Category: Basque sports (page 1 of 5)

Faculty News 2017: Mariann Vaczi

Although she’s a recent addition to the CBS, Dr. Vaczi is a busy academic. Her book about Bilbao and its soccer madness, entitled Soccer, Culture and Society in Spain: An Ethnography of Basque Fandom (Routledge, 2015) earned Honorable Mention at the 2016 Book Awards of the North American Society for the History of Sport. It also received great reviews in academic journals. Mariann spent the past two years in Catalonia doing ethnographic fieldwork in order to diversify her research interest in sport and sub-national identities. She contributed a chapter on sport in Spain for the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics, and she published research articles about sport and Basque and Catalan nationalism in American Ethnologist and Ethnos. She was invited to edit a special issue titled Sport, Identity, and Nationalism in the Hispanic World in the Journal of Iberian and South American Literary and Cultural Studies. She will present a paper at the 2017 annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Windsor, Ontario.

 

 

An Interview with our new CBS Professor, Mariann Vaczi

It is my great pleasure to introduce our new faculty member, Dr. Mariann Vaczi. As a graduate of the CBS, she already knows her way around and has brought great energy to the department.

 

Tell me a bit about yourself.

  • My academic specialization includes cultural anthropology, sociology, sport, physical culture, and cultural performance genres. My geographical focus includes the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Spain. I was born and raised in Hungary in a very sporty family, and I played basketball in the first division of that country. When I was twenty, I was given the opportunity to play and coach in Germany, where the American players of the club told me, why don`t you apply for an athletic scholarship in the USA? That is how I ended up in a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, where I became acquainted with anthropology, which later became my main field.
  • It was also there that I won a scholarship to study abroad in the Basque Country, which was my first encounter with this culture. I did my MA at Central European University, in Budapest, already working on topics related to Basque culture. At UNR and the Center for Basque Studies, I decided to specialize on the anthropology of sport, and more particularly on the Athletic Club and the social, cultural and political dimensions of its soccer madness. I published this book with Routledge in 2015, and I am now arranging for its translation and publication in Spanish.

What have you been up to since you finished your Ph.D. ?

  • I was based in Catalonia for almost two years. After my book was published on Basque soccer, I wanted to diversify and research Catalonian soccer from a comparative perspective, especially in light of the current sovereignty process. In the meantime, I got acquainted with an old traditional sport called human towers, and I did fieldwork on this practice for the book project I am working on now. I was a human tower performer for two seasons in Catalonia. Besides this fieldwork project, I also taught classes at the University of Dunaujvaros, Hungary.

What have you done since you got to the CBS this summer?

  • I have edited a special issue for the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies with the title “Sport, Identity, and Nationalism in the Hispanic World.” Besides writing my own chapter and the Introduction, I convoked, coordinated and edited the work of twelve sport sociologists, anthropologists, and historians. I am pleased to have got some of the finest experts in the field on board, and I look forward to the release of the special issue in December 2017. I have also revised and/or published two research articles on Basque and Catalonian sport and community formation in Anthropological Quarterly and Ethnos, which are top journals in the field of anthropology. Very importantly, I have started to prepare the publication of my work on Basque soccer in Spanish in both article and book form, and I can`t wait for the Basque fan community to be able to read it.

What are you teaching this semester?

  • I am teaching Basque Transnationalism in the United States. It is a class that revolves around culture, identity, ethnicity and politics in the changing landscapes of the home and host countries of Basque migration. My experience with American students is very positive: they know little about Basques in the USA, but they are very engaged and responsive.

What are your current research interests?

  • Currently, I am working towards the publication of my book on Basque and Catalonian sport and physical culture in the current phase of Catalonian nationalism and sovereignty process. After this project, I`d like to work on a book about Basque sport and physical culture, including traditional sports.

How are they different or similar to your previous research?

  • This work will draw upon much of my previous work on Basque soccer, but it will be complemented by Catalonian perspectives, and it will go beyond soccer and modern sports in order to focus on traditional sports as well.

What makes it unique?

  • This will be the first work to have discussed the political dimensions of sports for the current Catalonian sovereignty process, and the first book in English to engage with the traditional sport of human towers.

Have you attended any conferences or published anything recently?

  • In the last year, I have published a research article on Catalonia`s human towers in American Ethnologist, and a chapter on Basque and Catalan soccer in Spain in the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics. In the past couple of years, I gave invited talks at great European universities in Cambridge, Loughborough, Southampton, Toulouse, Bilbao, and Valencia. I am now preparing to give a talk at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in November 2017.

Are you happy to be back in the States?

