Category: Bilbao (page 1 of 6)

July 20, 1818: Birth of philanthropist Casilda Iturrizar

Some of you will have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to stroll through the Doña Casilda Park in Bilbao. But do you know after whom the park was named? Casilda Margarita de Iturrizar y Urquijo was one of he most important and influential women in the city in the nineteenth century, and it is her story we recount today.

Casilda Iturrizar (1818-1900). Image by Lole, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Casilda Iturrizar (1818-1900). Image by Lole, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although born into a family of reasonable economic means, following the bankruptcy, jail, and eventual death of her father in 1833, Casilda Iturrizar was obliged to find work and obtained a position as a servant in the household of one of Bilbao’s richest entrepreneurs and a co-founder of the historic Bank of Bilbao, Tomás José Joaquín de Epalza y Zubaran. Although married, Epalza eventually went through a lengthy divorce process, stretching from 1849 to 1857. In 1859, Casilda and Tomás were married. After his death in 1873, she started signing her name “Epalza’s widow” and, with the couple not having had any children, proceeded gradually to donate most of the incredible fortune she had inherited to worthy causes and cultural initiatives. She herself died in 1900.

 

Monument to Iturrizar in the Doña Casilda Park. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monument to Iturrizar in the Doña Casilda Park. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She funded the building of schools and a hospital, sponsored operatic societies and religious bodies, and created grants for deserving students from poor backgrounds as well as funding part of the original institution that would become the University of Deusto and being a major investor in the construction of the Arriaga Theater. And what is more, she also donated a significant piece of land in central Bilbao to the City Council, which ultimately became the park named in her honor that was opened in 1920.

Doña Casilda Park today. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Doña Casilda Park today. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Excluding maritime dedications, she is reputed to be the only person to have two public spaces named in her honor in Bilbao: the aforementioned park and  a street by the name of Epalza’s Widow.

July 10, 1904: Birth of Ticiana Iturri, first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia and pioneer in women’s health issues

Anyone who studies women’s history invariably comes up against the wall of conventional tropes that underscore the significance of major public events in which, routinely, women have been excluded from the central narrative. When it comes to documenting and interpreting the lives of women in the past, then, one must frame the study within different sets of analytical parameters that emphasize an extra dimension that women have faced historically in stepping outside socially prescribed roles as wives, mothers, daughters, and so on. Ticiana Iturri Landajo, born in Portugalete, Bizkaia, on July 10, 1904, is one such example. Her story is, in many ways, modest, within the aforementioned terms of the “big” events in history; yet framed another way, her achievements and contributions to Basque society are inumerable.

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Iturri was born into a middle-class family in Portugalete, one of the significant industrial and maritime centers flanking Bilbao during the city’s spectacular economic boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the family moved to Seville when she was still very young on account of her father’s work, it retained close ties with Bizkaia, returning each summer to vacation there. After completing her medical studies in Madrid, she obtained an official post as a consultant doctor in Bizkaia. She was officially approved as member number 553 in the medical association of Bizkaia in 1932, the first woman member, and opened a clinic in Bilbao specializing in pediatrics, gynecology, and obstetrics.

As the first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia, she faced significant opposition and criticism from the more traditionalist members of her profession. In general, though, she was supported by the medical association and most of her peers. A noted feminist, through the 1930s she worked intensively on many women’s issues, and was especially active in defending the rights of single mothers. She also collaborated in the Basque nationalist women’s group, Emakume Abertzale Batza, through which she organized nursing classes. After the war, she worked in the School of Pediatrics in Bilbao, where she helped to improve hygiene measures, and in 1955 she obtained a position as a gynecologist in  the official social welfare system of her home province.

She dedicated the rest of her life to her work and the reproductive rights of women, especially single mothers. She died in 1969.

In recognition of her contribution to women’s health issues in Bizkaia, the medical association of Bizkaia named the classrooms on the fourth floor of its headquarters the “Iturri classrooms.”

