Category: Basque society

January 25, 1853: Birth of pioneering Basque photographer and ethnographer Eulalia Abaitua

Eulalia Abaitua (1853-1943), a pioneering photographer whose work remains a key historical and ethnographic record of the Basque Country. Image by Kurt Reutlinger, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Born Maria Elvira Juliana Abaitua Allende-Salazar on January 25, 1853 into a wealthy Bilbao family, she was renamed in honor of her deceased mother (who died soon after she was born) and thereafter known as Eulalia Abaitua. She would go on to become a renowned photographer and one of the first people to record nineteenth-century Basque culture at a key transitional time in Basque history, taking her camera outside into the real world to capture images of fiestas, traditions, and working practices–and at the same time breaking with the convention of the time centered around studio-based montages–and paying special attention to the everyday lives of Basque women. In short, she remains one of the most important, if unsung, Basque ethnographers of the nineteenth century.

Mother and child, by Eulalia Abaitua (c. 1890). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Her father, Luis Allende-Salazar, had business interests in the growing trade operating between Bilbao and Liverpool in England and, with the deepening political crisis of the 1860s that would eventually result in the outbreak of the Second Carlist War, the family relocated to the vibrant English port city, “the New York of Europe” whose wealth for a time exceeded that of London. As noted in a previous post, the multicultural port city of Liverpool was already home to many Basques, and even though from the more economically comfortable echelons of society, the family continued in a time-honored Basque tradition of settling in a place in which they already had family connections. Once settled in Liverpool, Eulalia took photography lessons and discovered a passion for the newly emerging art form.

River Nervion scene, by Eulalia Abaitua. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On May 16th 1871, Eulalia married her cousin Juan Narciso de Olano (of the Liverpool-based Basque shipping firm Olano, Larrinaga & Co), at the church of St Francis Xavier in Liverpool, and the couple would go on to have four children. Following the end of the Second Carlist War in 1876, they returned to Bilbao, where would live there for the rest of their lives the Palacio del Pino, near the Basilica of Begoña, a home custom-built to resemble the red-brick Victorian merchant houses the family had seen in Liverpool. On her return to the Basque Country, Eulalia fully realized her passion for both photography and her homeland, setting up a studio in the basement of he family home and traversing Bilbao and Bizkaia in search of her subject matter.

 

The arrival of the sardines (1900), by Eulalia Abaitua. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She worked wherever possible in natural light and sought out spontaneous rather than staged images. Among her most evocative works are images of the legendary sardineras, the women who transported sardines from the port of Santurtzi to the center of Bilbao on foot, selling their wares in the city center; the washerwomen of Bilbao, whose daily grind consisted of doing laundry on the banks of the River Nervion in Bilbao; and the rural Basque milk maids who also came to the Bizkaian capital to ply their trade.

Women selling their wares in Bilbao (c. 1890), by Eulalia Abaitua. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In A Collection of Prints (see below) Miren Jaio describes her work in the following terms (pages 11, 13, 17):

Eulalia Abaitua reflected the day-to-day life of the Bizkaian proletariat on glass plates. The insurmountable social inequality between the portrait photographer and those portrayed would also pervade the photographs of this high bourgeois woman who depicted normal people, especially women . . .  In a series of portraits of old people in the Arratia Valley, she recorded the physical types and dress and hairstyles that were on the verge of disappearing along with those who served as her models. This series demonstrated her curiosity in ethnography . . . In other prints, Abaitua collected work scenes. Images of women working the soil with laiak (two-pronged forks), water-carriers, housemaids, nannies and female stevedores reveal the process of change which Basque society was going through . . . Although she belongs to the social group of those who “represent,” she, like all of her gender, would have been denied the right to do so. This explains her choice of topic, one which she had easy access to, the working woman, a female other. Whatever the case, one should ask to what extent her photographs, in the mutual recognition of the portrayer and the portrayed they seem to reveal, do not transcend the hierarchy imposed by the social order and that of the camera.

Group of women (c. 1900), by Eulalia Abaitua. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Naturally, she also took many pictures of her own family as well, and she also traveled extensively throughout her life, recording her travels to Crete, Italy, Venice, Morocco, Lourdes (France), Malaga, Madrid, and the Holy Land. She lived a long and productive life, and died in her beloved Bilbao in 1943.

