Category: Basque symbols

Ahaztu Barik: Remembering Basque Ancestors

By Marsha Hunter

In 1997, Liz Hardesty began a three-year project to identify about 120 Basques that rest without grave markers in the St. John’s Section at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise, Idaho.  Dorothy Bicandi Aldecoa generously provided the funds to install markers for those who Liz and her team identified. In addition, Mrs. Aldecoa provided a plaque to honor those Basques known to be buried at Morris Hill, but who didn’t have specific burial plot information. The monument bears the names of those not yet located, with the statement: “You are not forgotten.”  Twenty years later, Basques in Boise, such as Meggan Laxalt Mackey continue the quest with Ahaztu Barik, Phase Three of the Hardesty-Aldecoa project.  Ahaztu Barik promotes the lives and memories of those Basques whose burial sites are confirmed, with more detailed information, which may include Basque Country birthplaces, parents, death dates, causes of death in America, and plot locations.

Basque eguzkilore symbols marked the gravesites of 59 persons confirmed by the Ahaztu Barik project.

According to Meggan, we have now confirmed 59 Basque burial sites, marked and verified. There are still another 60+ whose burial locations have not been found and there are little to no records on these people. However, we did find four persons who were originally identified as Basque but were not – they were mostly from Italy or Mexico. This information will be accessible soon on a special webpage that will be linked to the Boise Basque Museum’s new website. Meggan hopes that their work will encourage other western communities with Basque populations to do the same.

A memorial ceremony was held earlier this summer. Here are a few photos from the event. Keep up the good work!

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, Basque Government director of Communities Abroad Gorka Aramburu, Aita (Father) Antton Egiguren, and the Ahaztu Barik team (Celeste Landa, Meggan Laxalt, and John Ysursa) remember Basque ancestors at the St. John’s section at Morris Hill Cemetery July 28, 2017.

Ahaztu Barik burials will be accessed online through a dedicated website at the Basque Museum & Cultural Center for searches by name, burial plot, and death date, which prompts the viewer to gain more information if it was confirmed (birth date, birthplace, parent names, cause of death).

Boise’s Biotzetik Basque Choir sang for the memorial ceremony at the Morris Hill Cemetery.

Information provided by Meggan Laxalt Mackey.

This ancestral project is sponsored by the Basque Government, Office for the Basque Community Abroad; Boise State University’s Basque Global Collaborative; and the Basque Museum & Cultural Center.

 

 

  

Lehendakari Urkullu plants a Tree of Gernika in Auschwitz

Last Thursday, April 20, Lehendakari Urkullu participated in the planting of the Tree of Gernika in Zasole Park (Oświęcim, Poland), close to the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. As Urkullu put it: “Auschwitz and Gernika represent a heartbreaking cry that lasts throughout time.” This event mirrors the numerous plantings of the tree throughout the world as a symbol of peace.

Deia

Urkullu noted, “We planted this tree of Gernika in this land of Auschwitz, together affirming  our commitment to and sowing of hope in a better world, a world respectful of life, dignity, and the human rights of all people.” The mayor of Oświęcim, Janusz Chwierut, attended the event alongside the president of the Bizkaian Juntas, Ana Otadui, and the president of the Association Pro-Tradition and Culture in Europe (APTCE), Enrique Villamor. Both Basques and Poles were present, including around 500 young people.

El Correo

The Tree of Gernika represents so much to Basques, and symbolically, its plantings around the world bring light to its history, that of the town of Gernika, and Basque culture more generally. It’s heartwarming to see so many people come together for an event such as this one.

Information for this post from Noticias de Gipuzkoa, published in Deia (in Spanish): http://www.noticiasdegipuzkoa.com/2017/04/20/politica/euskadi/urkullu-auschwitz-y-gernika-representan-un-grito-desgarrador-que-perdura-en-el-tiempo

To read more about other plantings, check out this article in Deia (also in Spanish): http://www.deia.com/2017/04/23/bizkaia/el-legado-de-iparragirre-se-abre-al-mundo

April 14, 1983: Basque national anthem established

By a Basque Parliament decree of April 14, 1983,  “Eusko Abendaren ereserkia” (The hymn of the Basque ethnic group) was adopted as the official anthem of the Basque Autonomous Community. The music itself is based on a popular Basque melody that was used typically at dances as a form of introducing the proceedings paying homage to a flag. Sabino Arana, the founder of Basque nationalism, then added words to the tune. The first Basque government, which came into being in 1936, had originally adopted the melody (but not the words) as the Basque national anthem before the triumph of General Franco’s rebel forces in the Spanish Civil War led to the abolition of Basque home rule.  With the Statute of Autonomy (1979) and the creation once more of the Basque government, the 1983 law was passed to provide the new autonomous community with its own anthem. Once again, as in 1936, the official anthem is the music without the lyrics Arana wrote. That said,  it is known popularly as “Gora ta Gora” (Up and Up) on the basis of its first line (“Gora ta gora Euskadi,” Onward and upward the Basque Country).