Two-week Study Abroad: “Basque Languge, Food, and Culture” Summer 2019

Winter break has come and gone, and we are already into spring semester! I am thinking eagerly of summer, not only because (if all goes as planned) I will have defended my dissertation and gone on to teach my first on-campus course, but because I have finally gotten an opportunity to develop my own study abroad program, “Basque Language, Food, and Culture.”

My undergraduate years were spent being a little lost until I decided I would study abroad. Years of sitting in a seat and reading books finally materialized into tangible things such as innovative architecture, delicious food, beautiful landscapes, and connecting with those from other countries through their spoken language. While working at the University of Kansas, my colleagues at the Admissions Office used to send students to me when asked about study abroad opportunities. I would go on about all the ways in which my learning was enhanced by my experiences abroad; they were the same experiences that brought me to where I am today, having lived in the Basque Country for a year conducting fieldwork, and being able to communicate in more than one language.

That is why I have developed a two-week study abroad program in the Basque Country. This program entails a couple of classes during the summer before departing mid-July and will include a final assignment due in August, upon return.

For further details visit: www.ACO.unr.edu

*Limited space available*

For questions, please email me: klesh@unr.edu

General Information:

Cost: $2,975 (airfare to Bilbao not included)

Where: The Basque Country

When: Onsite in Basque Country July 15-28th (2 classes pre-departure and  final assignment due in August)

 What: 3 Undergraduate/Graduate credits (ANTH 499/699, BASQ 499/699, COM 490/690, HIST 498/698, SOC 497/697)

 

January 16, 1843: Birth of Blessed Rafaela Ybarra

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri was born on January 16, 1843 in Bilbao into a comfortable middle-class family. In 1861 she married José de Vilallonga and went on to have seven children (although two died in infancy). She was devout and a visit to Lourdes in 1883 resulted in getting over a serious illness. In 1890, with the permission of her husband, she made private vows to be chaste and fully obedient to God. Coinciding with the spectacular nineteenth-century industrial take-off and urban boom in Bilbao, and the social and demographic problems these changes provoked, she organized various welfare institutions for women and children in Bilbao. In 1894, along with three others, she founded a religious order to help all the poor children of Bilbao, opening a home to help the less fortunate in 1899 (a year after her husband had passed away). In 1900, after struggling with a long illness, she herself died. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the order she had helped found, the Angeles Custodios (Guardian Angels), received diocesan approval.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1929 a beatification process opened and in 1952 she became titled as a Servant of God. Then, in 1970 she was named as Venerable and in 1984 she was ultimately beatified.  A process is currently taking place by which she is being considered for sainthood.

November 24, 1912: False fire alarm leads to multiple deaths in Bilbao theater stampede

On November 24, 1912, forty-six people, almost all of them children, died in the Ensanche Circus Theater of Bilbao as the result of a stampede of spectators attempting to flee the building. Someone had shouted out a fire alarm, which ultimately proved to be false.

The Circus Theater, located close to what is today the Plaza Elíptica, had been constructed in 1895 on the site of what had been a circus. While dedicated mainly to popular entertainment shows it was also a sports venue, and by the second decade of the twentieth century it was also showing movies.

On Sunday, November 24, 1912, the theater schedule included a continuous screening of movies between 3:00 pm and midnight, at prices accessible to people of all social classes and children old enough to go to the movies on their own.  Shortly after 6:00 pm a voice shouted out “fire!” This resulted in widespread panic as spectators attempted to flee the packed theater, only to encounter two of the three emergency exits locked. In total, forty-four children and two adults died in the stampede. Funerals for the victims, at which a reported forty thousand people attended, were held on November 27 and all expenses were covered by the Bilbao city council.

The theater itself was demolished in 1914 by official order on account of not fulfilling the required safety norms. In 1916, Bilbao city council constructed a mausoleum on the site where the victims had been buried.

Sources

Julio Arrieta, “Cuarenta y cuatro ataúdes blancos,” El Correo, November 18, 2012.

Una falsa alarma desembocó en tragedia,” Conoce Bilbao con Esme (blog), November 24, 2018.

