Category: Basques in the UK (page 1 of 2)

Refugees Welcome, 1937

Today we are delighted to include a guest post by Iñaki Azkarraga, a friend of the Center and keen observer of all things Bilbao. Thanks to contributors like Azkarraga and feedback from our readers, we hope to share the many stories and rich history of the Basques around the world. Eskerrik asko Iñaki!

In these times of sad wartime anniversaries, we come across some public gardens in Bilbao dedicated, precisely, to the memory of those people who reflect the best in humanity at the bloodiest of times. I am referring to Dame Elizabeth Leah Manning (1886-1977), an educationalist and sometime member of the British Parliament.

Eighty years ago, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, Bilbao was being bombed and on the point of being occupied by fascist troops. The Basque government appealed for international help in evacuating the refugees accumulating in growing numbers the city. Numerous negotiations were successful and senior citizens, women, and children began to be evacuated by sea to France, Belgium, the Soviet Union, Mexico, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

Some of these states had encouraged a policy of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War, abandoning to fate a legitimate democratically-elected government. The British government position was paradigmatic in this regard. However, it was British public opinion, horrified at the news breaking about the bombing of civilians, which forced the government to take in Basque refugees.

This is the context in which the intrepid figure of Leah Manning emerged, a woman who stood up to both the British government and her own Labour Party–the cause of the “pro-Communist and anti-Catholic” Spanish Republic was viewed with some suspicion in many quarters in the UK–and became actively involved in the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief,  and presided over by another prominent woman, the conservative Katherine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Lady Atholl. A key factor in Leah Manning’s involvement was the fact that she had visited Gernika two days after it had been bombed in April 1937. This influenced her decision, definitively, to get involved in the evacuation of Basque children to her homeland, jointly with the Basque government’s Department for Social Assistance.

The task was by no means easy. The British government, with the exception of providing an armed escort in international waters for the humanitarian convoys leaving Bizkaia after March 1937, consistently refused to provide any public funding to help settle and support these refugees, entrusting all this to private initiatives. In order to do this, the Basque Children’s Committee was created with the aim of coordinating resources and raising funds through charity collections, donations by well-known people, and so on. Manning and others like her carried out a mammoth task. In the end, a camp was organized in Stoneham, Southampton, to receive 4,000 people. Thus, on May 20, 1937, once the corresponding official British government permission had been granted in extremis, the Habana ocean liner could set sail from the port of Santurtzi destined for the UK, with 3,861 children aboard, accompanied by medical, auxiliary, and teaching staff. This was one of the largest human convoys organized in one go at that time.

Once on land and after several days in Stoneham, the Basque children were sent off to different parts of the UK, in dozens of charitable groups and institutions that would look after them and monitor their health.

Barely a month later, on June 19, Bilbao fell into the hands of Franco’s army and from 1938 on, little by little, most of these Basque children gradually returned home. However, many also stayed on in the UK for the rest of their lives, or only returned as adults, like Raimundo Perez Lezama, who began his professional soccer career at Southampton and was later considered one of the best ever goalkeepers for Bilbao’s emblematic team, Athletic Club.

In sum, this is a story of solidarity and social mobilization during times of war.  Like today, there were refugees fleeing a conflict, but in the face of little action on the part of governments, they found a fitting response on the part of civil society and in the necessary leadership that, through people like Leah Manning, was capable of raising the humanitarian cause over any other consideration. I hope these words serve as a suitable tribute to this courageous person.

http://www.basquechildren.org/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leah_Manning

http://blogs.deia.com/historiasdelosvascos/2012/05/11/la-odisea-de-los-ninos-vascos-en-inglaterra/#more-102

https://errepublikaplaza.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/los-ninos-de-la-guerra-las-evacuaciones-infantiles-de-1937/

http://www.elcorreo.com/alava/sociedad/201705/07/ocho-dias-para-acoger-20170505173326.html

 

 

Santurtzi honors Basque refugee children on 80th anniversary of their evacuation

May 24 saw an emotional act marking the 80th anniversary (May 23) of the evacuation of more than 4,000 Basque children from the port of Santurtzi in Bizkaia as a result of the impending fall of Bilbao to Franco’s forces during the Spanish Civil War.  The act was organized by the Santurtzi City Council and Gogora: The Institute for Remembrance, Coexistence and Human Rights.

