Category: Basque museums (page 1 of 2)

William Smallwood Donates Testimonies of Gernika bombing to Basque Museum

US writer William L. Smallwood, aka Egurtxiki, recently donated the transcripts of more than a hundred personal testimonies he collected from eyewitnesses to the destruction of Gernika 80 years ago. His donation was made to the documentation center at the Gernika Peace Museum. Smallwood collected the testimonies in the early 1970s as part of research for his book on the bombing, The Day Guernica was Bombed: A Story Told by Witnesses and Survivors.

The 87-year-old former World War II pilot and biologist Smallwood, who was born in Iowa, studied in Idaho, and who now resides in Arizona, made the trip to the Basque Country to be part of the 80th anniversary commemorations of the event and formally hand over the testimonies he collected more than forty years ago. His work has also recently been translated into Basque.

From his book’s own description: This book is the result of a person who started learning Basque in the sheep camps of Idaho in order to research the story of the Gernika bombing. In Mountain Home (Idaho) William Smallwood was baptized “Basilio Egurtxiki” by Dr. John Bideganeta, a second-generation Basque and a distinguished citizen of the town. “Egurtxiki” is the literal translation into Basque of Smallwood and the Basilio came from the man who was more of a father than any other man in his life, Basilio Yriondo, an “amerikanua,” a Basque sheepherder in the American West. In September of 1971 Egurtxiki came to Gernika to research his book on the bombing and, after earning the trust of the people, in the spring and summer of 1972 he managed to conduct seventy-four interviews with survivors of the bombing. The following fall and winter, primarily through the efforts of Maria Angeles Basabe, the number of interviews was increased to one hundred and twenty-four. They both risked much, for a person could be arrested and tortured for mentioning the bombing. All the interviews had to be conducted in absolute secrecy.

See a report (in Basque) and photo of Egurtxiki here in Berria.

 

January 9, 1844: Opera singer Julián Gayarre born

Julián Gayarre (1844-1890), the great Basque tenor. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On January 9, 1844 Sebastián Julián Gayarre Garjón, known more popularly as just Julián Gayarre, was born into a humble family in Erronkari (Roncal), the principal nucleus of the remote valley of the same name in the far northeast of Navarre. From these humble beginnings he would go on to a have a successful career as an opera singer, gaining international renown as the greatest Italianate tenor of his generation and one of the most famous tenors of all time in the history of opera.

Leaving school at 13 he was immediately put to work as a shepherd, one of the principal means of earning a living in his natal Pyrenean surroundings. A couple of year’s later his father found him work in a notions store in Pamplona-Iruñea. It was in the capital city of Navarre that he first came across professional musicians, and he was even fired from his job for leaving the store one day to follow a band parading in the street outside. He then moved back to his native Erronkari Valley to work in a blacksmith shop in Irunberri (Urunberri in the Eastern Navarrese dialect of Basque,  Lumbier in Spanish). Sticking with the blacksmith trade he found work once more in Pamplona-Iruñea, where he relocated in 1863. Hearing him singing one day, a coworker encouraged him to apply to join the newly founded Orfeón Pamplonés, the city choir, a decision that changed his life.

His rise to fame was in many ways meteoric. Making an immediate impact on the city’s musical elite with the beautiful natural timbre of his voice, a scholarship was arranged to send him to Madrid Royal Conservatory and train properly for a career in professional music. He finished his studies in Madrid in 1868 and was awarded a grant by the Provincial Council of Navarre to continue studying his craft in Milan. Shortly after beginning his studies in Milan, he made his operatic debut in 1869 and thrilled critics with both his voice and commanding stage presence. As a result of his performances throughout Italy in the 1870s he was soon in demand in the great opera capitals of Europe, Paris and London, traveling widely across the continent as a whole as well as to Brazil and Argentina, although his home stage remained the legendary La Scala opera house in Milan.

