Category: Basque online sources (page 2 of 2)

Historic travel guide to the Basque Country available online

The Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea Library, the principal archive of Gipuzkoa, is home to a lot of great online sources for anyone with an interest in Basque Studies.

Luminous Guide

One such source is an early travel guide (of sorts), written for British forces taking part on the Liberal side in the First Carlist War (1833-39), and published in 1836 in Baiona (Bayonne). Titled, in the rather long-winded fashion of the day, A Luminous Guide for the British Cooperative Forces in Spain on the Principal Subjects Connected with Particular Information Relative to the Basque Provinces, the book was authored by Sotero de Goicoechea, a lieutenant in the Liberal forces of Bilbao.

 

Luminous guide extract 1

“Curious English, Spanish and Basque Vocabulary of Different Most Useful Words,” with the author pointing out that he uses the Basque of Markina, it being the only place where “purest Basque” is spoken in Bizkaia.

After a brief summary of the current political situation from an unabashed pro-Liberal perspective,  Goicoechea provides a general introduction to Bizkaia: its physical and human geography, some of its customs (music and dance), and system of governance. He then goes on to describe specific towns in the province in more detail, concentrating on their location and social and economic status. Particular emphasis is also given to the area in and around Bilbao. The guide then lists the distances, in English miles, between selected towns, before providing the names and prices of inns, restaurants, and coffee houses, and even detailed pricing of wine and basic provisions. Finally, the book provides a basic dictionary including everyday terms that these British troops may need to know with various translations from English into French, Spanish, and Basque.

This is not really travel literature as such, but what the book does offer is a snapshot of everyday life in Bizkaia in the 1830s. To read the full text, click here.

To learn more about the social and political singularity of Bizkaia at this time, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition, by Gregorio Monreal Zia. This is a comprehensive account of the specific legal structure that Bizkaia enjoyed within the Kingdom of Spain.

To read a pro-Carlist account of the First Carlist War, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign in Navarre and the Basque Provinces, by C.F. Henningsen. This is a first-hand account of the conflict between the spring of 1834 and summer of 1835 written by a English volunteer in the Carlist ranks.      

Basques in Liverpool: The Hispanic Liverpool Project

The Hispanic Liverpool Project is an initiative of Dr. Kirsty Hooper, formerly of the University of Liverpool and now an associate professor and reader in Hispanic Studies at the University of Warwick in England.

While Dr.Hooper herself specializes in the culture and literature of Galicia, the Hispanic Liverpool Project seeks to record the experiences of all communities originating in the Iberian Peninsula and as we can see, Basques were prominent among such networks.

Liverpool1890s

Lime Street, Liverpool, in the 1890s, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Quoting the website, “Through the Hispanic Liverpool Database (coming soon!) and Hispanic Liverpool Forum, the project gathers, records and interprets the stories of the people who inhabited those networks, the trading connections they forged and exploited, the places they lived, worked and are remembered, and the traces we can still find of them today, in Liverpool and elsewhere.”

The importance of Liverpool as the major British port and the fact that it served as a key point of embarkation for transatlantic crossings, especially the Liverpool-New York passage, were key in attracting Basques to the city. While many Basques were just passing through, others stayed. The grandest of these operated shipping and shipbuilding companies, while others started up smaller businesses such as tailors or shoemakers, and interestingly, in a parallel to the New World Basque experience, a  network of Basque boarding houses was established in Liverpool.

Eulalia Abaitua

Eulalia de Abaitua, photographed by Charles Reutlinger.

In the “Stories” section of the website, check out the biography of Eulalia de Abaitua (1853-1943), a pioneering Basque photographer who famously recorded daily life in nineteenth-century Bizkaia. Although born in Bilbao, she was raised in Liverpool, married there, and first studied photography in the city. Abaitua’s work is discussed in Miren Jaio’s A Collection of Prints, published by the Etxepare Basque Institute and available free to download here.

For more on the Basque presence in Liverpool in general, see “Los vascos de Liverpool” by Koldo San Sebastián in the online journal Euskonews. And Helen Forrester’s historical novel, The Liverpool Basque, examines the experience of Basque newcomers to the city.

Today, Basque language, society, and culture classes are offered through the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool, and the Center’s own Xabier Irujo currently occupies the Manuel Irujo Chair Fellowship at that same university.

Books in the Center’s Diaspora and Migration Studies series address many of the same themes and issues that the Hispanic Liverpool Project is concerned with.

Ahotsak: A Basque Oral Archive

Ahotsak is an initiative of the Badihardugu Association to collect and diffuse the Basque oral heritage and the Basque dialects. It is an archive of transcribed, recorded, and/or filmed interviews with Basque seniors about the lives and experiences.

Ahotsak hizlariak

Some of the people interviewed, from Ahotsak.eus

The archive serves as a testimony to both the rich variety of dialects in the Basque language, and as a historical record of life and customs in the Basque Country during the early and mid-twentieth century.

To read, listen to, and/or watch the archived interviews, at the top of the Ahotsak homepage click on Grabazioak (Recordings). This will give you four options: Herriak (Towns), Gaiak (Subjects), Priektuak (Projects), and Hizlariak (Speakers).

