Category: Basque society (page 1 of 2)

September 13, 1936: Fall of Donostia-San Sebastián in Spanish Civil War

On September 13, 1936, five columns of Navarrese troops marched into Donostia-San Sebastián, meeting with no resistance, to take the city in the name of the military rebels who had risen up two months earlier against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic.

Map showing the frontline in Gipuzkoa until October 1936 in one-week intervals, as of late evening every Sunday, by Dd1495, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That previous July, the garrison of Spanish troops stationed in Donostia had actually joined in the military uprising but it was put down by socialist and anarchist militiamen loyal to the republic. In August, however, Navarrese troops (the requetés or Carlist militias who sided with the military rebels during the war), aided by some Gipuzkoan Carlists, began a campaign to seal off the border at Irun, thereby cutting off a potential arms supply from France for the pro-Republic forces. After laying siege to the town, and with aerial support, the rebels took Irun on September 5,  effectively paving the way to march on toward Donostia. With the fall of Irun, a westward drift of refugees (those that did not manage to cross the border into Iparralde) began that would define much of the civilian experience of the civil war in the Basque Country.

Rebel troops entering Donostia

Having suffered bombardment from sea, and with rebel troops advancing into the city from both the east and inland Gipuzkoa, Donostia ultimately fell without resistance.

Be sure to check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, a key work that among other themes examines the effects of war on ordinary people in the Basque Country. This book is available free to download here.

The Center has also recently published David Lyon’s Bitter Justice, an important study based on a wealth of primary material that examines the fate of Basque prisoners during the Spanish Civil War.

 

From the backlist: Empire and Terror

In April 2002 the Center hosted a conference titled “Nationalism, Globalization, and Terror: A Debate on Stateless Nations, Particularism/Universalism, and Radical Democracy.” The conference was ambitious in scope, attracting globally renowned scholars; opportune in timing, coming as it did in the wake of the then relatively recent events of 9/11; and prescient in its findings in light of later international developments.

The Center subsequently published a book that included papers delivered at the conference. Titled Empire & Terror: Nationalism/Postnationalism in the New Millennium and edited by Begoña Aretxaga, Dennis Dworkin, Joseba Gabilondo, and Joseba Zulaika, we think this is a work well worth revisiting some fifteen years after it was first published.

Specifically, the issues is discusses–the nature of democracy and capitalism, the challenge of stateless nations to the established political order, and the rise of international terrorism–are as important today as they were back at the turn of the millennium, indeed arguably even more so. In broad terms, the book addresses the themes of nationalism, globalization, terrorism, democracy, and culture.

Quoting at length some passages from the introduction:

We do not see the concrete and specific cases discussed here in merely particularistic and exceptional terms. Rather we think of them as providing specific political contexts in which are dramatized crucial questions about contemporary relations of power, sovereignty, statehood, ideology, and fantasy. We see them as sites of psychic investments in the particular that nonetheless have implications for the universal dimension. Particularistic claims, such as self-determination, ultimately appeal to universal principles. Moreover, specific interests, if they are not to be merely relational or differential, invariably end up in conflict with other such interests, mediated by a field of power relations that is structured by forms of dominance, subordination, and exclusion . . .

A genuinely democratic society permanently shows the contingency of its foundations, the gap between the ethical moment and the normative order. Critical in this context are antagonisms, which have no objective meaning and which produce empty signifiers with no necessary attachment to any precise content. While authority attempts to establish an objective order of social relationships, it is subverted by antagonisms that lack a definitive ground. At the level of political subjectivity, historical analysis shows that oppositional identities are simultaneously antagonistic to and dependent on the status quo from which their opposition and hence identity is derived. Issues pertaining to antagonism and oppositional identities repose at the center of our reflections . . .

As scholars, we are concerned with issues of particularism/universalism and democracy. The spiraling circle of violence and the narrowing scope of the discussion about it likewise preoccupy us. We see this volume as a contribution to expanding that debate beyond the idea that terrorism is intrinsically evil and therefore can only be condemned, or the notion that it is part of an inevitable clash of civilizations. Situating terrorism within different historical contexts and analyzing how it functions as a stimulus for discourse are the preconditions for opening up that discussion beyond today’s stultifying polarities.