Got .eus?

PuntuEus logo. Image from the PuntuEus Foundation

In today’s globally networked world even Internet domains become key identity-markers. We recently came across a great article at basquetribune.com that discusses the growing importance of the .eus domain for many people with Basque connections. In “The Basque .eus Big Bang,” journalist Edu Lartzanguren guides us through the fascinating world of online community building, alluding to the notion that the .eus domain serves as a kind of Basque galaxy within the global universe of the Internet. Indeed, the .eus domain has experienced significantly greater growth than similar initiatives relating to other culture and community related domains like the Scottish .scot, .bzh in Brittany, or .gal in Galicia.

DNS names. Image by George Shuklin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the words of the PuntuEus Foundation, the .eus domain helps “in the normalization of Euskara and … provides an international recognition for the country of Euskara.” It is on the one hand a social and cultural tool that serves to create an identity and, on the other, a commercial tool designed to establish a brand.

Cross of Gorbeia 115-years-old

On Saturday, November 12, the emblematic Cross of Gorbeia, one of the most distinct features in the Basque Country, will be 115-years-old. Mount Gorbeia, straddling the border between Bizkaia and Araba, is 1,482 meters (4,862 feet) high. It remains an important symbol, especially for Bizkaians, for whom it is their highest mountain. It is equally known for the imposing metal cross that stands at the summit, measuring around 17 meters (56 feet) high.

634px-indalecio_gorbeiako_gailurrean

The third cross of Gorbeia, erected some time around 1910. Photo of Indalecio Ojanguren by Ojanguren himself, c. early-20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII ordered that crosses be erected on the highest Christian mountains to herald the coming of a new century. As a consequence, a work commission was established in Zeanuri, Bizkaia, organized by the town priest, Juan Bartolomé de Alcibar, and presided over by the archpriest of Zigoitia, Araba, José María de Urratxa, to implement the pope’s orders by erecting a cross on the peak of Gorbeia. The construction project was headed by the architect Casto de Zavala y Ellacuriaga and had a budget of 50,000 pesetas. The original cross was 33 meters (108 feet) high. Delays to the project, however, mean that the cross was not installed in 1900, as originally planned, but a year later, on November 12, 1901. What’s more, the original cross only lasted a month and half, before collapsing as a result of the notoriously strong winds that are common on Gorbeia (local shepherds are reputed to have warned of this possibility from the outset). A second cross was then put up in 1903, although it, too, succumbed to gale-force winds in 1906. A third and final cross, which took much of its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower and was designed by Serapio de Goikoetxea and Alberto de Palacio y Elissague, was erected some time around 1910, this time measuring much less than the first two attempts.

640px-vitoria_-_monte_gorbea

Mount Gorbeia, as seen from Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly afterward, on October 13, 1912, following the recent creation of the Sporting Club of Bilbao, it organized a hiking excursion to the top of Gorbeia attended by 145 hardy individuals. This set in motion a tradition, that lasts to this day, for Bizkaians of all ages to make at least one visit to the emblematic summit of Gorbeia. This excursion is especially popular on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Information sourced from: http://www.deia.com/2016/11/05/bizkaia/costa/la-cruz-de-gorbea-115-anos-guiando-a-los-montaneros

The flower of the sun in Basque culture

In a previous post we discussed the importance of the solstice festival, St. John’s Eve, and today we’re going to talk about the seemingly humble sunflower–eguzki-lore (flower of the sun) or ekilore (flower of the east) in Basque. This is an important symbol in traditional Basque culture that, like the St.John’s Eve festivities, is rooted in a more general solar mythology that once extended across Europe as a whole.

526px-carlina_acaulis_160907

Carlina acaulis. Image by Bernd Haynold, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Clearly, as its name in English also suggests, the sunflower resembles the sun, but why is it so important in traditional Basque culture? First of all, it is important to comprehend just how important the sun was. Understandably, people venerated the rising sun as a giver of light, and life, the very means to their daily survival. Prehistoric dolmens generally face East, toward the rising sun, as do (where possible) most traditional houses and old tombs in the Basque Country. In the latter case, there is also a practical dimension to this because typically the cold and rain come from the North and West respectively.