Gayarre on his debut performance at La Scala, Milan, in 1876. Image from Mundo Gráfico 38 (July 17, 1912), page 5. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Gayarre continued to enthrall audiences across Europe with his wide repertoire, ranging from bel canto works to Wagner’s earlier music-dramas. In the words of Karlos Sánchez Ekiza, in his Basque Classical Music (free to download here): “He was noted for his intense recitals, with a voice capable of incredible range in colour and intensity, all in a clarity of textual performance and perfect diction.” Between the mid-1870s and mid-1880s he consolidated his reputation as the greatest tenor of the age., but thereafter he began to suffer a serious respiratory illness that caused his voice to deteriorate. At what would turn out to be his final performance, at the Royal Theater in Madrid on December 8, 1889, he broke down mid-performance, retiring from the stage claiming he could sing no more. Just a few weeks later, on January 2, 1890, he died in Madrid. His body was thereafter taken back to his beloved Erronkari, to be buried near the very house in which he was born.

Today the principal theater in Pamplona-Iruñea, the Gayarre Theater, bears his name, as does a prestigious biennial international competition in the city, the Julián Gayarre Singing Competition. Moreover, the house where he was born is now the Julián Gayarre Museum-House, and well worth a visit to this beautiful part of Navarre.

Just an additional point of interest to the short but intense life of Julián Gayarre, it is worth underscoring the fact that his first language was Basque, and specifically the Eastern Navarrese dialect of Basque (a dialect that was sadly lost in the twentieth century but for which efforts are being made to revive). Gayarre is reputed to have often closed his solo performances, whether in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, or any of the numerous Italian cities he toured in, with a performance of the great Basque anthem “Gernikako arbola” (The Tree of Gernika), on which see previous post here and here. Interestingly, too, from his global travels he would write home to his family in Basque, in the Eastern Navarrese dialect, and his letters are preserved to this day as an eloquent testimony to this beautiful, but lost, dialect. The following (somewhat rakish in places) letter, written in 1884, is one such example:

Barcelona 19 Diciembre 1884

        Ene tia Juana maitia

        Eugenia sin da [etorri da] arro[nt] ongui. Quemen gaude anisco ongui guciac eta ori [berori] nola dago?

        Nain din [nahi dun] sin [rin, jin, etorri] [xin]cona [honat, hona] ichasoaren ecustra? Anisco andia da, tia Juana.

        Nai badu nic dud anisco deiru orentaco vidagearen pagateco quemengo ostatiaren pagateco. Eztu eguiten quemen ozic batrere, chaten [xaten, jaten] dugu quemen anisco ongui eta güero artan [artzen, hartzen] dugu iror nescache postretaco eta gazte eta pollit.

        Ha cer vizia! tia Juana maitia, amar urte chiquiago bagunu…

        Gorainzi guzientaco eta piyco bat nescachi pollit erroncarico guziat.

Julian.

In English:

Barcelona, December 19, 1884

My dear aunt Juana,

Eugenia arrived safely. We’re all well here, and you?

Would you like to come and see the sea? It’s enormous, aunt Juana.

If you like, I have enough money to pay for your journey and pay for your hotel here. It’s not cold at all here, we eat very well and three pretty young girls for dessert.

Heavens, what a life!  Dear aunt Juana, if we were ten years younger…

Regards to everyone and a pinch for all the pretty Erronkari girls.

Julian

For more information check out the foundation in his name here.

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

October 18, 1997 marked the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – today one of the most emblematic sites in the Basque Country.

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The Guggenheim by night. Photo by PA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Gehry,  came to redefine the Basque Country as a whole and the city of Bilbao in particular: it was the “miracle” of Bilbao.

The “miracle” referred of course to Frank Gehry’s Bilbao masterpiece. Hailed as an “instant landmark,” it brought a new sense of relevance to architecture in the transformation of urban landscapes. It was the story of the architect as hero and, as the Greeks believed, of architecture as the first art—arché. Bilbao was doing for the Basques what the Sidney Opera House had done for Australia. Gehry, while complaining of being “geniused to death,” became not only the master architect, but the master artist.

These observations come from the introduction to Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.

The Center also publishes other books on the social, cultural, and urban transformation of Bilbao and the Basque Country, for which the Guggenheim served in many respects as a springboard:

That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.

Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

UPV/EHU Museum of Education – a step into the past

The University of the Basque Country, at its Donostia-San Sebastián campus, houses the Museum of Education, which won the Manuel Bartolomé Cossío prize in 2015 for its work in maintaining educational heritage. The museum’s objective is to “recover, safeguard, and make the historical memory of education in the Basque Country public.” Walking through its 7 halls, one steps into the past, traveling through the different phases of education and Basque language teaching in the Basque Country.