Empire & Terror is available free to download here.

 

The Basque Country in Statistics

Whatever the level of interest you may have in the Basque Country, whether professional or scholarly or more informal or personal, there are several online resources that offer a wealth of statistical information to facilitate a better understanding of the basic structure of Basque society.

Gaindegia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing social and economic information about the whole Basque Country, Euskal Herria. Likewise, Atlasa, a related initiative, seeks to collate and present this same information in map form.

The Basque Statistical Office, Eustat, meanwhile, serves as a key source of information about the Basque Autonomous Community as does its counterpart in Navarre, (Na)stat.

If you’re interested in this kind of information, be sure to check out Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Gómez Uranga (free to download here) and Basque Society: Institutions and Contemporary Life by Gabriel Gatti, Ignacio Irazuzta, and Iñaki Martínez de Albeniz (free to download here).

 

Basque Wikimedians User Group plans to consolidate gains made in recent years

There’s an interesting report in today’s Naiz.eus (the online edition of Basque daily Gara) about plans on the part of the Basque Wikimedians User Group, the EU Euskal Wikilarien Kultura Elkartea, to consolidate the rather creditable position (for a small language like Basque) of being ranked 31st among the different Wikipedias for the number of articles published (for something of the history of Wikimedia in Basque see a previous post here).

The point is made that the moment has come to make a qualitative leap forward in the content being posted, and with this in mind collaboration agreements have been reached and discussions held with both Basque public institutions and the university sector. In the words of member Galder Gonzalez, who was recently in Montreal to attend Wikimania, “whenever we Basques go abroad we’re the exotic people, as in the very active community with that romantic minority language.” In the world of small languages, though, the Basque Wikimedians User Group has become a reference point, providing advice and assistance to other user groups in Scots Gaelic, Asturian, and Welsh, to name but a few.

As regards the challenges ahead, though, one major flaw stands out: despite making up half the world’s population, women only account for 15% of Wikipedia articles. And the Basque-language Wikipedia is now actively committed to overcoming this shortfall. With this in mind, the Wikiemakumeak project has been drawn up to increase the number of biographies about women in Basque. For project member Amaia Astobiza Uriarte, “We’ve created a lot of biographies about women recently but in my opinion, more than a question of increasing the numbers or figures, it’s more important to circulate those biographies in social networks, educational circles, the media, and any other places we can, because that’s the only real way for women to gain visibility.”

See the full report in Naiz (in Basque) here.

Map of civil war graves updated in Navarre

Historical memory–the recovering of previously forgotten (consciously or otherwise) events from the past–is a prevailing topic in contemporary Basque and Spanish society, especially in regard to the civil war of 1936-1939, which left a legacy of actively forgetting about crimes perpetrated against the “losers” of that war.

Excavation of common grave site in Dicastillo (Deikaztelu), Navarre

These reprisals were especially brutal in Navarre, and in an effort to regain this memory, the Foral Government of Navarre commissioned a firm to draw up a map of all know common graves (sites in which people killed during the civil war were unceremoniously buried, in many cases without their relatives’ knowledge). The discovery of these sites, and the closure such investigations brings to family members, is an important feature of the emphasis on regaining historical memory. An up-to-date map has just been released showing the sites of various common graves and classified according to those that have been excavated, those that have been initially explored, those that are yet to be excavated, and other potential sites of interest.

The updated map contains information on 22 newly discovered common graves, more information on 38 already studied sites, data on 21 newly identified victims of the Francoist repression, and information on the location of a further 49 bodies.

Check out the map of these sites here.

For more information on this initiative on the part of the Foral Government of Navarre (in Spanish) click here.

War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, examines the wider impact on society of the momentous events that took place within such a short space of time in and around the Basque Country in the 1930s and 1940s. This work seeks to fully explore the effect of war and displacement on ordinary people.

Euskal Jaiak

For those of you lucky enough to be in the Basque Country, jaiak (festivity) season is well underway. This past weekend brought thousands out to celebrate San Inazio, with jaiak across the Basque Country.