At around 1 pm the sirens of war once again symbolically sounded out in Santurtzi, as official representatives and the general public awaited the arrival of a group of people, all in their 80s and 90s and all former niños de la guerra,  aboard the Txinbito boat. As the senior citizens stepped ashore, local schoolchildren released a sea of white balloons as the public applauded.

Check out the BCA ’37 UK website, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of those children evacuated from the Basque Country.

Images courtesy of the BCA ’37 UK website.

See, too the following articles:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/22/the-reception-of-basque-refugees-in-1937-showed-britain-at-its-best-and-worst

https://theconversation.com/the-blockade-running-british-women-at-the-forefront-of-basque-evacuations-77676

The Incredible Story of Margot Duhalde: World War II Veteran and Combat Pilot

Continuing with our celebration of Women’s History Month, today we bring you a quite amazing story in many respects; certainly an untold story for us here at the Center. It concerns Margot Duhalde, a Chilean-born woman of Basque descent who saw active service in both the British Royal Air Force and the French Air Force.

Margot Duhalde (c. 1944). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Margot Duhalde Sotomayor was born in Chile in 1920. Her paternal family originally came from Luhuso (Louhossoa), Lapurdi, in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country. In her own words (all citations from the wonderful article by Palmira Oyanguren cited below): “When my grandfather died, I would have been nine years old. He was an imposing Basque who used to sport some tremendous mustaches and who loved to recount his stories in song.” Growing up in a farming family in Río Bueno in southern Chile, her destiny appeared to be that of a rural life. However, she became fascinated at an early age with the planes that would fly over the family ranch to take the mail to the far corners of Chile.  When the family relocated to Santiago de Chile so that their children could receive the best education possible, she implored her parents to be able to take flying lessons; and, at age sixteen, she began to learn to fly at the Club Aéreo de Chile. As she recalled, “It was tough finding someone who was willing to teach a young half-farm girl to fly.” But she succeeded in her dream and by the late 1930s was a qualified pilot.

When World War II broke out in 1939, she went to the French Consulate in Santiago to volunteer, on the basis of her paternal family connections with France, for the Free French Forces led by Charles De Gaulle, who was based in London. She was not yet twenty-one and therefore not of legal age, so to get around this she had to invent a story for her parents (who would undoubtedly have refused any permission for her to take part in the war). She told them she would be going to Canada as an instructor, which they accepted. She subsequently sailed from the port of Valparaíso for Liverpool, in the company of thirteen other volunteers, including two young Basques with whom she made great friends, Juan Cotano and “some Ibarra”: “Because I was quite useless and knew nothing about any kind of domestic chores, they ironed my clothes, did my laundry … they affectionately nicknamed me ‘blockhead’.”

On arriving in the UK, she was immediately arrested on suspicion of being a spy and spent five days in a London jail. When she was finally released she ran into yet more obstacles when it came time to presenting herself at the headquarters of the Free French Forces: “The truth is that the French … didn’t know what to do with me. They’d mixed up my name with that of Marcel, in other words, they thought I was a man.” She waited three long months without hearing any word and then a post was assigned her helping out with domestic chores at a recovery center for injured pilots. While there, she unexpectedly received a letter from a French second lieutenant who had lived in southern Chile and had seen interviews with her in the press there. He told her to forget about the French ever allowing her to fly and try her luck elsewhere. This led to her decision to apply to the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), an organization that helped ferry aircraft to different destinations. Despite having practically no English, she was accepted for the ATA, initially working as a mechanic while she learned English. Soon after, however, she began a tough training schedule learning to fly both single and twin-engine aircraft, and both British and American machines. This eventually led to her flying over a hundred different types of planes (including both fighter planes and bombers) throughout the war for the ATA from bases in England to combat zones in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. She eventually rose in rank to become a first officer in the Women’s Section of the ATA.

Margot Duhalde in retirement.

At the end of the war, she was finally accepted into the French Air Force, in which she now flew warplanes officially, becoming France’s first woman combat pilot.  She also completed a public relations tour of Latin America for the French Air Force, demonstrating French aircraft in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Having eventually served her time and achieved her goal of becoming a combat pilot, she then returned to Chile in 1947, where she remained for the rest of her life and worked as a commercial pilot, instructor, and even air traffic controller, retiring at age eighty-one.

