Category: Basques in Latin America (page 2 of 2)

Katalina de Erauso pastorala premieres in Baiona

Sunday, June 5, saw the premiere of the new pastorala, “Katalina de Erauso,” in Baiona.  The pastorala is a traditional form of outdoor theater in Zuberoa performed by amateurs, usually from the same town or area, in which the action is played out in repetitive sung verse. It harks back to the mystery and morality plays of the medieval era and frequently involves a tragic theme. Some modern interpretations of the pastorala, such as “Katalina de Erauso,” are also performed in theaters and outside Zuberoa.

The eponymously titled “Katalina de Erauso” tells the dashing story of the famed Lieutenant Nun, a women who fled a convent life in Donostia, Gipuzkoa, to embark on a series of swashbuckling adventures in the guise of a man in the Americas.

For more details about this spectacle, check out its website (in Basque, French, and Spanish) here.

If you’re interested in this major figure in Basque history, we cannot recommend highly enough the enthralling account of her life in Eva Mendieta’s In Search of Catalina de Erauso, which we discussed in detail in a previous post. What’s more, if you’re interested in different aspects of traditional Basque performance, check out Voicing the Moment, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here

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

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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.

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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!

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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.”

Flashback Friday: The Wheelbarrow Basque

On November 27, 1885, Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte was born in Iruñea, Navarre. In 1900, at the age of fifteen, he emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He first began working as a merchant sailor. Later on, he moved to Uruguay, where he worked and prospered on a hog farm. Then he went southward to Patagonia and worked for an American Oil Company in the province of Santa Cruz. One day in 1935, Guillermo met another Basque immigrant. The two Basques started yelling at each other over a bet that one could walk northward to Buenos Aires with a wheelbarrow. Without thinking twice and while everybody laughed at him, Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte grabbed a wheelbarrow and prepared it with the essential things he needed to survive. Thus began his long journey from Santa Cruz to Buenos Aires.  In reality, he wanted to start traveling through and exploring the Latin American landscape. Since he had no other means of travel, he embarked on this curious adventure with a wheelbarrow. His story soon began to appear in newspapers and people from different corners of the country increasingly followed his footsteps. Furthermore, people supported him on every stage of the journey, especially from the Basque immigrant community. After his great feat, Larregui never claimed his winnings from the bet. Later on, Guillermo made a further three more trips with his wheelbarrow. He came to be known as “the Wheelbarrow Basque” or even “the One Wheel Quixote.” On June 9, 1948, Larregui passed away at the age of seventy-nine in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. 

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Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte holding his wheelbarrow

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Front page of an Argentinian newspaper La Nacion of May 25, 1936


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World 40 YEARS!

Amerikanuak (1975), by William A. Douglas and Jon Bilbao, is a cornerstone in studies of Basque emigration and diaspora. Although in the last four decades a lot of research has been carried out on this topic, this book is still essential today.

From October 14 and until December 9, different universities in the Basque Country are honoring this landmark work by holding inter-university seminars on topics related to the book titled “The Basque Country and the Americas: Atlantic Links and Relations.”

October 14: at the University of Navarre, Iruñea-Pamplona: “Navarre and the Americas.”

October 15-16: at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz: “Recovering the North: Companies, Capitals, and Atlantic Projects in the Imperial Hispanic Economy.”

October 23: the University of Pau, in conjunction with Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Basque Studies Society), at the Basque Museum of Baiona: “Research on Basque emigration.”

December 9 at Mondragon University, Arrasate: “The Image and Representation of Basques.”

William Douglass will be in the Basque Country collaborating in these inter-university seminars. For more information about these seminars (in Spanish) click here.

The Center for Basque Studies has more books written and edited by William A. Douglass that you may find interesting, such as: Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, Death after Life: Tales of Nevada, (edited with Carmelo Urza, Linda White, and Joseba Zulaika) The Basque DiasporaGlobal Vasconia, Essays in Basque Social Anthropology and History, and (with Joseba Zulaika) Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives (free to download here).

There is even a candid and vivid biography by Miel A. Elustondo, William A. Douglass: Mr. Basque, which will be of interest to anyone who has followed Bill’s work over the years.

 

Flashback Friday: Dead Soldier

On October 16, 1896, Jose Aramendi Arraiza, a Basque soldier on the island of Cuba, passed away at the age of twenty-two. In the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898), soldiers of Basque birth or descent served in the Spanish armed forces. From the beginning of the colonial crisis in Cuba in 1868, the loyalty of Basques to the Spanish crown, reflected in their participation in its armed forces, responded primarily to economic and constitutional issues. Generally, the enrolled men defended the preservation of the traditional political and economic status quo in the Basque Country. Between 1868 and 1898, because the Cuban crisis was a prominent threat to a particular Basque oligarchy, the Basque provincial councils demonstrated a capacity to mobilize their citizens for war to fight the secessionist movement in the Caribbean territory. In this context of transformative change, those traditional classes feared the loss of their social status. In 1898, United States declared war on  and eventually defeated Spain, followed by the independence of Cuba. Then Cuba became a protectorate of the United States.