We will try to highlight some of these festivities here at the CBS books blog throughout the month. But for now, check out the website http://www.jaiak.net for complete schedules of these colorful festivities, not only in the Basque Country but throughout the peninsula.

All I can say for now is that, man, I wish I was over there!

Kalimotxo: Tradition vs. Pepsi

Today we bring you a post on Kalimotxo, the delicious and refreshing drink that’s popular throughout the Basque Country and is making its way into the United States. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the beverage, it consists of equal parts wine and cola, although the ratios vary by person (I personally like 70:30, wine:coke). I know, you must be thinking, this is outrageous! I propose you try it before making up your mind, especially now that we’re finally getting a taste of summer, at last!

Image Credit: Marie Claire Magazine

The origin of kalimotxo is said to have its roots in Algorta’s Puerto Viejo (Getxo, Bizkaia) during its jaiak (fiestas) in 1972. The story goes that the kuadrilla “Antzarrak” had purchased 2,000 liters of wine to serve at its txosna (bar stands run by groups of friends during fiestas). They soon discovered that the wine had gone bad. However, they were not in the position to buy more, so after several mixes, they came up with equal parts wine and coke. The question was, how were they going to market it? Two of the kuadrilla members were nicknamed Kali (short for Kalimero) and Motxo (Motxorra). They put the two together and voilá, kalimotxo was born.

Puerto Viejo, Image Credit: Daniel Defco, Creative Commons

The reason we bring you this story today is not only to encourage you to take a break and have a drink, but because kalimotxo is slowly gaining fame throughout the world. In fact, Pepsi has come out with a new product in the United States: Pepsi 1893. It is meant to be the perfect pairing to wine. Check out their promotional video on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/pepsi/status/856945990208761861

This glamorous new take on kalimotxo goes hand in hand with the following article from The New York Times, which even includes a video and recipe:

Wine and Cola? It Works

Some might consider the kalimotxo (pronounced cal-ee-MO-cho) a guilty pleasure; I’ve received more than a few skeptical glances when I’ve ordered it at bars in New York. But I don’t feel an iota of contrition when I drink this Basque-country classic. It couldn’t be easier: equal parts red wine (some say the cheaper the better, but that’s up to you) and cola. I like a squeeze of lemon juice for a little brightness, and maybe a slice of lemon or orange to dress it up. But purists might consider even those modest additions a little fussy. The overall effect is surprisingly sangria-esque, minus all that fruit-chopping and waiting, and wonderfully refreshing.

If you can find cola made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup, all the better, but the drink is still fine with whatever you’ve got on hand. The soda’s caffeine actually makes the kalimotxo a fine pick-me-up: an ideal afternoon drink when you know you’ve still got a long day, and night, ahead.

In a glass filled with ice, combine 3 or 4 ounces dry red wine (preferably Spanish) with an equal amount of cola and 1 squeeze lemon juice. Garnish with a lemon or orange slice to serve.

By Rosie Shaap: May 20, 2013

Well, in spite of all the hype, I’m a traditionalist. The best kalimotxos are made from cheap wine (in the Basque Country either Don Simon or Eroski’s own red wine) and are best served with a group of friends on any night, evening, or afternoon. Give it a try, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

For more about kalimotxo and its history, check out the following videos (in Spanish) and book (also in Spanish and available for download at the Getxo City Hall’s website):

“El verdadero origen del Kalimotxo”, EITB

“El origen del kalimotxo”, La Noche De, EITB

El invento del kalimotxo y anécdotas de las fiestas, by Antzarrak: http://www.getxo.eus/es/turismo/descubre-getxo/origen-kalimotxo (scroll to the bottom of the page for download)

 

Basque speakers now in majority in Bilbao

“I want to live in Basque.” Image by Xavier Vazquez, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque daily Deia reported on Sunday, April 16, that Basque-speakers now account for 51.2 % of the overall population of the city. According to the Bilbao City Council’s Office of Basque and Education, the number of Basque speakers has quadrupled in the last thirty years. Councilmember for Basque and Education Koldo Narbaiza commented that, “Out of 342,370 inhabitants of the capital [of Bizkaia], 78,727 can read and write in Basque, 96,774 know Basque although not academically, and 166,869 are non-Basque speakers … In total, 175,501 Bilbao residents, that is 51.2%, know Basque.”