She married three times, and had one son. In the 2003 interview cited here she states: “Nowadays I live in an apartment accompanied by my dog Maite, who is as old as me, and by my young cat. Whenever I can, I get in gear and go to the land of my ancestors, Luhuso; or to Baiona, where I still have family with whom I maintain excellent relations.”

In 1946 Duhalde was made a Knight of France’s Legion of Honor and in 2007 she was made a Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honor; in 2009 she was awarded the Veteran’s Badge from the British Ambassador in Santiago for her work with the ATA during World War II; and she has also been honored officially by the Chilean Air Force, which bestowed the rank of colonel on her.

Further Reading

Palmira Oyanguren M., “Margot Duhalde: Confesiones de una aviadora,”  Eusko News & Media (2003).

 

Women chefs and their influence on Basque gastronomy: Part 1

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Zuriñe Garcia, head chef at the Andra Mari restaurant in Galdakao, Bizkaia.

I’m sure everyone out there is aware of the reputation of Basque cuisine at the world level. The food and drink of the Basque Country now serve as major attractions for visitors to this singular and spirited little corner of Europe, where world-renowned chefs like Juan Mari Arzak, Martin Berasategi, Pedro Subijana, Hilario Arbelaitz, Andoni Aduriz, Eneko Atxa, and Victor Arguinzoniz, among many others, ply their trade. While all these chefs publicly acknowledge, whenever they can, the influence of their mothers on their own love of cooking, what about Basque women chefs? How come women’s names appear to be missing from such lists?

The first and most obvious answer is that women’s names could of course be added to any checklist of contemporary Basque chefs. The first name that immediately springs to mind is Elena Arzak, joint owner with her father, Juan Mari, of the Arzak restaurant. Indeed, after its beginnings as a bar in 1897, Arzak was converted into a restaurant and later run, on the death of her husband Juan Ramon Arzak, by her grandmother, Francisca “Paquita” Arratibel. Juan Mari was nine-years-old at the time, and in the words of Elena, in an interview with The Guardian (see below): “He was an only child surrounded by women, in a matriarchy … I think that is why he idolises women now.” Indeed, today, Arzak is 80 percent female, with six women chefs in the kitchen.

Besides Elena Arzak, both Zuriñe Garcia at the Andra Mari restaurant in Galdakao, Bizkaia, and Pilar Idoate, who heads up the Europa hotel-restaurant in Pamplona-Iruñea, have Michelin stars.

Alongside such prominent women chefs, Basque-language TV viewers may well be familiar with Aizpea Oihaneder, who, as well as presenting her own cooking show on ETB1, Oihaneder bere satsan, jointly runs the Xarma Jatetxea in Donostia-San Sebastián with Xabi Diez. Likewise, Eva Arguiñano, from Beasain, Gipuzkoa, is a well-known TV chef, while also working at the restaurant of her brother, the famous Karlos Arguiñano. We could also list other contemporary women chefs like Txaro Zapiain at the Roxario restaurant and cider house in Astigarraga, Gipuzkoa, Estibaliz Mekoalde at the Castillo de Arteaga restaurant in Gautegiz-Arteaga, Bizkaia, and Aitziber Lekerika at the Errekaondo restaurant in Zamudio, Bizkaia (to name just a few).

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Nieves Barragán Mohacho, from Santurtzi. Picture from the Barrafina website.

Mention should also be made of the growing reputation of Nieves Barragán Mohacho from Santurtzi, Bizkaia, the Executive Head Chef of the Michelin-starred Barrafina in London, where, as in the case of Arzak, other women chefs are front and center in the kitchen. Barrafina was named UK restaurant of the year in 2015 (and runner-up in 2016) as well as being named the OFM Awards Best Restaurant 2016. In the words of Four Magazine:

Nieves Barragán Mohacho grew up in the Basque region of Spain, in the capital city of Bilbao. From a young age she was aware of food and cooking. Her mother spent most of her time looking after Nieves’s grandmother in the house and so to keep Nieves entertained she involved her in the kitchen’s daily activity. She began with simple things, peeling potatoes and stirring the contents of pans but progressed quickly and by the age of seven Nieves was roasting her own chicken. Nieves quickly understood there was an abundance of excellent local ingredients that surrounded her and a strong tradition of local cooking.