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The museum has two recreations of classrooms, one from the 1950s-60s and the other from the 1970s. They are detailed to perfection, not only including furniture but also notebooks, backpacks, and other personal effects. The contrast is stark between the two and it helps to show the evolution of classrooms and education in general. Special attention is brought to the use of Basque in education, and much of the museum is dedicated to this. Educational materials are also on display and visitors are encouraged to visit the library, which is full of research on the subject of the history of education.

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Unless you’re living in the Basque Country, you might have a hard time trying to visit. However, you can check out the following article, which includes a video (in Spanish) of the museum: http://www.ehu.eus/es/web/guest/preview-campusa/-/asset_publisher/1O7v/content/n_20160916-museo-educacion

Also visit their website for more information:  http://www.ehu.eus/es/web/museoeducacion

If you’re interested in learning more about education in the Basque Country, check out Equality, Equity, and Diversity, published by the CBS and free to download here: https://basque.unr.edu/docs/CR1.pdf

New Exhibition at the Bizkaia Aretoa: “Amerikanuak. From North to South: Artists in residence in America by students from the Fine Arts Department of the University of the Basque Country”

An exhibition on the American experience by students of the University of the Basque Country began on September 19 and will take place until the 26th of the same month in Bilbao. The central theme of these artists is cultural understanding and we are happy to have been a part of it.

flyerThree students have spent time at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies during the past two years, thanks to the collaboration between our institution and the University of the Basque Country. Manuel Diego Sánchez, Leire Baztarrica, and Oihane Sánchez Duro brought their different projects and perspectives to Reno, taking part in courses offered by the Fine Arts Department as well as networking. Their work varies in its medium, but focuses on the migration of Basques in the West and images of Nevada.

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Sánchez (Madrid, 1993) compiled a photographic archive through the lens of historic memory and the uprooting experienced by migrants. His contemporary interpretations help shed new light on this experience.

Baztarrica (Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1992) focused her work on images of Reno, with help from Will Durham, contrasting the kitsch of the casino world with her own photographic portraits of the people she came across on her visit.

Sánchez Duro (Sestao, 1991) researched the representation by migrants to recreate familiar spaces, reminiscent of their homelands. She presents this as an architecture of memory signified by the dualism between the local and the global.

This exhibit also features the work of Teresa Jareño Querejeta (Donostia, 1987) who spent time in Antarctica. She wishes to recreate the experience through a multimedia form of visuals and sound.

We look forward to having more students come and be a part of the CBS, as their artistic residencies help broaden our views of Basques through artistic contemplations.

For more information about the exhibit, please read their flyer, available here:  http://www.ehu.eus/ehusfera/bbaa/files/2016/09/AMERIKANUAK-DIPTICO.pdf

Center publications that explore art-related themes include Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray; and Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, which can be downloaded for free here.

September 11, 2008: Ekainberri replica cave site opens

 

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Exact replica paintings, based on the originals in Ekain, in Ekainberri. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On September 11, 2008, the Ekainberri replica cave site in Zestoa, Gipuzkoa, opened to the public for the first time. It is a replica of the Ekain cave in Deba, Gipuzkoa, which is included in UNESCO’s “Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain” World Heritage Site.

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Outside view of Ekainberri, from the museum website.

Ekain was discovered in 1969 by Rafael Rezabal and Andoni Albizuri, who on entering the cave came across intricate paintings–33 horses, 10 bison, 2 bears, 2 deer, 4 goats, and 2 fish as well as other nonfigurative marks–that would eventually be dated back to between 10,000 and 14,500 BCE. That same year, José Miguel de Barandiarán and Jesús Altuna began work on excavating the site, a task that lasted until 1975. Their findings were published in 1978 and updated in 1984. In short, they revealed one of the finest examples of cave paintings associated with the Magdalenian culture of the Upper Paleolithic period, on a level equal to that of the renowned paintings of Altamira and Lascaux.

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Exhibition hall in Ekainberri, from the museum website.

Given the obviously delicate nature of the original site it was impossible to allow full public access to these marvelous paintings. The various public authorities involved therefore decided to create a replica site, Ekainberri (“new Ekain”) as near as possible to the original, which would serve as a museum and information center about the people who inhabited these caves and the natural environment in which they lived. Although relatively new, Ekainberri has quickly become a landmark destination for visitors to the Basque Country.

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The actual replica of the Ekain cave in Ekainberri, from the museum website.

