Category: Basque landscape (page 1 of 4)

June 30, 1834: Deadly floods ravage Gipuzkoa

Although a land accustomed to used periods of intense, heavy rain, there have also been infamous examples of major flooding in the Basque Country. One such example occurred on June 30, 1834 in the Deba Valley of Gipuzkoa, and came to be known as the San Martzial Urak, the “Saint Martial Waters” (coinciding with the feast day of Saint Martial).

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The River Deba forms one of the river valleys so typical of the maritime zone in the Basque Country. That June day, a major summer storm hit the valley, swelling the waters of the Deba and its tributaries to breaking levels. In the town of Antzuola, one of the worst affected places, water levels rose to nearly 15 feet in the main square and one whole neighborhood was completely flooded, uprooting 1,500 trees, destroying various homes, mills, the portico of the parish church,  and the public school, among other major damage.

Alongside Antzuola, the worst-affected towns were Leintz-Gatzaga, Eskoriatza, Aretxabaleta, Arrasate, Bergara, Soraluze, and Elgoibar. In sum, throughout the valley, nineteen mills, twenty-two bridges, seventy-six buildings, and three churches were completely destroyed and major damage done to many other edifices. As regards the human cost, many people took refuge in churches, pleading for clemency, although several of these sites were among the worst hit places.

"The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point." Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

“The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point.” Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

In the aftermath of the disaster, it was calculated that eighty-nine people had been killed by the floods–seventy-six of whom had been washed downstream and whose bodies appeared on the beach in the town of Deba itself.

Source: K.O., “La inundación más catastrófica se produjo el 30 de junio de 1834,” Diario Vasco, February 23, 2014.

 

Two-week Study Abroad: “Basque Languge, Food, and Culture” Summer 2019

Winter break has come and gone, and we are already into spring semester! I am thinking eagerly of summer, not only because (if all goes as planned) I will have defended my dissertation and gone on to teach my first on-campus course, but because I have finally gotten an opportunity to develop my own study abroad program, “Basque Language, Food, and Culture.”

My undergraduate years were spent being a little lost until I decided I would study abroad. Years of sitting in a seat and reading books finally materialized into tangible things such as innovative architecture, delicious food, beautiful landscapes, and connecting with those from other countries through their spoken language. While working at the University of Kansas, my colleagues at the Admissions Office used to send students to me when asked about study abroad opportunities. I would go on about all the ways in which my learning was enhanced by my experiences abroad; they were the same experiences that brought me to where I am today, having lived in the Basque Country for a year conducting fieldwork, and being able to communicate in more than one language.

That is why I have developed a two-week study abroad program in the Basque Country. This program entails a couple of classes during the summer before departing mid-July and will include a final assignment due in August, upon return.

For further details visit: www.ACO.unr.edu

*Limited space available*

For questions, please email me: klesh@unr.edu

General Information:

Cost: $2,975 (airfare to Bilbao not included)

Where: The Basque Country

When: Onsite in Basque Country July 15-28th (2 classes pre-departure and  final assignment due in August)

 What: 3 Undergraduate/Graduate credits (ANTH 499/699, BASQ 499/699, COM 490/690, HIST 498/698, SOC 497/697)

 

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 Basque Country “is basically paradise”!

“What is Basque Country?” … Just in case anyone out there didn’t see this great introduction to visiting the Basque Country then check it it out here.

So the Basque Country “is basically paradise”? We couldn’t agree more!

*Image: Gaztelugatxe, Bizkaia, at dusk. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Great new video guide to Kakueta Gorge

There’s somewhat of an end-of-term feeling around here and our thoughts have turned to the approaching summer, travels, and of course the beautiful Basque Country. And once again we will shamelessly borrow a video from our good friends at About Basque Country, this time one that showcases the amazing Kakueta Gorge.

We did already write about this landmark site in a previous post but we also think it’s well worth revisiting one of the truly remarkable spots in the Basque Country, a little piece of Amazonia in Xiberoa/Zuberoa!

This also got us to thinking about other interesting or emblematic sites … especially those off the beaten track somewhat.  So if you have any suggestions why not let us know? We’d be happy to share your thoughts!

A video journey to the heart of the Basque Country

Check out these great introductory videos charting a recent journey to the heart of the Basque Country, Xiberoa, from our friends at About Basque Country:

According to the blog, this was in part a journey made by Basques from the South in order to connect with their cousins in the North, a trip through the Basque Country and the variety of cultures, dialects, and landscapes that make up these distinct parts of Euskal Herria.

