Category: Basque politics (page 1 of 6)

August 8, 1897: Assassination of Spanish Prime Minister in the Basque Country

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (1828-1897). Portrait by Ricardo de Madrazo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (1828-1897). Portrait by Ricardo de Madrazo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was one of the most important Spanish politicians in the nineteenth century, serving a total of six terms as prime minister. He was the chief architect behind the implementation of the so-called Restoration Monarchy system after 1876, a transformation that included the abolishing of the fueros or charters that had guaranteed the Basque provinces major devolved decision-making powers to that date. On August 8, 1897, however, Cánovas was assasinated infamously in the Basque Country. In Basque Nationalism and Political Violence, Cameron J. Watson  describes the event thus (pp. 84-85):

That August Sunday, Cánovas, who had been spending the traditional vacation month in the Basque spa town of Santa Agueda (Gipuzkoa), was shot twice by an Italian anarchist, Michele Angiolillo. Cánovas died instantly. At the time, it was widely suspected that members of “colonial secret societies” had been involved in the assassination, but it subsequently came to light that Angiolillo had acted solely on behalf of the anarchists. “We’ve just heard the auspicious news of the death of the Spanish pig,” wrote [Sabino] Arana that same day in a private letter, “National Joy!”

While there was a genuine reaction of shock throughout Spain, in the Basque Country (at least in rural areas), this was not the case. The residents of Bergara (Gipuzkoa), where Angiolillo was being held pending trial, were reported as being “indifferent” to the commotion. And Joxe Manuel Lujanbio (popularly known as Txirrita), a bertsolari, or traditional Basque versifier, even composed a verse attacking Cánovas to record the event. That same month, after a military trial, Angiolillo was garroted in the Bergara prison.

Representation of the assassination by V. Ginés. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Representation of the assassination by V. Ginés. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

June 14, 1931: First public call for Basque-Navarrese autonomy statute

Nowadays, a defining feature of political life in the Basque Country is the system of autonomy that allows for a significant amount of decentralized decision-making authority. Currently, there are two different statues of autonomy for the Basque Country and Navarre. In the early 1930s, however, prior to the passing of a constitution for the Second Spanish Republic, a project for joint statute for the four provinces in Hegoalde was agreed on at a meeting of Basque mayors at the Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea.

The Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea. Photo by Eaeaea. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Gayarre Theater in Pamplona-Iruñea. Photo by Eaeaea. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The draft Statute of Estella as it was known, drawn up by Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society of Basque Studies), was approved on June 14, 1931 by a varied collective of mayors, with a Basque nationalist and traditionalist Carlist majority, from the four provinces of Hegoalde. One interesting feature of this draft proposal was to reserve the right for the projected Basque-Navarrese autonomous region to establish a separate and distinct relationship with the Vatican.

Ultimately, however, this draft proposal was never implemented and it was not until civil war broke out in 1936 that an autonomy statute was granted to the provinces of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.

To read more about the political development of Hegoalde, check out Modern Basque History by Cameron Watson, available free to download here. And see Basque Political Systems, edited by Pedro Ibarra and Xabier Irujo, free to download here.

 

 

March 9, 1980: First Basque autonomous parliamentary elections following death of Franco

Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Logo of the Basque parliament, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although a Basque parliament was envisaged as part of the 1936 Statute of Autonomy, the outbreak of the civil war meat that it never materialized as such. With Franco’s victory in the war and the dictatorship that followed, it was not until after his death in 1975 that a new statute was passed in 1979, leading to the holding of the first Basque autonomous parliamentary elections in the modern era, on March 9, 1980. This led to the first legislature of the parliament, between 1980 and 1984.

The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque parliament. Photo by Iker Merodio, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today the Basque parliament–Eusko Legebiltzarra in Basque–serves as the main legislative body of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, made up of three provinces in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country: Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.  It is made up of seventy-five representatives (twenty-five from each province, despite the significant differences in population size among them)

Visiting scholar Iñaki Sagardoi Leuza discusses controversial Altsasu Case at CBS Lecture Series

Iñaki Sagardoi Leuza (Public University of Navarre) spent a month in Reno at the Center for Basque Studies to conduct research for his PhD dissertation in Sociology and Social Anthropology. In his lecture, he analyzed how seven years after ETA was dissolved, the paradigm of “Basque terrorism” is still present in Spanish political discourse. He presented a case study in which this discourse is invoked in the context of a 3 am bar fight in a small town in Navarre.