November 11, 1995: Inauguration of the Bilbao Metro

On November 11, 1995 Line 1 of the Bilbao Metro–one of the emblematic features of the city–started operating on a route between Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo (the Seven Streets or Old Quarter) in the heart of the city and the coastal town of Plentzia, approximately eighteen miles away.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although plans to construct a metro service in Bilbao date back to the 1920s, it was only in the late 1987 that a construction project was finally approved. Construction in Bilbao itself began in 1987, with the inaugural Line 1 destined to connect the city center with the right bank of Greater Bilbao and the coastal communities stretching out to Plentzia. When the first part of Line 1 eventually opened for business in November 1995, twenty-three stations served this route.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, there are three Lines operating in and around Greater Bilbao, with studies being carried out on potentially adding two more lines in the future. As of 2018, there were forty-one stations throughout the network, which covers 43 km (28 miles) of route. Total passenger figures for 2017 were 88,172,137.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro is especially noteworthy for its fosterito glass entrances, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, and in 1998 Sarriko station won the prestigious Brunel Award for Railway Design.

Check out the Bilbao Metro website here.

The CBS publishes Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal. This original work discusses transportation and logistics as key elements of the political economy, and places the topic at the center of much ongoing debate about national identity.

See, too, more broadly on Bilbao, urban regeneration, and architecture: That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika (available free to download here), Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi, and  Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain.

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 18, 1997, the at the time controversial and now emblematic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was inaugurated.

A lot of our regular readers will no doubt be familiar with the so-called Guggenheim effect in Bilbao. After a controversial start, with many critical voices raised questioning the significant Basque public investment in this flagship project, the museum has had a significant impact in putting Bilbao–and the Basque Country more broadly–on the international map. Much of this is down to architect Frank Gehry’s groundbreaking design of the building itself, which, if you catch the airport bus into Bilbao, comes into view in spectacular fashion as you enter the city proper.

Check out our special post here on the twentieth anniversary celebrations for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

 

 

October 7, 1915: Inaugural run of the Artxanda Funicular in Bilbao

The Lower Station. Photo by Wayne 77, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Lower Station. Photo by Wayne 77, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 7, 1915, a funicular railway linking Bilbao with Mount Artxanda, one of the emblematic mountains overlooking the city,  operated for the first time. The Artxanda Funicular still runs to this day, and is an obligatory experience for many visitors to the city because at the summit one is treated to some of the best views of Greater Bilbao as it winds it way out along the Nerbioi River to the ocean.

View of the Artxanda Funicular from downtown Bilbao. Photo by pere prlpz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of the Artxanda Funicular from downtown Bilbao. Photo by pere prlpz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In late nineteenth-century Bilbao, the area around Mount Artxanda became a popular recreation spot for the inhabitants of Bilbao. The city was experiencing a major industrial boom and leisure pursuits–the display of having and using one’s “free time”–were important for the more affluent classes. A casino was constructed and the area was also renowned for its “txakolis” (bars developed out of farmhouses whose principal beverage was the local wine known as txakoli). Yet the area remained difficult to get to and, with the coming of the twentieth century, different plans were put forth to construct a rail link to the top of the mountain.

View of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda. Photo by Ardfern, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda. Photo by Ardfern, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, in 1915 a definitive plan was approved and the funicular was built using  machinery designed by the Von Roll company, a Swiss enterprise specializing in mountain railroad construction. The inaugural run that same October was presided over by the mayor of Bilbao, Julián Benito Marco Gardoqui. In the years that followed, the funicular served as both a means for city dwellers to spend some time in the rustic environment of Mont Artxanda, and for the local farmers to take their produce down into the heart of the bustling city to sell.

It did not function during two significant periods–in the civil war when it was bombed (1937-1938) and following an accident (1976-1983, during which time it was renovated)–but today it thrives as it always has done, transporting locals and visitors alike to the recreation area around Mount Artxanda. Check out a previous blog by our Basque Books Editor on his own Artxanda Funicular experience here. And why not take a virtual ride below?

