Category: Basque politics (page 1 of 3)

Nevada and Bizkaia share goals for a bright future

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Representatives of the state of Nevada have met with Unai Rementeria the General Deputy of the Basque province of Bizkaia today in order to strengthen ties between the two bodies.  State of Nevada officials from the state Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Kris Sanchez, Director of International Trade, and Jarad van Wagoner,  Deputy Director of International Trade, met with Rementeria, who affirmed that Nevada and Bizkaia share goals for the future, relating especially to energy and automotion. Van Wagoner and Sanchez then continued in a work meeting in which participated the General Deputy and other officials such as the deputy charged with economic and territorial development, Imanol Pradales, and industry representatives. The officials will continue their visit to Bizkaia by visiting more industry official to explore official opportunities for collaboration.

This meeting builds on the important meetings that happened between Nevada and Bizkaia in conjunction with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that too place this past July in Washington, D.C.

Nevada and Bizkaia have traditionally had close ties, many Basques from the region settled in Northern Nevada and either made their homes there, or returned to Bizkaia.

Read the full story about the event (in Spanish) here.

August 31, 1839: The Convention of Bergara

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Text of the Convention of Bergara (1839). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

August 31, 1839, marks the symbolic date–the Convention of Bergara–by which the First Carlist War came to an end. A peace agreement had actually already been signed between the opposing sides, the Liberals and the Carlists, on August 29;  but two days later a public event was held in Bergara, Gipuzkoa, “the Bergara embrace” between Baldomero Espartero and Rafael Maroto, to proclaim peace. This remains a key date in Basque history because from this moment on the distinct administrative rights and liberties (the foruak or fueros) of the different Basque provinces would be called into question in increasingly centralizing efforts to make these provinces conform to a new state framework unfolding in Spain throughout the nineteenth century.

For Joseba Agirreazkuenaga, in The Making of the Basque Question (p. 174):

Article 1 of the convention made reference to the foral question—the political issue of inserting the Basque Provinces into the liberal constitutional framework established in the Spanish state between 1833 and 1837. The remaining points dealt with questions concerning the combatants, particularly those of the Carlist side. Not all of the Carlists accepted the terms of the convention but it was enough that it should receive the support of some battalions for the military fronts to collapse, forcing the remainder to flee into exile. The war did not, however, end automatically, but without the support of the Basques the Carlist dynastic option no longer appeared to have any possibility of success.

If you’d like to learn more about the First Carlist War, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui in Navarre and the Basque Provinces, by C.F. Henningsen, the recollections of an English adventurer who fought in the Carlist ranks. Besides being a robust and lively account of the course of the war itself, with no attention to detail spared, what makes the book equally interesting is Henningsen’s thoughts on the Basque Country (including detailed descriptions of a preindustrial Basque landscape) and on Basque culture in general.

July 29, 1940: British government agrees to back Basque independence in event of Spanish support for Hitler

The tumultuous period between the end of the Spanish Civil War in April 1939 and the outbreak of World War II in September that same year marked a critical time in Basque history. Basques exiles who had fled into France and beyond during and after the Spanish Civil War suddenly found themselves once more prey to the advance of Fascism.

Following the fall of Poland in 1939,  Hitler’s forces swept north and westward in the spring of 1940, taking Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and, finally, France, with Paris falling to the Germans on June 14. In the less than a year most of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis. Only the United Kingdom held out.

The charismatic leader of the Basque government-in-exile, Jose Antonio Agirre, had gotten caught up in these events and had been forced underground–ultimately in of all places, Berlin–into an incognito existence as he sought an escape from the Fascist clutches (on this, if you haven’t already done so, check out his riveting memoir Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe). In his absence, the Basque government-in-exile was replaced by a Basque National Council, headed by Manuel Irujo and based in London.

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Manuel Irujo, Jose Antonio Agirre, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, London, 1945.

It is during that time, in the interesting period before Agirre’s reappearance in October 1941, that the Basque National Council carried out a series of negotiations, most notably with both the British government and the representatives of Free France (effectively the exiled democratic French government) led by Charles de Gaulle. Most famously, perhaps, these negotiations resulted in the creation of the Gernika Battalion, made up of Basque exiles, which fought with distinction with the French army in defeating the Germans in 1945 (the story of which we covered in a previous post here).

Less well known, certainly, was a fascinating agreement brokered by the Basque National Council in London. Xabier Irujo picks up the story in his Expelled from the Motherland (p. 17):

In less than a month the Basque National Council and the British government had made their first agreement on military collaboration. Robert J. G. Boothby, representing the British government, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, representing the Basque National Council, signed the first agreement on July 29, 1940, which spelled out that the British government was committed to defending the independence of the Basque Country if the Spanish government went to war on the side of the Axis powers.

Ultimately, and despite plenty of willing on the part of Franco, Spain did not enter the war on the side of Hitler and this agreement was never implemented; yet another example of one of those twists of fate around which history revolves.

If you’re interested in this topic, as well as the abovementioned works, see also War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, available free to download here; and, for more general background, Modern Basque History, by Cameron Watson, available free to download here.