The bar fight that took place in Altsasu (Navarre) in the early hours of 15 October 2016 made news in practically all of Spain. Accordingto  the first news  of  the most  relevant  Spanish newspapers,  a  couple of of Spanish policemen (known as Civil Guards)  and  their partners had  been “attacked” by about 50 people linked to the Basque radical nationalist left. They basically featured the version of the Spanish Government delegation in Navarre, which also reported that two of the aggressors had been arrested. Pascale  Davies, journalist  for The  Guardian, subtitled  her story  about  the “Altsasu Case” as follows: “Spanish high court to rule on whether pub punch-up with off-duty police was drunken scuffle or terror attack” (The Guardian, April 14 2018). Less than a month later, following a complaint of “terrorism in connection  with a  hate  crime” by  COVITE or Basque Victims  of  Terrorism Association in the National Court, eight  people  were arrested on November 14, 2016. The trial began on 16 April 2018. The Public Prosecutor’s Office maintained its position and argued that the incident was   “low-intensity  terrorism,  heir to  the  terrorism that  attacked the Basque  Country and  Navarre,”  and that  the  young people  of  Altsasu were  “heirs  to a  political ideology.” This  conclusion was very  much in  line  with the  attestation  and the  reports  drawn up  by  the Civil Guard which, curiously, had been charged with investigating the aggression against two of its agents. Finally, the court rejected the accusations of terrorism, considering that  the terrorist purpose had not been proved. The maximum sentence  of 79  years  for crimes  of  “attacking”  authority agents,  “injuries,  public disorder  and threats” were issued.

Besides working on his dissertation, Iñaki found time to learn more about American culture and Reno. “My month in Reno has served me not only to get to know the city and its beautiful outskirts, but also to immerse myself in a university system remarkably different from ours. When landing in this steppe of neon lights, it is impossible to deny an initial culture shock. But once you overcome it, you feel that you begin to know something more about American culture. It has been surprising, too, to feel the warmth of this small Basque island on the other side of the ocean.”

 

                      

 

 

January 19, 1977: Basque flag legalized once more

Image by Daniele Schirmo aka Frankie688. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image by Daniele Schirmo aka Frankie688. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Flown for the first time in 1894 and adopted as the official flag of the Basque Country in 1936, any display of the ikurriña or Basque flag was banned by the Franco regime after 1938. Even following the death of Franco in 1975, the public display of the flag was controversial, as noted in a previous post. On January 19, 1977, the ikurriña was made legal once more and in 1979, by the terms of the Statute of Gernika, recognized as the official flag of the Basque Autonomous Community.

Visiting Scholar Haritz Azurmendi Speaks on Basque Nationalism at the CBS Lecture Series

Haritz Azurmendi is a visiting scholar from the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). Azurmendi gave an engaging lecture at the CBS Lecture Series late October, where he addressed Basque debates about nationalism from a historical and contemporary perspective. Tracing the evolution of Basque nationalist thought over 1968 to 2018, the lecture situated Basque discourse about identity and nationalism within the broader intellectual debates between the Modernist and Ethno-symbolic schools.  To what extent, Azurmendi proposed, is Basque nationalism a product of the Enlightenment, of capitalism and of the general resurgence of nationalist movements in the 19th century? To what extent does the emergence of Basque nationalist symbols constitute a pattern of a Hobsbawmian “invention of tradition”? Alternatively, how do they draw on pre-modern ethnic memories? Azurmendi presented the evolution of Basque nationalism as a contested ideological terrain where left wing abertzalism, right wing bourgeois nationalism, Marxism and post-colonial discourses competed for diverse interpretations of the nation.  He identified the initial phase of these developments as the First Renaissance that relied on the exaltation of the peasantry, traditionalism, folklore, and a certain romanticism of rural life. The Second Renaissance, in turn, drew from urban modernity, existentialist thought, and social poetry. Azurmendi discussed the fascinating debate among public intellectuals concerning the question of why, and to what end, is one to speak Basque, with arguments ranging from sentimental reasons to justice, the importance of choice, and the defense of local culture. Azurmendi concluded that in light of the current Catalan crisis and Spanish reactions to it, we must re-think Basque nationalism and its diverse appeal to discourses about the “post-national subject,” the right to decide, democratization, independence, and the role of the Basque language.

