Category: Basque politics (page 2 of 3)

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.

The Tree of Gernika puts down roots in the Nevada State Arboretum at UNR

The Arborist, the monthly newsletter of the Nevada State Arboretum, has some really exciting news this month. A sapling from the famous Tree of Gernika has been planted on the grounds of the Nevada State Arboretum at the University of Nevada, Reno. The Tree of Gernika, an ancient oak tree, marks the spot where the General Assemblies of Bizkaia, the principal decision-making authority in the province and a key symbol of Basque political autonomy, have met down the centuries. Indeed, as we noted in a previous post, for the second president of the United States, John Adams, the political system he himself witnessed on a visit to the Basque Country represented a true “democratic republic” and served as an inspiration for his own notion of federal democracy: the model that ultimately came to underpin the current US system of democratic government.

While it will remain unmarked until it takes root, at some time it will be unveiled. Given the importance of Reno, and the Center, a “shining light” in the time of darkness during the Franco dictatorship, this symbolic planting in Reno is a fitting demonstration of the closeness between the Basque Country and Reno. The Center’s own Joseba Zulaika was instrumental in bringing the sapling and also explained the importance in The Arborist article. I would really like to encourage everyone to read that, so I won’t paraphrase it too much, but it is a real honor to share this news with the world and again, please see the article in The Arborist for more photos and information about this really exciting event!

Check out the nineteenth-century hymn, “Gernikako Arbola” (The Tree of Gernika), written by the bard Jose Maria Iparragirre, which plays on the symbolism of the tree as a source of political liberty: “The Tree of Gernika / is blessed / and well loved / among the Basques / Give and share out / your fruit throughout the world / we venerate you / holy tree.”

For more on the historic importance of the Tree of Gernika as a key site representing Basque political difference through the ages, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition, by Gregorio Monreal Zia. This is the most comprehensive work in English on the legal and political foundations of Basque particularity in Spain. But besides being a scholarly text about government and administration, it is also a lively and informative source about the historical importance of community and popular democratic participation in Basque political life. This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in democracy, citizen participation in politics, and the historical roots of the US political system.

March 22, 1960: Death of Jose Antonio Agirre

On March 22, 1960, the lehendakari or president of the Basque Country, Jose Antonio Agirre (also spelled Aguirre), died in exile in Paris at the age of fifty-six.

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Lehendakari Jose Antonio Agirre Lekube. Photo by Jesus Elosegi Irazusta, March 27, 1939, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Agirre had been–and remains to this day–arguably the most charismatic and certainly one of the key figures in twentieth-century Basque political history. Born in Bilbao in 1904, he studied law at the University of Deusto and later went to work for the family firm (a chocolate making company). At age twenty-seven he was elected mayor of Getxo, Bizkaia, for the Basque Nationalist Party and in October 1936–the Spanish Civil War already having broken out the previous July–he was chosen to become the first lehendakari. He then presided over a Basque government that had to deal with the trauma of war and its consequences, including the bombing of Durango and Gernika, the flight of thousands of people into exile, and ultimately defeat at the hands of Franco’s forces.

Fleeing himself following the fall of Bilbao in June 1937–in a remarkable journey worthy of a Hollywood movie (on which see his own gripping account in Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe)–Agirre and his family traversed Europe and Latin America before settling in the United States in 1941, from where he initially led the Basque government-in-exile and helped create a pro-Allied Basque network during World War II in the hope of gaining US support for overthrowing the Franco regime. He later relocated to Paris, from where, in the 1950s during the new context of the Cold War in which the US began to support Franco’s Spain, he pursued a new pan-European federalist policy. Throughout his political career, he was characterized for his statesmanship and was eulogized by even the staunchest of opponents. Agirre died in Paris and was buried in the cemetery of Donibane Lohitzune, Lapurdi, on March 27, 1960.

In Expelled from the Motherland: The Government of Jose Antonio Agirre in Exile, 1937-1960, Xabier Irujo charts Agirre’s political career after the fall of Bilbao.  As Irujo notes (see chapter 13), prominent figures attended the funeral Mass in Paris on March 26, including representatives of the Basque, Catalan, and Spanish Republic’s governments-in-exile, major figures from French politics (including government ministers), and the ambassadors of Chile and Venezuela. Moreover, not only did thousands of people attend the burial in Donibane Lohitzune (despite severe border restrictions being imposed by the Spanish police), but memorial services were held for him throughout practically all the Basque communities of the Americas and Australia.