 

Happy to be Basque

Today, March 20, is Happiness Day! So what is it that makes you happy to be Basque or know Basques? Here are a few things we like about the Basque Country:

Itsasoa, the Sea

Ocean waves meet Ondarraitz Beach in Hendaia, Lapurdi. Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mendiak, the Mountains

The Urrutia baserri in Atxondo, Bizkaia, framed by the mythical Mount Anboto. Photo by Etxaburu, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Janaria, the Food

An organic produce fair. Photo by arangoierri, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Arnoa/Ardoa, the Wine

AOC Irouléguy rosé, gold-medal winner at the 2015 International Wine Challenge. Photo by Marianne Casamance, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tradizioa, Tradition

Crowds gather in Pamplona-Iruñea to celebrate the beginning of the San Fermin Festival. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jendea, the People

Accordion and tambourine players in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa. Photo by Antxon Etxeberria, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, it is also the first day of spring, also known as the Spring Equinox, giving us a chance to bask(que) in the sun for a few more hours and take advantage of the activities and people that give us happiness. And don’t forget, yesterday was Father’s Day, the feast day of San José or Saint Joseph, so be thankful for your aita!

March 12, 2008: Death of artist Menchu Gal

On March 12, 2008 the Basque artist Menchu Gal Orendain, the first woman to win Spain’s National Prize for Painting (1959) and renowned for her colorful landscapes as well as portraits, died in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Menchu Gal

Born into a middle-class family in Irun, Gipuzkoa, in 1918, she developed an early interest in painting and by the age of seven was studying the art under local painter Gaspar Montes Iturrioz. Recognizing her talent, he encouraged her family to send her to Paris to continue her studies. This she duly did in 1932, enrolling in a school run by French cubist Amédée Ozenfant. She spent two years in Paris, taking advantage of the time there to visit the great museums and exhibitions in this major global art capital. She was particularly drawn to Impressionist and Fauvist works, and especially the oeuvre of Henri Matisse. Thereafter, she continued her studies in Madrid, at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, where her teachers included the celebrated Basque artist Aurelio Arteta.

Menchu Gal at work in 1975

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, together with her family she took refuge in France. She returned to Madrid in 1943 and soon became part of the Young Madrid School of artists, a group of young contemporary artists who exhibited regularly through the 1950s. It was at this time that she focused on landscape painting, particularly representations of the Castilian Meseta, the famed plateau of Don Quixote, and her native Basque Country. As she exhibited more, so she  gained a reputation for her vibrant use of color and the joy she expressed in her painting. And in 1959 she was awarded Spain’s National Prize for Painting for a landscape of Arraioz in the Baztan Valley of Navarre – the first woman to win this award. She continued to exhibit through the 1960s and 1970s, returning to the Basque Country and sponsoring a new generation of young Basque artists. In this regard, she was particularly interested in spotlighting painters and paintings connected with her natal Bidasoa region of Gipuzkoa; organizing retrospective of her first teacher, Montes Iturrioz, and participating in a travelling exhibition, “Painters of the Bidasoa,” in 1986. And she was still painting and exhibiting to the turn of the millennium.

Asked in a 2006 interview to describe the colors of her own particular corner of the Basque Country, the Bidasoa region, she replied:

Green and gray dominate; the trees are green, and the ground gray. The houses are kind of ocher. They don’t have a lot of color. But I love the Aia Massif [a rocky massif straddling the border between Gipuzkoa and Navarre]. I’ve seen it in all its colors. San Marcial [a shrine on a hill overlooking Irun and the Bidasoa region] and the Aia Massif have featured a lot in my painting.

Besides the Spanish National Prize for Paining, she also won many other awards. She was the first woman to receive the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa’s Gold Medal (2005) and in 2007 Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society of Basque Studies) awarded her the prestigious Manuel Lekuona Prize.

She died in 2008 and in 2010 the City Council of Irun, in collaboration with the Kutxa Foundation, established the Menchu Gal Room at the Sancho de Urdanibia Hospital in Irun, where some of her work–purchased by the city council itself–is exhibited. That same year, a foundation was established in her name.

Further Reading

Menchu Gal Orendain at the Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia.

Menchu Gal, una artista extraordinaria,” by José Javier Fernández Altuna in Euskonews & Media (2007).

 

 

The Basque Country in the 19th Century painted by the Feillet sisters

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Hélène Feillet (1812-1889), as painted by her sister Blanche. Image by TRAILERS MUSEUM, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hélène (1812-1889) and Blanche (1815-1886) Feillet were artists and lithographers of some renown in the mid-19th century. Although born in Paris, they had strong connections to Iparralde, where they lived (in Biarritz) from 1834 on. And they are best known for their many portrayals of the Basque people and landscape in the form of lithographs, watercolors, oil paintings, drawings, and sketches. Their principal focus of interest was the Basque coastline, from Baiona in Lapurdi to Bermeo in Bizkaia, by way of the many fishing towns and villages along the way.