Haritz investigates the idea of the nation in Jose Azurmendi`s work as a PhD student in the department of Political Science at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). He is using the CBS library resources to finish his dissertation, which he will defend next summer. This is what he said about his stay in Reno: “I try to travel around at weekends. I have visited such must see places in the neighborhood as Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose, and I am planning to go to Lake Pyramid soon. I also enjoy historical visits to places like Virginia City. And, of course, I love meeting Basque Americans and hear their stories and memories!”

Haritz`s talk ended with a lively discussion among the faculty, students and visiting scholars of the Center for Basque Studies. Eskerrik asko Haritz!

      

 

 

 

 

 

CBS Lecture Series

The Center for Basque Studies invites you to attend our Fall 2018 Multidisciplinary Lecture Series. Starting this month, the series will showcase the research of our librarian, our visiting scholars from the Basque Country, and faculty from the UNR Anthropology Department. Our lecturers will cover a wide range of topics and disciplines. It is held on Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 in the Basque Studies Conference Room (MIKC 305N). Be sure to check it out!

The schedule for the Lecture Series is:

OCT 25 “Debates on Nationalism in the Basque Country: 1968-2018” by Haritz Azurmendi

NOV 8  “A Critical Analysis of Cooperative Multinationalization: A comparative study of the French ‘Up Group’ and the Mondragon ‘Fagor Ederlan Group’” by Anjel Errasti

NOV 15 “Preserving Basque Digital Photographs: Dealing with Legacy Metadata and File Formats” by Iñaki Arrieta Baro

NOV 29 “Contested Reconciliation in the Basque Country: A Feminist Approach” by Andrea García González

DEC 6 “Politics, Aesthetics and Technologies of the Self in Sakha Blessing Poems” by Jenanne Ferguson

Paul Laxalt Dead at 96

Paul Laxalt, born in Carson City, Nevada, on August 2, 1922, died on August 5, 2018 at the age of 96. Laxalt served as both the Governor of Nevada (1967-1971) and a United States Senator (1975-1987), and was involved in politics throughout his life, serving also as a chairman of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns and working with Reagan to clean up Lake Tahoe.

Laxalt went to college at Santa Clara University in California, then enlisted in the Army in World War II as a medic. Under the G.I. Bill, he went on to the University of Denver to earn his law degree. In 1950, Laxalt was elected Ormsby County’s (in northwestern Nevada, which contains Carson City) district attorney and served for one term. Laxalt was elected lieutenant governor in 1962.

10/6/1983 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Paul Laxalt Bob Michel Corrine Michel and Carol Laxalt watch the Performance by Oak Ridge Boys during the Barbecue for Members of Congress on the South Lawn by Reagan Presidential Library via Wikimedia Commons

10/6/1983 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Paul Laxalt, Bob Michel, Corrine Michel, and Carol Laxalt watch the Performance by Oak Ridge Boys during the Barbecue for Members of Congress on the South Lawn by Reagan Presidential Library via Wikimedia Commons

Laxalt was the brother of Robert Laxalt, who was the author of Sweet Promised Land, a groundbreaking novel for Basque culture in the United States, and the grandfather of Nevada’s Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt, who is now running for Governor of Nevada.

 

September 18, 1970: Political self-immolation by Joseba Elosegi

On September 18, 1970, the Basque nationalist activist Joseba Elosegi set fire to and threw himself in front of General Franco, the dictator of Spain, while he was attending an international pelota championship in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Joseba Elosegi (1915-1990).

Joseba Elosegi (1915-1990).