 

Basque Diaspora under the spotlight at University of the Basque Country Summer School

July 18-19: As part of the University of the Basque Country’s annual summer school, a course titled “El (nuevo) papel de la diáspora vasca en la Euskadi del siglo XXI” (The (new) role of the Basque Diaspora in the 21st-century Basque Country) is being given in Donostia-San Sebastián.

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Food products in Argentina marketed as specifically Basque-Argentinian would seem to suggest a kind of hybrid transatlantic identity. Photo by Gastón Cuello , courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The aim of the course is to explore the current reality of the Basque Diaspora and discuss what role it should play in the contemporary Basque Country. Different speakers will discuss topics ranging from the foreign policy of the Basque government in general and its specific strategy regarding the diaspora, to the nature of particular Basque Diaspora communities in Argentina, the US, and Europe. What’s more there will be general talks about the diaspora concept in general, the challenges posed by globalization, and the comparative case of the Irish Diaspora.

For more information and to see the full program, click here.

If you are interested in the topic of the Basque Diaspora, the Center has published several books in its Diaspora and Migration Studies collection.

 

 

July 14, 1894: Basque flag flies for first time

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The ikurriña. Photo by Muhamedmesic, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On July 14, 1894 the ikurriña–today the Basque national flag–was publicly displayed for the first time outside the Euzkeldun Batzokija, the party headquarters of the Basque Nationalist Party. Designed by brothers Sabino and Luis Arana, it was originally intended to symbolize Bizkaian nationalism but later came to represent the Basque Country as a whole.

The term ikurriña derives from the Basque word ikur, meaning “mark” or “sign.” In the words of Cameron J. Watson, in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence:

The flag was composed of two crosses, one white and the other green, superimposed on a red background. The white cross represented the importance of religion, while the green one represented the Bizkaian “race,” its ancient laws (the fueros), and Euskara. The red background, according to Arana, symbolized the fact that Bizkaians were “ready to shed their blood in defense of the two crosses.”

The ikurriña was officially adopted as the flag of the Basque Autonomous Region in 1936 but, following the victory of General Franco in the Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War, it was banned. It was legalized once more in 1977 and was adopted as the official flag of the Basque Autonomous Community in 1979.

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An ikurriña incorporating the club crest of rugby team Biarritz Olympique. Photo by Willtron, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nowadays, the ikurriña enjoys widespread acceptance as the national flag of all Basques.

A busy summer for Joseba Zulaika

The Center’s Joseba Zulaika has had a busy summer already! On June 16, he presented a paper at the symposium Law and Image II: Representing the Nation-State, at Birkbeck, University of London. Zulaika’s talk was titled “Images, Fantasy, and the Law: The Limits of the Nation-State and the Manufacturing of Terror.”

He then took part in a conference organized through the University of the Basque Country summer school. Held June 29-July 1 and titled “On Twenty-first Century Nationalism,” the conference attempted to answer some of the questions surrounding the meaning of nationalism in general, and Basque nationalism in particular, in the age of globalization and political and economic integration. Zulaika gave a presentation titled “From the Big World to the Small World and Back Again.” See a video of the presentation here.

What’s more, Zulaika also recently published an interesting online article, “A Tale of Two Museums,” for the journal Anthropology News.  In the article Zulaika explores the central role played by two museums–San Telmo in Donostia-San Sebastián and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao–in rethinking the Basque Country in the twenty-first century. Read the full article here.

Check out another Basque-themed article in the same journal, this time on the topic of Basque food: “A Taste of the Basque Country,” by Nikki Gorrell from the College of Western Idaho, discusses the importance of the pintxo or Basque finger-food in Basque culture as a whole. Check out the full article here.

 

June 25, 1937: Execution of Basque poet Lauaxeta

On June 25, 1937, barely a year into the Spanish Civil War, the Basque poet Estepan Urkiaga, better known as Lauaxeta, having been convicted of sustaining “nationalist beliefs” by a military tribunal, was executed by firing squad as an enemy of the rebel forces led by General Franco. He was thirty-two years old.

 

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Estepan Urkiaga, “Lauaxeta” (1005-1937). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lauaxeta had been a leading member of the Basque cultural renaissance, Euskal Pizkundea, in the 1930s. “He had,” as Lourdes Otaegi remarks in her chapter on Basque poetry in Basque Literary History, “the charisma of an iconoclast and embodied the most controversial facet of the renewal of Basque poetry with his work Bide Barrijak (New Paths, 1931).”

Shortly before being executed Lauaxeta wrote to a friend:

In a few hours I am to be executed. I die happy because I feel Jesus close to me and I love as never before the only homeland of the Basques. . . . When you think of me, who has loved you like a father, love Christ, be pure and chaste, love Euzkadi as your parents have done. Visit my poor mother and kiss her forehead. Farewell until heaven. I bless you a thousand times.