Basque speakers in Bilbao, from Deia.

What’s more, and interestingly, this rise in numbers is fairly evenly spread throughout the city. And another point of interest is that the average age of Basque speakers has changed significantly in recent years, with young people now outnumbering seniors when it comes to knowledge of the language.

See the full article (in Spanish) here.

Here at the Center we have a wide range of books about the Basque language. Download a free copy of Estibaliz Amorrortu’s Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture here. And check out a couple of books that discuss two sides of the coin when it comes to forms of Basque: Koldo Zuazo’s The Dialects of Basque, which explores the rich variety of the language; and Pello Salaburu’s Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, which charts how a modern standard version of the language was created and embraced by Basque society.

See, too, another couple of interesting takes on how the Basque language fits into contemporary Basque society: The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi; and This Strange and Powerful Language by Iban Zaldua.

Easter vacation festivities come to the Basque Country

The Baiona Ham Festival

The Easter vacation is becoming an increasingly important time for the growing leisure sector in the Basque Country. This week, traditional religious celebrations coinciding with Easter itself will be held,  in which towns like Durango (with its famous pasinue) and Balmaseda in Bizkaia as well as others all over the Basque Country take center stage.  But there are also a number of other activities taking place to cater for the increasing number of tourists who visit at this time of year. One of the biggest events takes place in Bilbao. The Basque Fest is a specially designed festival combining Basque traditions and gastronomy that seeks to introduce visitors to the wonderful world of Basque culture in all its facets, from traditional Basque sports to music and dance as well as, of course, food and drink. Staying on a similar theme, Baiona also hosts a wonderful festival of its own this week: the Baiona Ham Festival, a must see event for all aficionados of this famous Basque delicacy. Such festivities are, though, just the tip of the iceberg. Towns and cities all over the Basque Country will be celebrating this important holiday season in many and varied ways.

The Basque Country in the 19th Century painted by the Feillet sisters

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Hélène Feillet (1812-1889), as painted by her sister Blanche. Image by TRAILERS MUSEUM, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hélène (1812-1889) and Blanche (1815-1886) Feillet were artists and lithographers of some renown in the mid-19th century. Although born in Paris, they had strong connections to Iparralde, where they lived (in Biarritz) from 1834 on. And they are best known for their many portrayals of the Basque people and landscape in the form of lithographs, watercolors, oil paintings, drawings, and sketches. Their principal focus of interest was the Basque coastline, from Baiona in Lapurdi to Bermeo in Bizkaia, by way of the many fishing towns and villages along the way.

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“Pêcheuses de St-Jean-de-Luz” (Fisherwomen of Donibane Lohizune), by Hélène Feillet. Part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

They were the daughters of a famous lithographer, Pierre Jacques Feillet (1794-1855), who was also head of the School of Drawing and Painting in Baiona from 1844 until his death – on which Blanche took over the same position. Continuing with their father’s specialty, they gained particular fame as lithographers in their representations of the Basque Country, embracing the romanticist tendencies of the age in their lithographs and prints.

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“Costumes basques” (Basque dress) by Hélène Feillet. Part of the Fonds Ancely of the City library of Toulouse. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1844 Blanche married Charles-Henri Hennebutte, who ran a printing company in Baiona. His company would later publish well-known guides to the Basque Country, such as Guide du voyageur de Bayonne à St Sébastien and Description des environs de Bayonne et de Saint-Sébastien (France et Espagne: Album des deux frontières), beautifully illustrated by the Feillet sisters. Hélène also exhibited her work in both Paris and London.

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“Entrée du duc de Bayonne en 1839” (Entrance of the Duke of Baiona in 1839) by Hélène Feillet. A work commissioned by the French Ministry of the Interior. Image by Léna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Their art stands as a remarkable testament of the time and place in which they lived and worked, and serves as an invaluable resource for capturing the Basque Country on the cusp of major social change in the mid- and late-19th century.

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