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“Pêcheuses de St-Jean-de-Luz” (Fisherwomen of Donibane Lohizune), by Hélène Feillet. Part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

They were the daughters of a famous lithographer, Pierre Jacques Feillet (1794-1855), who was also head of the School of Drawing and Painting in Baiona from 1844 until his death – on which Blanche took over the same position. Continuing with their father’s specialty, they gained particular fame as lithographers in their representations of the Basque Country, embracing the romanticist tendencies of the age in their lithographs and prints.

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“Costumes basques” (Basque dress) by Hélène Feillet. Part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1844 Blanche married Charles-Henri Hennebutte, who ran a printing company in Baiona. His company would later publish well-known guides to the Basque Country, such as Guide du voyageur de Bayonne à St Sébastien and Description des environs de Bayonne et de Saint-Sébastien (France et Espagne: Album des deux frontières), beautifully illustrated by the Feillet sisters. Hélène also exhibited her work in both Paris and London.

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“Entrée du duc de Bayonne en 1839” (Entrance of the Duke of Baiona in 1839) by Hélène Feillet. A work commissioned by the French Ministry of the Interior. Image by Léna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Their art stands as a remarkable testament of the time and place in which they lived and worked, and serves as an invaluable resource for capturing the Basque Country on the cusp of major social change in the mid- and late-19th century.

500 Posts! What a pleasure to reach this milestone of sharing!

Yesterday witnessed the 500th post on the Center’s blog! And we think it entirely appropriate that we mark the occasion with a post looking toward the future of Basque Studies, with a roundup of what our young scholars here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies have been doing and hope to do in the future. Particularly exciting for us is the eclectic nature of our graduate students, who hail from all over the world. With such talented and committed young people, Basque Studies has a bright future!

Just like reaching the summit at Anboto, our CBS blog has reached a milestone, but we will continue to climb beyond

In honor of our milestone, today we are looking back, first at the posts that have most engaged you, our readers, over the past couple of years:

 

1. Our most read post, by a fairly long way, is the tragic case of Basque sheepherder Txomin Malasechevarria. This is a cautionary tale about just how hard it was for some people to cope with the extreme solitude of life in the mountains, the psychological effects of this loneliness, and the devastating effects this could have on not just their own lives but also those around them. There are no “winners” in this immigrant story. Check out the post here.

 

2. Next, we have a happier tale that celebrates the key role played by women in maintaining the foundations of Basque communities, through their work in Basque boardinghouses, part of the Basque immigrant experience in the United States.  Check out the post here.

 

3. Then we come to what was, for us at the time, a bit of a surprise, pleasant though it was! It’s a post reporting where the Basque Country ranks in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) league tables. The HDI is a United Nations statistical rating based on life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators that are used to measure human development. In short, it’s a means of measuring the health of a nation. Check out the post here.

 

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4.Coming in at number four is a post that continues to rise steadily in the rankings. It’s our post on the classic Basque song “Txoria txori” (The bird is a bird), a pivotal work in the Basque songbook that touches on quintessential themes in Basque culture, sung by folk, rock, and pop singers alike as well as sports fans and even reworked into an orchestral piece. Check out the post here.

5. Last in our top 5 is a post on the remarkable life and work of Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the woman sheepherder who was winning races, age 92, at the Third Age Olympics and died a centenarian. Check out the post here.

And then, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our personal favorites over the years!

  • One of our favorite pieces of writing was this “post within a post,” if you will, dated June 8, 2015, a review of one our most cherished books, My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, which in its focus on the introduction to the work goes beyond mere review to actually engage with and write about the landscape that serves as the backdrop to the book. Check out the post here.
  • Who doesn’t like chocolate? We certainly do! And we like it so much, we wrote a post about it! Check out our rambling thoughts on Basque chocolate, culture, and history in this post, dating from November 2, 2015.

  • One of our most transcendent posts, dated February 12, 2016, concerns what came to be known as the infamous 1911 “Last Massacre” in Western Folklore. This was a major incident in the history of the American West in which Basques featured prominently and serves as proof, if needed, of how the Basque immigrant experience is an essential part of the fabric of this history. Check out the post here.

  • In another post that takes landscape as its primary focus, dated February 24, 2016, we explore how another Basque Country was “imagined” thousands of miles away from home in the remote Nevada mountains. For a great piece of original writing on the Basque experience in the American West check out the post here.

  • We’re especially proud at the Center to try whenever possible to emphasize the role of women in Basque culture and history. This post from March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, served as a roundup of some of the many posts we had published in this regard.  Keep checking in with the blog because this year we will be doing special posts throughout the month of March to celebrate women’s history month.

  • A relatively recent post, dated December 12, 2016, and one that is dear to our hearts emerged out of a reader’s inquiry about native Basque sheep and pig breeds. It got us thinking so much that we wrote a post about it. Check it out here.

Thanks so much for reading and here’s to another 500 and more. It is all because of you, dear readers, so eskerrik asko once again for engaging with us and for sharing our love of Basqueness!

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