  • Very much! I have lived in this country ten years, on and off, and it`s like coming home.

What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

  • I miss the great city of Budapest, and of course my family.

 

We are so happy to have you around, and can’t wait to read your forthcoming work. Ongi etorri, Mariann!

 

Traditional Basque Sports Explained in Short Video

Herri kirolak–traditional sports–are one of the defining features of Basque culture. Many of these sports developed out of everyday chores like chopping wood or lifting heavy objects. Neighbors would then challenge each other to informal feats of strength and/or stamina and out of these challenges, the custom of betting on the outcome developed. Nowadays these challenges take place in organized settings, typically during local fiestas for example, and involve formal, regulated competitions.

Check out the following short video from Iparralde that explains in brief form a gathering of competitors in various Basque sports in the town of Donapaleu (Saint-Palais) in Lower Navarre.

The Center has published books on several aspects of sports in Basque culture. See, for example, Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, and Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

July 13, 1955: Birth of pilotari Panpi Ladutxe

On July 13, 1955, one of the great characters in the modern age of pilota (also spelled pelota) was born in Azkaine, Lapurdi: Panpi Ladutxe (also spelled Pampi Laduche). The son of another famous pilotari or Basque handball player, Joseph Ladutxe, he began his career in the four-walled trinkete (closed court) version of the sport more common in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, where he was from, becoming world champion in this version at the tender age of 19. He later switched to the three-walled (open court) fronton variety more common in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country in his mid-20s, winning two doubles titles in 1987 and 1989, partnered by Joxean Tolosa.

Ladutxe stood out in many ways, being the first player from Iparralde to gain success in Hegoalde in the modern age. After retirement he went on to promote and develop the sport in and train fellow players from Iparralde, two of whom in particular–Sebastien Gonzalez and Yves Salaberri or “Xala”–went on to enjoy great success, following in his footsteps. He has also been a great showman away from the court, enjoying some success as a singer of traditional Basque songs both live and in the release of two records: Aitari (1995) and Chansons du Pays Basque (2002).

Legendary pelota player bids farewell to game

On June 24, in the Labrit fronton or pelota court in Pamplona-Iruñea, Navarre, one of the greatest pelota players of all time, Juan Martinez de Irujo, made an emotional farewell to the sport. Born in 1981 in Ibero, Navarre, he debuted in the professional game in 2003 and went on to win five individual championships in the handball variety, the blue ribbon event in modern pelota. In 2016, however, he announced his temporary retirement from the sport (a decision later confirmed as permanent) due to heart issues.

On Saturday, Irujo was only in attendance, not taking part in a game, but following the completion of the games taking place, he went down to the court dressed in his archetypal pelotari uniform and accompanied by his daughter to receive the warm applause of all those gathered, spectators that included Uxue Barkos (President of the Navarrese Government) and Joseba Asiron (mayor of Pamplona-Iruñea).

Check out this report (in Spanish) and accompanying video of the afternoon’s events.

*Image by bedaio3000, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

June 14, 1959: Famous Basque woodchopper Latasa achieves major feat

Ramon Latasa Elizondo (1930-1991)

On June 14, 1959, in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, the renowned Basque aizkolari (woodchopper) Ramon Latasa achieved one of his most memorable feats: that day, on the basis of major betting on the outcome, he cut through the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree with a girth of just under 17 feet (!) within 4 hours; specifically, in 3 hours and 17 minutes, and with 5,259 ax blows.

 

Ramon Latasa Elizondo was born on the Aguria baserri in Sunbilla, Nafarroa, in 1930 into a poor family. At age 17 he began working in the logging industry, gaining special fame among his coworkers for his woodchopping prowess. His most famous feat took place on April 26, 1959, when he won a legendary challenge in competition with Luxia (Juan Jose Narbaiza Ibarbia), from Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa.  In this “challenge of the century” (as it was termed at the time), the humble woodchopper from Sunbilla finished a whopping 5 minutes before his rival, leaving onlookers stunned at the feat.  Latasa continued taking part in thee challenges through the 1960s and even into the 1970s, retiring at age 47. Remembered by many as the greatest aizkolari of all time, he died in 1991.

Winnemucca Basque Festival

Continuing on our summer Basque Festival tour of the West, some of us at the CBS and Jon Bilbao Basque Library had the chance to visit Winnemucca and attend its 39th Annual Basque Festival. Once again, we got up early (but thankfully not as early as the weekend before) and set off east toward Winnemucca. On the way there, we had a lovely breakfast in Lovelock!