Further Reading

Eulalia de Abaitua at the Hispanic Liverpool Project.

A Collection of Prints by Miren Jaio. Free to download here.

500 Posts! What a pleasure to reach this milestone of sharing!

Yesterday witnessed the 500th post on the Center’s blog! And we think it entirely appropriate that we mark the occasion with a post looking toward the future of Basque Studies, with a roundup of what our young scholars here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies have been doing and hope to do in the future. Particularly exciting for us is the eclectic nature of our graduate students, who hail from all over the world. With such talented and committed young people, Basque Studies has a bright future!

Just like reaching the summit at Anboto, our CBS blog has reached a milestone, but we will continue to climb beyond

In honor of our milestone, today we are looking back, first at the posts that have most engaged you, our readers, over the past couple of years:

 

1. Our most read post, by a fairly long way, is the tragic case of Basque sheepherder Txomin Malasechevarria. This is a cautionary tale about just how hard it was for some people to cope with the extreme solitude of life in the mountains, the psychological effects of this loneliness, and the devastating effects this could have on not just their own lives but also those around them. There are no “winners” in this immigrant story. Check out the post here.

 

2. Next, we have a happier tale that celebrates the key role played by women in maintaining the foundations of Basque communities, through their work in Basque boardinghouses, part of the Basque immigrant experience in the United States.  Check out the post here.

 

3. Then we come to what was, for us at the time, a bit of a surprise, pleasant though it was! It’s a post reporting where the Basque Country ranks in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) league tables. The HDI is a United Nations statistical rating based on life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators that are used to measure human development. In short, it’s a means of measuring the health of a nation. Check out the post here.

 

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4.Coming in at number four is a post that continues to rise steadily in the rankings. It’s our post on the classic Basque song “Txoria txori” (The bird is a bird), a pivotal work in the Basque songbook that touches on quintessential themes in Basque culture, sung by folk, rock, and pop singers alike as well as sports fans and even reworked into an orchestral piece. Check out the post here.

5. Last in our top 5 is a post on the remarkable life and work of Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the woman sheepherder who was winning races, age 92, at the Third Age Olympics and died a centenarian. Check out the post here.

And then, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our personal favorites over the years!

  • One of our favorite pieces of writing was this “post within a post,” if you will, dated June 8, 2015, a review of one our most cherished books, My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, which in its focus on the introduction to the work goes beyond mere review to actually engage with and write about the landscape that serves as the backdrop to the book. Check out the post here.
  • Who doesn’t like chocolate? We certainly do! And we like it so much, we wrote a post about it! Check out our rambling thoughts on Basque chocolate, culture, and history in this post, dating from November 2, 2015.

  • One of our most transcendent posts, dated February 12, 2016, concerns what came to be known as the infamous 1911 “Last Massacre” in Western Folklore. This was a major incident in the history of the American West in which Basques featured prominently and serves as proof, if needed, of how the Basque immigrant experience is an essential part of the fabric of this history. Check out the post here.

  • In another post that takes landscape as its primary focus, dated February 24, 2016, we explore how another Basque Country was “imagined” thousands of miles away from home in the remote Nevada mountains. For a great piece of original writing on the Basque experience in the American West check out the post here.

  • We’re especially proud at the Center to try whenever possible to emphasize the role of women in Basque culture and history. This post from March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, served as a roundup of some of the many posts we had published in this regard.  Keep checking in with the blog because this year we will be doing special posts throughout the month of March to celebrate women’s history month.

  • A relatively recent post, dated December 12, 2016, and one that is dear to our hearts emerged out of a reader’s inquiry about native Basque sheep and pig breeds. It got us thinking so much that we wrote a post about it. Check it out here.

Thanks so much for reading and here’s to another 500 and more. It is all because of you, dear readers, so eskerrik asko once again for engaging with us and for sharing our love of Basqueness!

December 6, 2001: First Basque-language Wikipedia article published

December 6, 2001, marks the date on which the first Basque-language Wikipedia article appeared: Lurra (Earth). The Basque-language main page was then created in November 2003.

