Category: Basque politics (page 1 of 3)

An Interview with Saranda Frommold, a visiting scholar from the Freie Universität Berlin

We had the pleasure to welcome Saranda Frommold to the CBS last month, where she conducted research for her Ph.D. in Political Science at the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her dissertation looks at the political relations between Mexico and Spain with regard to ETA exiles, and we had the chance to hear more about her work during her lecture and many encounters. She brought new perspectives and ideas to the Center and had an energy that would be difficult to beat!

 

Saranda is born and raised in Berlin. She studied Spanish Philology, Political Science, and Ancient American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, finishing with a master’s degree and continuing on to her Ph.D. The following is an interview so you too can learn more about this amazing researcher.

 

  • What brought you to the Center for Basque Studies?

During my fieldwork in the Basque Country in 2016, I met the professors Xabier Irujo and Joseba Zulaika, who told me about the Center for Basque Studies in Reno and invited me for a research stay. Several other people I spoke to during my research in the Basque Country also recommended me to go to the Center for a research stay. So I decided to go and spend three weeks in Reno.

  • What is the goal of your project? How far along are you?

My doctoral project deals with “The political relations between Mexico and Spain regarding Basque exile to Mexico (1977-2000).” It’s currently my third year of Ph.D. studies and I’m in the process of writing, because I have already done field work in Mexico and Spain. The goal is to finish my dissertation in 2018.

  • What makes your research unique? What do you enjoy about it most?

I think this research is unique because, first of all, it has not been studied yet. Besides, it includes a lot of empirical evidence like interviews and documents from archives that highlight a different perspective on foreign policy than the media’s. Finally, it is a contribution to the understanding of a part of Basque exile that we almost don’t know. In the last years, I  have really enjoyed my research, because I have learned so much about how to do an investigation, how foreign policy works and that politics are much more complicated than they seem at first sight.  I have especially enjoyed interviewing so many different people, who were so generous to share their experiences, opinions, and perspectives with me and made me feel that this topic should really be investigated.

  • What have you accomplished here at the Center?

At the Center, I was able to do research in the library and the archive, talk to experts in Basque Studies and present my project in the Spring Seminar Series.

  • Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way?

It was a great pleasure to be at the center. The library and the archive really helped me, because I could find material that I had not found in any other place. Everybody was very friendly and gave me a lot of support in my research. Besides talking to experts in Basque Studies, it was a wonderful opportunity to better understand my own research, find new conclusions and have a deep academic exchange.

  • Did you enjoy the U.S.? What did you see beyond Reno?

I had a great time in the U.S. and had the opportunity to visit San Francisco, Pyramid Lake, Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, Death Valley, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

  • When will you be back?

Hopefully, I will be back soon to personally give  a copy of my finished thesis to the library and see all of you again!

We look forward to that visit and wish you great luck Saranda! Come back soon!

March 19, 1624: Representatives of several Basque towns expelled from provincial assembly for not knowing Spanish

Men in stocks in Bramhall, England, 1900. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On March 19, 1624, the council representatives of Líbano de Arrieta (today Arrieta), Castillo y Elejabeitia (today Artea),  Ispaster, Sondika, Leioa, Berango, Lemoiz, Laukiz, Ubidea, and Bakio were expelled from the Bizkaian provincial assembly meeting because “they were not found to possess the necessary proficiency in reading and writing in Castilian [Spanish].” This followed a decree, passed some ten years previously by the provincial assembly on December 10, 1614, which stated that, “henceforth, whoever does not know how to read or write in Romance [a synonym used for Spanish] cannot be admitted to said assembly.” As a postscript to the story, the same assembly member for Laukiz turned up once more at a later meeting of the assembly, and was rewarded for his audacity by being “placed in stocks and a severe judicial process begun against him.”

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), p. 113.

Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and viola Miglio, is a collection of articles by different authors that explore several cases of smaller languages and how they survive within the legal and administrative frameworks of larger, more dominant languages.

Cecilia García de Guilarte: The First War Correspondent on the Northern Front

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Cecilia García de Guilarte (1915-1989). From ‘Un barco cargado de…’ [A Boat Laden With…], a blog devoted to her life.

It’s a real pleasure to come across the life stories of people who don’t typically make it into the history books, as happened recently when I discovered the figure of Cecilia García de Guilarte. Born in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, in 1915, she was the first journalist to cover the Northern Front after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

García de Guilarte was the oldest of four children born into a working-class family originally from Burgos. Her father worked at the paper mill in Tolosa, one of the most important companies in the town. Indeed, she also started her working life in the mill. There, influenced by her father’s labor union activities for the CNT, the confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions, she took to writing for union publications. Her facility for writing led her, at age 20, to publishing articles for a Madrid weekly, Estampa, signing her name, as she would do thereafter, “Cecilia G. de Guilarte.”

With the outbreak of the war, she continued her work as a journalist, writing for the union’s official publication CNT Norte and becoming the de facto first correspondent to cover the Northern Front (Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia, Santander, and Asturias), between 1936 and 1937. During this time she secured exclusive stories, such as her interview of the German pilot Karl Gustav Schmidt, who had crashed after the aerial bombardment of Bilbao by Nazi planes in the service of Franco in January 1937. At the same time she met and married Amós Ruiz Girón, the former chief of municipal police in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, who was at the time in the Cuerpo Disciplinario de Euzkadi, a policing force created by the Basque government during the war.

Following the fall of the Northern Front to Franco’s rebel forces, García de Guilarte escaped to Catalonia, from which fled fled to France in 1939 after it, too, fell. While in exile in France she wrote briefly for the newspaper Sud-Ouest before crossing the Atlantic to escape World War II and settling in Mexico with her husband. There she embarked on a productive career in journalism, writing for several journals and newspapers, including many connected to the community of Basque exiles. She was also editor of El Hogar and Mujer. She combined all this with a similarly active political life as a member of the Izquierda Republicana de Euskadi, and she also taught classes in art and theater history at the University of Sonora. As well as all this, she also published voraciously: novels, essays, biographies, and plays.

She was able to return to Tolosa in 1964, although she would have to wait over another decade, and the death of Franco in 1975, before he husband could rejoin her in the Basque Country. Back home, she became the theater critic for the Voz de España, a newspaper published in Donostia-San Sebastián, until it closed in 1979. She died in 1989, having taken an active part in the social and cultural life of Donostia both before and after Franco’s death.

Sources

See the bilingual Spanish/English blog Un barco cargado de…’ [A Boat Laden With…], which covers all aspects of her life and includes numerous photos and interviews: https://unbarcocargadode.wordpress.com/

See, too, an excellent blog post about her life at the following site: http://monografiashistoricasdeportugalete.blogspot.com.es/2014/02/celia-g-gilarte-periodista-de-guerra.html

Further Reading

War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott. This multi-authored work traces the impact of both the Spanish Civil war and World War II on people’s everyday lives, with a special focus on (but not limited to) the Basque Country. This work is available free to download here.  

Expelled from the Motherland, by Xabier Irujo. This is a book that, while taking as its central subject matter the life and work of the exiled Basque president or lehendakari, Jose Antonio Agirre, also explores the stories of many other Basque exiles in Latin America and beyond.

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.

 

 

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