Nor should we forget the huge contribution of one of the main ambassadors of Basque cuisine abroad, Teresa Barrenechea from Bilbao, whose Marichu restaurant was such a feature of the New York restaurant scene for many years.

So things are changing, it would seem. But it’s also interesting to note an arguably forgotten dimension to this story: the historical impact of women chefs on Basque gastronomy. In fact, Paquita Arratibel, who established Arzak as a restaurant, was only one of many women pioneers in the Basque restaurant world, and there were others before her … a story we continue in Part 2 of this post tomorrow.

Further Reading

Allan Jenkins, “Elena Arzak: The best female chef on the planet,The Guardian, August 19, 2012.

Rachael Pells, “Barrafina: No reservations about Britain’s best restaurant, which puts female chefs centre stage,” The Independent, July 5, 2015.

Sudi Pigott, “Why a Basque woman’s place is in the kitchen,” The Independent, April 27, 2012.

 

Teresa de Escoriaza: A Pioneering Basque Woman Journalist, Broadcaster, Author, and Teacher

March is Women’s History Month, a celebration that traces its roots back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911 (check out this article by Time to see how this annual event all came about). We at the Center are delighted to be able to share stories of women’s experiences in both the Basque homeland and diaspora, especially in light of the fascinating, important, and often hidden tales such stories reveal. That’s why we’re dedicating special attention this month to recounting some of these stories. Keep checking in with us here at the Center’s website, or via our Facebook page, to read about these amazing women.

teresa-de-escoriaza

Teresa de Escoriaza (1891-1968) during her time as a radio broadcaster.

Today we’re going to talk about Teresa de Escoriaza (1891-1968), a pioneering journalist, broadcaster, writer, translator, and college professor, who–on becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1938–we may reasonably and proudly also celebrate as an influential Basque-American woman.

Teresa de Escoriaza y Zabalza was born in Donostia-San Sebastián on December 7, 1891. She studied in both Madrid and Bordeaux, obtaining a primary education teaching certificate, before going on to attend the Universities of Madrid and Liverpool in the UK (interestingly, another Basque connection with this great port city, as covered in a previous post here). Thereafter, she first embarked to the US in 1917 as an independent woman traveler, aged 25, to teach Spanish and French in schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Staying in the US, between 1919 and 1921 she took up a position as the New York-based foreign correspondent for the Madrid daily La Libertad, tellingly at first under the male pen name Félix de Haro. Having established her reputation, though, from 1921 onward she wrote under her own name.

During this time, she reported back on multiple facets of American life: women’s participation in US elections, the incessant activity and movement she observed in the great New York train stations, the different laws on marriage and divorce in different US states, religion in the US, prohibition, stores and shopping American-style, the freedom of American women compared to their counterparts in Spain, and the burgeoning flying craze that would sweep the US and Europe in the 1920s.

Returing to Madrid, she then wrote for both the Women’s section of the same newspaper and took on another pioneering role: that of war correspondent during the Rif War of the early 1920s between Morocco and Spain, in a series of articles that would later be published in book form as Del dolor de la guerra (Crónicas de la campaña de Marruecos) (On the pain of war (Chronicles from the campaign in Morocco)), published in 1921. Thereafter she continued to write on women’s issues and in the mid-1920s began a radio broadcasting career, exploring many of the same topics on Radio Ibérica. Indeed, she has been described as imparting the first feminist discourse on Spanish radio, a medium that she saw as a liberating vehicle for women’s education, and this during the era of the conservative dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-30). If that were not enough, she shared these labors with an intense period of publishing books: specifically, the translation of a French novel, an anthology of women poets, and a short novel of her own.

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A US passport photo of “Scory” in 1960. From the Montclair State University website.

In 1929 she moved to the US once more to take up a position as a professor of Spanish and French at Montclair State Teacher’s College (now Montclair State University) in New Jersey, where she taught there for 30 years until 1959. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the ensuing triumph of Franco meant that she would remain in the US for most of the rest of her life, becoming a US citizen, as noted above, in 1938. She never married, preferring an independent lifestyle, and after retiring in 1959 she moved to California. Right at the end of her life, she returned home, to the Basque Country and Donostia-San Sebastián, where she died in 1968.