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Today, a statue of Agirre stands in the heart of Bilbao. Photo by Fernandopascullo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Agirre is also a central figure in Joseba Zulaika’s That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City. In Zulaika’s words (p. 43):

“He is already in his casket, but you can go see him,” they told François Mauriac, the French Nobel Prize winner, in late March, 1960. Mauriac could utter only “broken words” in the presence of his friend Aguirre’s corpse. Later he wrote, “The casket has a crystal peephole at the face’s level. What a vision! . . . In this face, as if eaten away from inside, I cannot recognize the noble and frank face of Don José Antonio de Aguirre. . . . Who could have been the victim of a more unjust destiny than he?” Mauriac saw in Aguirre’s face the horror that had destroyed its nobility, that still haunts his legacy—the bitter truth of the century. He wrote, “With the liberation [of Europe from fascism], José Antonio de Aguirre drank the chalice to the last dregs, when he understood that Franco would be respected and the apparent victory of the democracies covered up, concealed, at the very heart of the West, another very hidden victory: the one of the professional armies and policemen.” Disguised as “free” and “democratic,” or as “socialist,” the cold warriors, led by Churchill, Truman, and Stalin, remained in charge, plotting the next Hiroshimas—only now with hydrogen bombs, thousands of times deadlier than the atomic ones. Mauriac observed in Aguirre the face of the century’s unfinished agenda.

Meanwhile, Agirre’s death also had important consequences, as noted by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga in The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006 (p. 340n13):

The death of the Basque president in exile, Aguirre, in Iparralde in 1960, marked an important symbolic moment for the gestation of nationalism in Iparralde. Around five thousand people attended his funeral, and his death seemed to mark a critical juncture for many individuals in Iparralde in their own shift toward more avowedly Basque nationalist positions.

Today, the Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies, a collaborative project involving the UPV-EHU (University of the Basque Country), Columbia University in New York (The Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity – AC4), Seton Hall University, and George Mason University (School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution – SCAR), is named in his honor.

And finally, a quick reminder that the Center is hosting the first part of a major international conference on the life and times of Agirre, starting this weekend, as reported in a post from earlier on this week (click here for more information).

William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies hosts start of major International Congress on Jose Antonio Agirre

Agirre Congress

On the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Lehendakari (Basque president)Jose Antonio Agirre’s passing through Berlin on his odyssey to flee fascism in Europe,  the Center is proud to announce its participation in a major new congress on his legacy that starts here this weekend.  This is the first step in a three-part congress, “The International Legacy of Lehendakari Jose Antonio Agirre’s Government,” running through March and June, to be held successively at UNR, Humboldt University in Berlin, and Columbia University in New York.

The congress has been jointly organized by the Center and the Etxepare Basque Institute, with the help and participation of  the Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies and the Basque Government’s General Secretariat for Foreign Affairs, with the collaboration of the Mikel Laboa Chair at the University of the Basque Country.

The Center will host the first part of the congress, March 26-28, which will focus on the international contribution of Agirre, with talks by faculty members Xabier Irujo, Joseba Zulaika, and Sandra Ott, together with visiting guest speakers Ángel Viñas (Complutense University, Madrid) and Julián Casanova (University of Zaragoza). Details of the Reno gathering are as follows:

March 26, Sparks Heritage Museum, 2 pm: Xabier Irujo, “The Bombing of Gernika.”

March 28, Basque Conference Room, 305, third floor, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, 4 pm: Ángel Viñas, “The English Gold: British Payment of Multi-million Pound Bribes to Franco’s Top Generals.”

March 28, Basque Conference Room, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, 5 pm: Julián Casanova, “Francoist repression.”

March 29, Basque Conference Room, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, 4 pm: Joseba Zulaika, “From Gernika to Bilbao.”

March 29, Basque Conference Room, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, 5 pm: Sandra Ott, “Occupation of Iparralde (1940-1944).”