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Basque Wikimedia logo to mark Basque-language week in October 2009. Image by Theklan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Basque Wikipedia published its 100,000th article, on the prohibition of using the Basque language throughout history and titled Euskararen debekua (The banning of Basque) on May 21, 2011; and it reached the 250,000 mark on June 23, 2016. According to a survey in February 2012,  Basque Wikipedia had the second greatest number of articles per speaker among all the Wikipedias in different languages. As of 10 am GMT, on December 9, 2016, Basque Wikipedia ranked 31st among the different Wikipedias for the number of articles published (261,726 content pages).

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Basque Wikipedia’s screenshot on June 23, 2016, the date marking the publication of article number 250.000. Image by Euskaldunaa, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In an August 2007 interview, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, used the Basque Wikipedia as an example of the rationale for having Wikipedias in smaller languages:

Certainly within Wikipedia right now we are seeing some fairly successful projects in small European languages. You don’t really need a Welsh language Wikipedia, perhaps. The number of people who speak Welsh who don’t also speak English is very small and getting smaller every year. So why do we have a Welsh Wikipedia? Well, people wanted it, so they’re making it. And language preservation is the main motive. It is their mother tongue and they want to keep it alive, keep its literature alive. Certainly some of the larger small languages like Basque and Catalan have very successful projects. I definitely see that preserving parts of your language and culture through collaborative projects makes a lot of sense.

Here at the Center we are proud and honored to be regular users of Basque Wikipedia. Zorionak on your 15th anniversary!

Information sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Wikipedia

Hendaia honors Portuguese immigrants: Highlights Basque-Portuguese links

The city council of Hendaia (Lapurdi) held a one-day colloquium last Friday, October 28, to celebrate the contribution of Portuguese immigrants to society in Iparralde and beyond. It was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of a Franco-Portuguese  agreement in 1916 that helped facilitate Portuguese emigration to the French Republic, for which Hendaia was often the first point of arrival. An exhibition titled “Sala de Espera” (Waiting Room), featuring images of newly arrived Portuguese immigrants, was held to coincide with the colloquium. If you’re interested in this topic, check out this New York Times article on the Portuguese in France: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/pictures-tell-the-story-of-portuguese-in-france/?_r=0

Between 1886 and 1966, Portugal lost more people to emigration than any West European country except Ireland. As regards Basque-Portuguese links, in Iparralde, there is an important Portuguese settlement in Baiona and people of Portuguese origin are estimated to make up 1.5% of the total population of France as a whole. In Hegoalde, Portuguese settled in both Greater Bilbao and Ermua, Bizkaia, as well as in the fishing towns of the Bizkaian coast and in northern Nafarroa.

One well-known Basque cultural figure of Portuguese extraction is the bertsolari (oral improviser) Xabier Silveira, from Lesaka, Nafarroa. Check out the interview with him (in Basque) above.

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Manuel de Arriaga (1840-1917), c.1900-1909, from Casa Comun – Fundação Mário Soares, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, two(well, one certainly, and another possibly) key figures in modern Portuguese history were of Basque descent: Manuel de Arriaga (1840-1917), the first elected president of the First Portuguese Republic; and, conceivably–Salazar being a recognized Basque surname–António de Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970), the authoritarian ruler of Portugal from 1932 to 1968.

Promote the Basque language by participating in Gaztezulo Magazine’s Video Contest

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Gaztezulo magazine, with the support of the Azkue Foundation, has launched their 7th video contest, with the aim of promoting the use of Basque in the media by young people. The competition is open to participants from around the world, with the use of Basque being the only requirement. Are you one of the many Basque speakers of the diaspora? Get creative and participate!

The winner will take home a 1,200-euro prize, thanks to the Azkue Foundation, and the second best will be awarded 300 euros. The video with the most votes by November 10 on www.gaztezulo.eus will receive the Audience Award and a gift pack from Gaztezulo. The deadline for submitting your project is November 10, so stop what you’re doing and get started!

The Audience Award will be announced on November 28, while the names of the general contest winners will be released in December. The awards ceremony will take place at the Tabakalera, in Donostia, on December 16.

For more information, please visit: https://www.gaztezulo.eus/bideo-lehiaketa

Zorte on!

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

October 18, 1997 marked the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – today one of the most emblematic sites in the Basque Country.