Affectionately known as “Scory” at Montclair, her legacy there was celebrated in May 2012 with the dedication of the Teresa de Escoriaza Seminar Room in honor of her enduring legacy at the university. Quoting the Montclair State University article celebrating this dedication:

“There was something about her that commanded your attention and respect,” says her former student John T. Riordan ’59. “She was a larger than life person who played an important role in inspiring people. Her former students had enormous impact on the teaching of foreign languages in the United States, not just in New Jersey. Every publishing house was full of Montclair State alumni from the late 1940s and 1950s, as well as the New Jersey and national Departments of Education.”

Note: Much of the information here was collected from an excellent article by Marta Palenque, “Ni Ofelias ni Amazonas, sino seres completos: Aproximación a Teresa de Escoriaza,” in Arbor: Ciencia y Cultura 182, no. 719 (May-June 2006): 363-376. Available at: http://arbor.revistas.csic.es/index.php/arbor/article/view/36/36

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.

July 29, 1940: British government agrees to back Basque independence in event of Spanish support for Hitler

The tumultuous period between the end of the Spanish Civil War in April 1939 and the outbreak of World War II in September that same year marked a critical time in Basque history. Basques exiles who had fled into France and beyond during and after the Spanish Civil War suddenly found themselves once more prey to the advance of Fascism.

Following the fall of Poland in 1939,  Hitler’s forces swept north and westward in the spring of 1940, taking Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and, finally, France, with Paris falling to the Germans on June 14. In the less than a year most of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis. Only the United Kingdom held out.

The charismatic leader of the Basque government-in-exile, Jose Antonio Agirre, had gotten caught up in these events and had been forced underground–ultimately in of all places, Berlin–into an incognito existence as he sought an escape from the Fascist clutches (on this, if you haven’t already done so, check out his riveting memoir Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe). In his absence, the Basque government-in-exile was replaced by a Basque National Council, headed by Manuel Irujo and based in London.

Irujo_Agirre_Lizaso

Manuel Irujo, Jose Antonio Agirre, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, London, 1945.

It is during that time, in the interesting period before Agirre’s reappearance in October 1941, that the Basque National Council carried out a series of negotiations, most notably with both the British government and the representatives of Free France (effectively the exiled democratic French government) led by Charles de Gaulle. Most famously, perhaps, these negotiations resulted in the creation of the Gernika Battalion, made up of Basque exiles, which fought with distinction with the French army in defeating the Germans in 1945 (the story of which we covered in a previous post here).

Less well known, certainly, was a fascinating agreement brokered by the Basque National Council in London. Xabier Irujo picks up the story in his Expelled from the Motherland (p. 17):

In less than a month the Basque National Council and the British government had made their first agreement on military collaboration. Robert J. G. Boothby, representing the British government, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, representing the Basque National Council, signed the first agreement on July 29, 1940, which spelled out that the British government was committed to defending the independence of the Basque Country if the Spanish government went to war on the side of the Axis powers.

Ultimately, and despite plenty of willing on the part of Franco, Spain did not enter the war on the side of Hitler and this agreement was never implemented; yet another example of one of those twists of fate around which history revolves.

If you’re interested in this topic, as well as the abovementioned works, see also War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, available free to download here; and, for more general background, Modern Basque History, by Cameron Watson, available free to download here.

 

Basque dancer joins English National Ballet company: Latest in long line of Basque ballet stars

We know how important dance is to Basques, so it’s interesting to hear that ballet dancer Aitor Arrieta, from Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, has joined the acclaimed English National Ballet company as a junior soloist from his previous position with the Compañía Nacional de Danza in Madrid. What makes Arrieta’s story all the more interesting is that he has a grounding in traditional Basque dance and later made the progression to more classical dance (see videos below).