So the sun is in general an important symbol, but more particularly, according to the old Basque beliefs, and as José Miguel de Barandiarán notes in his Selected Writings (p.79), “the Sun and the Moon are feminine divinities, daughters of Earth, to whose womb they return every day after their journey through the sky.” So much so, in fact, that people used to greet and bid farewell to the sun every day. In The Basques, Julio Caro Baroja observes that (p. 275):

there seem to exist affinities reflected in the language among the ideas of light, sun, and fire. All of this may have had a religious meaning that is lost today. However, the custom of greeting the sun (and the moon) both at their rising and at their setting has been conserved until the present by children and even by adults in some towns. These greetings are notable because in them the star of the day is treated as a grandmother and is therefore female, which also occurs among many Indo-Germanic peoples. Some old stories (particularly one from Errigoiti [Rigoitia]) seem to suggest that some people believed the earth to be the mother of the sun.

Specifically, in Errigoiti (Bizkaia), Barandiarán tells us, they used to say “Eguzki santa bedeinkatue, zoaz zure amagana” (Holy, blessed sun, go to your mother).

640px-Eguzkilorea,_Euskal_Herria_-_Basque_Country

Dried sunflower nailed to the front door of a farmhouse in Senpere, Lapurdi. Photo by Garuna bor-bor, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With the sun being so important, then, it should come as no surprise that the sunflower came to represent this potent natural symbol. It is still not uncommon to see dried sunflowers nailed to the front doors of Basque farmhouses. Barandiarán (p. 112) says that this flower “performs the same mysterious functions attributed to the sun. It is believed, for example, that the sun frightens away evil spirits . . . That is why the flower is nailed above the door: to prevent the intrusion of evil spirits, witches, and the numina of disease, storm, and lightning.” This would bear out Caro Baroja’s words (p. 326), which  suggest that in traditional Basque culture “the sun may be a sort of God’s eye, protector from evils and purifier.”

If you’re interested in traditional Basque mythology, be sure to check out the abovementioned works: Julio Caro Baroja, The Basques, and José Miguel de Barandiarán, Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography.

 

July 14, 1894: Basque flag flies for first time

Euskadi

The ikurriña. Photo by Muhamedmesic, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On July 14, 1894 the ikurriña–today the Basque national flag–was publicly displayed for the first time outside the Euzkeldun Batzokija, the party headquarters of the Basque Nationalist Party. Designed by brothers Sabino and Luis Arana, it was originally intended to symbolize Bizkaian nationalism but later came to represent the Basque Country as a whole.

The term ikurriña derives from the Basque word ikur, meaning “mark” or “sign.” In the words of Cameron J. Watson, in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence:

The flag was composed of two crosses, one white and the other green, superimposed on a red background. The white cross represented the importance of religion, while the green one represented the Bizkaian “race,” its ancient laws (the fueros), and Euskara. The red background, according to Arana, symbolized the fact that Bizkaians were “ready to shed their blood in defense of the two crosses.”

The ikurriña was officially adopted as the flag of the Basque Autonomous Region in 1936 but, following the victory of General Franco in the Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War, it was banned. It was legalized once more in 1977 and was adopted as the official flag of the Basque Autonomous Community in 1979.

640px-Ikurriña_Biarritz_Olympique

An ikurriña incorporating the club crest of rugby team Biarritz Olympique. Photo by Willtron, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nowadays, the ikurriña enjoys widespread acceptance as the national flag of all Basques.

More lauburu sightings…in the Yucatán, Mexico (and some thoughts on the Basque presence in Latin America)

lauburuYucatanbanner.1151x460

The original entrance gates to Hacienda San Francisco Teacalha just outside of Dzidzantun. Photo by Byron Augustin (with permission).

A few months ago we published a post on surprising sightings of the lauburu, and we were recently made aware of a series of great articles, at the Yucatan Living website, about further sightings of this iconic Basque symbol outside the Basque Country.

LauburuYucatanronanddeepoland.400x0

Hacienda Santa Maria with Ron and Dee Poland standing between the lauburu-adorned gate posts. Photo by Rebecca Augustin (with permission).