Then on June 1, Humboldt University in Berlin will host the second installment, addressing the exile of Agirre and other Basques as well as the formation of a united Europe, with talks by Paul Preston (London School of Economics), Carlos Collado Seidel (Phillips University Marburg), Joan Villarroya (University of Barcelona), the writer and journalist Nicholas Rankin, historian Hilari Raguer i Suñer, and Xabier Irujo.

Finally, on June 9 Columbia University will host the third and final part of the Congress, with talks by former lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe, Ludger Mees, Mari Jose Olaziregi, Jose Ramon Bengoetxea, Izaro Arroita, and Amaia Agirre of the University of the Basque Country, as well as Leyre Arrieta of the University of Deusto.

Besides the academic gathering, the Basque Club or Euskal Etxea of Berlin will also organize a program of cultural events through May and June to commemorate Agirre’s legacy. Titled “Agirre in Berlín 1941-2016. Das Baskenland mitten in Europa” (Agirre in Berlin 1941-2016: The Basque Country in the heart of Europe), this program will pay specific attention to the effects of the civil war and Basque exile from different artistic perspectives, including publications, lectures, concerts, and other diverse events.

See the full program of the Agirre Congress here.

Dr. Sandra Ott’s Presentation of Living with the Enemy at University of San Francisco

Wednesday, March 23rd, Professor Sandra Ott from the  Center will be presenting her new book Living with the Enemy, from 2:00-4:00 pm in McLaren Conference Center at the University of San Francisco.  Professor Ott has spent significant time in Pau, France, performing research and as one of her students, I have learned much more about the Nazi occupation of France during World War II and the various roles that the Basques performed during this time period.

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We congratulate Sandy on her publication and all the work that goes into it! So please attend if in the area, enjoy some refreshments, and enjoy learning about this particular time in Basque history.

 

 

 

New CBS visitor from the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia

This month we welcome our second visitor from the Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia (the Provincial Council of Bizkaia), Nieves Pereda Chavárri.  In order to find out more , check out my interview below with Nieves:

Where are you from in the Basque Country, Nieves?

I come from Bilbao, in Basque Country. I have been working for the Tax Department of Bizkaia (one of the seven Basque provinces) for more than 30 years. Currently I am in charge of the tax collection area and I mainly manage bankruptcy procedures, installment payments, as well as tax levy and lien procedures.

Our department tries to help pay taxes for those who want to and tries to act very fast against those who don’t want to pay them… I am totally in favor of our financial system called “Basque Economic Agreement,” that is, a fiscal pact between the Basque Autonomous Community and Spanish state in order to collect our own taxes and to finance our public expenses (mainly education, health, police, roads, and social welfare as well as local services as well) and to pay the proportional part of  the expenses related to goods and services provided by central Spanish government (via a cupo or quota). In 2014, UNR (the CBS) and the Tax Department of Bizkaia signed an agreement to collaborate in the promotion of Basque Economic Agreement. Two tax workers would visit UNR for 80 days to research on U.S fiscal federalism and the Basque Economic Agreement. The first person, Gemma Martinez Barbara, came last year and this year it has been my opportunity. Our Tax Department thinks it is important to let others know about our specific tax system. It can be described like a desirable integration between different tax jurisdictions.

And how long will you be here?  

I’ll be here till April 21st.  On April 11th we´ll have an event to speak about our papers.

What things would you like to accomplish/see while here in Reno/U.S?

For me the most important thing is to know how the CBS works, what they do, and to meet people there. I feel really interested in learning more about the importance and the influence of Basque people in the background of Nevada. I would like to visit some beautiful places around Reno and to know a little bit more about life in the university. I already had some opportunities; for example, last Friday in a meeting with the Provost and teachers at the university.

Tell us about your yourself-family, what Basque town you grew up in or where you live now in the Basque Country, what you like to do in free time, etc.?  

I was born in Bilbao and live there. My family comes from Bizkaia and Nafarroa. The thing I enjoy doing the most is spending time with friends and family–we usually have two or three special meals a week. I also love to invite friends home. In summer time I like traveling, sailing, and spending extra time with friends in the countryside. In general I am interested in reading, listening to music, and walking for a while everyday.

We welcome Nieves to the CBS family and are grateful to have her here!

 

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