Other Basques, of course, have also made their name on the international classical dance stage. Fermin Aldabaldetreku or “Pirmin Treku” (1930-2006) from Zarautz, Gipuzkoa, fled the Spanish Civil War as a child for England where he later danced with the Saddler’s Wells Ballet and the Royal Ballet between the late 1940s and early 1960s. At the same time, Gerardo Viana or “Vladimiro” (1925-2013), from Ortuella, Bizkaia, was evacuated to the Soviet Union, where he danced for the Tula Music and Theater company in the 1940s. And they were followed by the likes of (among many others) Xabier Urbeltz (Iruñea-Pamplona, 1942); Ion Beitia (Gueñes, 1947-2016), who danced for the Joffrey Ballet in New York and was nicknamed the “Basque Nijinsky”; Josu Mujika (Elgoibar, 1958); Ion Garnika (Lizarra-Estella, 1962); Jose Antonio Begiristain (Olaberria, 1963); José Anjel Pellejero or “Katxua”; Leire Ortueta (Leioa, 1971), who danced for the Royal Ballet in London in the 1990s; Monica Zamora (Ordizia, 1974); Igor Yebra (Bilbao, 1974); and Asier Uriagereka (Mungia, 1975). Arguably the two most prominent Basque classical dancers on the international stage today, however, are Lucia Lacarra and Itziar Mendizabal.

Probably the best known Basque ballet dancer at the moment, Lucia Lacarra, born in Zumaia, Gipuzkoa, in 1975, danced previously with the San Francisco Ballet (1997-2002) and has been a principal dancer with the Bayerisches Staatsballett (Bavarian State Opera Ballet) since 2002. A recipient of the esteemed Benois de la Danse Prize, she was named the Dancer of the Decade in 2011 at the World Ballet Stars Gala.

Itziar Mendizabal, born in Hondarribia, Gipuzkoa, in 1981, was principal dancer dancer at the Leipzig Ballet, which she joined in 2006, before going to London to join the Royal Ballet in 2010. She is now a first soloist with this renowned English company.

For those of you interested in all aspects of Basque dance, check out Oier Araolaza’s Basque Dance, published by the Etxepare Basque Institute and available free to download here.

Historical links between the Basque Country and Wales in the news

An exchange of gifts was held recently between the Welsh charity Friends of the Newport Ship and the Basque foundation Albaola: The Sea Factory of Basques. This included the Friends of the Newport Ship receiving an ikurriña or Basque flag, which will fly alongside the flag of Wales in the group’s maritime center.

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The Newport ship in the foundations of the Riverfront Arts Centre, Newport, Wales, September 8, 2002. Photo by Owain at Wikimedia Commons.

The Newport Ship is the most complete surviving example of a fifteenth-century ship, discovered in Newport (Casnewydd in Welsh), Wales. According to the Welsh charity website, “the Ship was built from local timber in the Basque Country, probably around 1449 -1451,”  and was probably one of the larger ships of the era. Later, it was “left to partly sink into the riverbed [of the River Usk or Afon Wysg in Welsh] before being covered by accumulated sediment. This preserved the vessel for around 532 years before its discovery in 2002.”

According to a report on the exchange for the South Wales Argus: Chairman of Friends of Newport Ship, Phil Cox, described the flag as a “symbol of friendship and collaboration.” He said: “The Basque flag will fly proudly in our ship centre as a symbol of our shared maritime history, alongside our own Welsh dragon. “We look forward to visiting the Basque country, visiting Albaola and seeing their amazing projects as they create full scale replicas of medieval vessels.” Local Basques were also in attendance. Read the report in full here.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out the recent Center publication Basques in the Pacific Ocean by William A. Douglass explores Basque maritime prowess through the centuries.

 

 

 

British Peace Museum Hosts Basque Exhibition

The Peace Museum in Bradford, Yorkshire, is the only museum dedicated to the history and stories of peace, peacemakers, and peace movements in the UK. It is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Los Niños Vascos: Basque Children in Yorkshire 1937,” which opened on February 18 and runs until March (see a report on the opening event here).

Huddersfield plaque 2

Plaque commemorating Basque refugee children in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England. From the website of the Basque Children of ’37 Association.

The exhibition has been produced by the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK and tells the story of child refugees from the Spanish Civil War who were evacuated and brought to Britain. The opening event also included a screening of The Guernica Children, a film produced in association with the BC’37A and an informal Q/A session with Carmen Kilner of the Basque Association.

There is a short but moving account of the opening in local newspaper Telegraph &Argus: “Spanish Civil War Refugee is Guest of Honour,” which tells the story of Maria Luisa Incera, who escaped from Franco’s bombing of the Basques in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and fled to England as a refugee before settling and making a life for herself.

The latest book by the Center’s Xabier Irujo, Gernika, 1937: The Market Day Massacre, details the events that prefaced the need to evacuate children from the Basque Country during the Civil War.

 

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