As a soldier in the Basque army in the civil war, he had witnessed the bombing of Durango on March 31, 1937, and was present in Gernika during its infamous bombardment on April 26 that same year. He was ultimately captured and sentenced to death but his was life was spared when he was exchanged for a pro-Franco prisoner being held by the pro-Republic forces. He subsequently went into exile in France, from where he took part in the anti-Franco resistance movement, as well as aiding the Allies in getting airmen whose planes had been shot down across the border from occupied France into neutral Spain. On July 18, 1946, he was involved in one of the most daring acts of civil disobedience against the Franco regime. That day marked the tenth anniversary of Franco’s military uprising and a group of activists hoisted the banned Basque flag, the ikurriña, atop the Buen Pastor Cathedral in Donostia-San Sebastián. He was detained by the police and served some jail time before returning to exile.

In September 1970, the fifty-four-year-old Elosegi carried out an act of self-immolation in protest at the horrors of the Franco regime.  In the words of Cameron J. Watson, in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence (pp. 161-62):

Elosegi, a witness to the destruction of Gernika, in an act of self-immolation,set his own body on fire and threw himself before the dictator, shouting “Gora Euskadi Askatuta!” [Long live the free Basque Country!] He survived, however, and later recalled that the incident represented the last desperate act of a former gudari [Basque soldier] who had obsessively remembered the scenes he saw in Gernika for over thirty years before feeling the compulsion to repeat in his protest the flames he had witnessed in the town that day. “Death does not frighten me,” he later wrote . . .  “it is an obligatory end. When one is born, the journey toward death has begun.” In throwing himself before Franco, he had “symbolically wanted to convey to him the fire of Gernika,” for its destruction, a Holocaust-like offering to the technological advances of Nazi Germany, represented for many Basques an attack on their very existence.

He almost died as a result of the act and spent several days in a critical condition. He survived, only to be condemned to seven years in prison, of which he served three. After Franco’s death, he served as an elected representative in the Spanish Senate for both the EAJ-PNV and later EA, two Basque nationalist parties, between 1979 and 1989. In June 1984, in one final act of civil disobedience, he removed physically a Basque flag from an exhibition in Madrid titled “Flags of the Republican side during the war of liberation,” and was spared legal action against him on account of his position in the Senate.

He died at the age of seventy-four in 1990.

September 8, 1749: Birth of Dominique-Joseph Garat, early advocate of Basque political unity

On September 8, 1749, Dominique-Joseph Garat was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. An important political figure in the Northern Basque Country, he drew up plans, which he presented to Napoleon, to unite all the Basque provinces in one political unit–New Phoenicia–that would have remained an autonomous part of the French Empire. Napoleon, however, rejected the idea.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After studying law in Bordeaux, in 1777 Garat moved to Paris where he worked as a journalist (covering the American Revolution) and teacher. In 1789, he was elected representative of the Third Estate for Lapurdi and in 1792 he was appointed the minister of justice in Revolutionary France, charged with communicating to King Louis XVI his death sentence. Garat resigned after this decision and was arrested twice by the Jacobin authorities. However, following the Jacobin fall from power, from 1794 to 1795 he led the commission charged with implementing the new educational system and in 1798 was named French ambassador to Naples. That same year, he was elected president of the Council of Elders (the upper house of the French Directory) and later became a senator in Napoleonic France.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As a senior statesman, Garat subsequently used his political influence to present a plan to Napoleon to create what he termed New Phoenicia, incorporating all the Basque provinces north and south of the Pyrenees. This would, in Garat’s scheme, be an autonomous political unit within the French Empire, and serve as a buffer state between the French Republic and the Kingdom  of Spain. He lobbied to implement his plan on several occasions between 1803 and 1811, but ultimately to no avail. In part, wider events–including the course of the Peninsular War of 1807-1814 (covered in a previous post here)–hindered the feasibility of the scheme.  After opposing Napoleon during the events associated with the arrival of Louis XVIII on the French throne and Napoleon’s subsequent (although brief) return to power in 1814–15, he retired from his post in the senate. He abandoned politics altogether and settled once more in Iparralde, where, in Basusarri, on December 9, 1833, he died.

Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga discusses the importance of Garat at length in his The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.  According to Ahedo (p. 53):

Garat is a key figure in the political history of Iparralde for his role after the abolition of the Basque institutions with the triumph of the French Revolution. Furthermore, he is also important for the plans he drew up to unite the Basque provinces of both Iparralde and Hegoalde in one political unity: New Phoenicia, a confederation that would have formed a part of the Napoleonic French empire.

 

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