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The Guggenheim by night. Photo by PA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Gehry,  came to redefine the Basque Country as a whole and the city of Bilbao in particular: it was the “miracle” of Bilbao.

The “miracle” referred of course to Frank Gehry’s Bilbao masterpiece. Hailed as an “instant landmark,” it brought a new sense of relevance to architecture in the transformation of urban landscapes. It was the story of the architect as hero and, as the Greeks believed, of architecture as the first art—arché. Bilbao was doing for the Basques what the Sidney Opera House had done for Australia. Gehry, while complaining of being “geniused to death,” became not only the master architect, but the master artist.

These observations come from the introduction to Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.

The Center also publishes other books on the social, cultural, and urban transformation of Bilbao and the Basque Country, for which the Guggenheim served in many respects as a springboard:

That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.

Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

Ran roberran

During the 1960s, when the first ikastolak (Basque language schools) subsequent to the Spanish Civil War were created after a long ban by the Francoist regime, some key people were essential to their success.

Imanol Urbieta was one of these pioneers. Ikastolak were in need of almost everything: a proper legal framework, economic support, and pedagogical materials in the Basque language. Parents navigated the legal system to make ikastolak legal, or at least to avoid being prosecuted; all kinds of organizations provided premises in which children would be comfortable; and teachers created materials to teach Basque and other topics.

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol, one of the first teachers at the Salbatore Mitxelena Ikastola in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa, did some wonderful work in renewing the pedagogy and in the use of an innovative teaching tool: music and songs. Imanol’s songs (Ran Roberran, John Brown, Txiki txiki txikia, and so on) are part of the soundtrack of our generation’s lives. And of our children’s lives too, not only because we as parents sing them to our sons and daughters, but also because Pirritx, Porrotx eta Marimotots, the most renowned Basque clowns, sing them prolifically.

Imanol Urbieta died in Zarautz on September 28th, 2016 at age 83.

 

Great new video to accompany this weekend’s Kilometroak fundraiser in Bergara

Every year, throughout the Basque Country, a special day is set aside to raise funds for a particular ikastola (a school in which instruction takes place predominantly in Basque) on which the main goal is to complete a walk (often sponsored) around a set circuit, with refreshment stands along the way and other associated activities, including concerts and the like, all in aid of raising money for Basque-language education: in Araba this is known as Araba Euskaraz (meaning “Araba in Basque”); in Bizkaia, Ibilialdia (the trek, hike, walk, etc.); in Iparralde, Herri Urats (“a people’s step”); in Nafarroa, Nafarroa Oinez (Nafarroa on foot); and in Gipuzkoa, Kilometroak (kilometers).

This year’s Kilometroak, which takes place on October 2, is being organized by the Aranzadi Ikastola in Bergara and its theme is demasa (tremendous, humongous), linked to the notion of aniztasuna (diversity). A great part of all these events in recent years has been the introduction of a specially composed song for the day with an accompanying video, and we’d like to share this year’s song with you. Enjoy!

 

Basque Country achieves one of highest Human Development Index scores in world

Eustat, the Basque Statistics Institute, recently revealed that the Basque Country  is now in eighth place in a list of all countries according to the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking.

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UN HDI Rankings for 2014. The darker the blue, the higher the ranking. Image by Tomtom2732, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The HDI is a United Nations measure of well-being in a country, based on multiple factors such as life expectancy, education, and income per capita. Eustat calculated the Basque Country’s HDI for the period of 2010-2014, using the methodology of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It found that, with an HDI of 0.915, the Basque Country was ranked eighth overall in the world, behind Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland, in joint position with the United States. and ahead of France (22nd, with an HDI of 0.888) and Spain (26th, with an HDI of 0.876).

Of special note is life expectancy in the Basque Country, which at 83.4 means that only the inhabitants of Hong Kong (84) and Japan (83.5) enjoy longer lives.

Read more at the Eustat website: The Basque Country has achieved one of the highest Human Development Index scores in the world

If you’re interested in this topic, check out The Basque Experience: Constructing Sustainable Human Development, by Juan Jose Ibarretxe. In this work, former lehendakari (Basque president) Ibarretxe explores just how the Basque Country has been able to rise so swiftly in the HDI rankings in the face of the multiple challenges it has faced in recent decades.