For example, clicking on Herriak,  you will see a list of towns in the Basque Country in which interviews were recorded with people. The icons on the far right of the table indicate whether the interviews are available in video, audio, or transcription format. Do you have any family ties with the Basque Country? If so, why not see if your family’s home town is listed? You may even see some relatives or family acquaintances!

By clicking on Euskalkiak (Basque dialects) at the top of the homepage, you can access the interviews according to the dialect in question. The Euskalkiak page also includes maps that geographically locate these dialects.

640px-Euskalkiak_gaur

The Current Panorama of basque Dialects, according to Koldo Zuazo. “Euskalkiak gaur” from the Azkue Fundazioa

To see some examples, check out the interviews with people from Lekeitio (Bizkaia), Baztan (Navarre), or  Urepele (Lower Navarre).

If you’re interested in Basque dialects, check out Koldo Zuazo’s The Dialects of Basque, an excellent general introduction to dialectical variation in the Basque language.

Alan Lomax’s recordings of traditional Basque music and bertsos

Alan Lomax (1915-2002) was one of the great American collectors of twentieth-century folk music. A scholar, writer, and activist, he was one of the main architects behind the folk revivals of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, blazing the trail for the likes of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez (who of course sings a memorable version of the traditional Basque song Txoria txori), and many others.

Alan Lomax in front of American Patchwork video, c. 1984. From the Cultural Equity website.

Together with his father, the folklorist and collector, John A. Lomax, he also recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. Today, the Lomax Family Collections are housed at the American Folklife Center. To get some idea of the range of his activity, see the Alan Lomax Archive here.

In 1952-53, Lomax spent some time in the Basque Country, where he recorded many traditional songs as well as bertsos (improvised oral poems). The Association for Cultural Equity was founded by Lomax to explore and preserve the world’s expressive traditions with humanistic commitment and scientific engagement, and it generously posts Lomax’s Basque recordings here.

As well as making up a historical archive of incalculable value, these recordings serve to capture a time and place in Basque history in which public cultural expression in the Basque language was strictly limited by the Franco dictatorship.

Lomax’s Basque recordings include work songs (sung by both women and men), religious songs, sea shanties, and bertsos, including  some by two of the great bertsolaris of their day, Basarri (Inazio Eizmendi) and Uztapide (Manuel Olaizola),

Basarri and Uztapide. Photo by Indalezio Ojanguren. Image at the Department of Culture and Euskara, Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa

 

This is a truly invaluable resource for anyone interested in Basque culture in general or, more specifically, traditional Basque music and bertsolaritza. It is a fitting tribute to the life and work of Alan Lomax, and the Association for Cultural Equity is to be applauded for its efforts in posting these recordings online.

If you’re interested in these topics, the CBS publishes Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Music in the Basque Country, by Sabin Bikandi. Ostensibly a biography of one of the most renowned Basque taborers and dance masters, this work actually involves a wider description and discussion of the relationship between music and dance in the Basque tradition. What’s more, it is accompanied by a DVD that includes, among many other things, historic footage of Basque ritual dances in the 1920s, archive images of traditional Basque instrument makers and performers, and recordings of two different types of bertso performances (in both a formal championship and a less formal “bertso dinner” setting).

On bertsolaritza, more specifically, although the work that also includes a chapter on the musical  foundations of the genre, see Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.

Bilketa: A New Online Basque Archive

April 30 saw the launch of the new online Basque archive, Bilketa (in Basque and French), with over 100, 000 documents, half of which are in Basque. This is the fruit of ten years of work and major collaboration among between both public and private institutions.

(Enmarcado en negro). Attelage Basque. V. P. Paris N. 35.

Portrait of a bygone age in the Northern Basque Country

The documents in the online archive range from books, newspapers, journals, and manuscripts to photographs and audiovisual sources, all stored physically in different libraries, multimedia libraries, and archives. They concern Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, in France, and the collection also includes the personal library of Father Pierre Lafitte, one of the most important Basque cultural activists of the twentieth century.

Portrait_laffite

Father Pierre Laffite, from the Bilketa website

The website also includes news of current and forthcoming exhibitions (including online exhibits), talks, and so on, with special reference to the Northern Basque Country, and the option to sign up for a newsletter detailing new developments.

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“Eñaut Elizagarai” pastorala, Gamere-Zihigan (Camou-Cihigue, 2007). Photo courtesy of I. Bichenzo via Wikimedia Commons

The first online exhibition at Bilketa is about the pastorala of Zuberoa (or Xiberoa, Soule in French), a form of traditional participatory outdoor theater that is performed by an amateur cast made up of people from the same village or district. The pastorala is generally acknowledged to be one of the few existing remnants of the late medieval mystery plays, dating from the fifteenth century, which were once commonplace all over Europe.  The exhibition can be visited here.

The CBS welcomes this major initiative and its contribution to greater understanding about the Basque Country, the Basque language, and Basque culture in general.

Ongi jin!

If you’re interested in the Northern Basque Country in particular, check out The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006, by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga, which examines how notions of national identity and belonging have evolved and changed in the region over the course of two centuries. Ahedo Gurrutxaga concludes his study by contending that we may be witnessing an especially transformative moment as regards how people define themselves in national terms in the Northern Basque Country.

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