See the official Ekainberri site here.

The Basque Country is blessed with numerous cave sites. If you do get the chance to visit and are interested in these remarkable testaments to the remote human past, as well as Ekainberri be sure to set some time aside for a trip to the Cave of Zugarramurdi in Nafarroa and/or the Caves of Sara in Lapurdi.

If you’re interested in the topic, check out the Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, with an introduction by Jesús Altuna.

Our very own Joseba Zulaika, who grew up near Ekain, also talks about the cave and its resonance in Basque culture in his classic study, Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament.

 

 

First stop on your Rioja Alavesa wine experience

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The main building, Villa Lucía. Picture taken from the center’s website.

If you are planning a trip to the Basque Country and one of your interests is the great Rioja wine of Araba, Rioja Alavesa, then an excellent starting point is the Villa Lucía Thematic Center of Wine. The center is located in Guardia/Laguardia, Araba, in a mansion that belongs to the family of the renowned neoclassical fabulist Félix María de Samaniego (1745–1801).

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The museum. Picture taken from the center’s website.

Visitors to the center can take an interactive tour of the wine-making process, visit the center’s museum and library, take part in an enogastronomic gymkhana–a fun way to find out more about food and drink by playing group-based games revolving around guessing the different aromas and characteristics of wine as well as trying to create your own pintxos–or just taste different grapes and take a crash course in wine tasting. There is also ample room on this country estate to stroll around its gardens (with over 200 plant and flower varieties) and have a drink and a meal or a snack while planning your visit to this fascinating and historic part of the Basque Country.

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A view of the gardens in the grounds of the estate. Picture taken from the center’s website.

For more information, click here.

June 10, 1835: Beginning of the Siege of Bilbao during First Carlist War

June 10, 1835 marks the start date of the famous siege of Bilbao by Carlist forces during the First Carlist War (1833-1839). The nineteenth-century Carlist Wars (with later conflicts taking place in the 1840s and 1870s) are somewhat under the radar of most general European history narratives but they were crucial in defining the political and administrative direction that modern Spain took. Interestingly for the purposes of this blog they also played a major role in shaping the fortunes of the Basque Country, which served as a principal theater of war in the 1830s and 1870s. In short, the outcome of these two civil wars established not just the Basque Country’s modern legal relationship with Spain but also played a big part in the decision of many Basques to leave their homeland in search of a better life on the other side of the Atlantic.

Although ostensibly the result of a dynastic struggle between different pretenders to the Spanish throne, the Carlist Wars were more complex civil confrontations that reflected different visions of how Spain should be organized politically. Most Basques were on the Carlist side (supporters of the pretender Don Carlos), among other reasons because they believed it guaranteed them the continuation of a political system that safeguarded Basque rights when it came to decision-making authority. On the other side, the Liberals (supporters of the regent  Mar’ía Cristina on behalf of the infant princess Mar’ía Isabel) sought to modernize Spain, centralizing decision-making authority and removing or lessening where possible those specific Basque rights.

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Carlist plans of the city for the siege of Bilbao in 1835. By Antonio de Goycoechea. In the Zumalakarregi Museum. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

During the First Carlist War, while most of the rural Basque Country supported the Carlist cause, larger urban enclaves tended to favor the modernizing ambitions of the Liberal side. The Carlist forces there were led by a brilliant and charismatic Basque general, Toma‡s Zumalacarregui (also spelled Zumalakarregi), who argued for a strike on Madrid from the Carlist bastion in Navarre, via Vitoria-Gasteiz, in sweeping fashion down from the Basque Country. He was overruled, however, by Don Carlos and was instead ordered to capture the Liberal bastion of Bilbao as an emblematic prize for the Carlist cause. Carlist forces thus laid siege to the city on June 10, but during the siege Zumalacarregui was shot and wounded, and subsequently died from his wounds. The siege formally ended on July 1, with the Carlists unsuccessful in their attempts to take the city.

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Tomas Zumalacarregui, the charismatic Carlist leader. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

Thereafter, the Carlists, bereft of their charismatic leader, plagued by internal divisions and grave tactical errors, and confronted with a following increasingly tired of battle, slid toward defeat. In 1839, the Carlist leader Rafael Maroto signed the Treaty of Bergara with his Liberal adversary Baldomero Espartero. This ended the war and set Spain on a path toward an administrative reshaping that gradually eroded Basque political rights.