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Map of Cuba

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Col. Theodore Roosevelt and American soldiers after the fighting at San Juan Hill in Cuba, 1898


The Cuban War of Independence and its ramifications in the Basque Country is discussed in some detail in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence: The Ideological and Intellectual Origins of ETA, by Cameron J. Watson.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: Privileged Fleets

On September 25, 1728, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” (La Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas) was established in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. An early eighteenth century Spanish reform had established a system by which the government issued royal licenses for the establishment of commerce companies endowing them privileged positions in colonial trade. This system followed the Dutch, English, and French models, by which the government granted some companies permission to be the sole merchants and have monopoly rights on certain trading routes between the American colonies and the Old World. In this way, moreover, the chartered companies became important mainstays of the Spanish empire and its military rule in America. Thus, those privileged fleets were allowed not only to consolidate their positions in transatlantic markets, but they played an even larger role in Spanish foreign relations abroad. Following its Basque predecessor’s steps–the“Company of Honduras” established by Diego de Murga in 1714–the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” was created with the intention of establishing a shareholding company between Venezuela and the Old World. In 1742, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” obtained the monopoly of trade to Venezuela. Through the establishment of this and other commercial companies, Basque merchants took an active role in the Atlantic trade of different kind of products in the West Indies during the eighteenth century.

The Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas logo

The Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas logo

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The Royal Gipuzkoan Company’s business headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, in the 1940s

Check out Gloria Pilar Totoricaguena’s book Basque Diaspora: Migration and Transnational Identity, which will give you the whole picture of this and other stories about the Basque presence overseas (available free to download here). On the eighteenth century, see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (2003).

For further discussion on Basque emigration, see: José Manuel Azcona Pastor’s Possible Paradises: Basque Emigration to Latin America (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004); and William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao, Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1975).


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

From the Backlist: The Amazing Tale of the Basque Lieutenant Nun

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Catalina de Erauso (1592-1650). Portrait attributed to Juan van der Hamen, via Wikimedia Commons

“Buckle up your seat belt, Dear Reader, since you are in for a wild ride!” The words of William A. Douglass, which introduce Eva Mendieta’s In Search of Catalina de Erauso: The National and Sexual Identity of the Lieutenant Nun, set the scene perfectly for this lively account of one of Basque history’s most marginal and controversial characters. This is the tale of Catalina de Erauso, the young woman destined to be a nun who ran away from a convent in her home town of Donostia-San Sebastián at the age of fifteen and, initially passing herself off as one “Francisco Loyola,” ultimately transformed herself into “Antonio” Erauso, soldier, adventurer, and ne’er-do-well, traversing early seventeenth-century Spanish America, getting into swordfights, fleeing the hangman’s noose on more than one occasion, and taking an active role in several military campaigns. Once her secret was out, Erauso would personally (and successfully) seek a special dispensation from the Pope to continue to live as a man and, subsequently, return to her swashbuckling lifestyle in the Americas.

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While this story has been recounted before, the originality of Mendieta’s study is its focus on the specifically Basque dimension of Erauso’s identity as well as its contextualized study of gender transgression within both the Old and New World of the seventeenth century.

As regards the former, in a chapter provocatively subtitled “The Basques against Everyone and Everyone against the Basques,” we are treated to a rare glimpse of Erauso’s participation in the clashes between Basques and the so-called Vicuñas (a group made up of Peninsular Spaniards, principally from Castile, Extremadura, and Andalusia together with their Creole allies) in seventeenth-century Potosí. Some of the events associated with these clashes are described in Eraso’s own words:

It wasn’t long after [my return to Potosí] that the Alonso Ibáñez uprising occurred. The sheriff at that time was Rafael Ortiz, a knight of Santiago, and he raised more than a hundred men, myself included, to go up against the rebels. We went out to meet them one night in Santo Domingo street, and the sheriff shouted “Who goes there?” at the top of his lungs. The rebels backed up without saying a word, and again he shouted, “Who goes there?”
“Liberty!” some of them shouted back.
Then the sheriff bellowed out “Long live the king!” with many of the men echoing his words, and he charged toward them, with the rest of us behind, stabbing and shooting. At that same instant, the rebels prepared to defend themselves, but we backed them into an alley and then came at them from behind around the other end, lashing away at them until they were forced to surrender.
Some had escaped but we arrested thirty-six, among them Ibáñez. We found seven of their men dead, and two of our own, with a pile of wounded on both sides. Some of those arrested were tortured and confessed that an uprising had been planned for that night. Three companies of Basques and men from up in the mountains were raised to defend the city, and after fifteen days, all of the rebels had been hanged, and the city was quiet again.

Regarding the latter, Mendieta concludes the study with a detailed inquiry into the nature of sex and gender in seventeenth-century European society, the ideologies that underpinned these notions and the roles that they forced on people.  “Was Erauso a man or a woman?” she asks. The answer, for Mendieta, is that “she was a woman only physically. Hers is a case in which sex and gender are totally divorced; that is, in her we find an individual who was biologically a woman, but psychologically a man. Erauso’s transvestism is total and definitive; far from being a disguise, a man’s attire becomes her own skin.” Moreover it was in the Americas, concludes the author, that Erauso found less rigid codes of social conduct and more possibilities, more freedom, to live the footloose adventurous life she craved.

This utterly compelling story is told with both clarity and humanity and challenges readers to critically think about gender roles in society and history. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in Basque or Latin American  history as well as women’s history and, more broadly, gender studies.

Enjoy the ride!

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