Cowpoke Cafe in Lovelock

Mmm…breakfast

Once in Winnemucca, we watched the Basque Festival Parade. Many of the dance groups and clubs had floats parade down Winnemucca Blvd. The local fire and police department were also present. It seemed as if all of the town had gone out to watch the parade, and the children were giddy with excitement over the candy being thrown to them from all of the participants.

Parade

More parading!

Next up, we headed to the convention center. Right outside, on the Nixon Lawn, festival goers had set up for the picnic, and everywhere you looked, you could see young boys and girls dressed in their traditional outfits ready to have fun.

Txiki dancers

Inside the convention center, everyone was buying tickets for the lunch and merriment. The Boise Basque Museum had set up a table with various gift items and souvenirs. Our Basque Books Editor was also present with a display of our many publications and eager buyers.

Inside the Convention Center

Our Basque Books Editor!

Before the eating began, the national anthems were sung and dance performances kicked off the event. Throughout the day, various groups danced and competitions were held. Among them, dance-offs and weight lifting competitions. A professional wood chopping display was the highlight for me. Stephanie Braña did a great job! To learn more about her, see the following article in Euskal Kazeta.

Dantzaris

Wood-chopping

Lunch was delicious! We had salad, beans, lamb stew, and steak, accompanied by wine and bread. Hats off to the cooks! We then had the chance to watch more performances but left before the concerts began. Too bad we couldn’t stick around!

Lunch!

Once again, these Basque festivals and picnics do not disappoint! Not only was it a lovely day in the sun, but we were surrounded by fun people and entertainment. Can’t wait till the next one!

Nothing like the Nevada views

Photo credits: Edurne Arostegui, Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, and Irati Urkitza.

Premiere of Aberne, a short movie about women in pelota, on Sunday

Sunday will see the premiere of the movie Aberne, a short film that was the result of a Master’s thesis by Irati Santiago, from Villabona (Gipuzkoa), at Columbia College Chicago. It was produced by Santiago and written and directed by Emma Johnson. From the movie website:  “Aberne tells the story of a young, Basque woman struggling to be accepted amongst external societal pressures in a region where friends, family and co-workers all come together under one sport, pelota. Aberne seeks the opportunity to break free from the culture’s limitation and prove herself worthy of not only playing pelota, but of the general public’s respect.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165637744″>Aberne Interview H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

The film was shot in the Tolosa district of Gipuzkoa, in Basque, and with English subtitles.  It tells the story of a young woman who aspires to be a professional pelotari or Basque handball player in the face of much resistance, including on the part of her mother, who attempts to convince her to stick to the family bread-making business.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165733435″>Aberne Teaser English H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

See a report on the movie premiere by the Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish) here.

Check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa, which seeks to contextualize this sport within Basque culture more generally.

La Única Rugby Women’s Taldea fight to ascend into the Honors’ Division

This weekend the women’s rugby championships will be held at the Public University of Navarre (Pamplona). La Única Rugby Taldea from Pamplona are in the bracket to ascend into the Honors’ Division of the League, which comprises all of Spain. This is a momentous event for the team, and we wish them all the luck in the world, they deserve it! Our own graduate student Amaia Iraizoz once trained for the very same team. She’ll be watching her friends and teammates play this weekend, hoping for the best.

Here’s a video the team has put together, wow does it inspire me! Zorte on neskak!

To read more, check out this article in the Diario de Noticias de Navarra (in Spanish).

A Girls’ Game? Women and Pelota

Continuing on our tour through Women’s History Month, I recently came across a short documentary film, Las Pelotaris: A Girls’ Game, directed by Andrés Salaberri Pueyo and Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza, which was released in 2015.

 

The film, as the title suggests, is about women who play the Basque sport of pelota, but it goes beyond Basque women to follow players from around the world. In a universe dominated by men, these women struggle for recognition for their passion in this sport. Check out the trailer, I’m sure you’ll be enticed to watch the full documentary!

As the film’s website describes:

A story of passion and challenges

‘LAS PELOTARIS’ is the story of Maite, Alice, Rose, Marion, Esther and many other women playing the Basque game of pelota; a sport which remains exotic and unknown, although it is played and practised in over 30 countries.

On the court, these women are brave and play with enthusiasm and sacrifice, but even if they win medals and World tournaments, their achievements always are discreet. Because, above all, this is a sport for men.

To read more check out: http://www.laspelotaris.com/story/?lang=en

For 99 cents, you can watch the full film at the following website: https://www.feelmakers.com/en/videos/13711/las-pelotaris_-a-girl%EF%BF%BD-s-game

For more on women and pelota, check out some of our previous posts, including one on the championship held earlier this month. And of course, if you’re interested in learning more about Basque sports, check  out Olatz González Abrisketa’s  Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic

 

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