The Zumalakarregi Museum in Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa (his birthplace) is a great source of information for this period in Basque history in general.

For a general introduction to the Carlist Wars and their impact on the fortunes of the Basque Country, see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History, available free to download here.  

The political and administrative implications of the Carlist Wars for the Basque Country are discussed in detail by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga in The Making of the Basque Question: Experiencing Self-Government, 1793-1877.

And for a riveting first-hand account of the Carlist offensive in the Basque Country during the first war, including an account of the siege of Bilbao, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui in Navarre and the Basque Provinces by C.F. Henningsen.

 

 

February 22, 1926: The Urola Railroad Inaugurated

On February 22, 1926, the Urola railroad, linking the towns of Zumarraga and Zumaia in Gipuzkoa, was inaugurated by the Spanish king, Alfonso XIII. It was the first electrified railroad in the Spanish state and operated until 1986, closing definitively in 1988.

It was originally envisaged as both a passenger and freight line, connecting key towns in the nascent industrial and demographic growth of this river valley in Gipuzkoa. Starting at Zumarraga, a station on the main Madrid-Irun line, this narrow-gauge railroad followed the Urola River, stopping at towns like Azkoitia and Azpeitia, as well as important destinations for many visitors like Loiola (the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loiola and home to the Sanctuary bearing his name) and the Zestoa spa, before finishing at the port town of Zumaia.

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Zumaia station. The terminus for the old Urola railroad line.

In its early years it was transporting just under 400,000 people annually, and during its most successful period in the 1950s and 1960s, 800,000 people used the line annually (with a record number of just under a million in 1962). As regards freight, it transported around 55,000 metric tons annually until the mid-1950s, when freight services began to decline in part due to improved road connections (by the end of its lifetime the Urola line was only transporting 2,000 metric tons annually).

In the 1980s, a Basque government report stated that, without significant investment, the line would have to be closed (to be replaced by a bus service for passengers).  Despite significant protest, including a 1988 demonstration involving 7,000 people, the line was ultimately closed.

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Steam locomotive “Portugal” E205 with railroad cars on the line between the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia and Lasao. Photo by Nils Öberg, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, however, the Urola railroad is enjoying a new lease of life, at least in part, through the auspices of the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia. Here, as well as visiting the impressive collection, enthusiasts old and young alike can enjoy a charming ride to Lasao and back (a 10 km/6 miles round-trip) on an old steam train. Having done this myself last year, I’m still not sure who enjoyed themselves more on that ride, the kids or the drivers!

Check out this short article on the Urola line, part of a wider series of articles about the railroad in Gipuzkoa that also includes an interesting piece here on the Basque Railway Museum.

Modern railroads, and especially the new project for a high-speed train service in the Basque Country and beyond, are central to Nagore Calvo Mendizabal’s argument in her compelling study, Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building.  If you thought that railroads and nation-building were a relic of the past, of nineteenth-century industrialization and growth, think again. Railroads are still a highly political, as well as economic, issue, and impact people’s very group identity, as adeptly demonstrated in this remarkable work.

Frank Gehry and that Old Bilbao Moon

Last month the Canadian-born architect who first moved to Los Angeles in 1949 was covered in the news quite extensively.  NPR, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post have all featured Gehry and his life’s work in some fashion or another.  One of the most mentioned works of architecture is, of course, The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  It was in 1997 that the museum was built in effort to bring an appreciation of culture to the Basque city that had been lying in industrial ruin.  This “ship-wreck” was the viewed as a “promise of a new city” as described by Dr. Joseba Zulaika.  Gehry’s work and its contribution to Bilbao is a main theme of Prof. Zulaika’s class, “The Bilbao Guggenheim,” in which I’m enrolled this semester.  I knew nothing of the back story involved in terms of  why and how the building of the Guggenheim came to be, but by reading That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a CityProf. Zulaika’s book on the transformation of the city and its people, I am finding out about the struggle and importance of building this museum.

Click on the book link provided above for your own copy, or check out the story from NPR’s Susan Stamberg below:

Frank Gehry’s Lifelong Challenge: To Create Buildings that Move

Here are a few of Frank Gehry’s famous works, with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at top

guggenheim pic Walt Disney concert hall Weatherhead school of management dancing house prague

 

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