)

In general terms, he was in the 1960s and 1970s, along with several other writers and artists, one of the leading champions and exponents of modernizing Basque culture and the Basque language. As regards the former, he promoted the idea of poetry as a vehicle for social awareness, as a means of exposing social problems and a medium in which regular, everyday speech could be incorporated; all this at a time of growing social ferment during the latter years of the Franco dictatorship. In terms of the latter, he was one of the most prominent defenders of creating a standardized Basque–known as Euskara Batua or Unified Basque–amid the heated debates over the topic in the 1960s.

In the words of Joseba Zulaika (in his preface to Downhill and Rock & Core):

Gabriel Aresti was the essential poet for my Basque generation of the 1960s. “If you want to write me/You know where I am,” he wrote, “In this most slippery hell/In the mouth of the devil.” It was the hell of Franco’s repressive regime, the endless darkness of his city, Bilbao, turned into an industrial and cultural wasteland. Aresti was the crucified Bilbao writer howling for justice and truth, the vulnerable man of eternal downfall who created a new poetics and a new subjectivity.

Gabriel Aresti died in June 1975.

Aresti’s poetry was published for the first time in English this year by the Center. Downhill and Rock & Core, translated by Amaia Gabantxo and with an introduction by Jon Kortazar, brings together two of Aresti’s key works: Maldan behera (1959) and Harri eta herri (1964). The poems appear in both Basque and English.

Check out, too, Pello Salaburu’s fascinating study of how standard Basque was created in Writing Words. Here, Salaburu talks at length about Aresti’s involvement in establishing this new language.

 

October 7, 1936: First Basque Government Formed

The first Basque Government was created on October 7, 1936, shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The government was led by Jose Antonio Agirre and was based in Bilbao’s emblematic Hotel Carlton.

Agirre and other government members address crowd from balcony of Hotel Carlton

Given that holding elections was impossible on account of the outbreak of the civil war in July 1936, a transitional decree was approved whereby the councilmen of municipalities in territory not occupied by the military rebels would elect the first lehendakari or Basque president. They duly elected Jose Antonio Agirre unanimously at a meeting in the historic assembly hall in Gernika. Agirre subsequently formed the first Basque government from among his own Basque Nationalist Party as well as the other parties that formed part of the Popular Front, the democratically elected coalition governing the Second Spanish Republic that Franco’s military uprising was seeking to overthrow.

The importance of Agirre and the first Basque government were explored at a major international conference whose results were published in The International Legacy of the Lehendakari Jose A. Agirre’s Government, edited by Xabier Irujo and Mari Jose Olaziregi.

 

“Bringing Women out of the Shadows”

Basque migration to the Americas has been widely documented. From the 15-16th century Spanish colonial pursuits to the 20th century Franco dictatorship, Basques left the home country in great numbers to escape economic hardships and political turbulence in search of a better life. In the United States, the image of the lonely Basque sheepherder has become an important figure in the iconography of the American West, and Basque bars, restaurants, and cultural centers continue to thrive as descendants of the once ubiquitous Basque boarding houses.

Women, however, are conspicuously missing from the grand narratives of Basque migration, Ph.D. student Edurne Arostegui argued at her lecture at the CBS Seminar Series. “We need to make an effort to bring female immigrant experiences out of the shadows.” Even canonical works of Basque migration suffer from this lacuna, Edurne argued, while women came in great numbers, and worked just as hard as any man: they were sheepherders, boarding house managers, cooks, translators, housewives, bar tenders, and waitresses, etc. “Basque women immigrants are not given due credit as long as they are featured as mere appendices to their husbands who came to this country with no agency of their own. They did have their own dreams and aspirations about their new lives, and worked very hard for them.” Furthermore, the lecture featured pioneering women who affected gender breakthroughs by taking up traditionally masculine jobs like sheepherding or becoming pivotal figures, as leaders, in their communities. “We need to reach out to these women before their stories get lost,” Edurne concluded.

 

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