In That Old Bilbao Moon, Joseba Zulaika explores the significance of Lauaxeta, and explains how he was also another victim of the infamous bombing of Gernika in April 1937:

One of the victims of Gernika was “Lauaxeta”—the pen name of Estepan Urkiaga, a well-known poet working in Bilbao for Aguirre’s Basque government. The Gernika bombing was followed by a propaganda war in which Franco and the Germans claimed that the town had been bombed and burned by its Republican Basque defenders. It was Lauaxeta’s role to show evidence to the contrary to the international media. As he led a French journalist to the charred town, both men were arrested. The journalist was freed and Lauaxeta was executed. Before facing the firing squad at dawn, Lauaxeta spent the night writing a farewell poem to his country—“Agur, Euzkadi” (Goodbye, Euskadi), which concluded:

Let the spirit go to luminous heaven
Let the body be thrown to the dark earth.

In another poem, “Azken oyua” (The Last Howl), Lauaxeta wrote:

Oh Lord, please grant me this death;
Let the smell of the roses be for cowards.
Send me blessed freedom.

Lauxeta’s axiom and testament was his line “Everything must be given to the freedom we love.” Freedom was a political sacrament.

If you’d like to learn more about the life and work as well as influence of Lauaxeta, in addition to the abovementioned works, check out the following:

In The Basque Poetic Tradition, Gorka Aulestia devotes a chapter to the life and work of Lauaxeta. Meanwhile, the political dimension and legacy of Lauaxeta’s execution is discussed in Cameron J. Watson’s Basque Nationalism and Political Violence. And there is an interesting examination of film representations of Lauaxeta in Santiago de Pablo’s The Basque Nation On-Screen.

 

 

June 13, 1854: Famed bard Iparragirre performs in front of 6,000 people

On June 13, 1854, the renowned itinerant Basque bard and troubadour Jose Maria Iparraguirre performed before an extraordinary figure of six thousand people in the hallowed environment of the Urkiola Sanctuary, located in a mountainous area of Bizkaia. His performance was imbued with political comment regarding Basque decision-making powers, and this got him into yet more trouble with the Spanish authorities.

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Jose Maria Iparragirre (1820-1881). Image from the Zumalakarregi Museum, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the words of Joseba Agirreazkuenaga, in The Making of the Basque Question:

Jose María Iparraguirre (1820–1881) was a Carlist soldier who was exiled in different European countries. In 1853, he was able to return to the Basque Country and there he composed the song “Gernikako Arbola” (The Tree of Guernica), which became the Basque hymn at all cultural demonstrations. He achieved popular success performing traditional verses but set to more modern music. However, because of his ability to mobilize people, the Spanish government banished him from the Basque Country in 1855. He went to Galicia, Portugal, and then immigrated to Uruguay. In 1879, he took part in the Basque language festivals of Elizondo, Navarre, and became a living icon.

For Juan Madariaga Orbea, in Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language,  Iparragirre’s entire life was:

a model of vagabondage and painful survival, always on the verge of economic ruin, incarceration, and exile, either for political reasons or as a social outcast: an individual, like all those of his class, who was intensely embarrassing to the authorities and to power of any kind.

Perhaps this explains why so many people turned up to see him that June day in 1854.

 

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.

 

 

Agirre Congress New York this Thursday, June 9

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The Agirre Congress will be held this Thursday, June 9, at the Teachers College of Columbia University. The program is an integrative approach to José Antonio Agirre’s (1904-1960) legacy, a modern reflection on the European and universal dimensions of the first democratically legitimized president of the Basque Country, his personal and institutional relationships as well as his political, social, and cultural convictions.

2016 represents the 75th anniversary of Agirre’s arrival in Germany during his long and hard exile. Taking this as a starting point, the academic congress will serve as grounds for analyzing the legacy of Agirre’s Government in exile and its relation to the construction of a democratic Europe.

This event is co-organized by the Etxepare Basque Institute, Universität Leipzig, and the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. It is also supported by Agirre Lehendakaria Center, Mikel Laboa Chair (Univ. of the Basque Country), and MHLI Research Group (Univ. of the Basque Country).

 

THE INTERNATIONAL LEGACY OF LEHENDAKARI JOSÉ A. AGIRRE’S GOVERNMENT

June 9, 2016
Columbia University –Teachers College-
525 W 120th St, New York, NY 10027

09:30 Presentation
Mari Jose Olaziregi (University of the Basque Country & Etxepare Basque Institute)
Amaia Agirre (Agirre Lehendakari Center)

09:45  Euskal kasua. Giza garapen iraunkorra

Juan Jose Ibarretxe (Agirre Lehendari Center-University of the Basque Country)

10:45 Lehendakari Agirre

Amaia Agirre (Agirre Lehendari Center-University of the Basque Country)

11:45 Transnational nationalism. The Basque exile: Barcelona-Paris-New York (1938-1946)

Ludger Mees (University of the Basque Country)

14:15 Lehendakari Agirre and Europe’s Political Construction

Leyre Arrieta (University of Deusto)

15:15 Lehendakari The Growth of the International Legacy of Lehendakari J. A. Agirre’s Government through Academic Cooperation.
Andrea Bartoli / Borislava Manojlovic (Seton Hall University)

19:00 Concert: Amaya Arberas (soprano) and Ainhoa Urkijo (piano) – Riverside Church- 10 T Hall

For more information, please contact the Delegation of Euskadi at usa@euskadi.eus.

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