Guest writer Byron Augustin, a retired university professor who lives in Valladolid, Mexico, authors the fascinating three-part “Ancient Symbols in the New World,” which includes some great lauburu photos taken in the Yucatán, Mexico. Click on the links below to read the article and see many more lauburu images:

http://www.yucatanliving.com/history/ancient-symbols-in-the-new-world-part-i

http://www.yucatanliving.com/history/ancient-symbols-part-ii

http://www.yucatanliving.com/history/ancient-symbols-in-the-new-world-part-iii

By part III of this series, the focus actually shifts to the Basque presence in Latin America more generally and here at the Center we’d like to encourage our readers to check out these fascinating stories and we congratulate Byron for his outstanding contribution!

lauburuYucatansymbolyaxcopoil.400x0

Hacienda Yaxcopoil. Photo by Byron Augustin (with permission).

In author Byron Augustin’s own words (via a personal communication): “My wife, Rebecca, noted that in Mexico we are sure that we have passed lauburu and did not even know it.  For example, we have lived in Valladolid for eight years, and the last lauburu we sighted was on a colonial house we drove by practically every day of the year.  As she pointed out . . . it is like hunting for wild mushrooms, you have to be really focused to find the lauburu.  However, we are convinced that we have only scratched the surface of finding lauburu and that is just in the Yucatan.  Basques played a significant role in many regions in Mexico especially in mining towns, so I am convinced they are out there.  In addition, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries had major Basque influence and I am sure there are lauburu in those countries too.  I really just stumbled on to the research and was amazed at the role the Basques played in opening the New World to settlement.  I doubt that ninety-nine percent of Mexicans have any knowledge of the importance of the Basques in the development of their country. Unfortunately, many lauburu in Mexico are most likely being lost because of a lack of awareness regarding their historical significance.”

Basque Wine Blog: Baigorri and their new grapes

Per and Britt Karlsson are contributors to Forbes and have taken on the business of wine. Recently they have written an article about the famed Rioja region (look back on previous blogs for more new on Basque wine) in Spain. The two contributors are telling the story of one of the most well-known and prestigious wineries in Spain: Baigorri.  Baigorri is located in the Rioja Alavesa region in the Basque Country.  While the famed reds of the region tend to focus a lot on grapes such as  Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, and Cariñena, according to the Karlsson’s, the University of Logroño is trying to revive some of the 23 grapes that the region used to boast.  Maturana Tinta is one of the grapes that they are hoping can make a comeback.

In the article,  Matthias Lange, the PR manager says, “Here we have two meters of clay and pure limestone below…The roots pick up minerals down there”.

baigorri

If this is true, according to other events happening in the Rioja region, would this give the Alavesa/Basque region a case to at least label its bottles differently, focusing on the grapes and terroir in which it is grown?

For the whole article by the Karlsson’s check out:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/karlsson/2015/11/04/rioja-renaissance-modern-and-traditional-wines-from-bodegas-baigorri/

Surprising sightings of the lauburu

200px-Lauburu.svg

A classic representation of the lauburu, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of you reading this will be familiar with the lauburu (literally meaning “four heads” but a term that could also be interpreted as four ends or tips) and its special significance in Basque culture. Its origins are a matter of some dispute (see the Wikipedia article here) and it is clearly not particular to the Basque Country alone, with similar symbols found all over the world and an especially strong connection to Celtic culture . Yet it has an undeniable resonance in Basque culture today. Check out, for example, just how many people like the lauburu enough to get a tattoo of it here in the photo album at Buber’s Basque Page.

What you may not know, though, is that a lauburu appears in a painting by Francisco Goya (1746-1828), who was of Basque ancestry on his father’s side. The painting in question is “Retrato de la Marquesa de Santa Cruz” (1805).

Retrato_de_la_Marquesa_de_Santa_Cruz

“Retrato de la Marquesa de Santa Cruz” (1805) by Francisco Goya, via Wikimedia Commons.

Even more unusual–or perhaps not–is a petroglyph or rock engraving on Woodhouse Crag, Ikley Moor, in West Yorkshire, England, which seems to resemble a lauburu. Also the cause of much speculation, as this Wikipedia article notes here, we’ll leave it up to you to be judge.

 

1200px-Ilkley_Moor_Swastika_Stone

“Ilkley Moor Swastika Stone” by T.J. Blackwell – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Do you know of any other unlikely or unusual sightings of the lauburu?

Santiago de Pablo, author of the CBS publication The Basque Nation On-Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and Political Violence,  has an interesting article (in Spanish) on the cultural and political significance of the lauburu, available free to download here.

The lauburu is also discussed in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre:  Their History and Their Traditions, by Philippe Veyrin, with an introduction by Sandra Ott.  Veyrin actually describes the lauburu, rather poetically, as a “Basque rose.”