 

 

Edurne Arrives Back to Bilbao and the Basque Country

Puerto Viejo, Algorta

Aupa everyone! I thought I’d check in and tell you about my adventures in the Basque Country while conducting my fieldwork for my dissertation. It’s good to be back! As some of you may know, I spent six years here before hopping across the pond again to Reno. My initial trip was for six months and, well, I guess I liked it a bit too much and got interested in Basque history and culture, leading me to complete my M.A. at the UPV/EHU and then two years at the same institution beginning my Ph.D. studies. So, I’m definitely acquainted with the place which makes my research explorations all the more easier.

I arrived mid-July and didn’t have much time to relax since I attended the 56th Annual International Americanists Congress at the University of Salamanca. There, I not only presented but spent time with my co-director, Óscar Álvarez Gila. We participated in different symposia but got a chance to catch up and talk about my plans. As usual, he motivated me and pushed me toward new directions. When it came to the symposium, I took part in “The Visible and Invisible: A Theoretical and Methodological Approach to the Unheard, Unspoken and Unseen in Gender Studies,” alongside sociologists and psychologists studying contemporary manifestations of gender studies. At first, after reading the schedule, I was hesitant: what was I, a historian focusing on the turn of the century and migration, doing on this panel? However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were a small group, so after presenting, we spent two hours chatting and discussing our work. The feedback I received was fantastic! Sometimes you get so into Basque studies (e.g. everything I see is Basque in some way or related in the most far-off way, I’m annoying like that…) you forget to widen your perspective. In all, it was a great way to start off my fieldwork and made contacts for the future.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Next up, I visited a part of Gipuzkoa I’d never been to: Bergara, Antzuola, Zumarraga, and Legazpi. Spending time with an old friend of my mom, she and her brother told me about the connections they and others had with the States, especially Boise. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Arantzazu. Beautiful and bewitching, I marveled at the architecture and views of the valley below. While on that trip, I embarked on a quest for a ceramic txakoli pitcher and cups for my dad. I ended up getting them made in Ollerias, where Blanka Gómez de Segura learned the fading technique from the last potter of the area. She has set up a museum and shop and gladly showed me around. Definitely worth visiting! I ended up buying a katilu of my own and had to resist myself in the shop.

Arantzazu

I’ve also visited Lekunberri (Nafarroa) a few times for various reasons. First of all, it’s cooler (in the sense of temperature) and there’s wonderful cheese everywhere (I’m a cheese addict). But from an academic standpoint, I’ve been put in contact with former sheepherders who have found a home there. Antonio, a neighbor, told me all about his experience in Fresno over a period of 40 years. I look forward to talking to him more in depth. I also became aware of a collection of letters preserved in Elantxobe from a sheepherder in Boise to his sister. The niece, Edurne (!), is willing to let me look through them and talk to me about her family and uncle. Besides, there will be lunch involved so two birds with one stone.

All work, no play…

Sheep! mmm…cheese!

Lastly, I attended the Artzai Eguna (Day of the Sheepherder) in Uharte-Arakil on August 26. Although I regret not taking advantage of my time very well while there (too busy trying cheese and cider), I got to see how cheese is made and specimens of the Latxa breed of sheep. The market was bustling, so my usual strategy of asking older men wearing baseball caps whether they’d been to the West didn’t seem appropriate (although it usually works).

Cheesemaking

Latxa Sheep

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I also wanted to mention that I finally met my colleague on the blog, Katu, in person for the first time. It’s crazy to think you’ve worked with someone for so long, exchanged countless emails, talked on skype for hours, yet never been in the same room. Luckily, we’ll be working together on a project dealing with Basque rock music in the 80s, so there’s more to come.

I’ll be updating you, our loyal readers, throughout my stay. Leave a comment if you have any questions, tips, or suggestions for my fieldwork. Ondo izan.

July 8, 2014: Closure of the iconic Begoña Elevator in Bilbao

On July 8, 2014, at 11 pm the Begoña Elevator, an iconic feature of the late twentieth-century Bilbao cityscape, ceased to function after nearly seventy years of service.

The walkway at the top of the Begoña Elevator. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1940s, Begoña–once a separate town but incorporated by Bilbao in 1925 as part of its major growth in the twentieth century–was a neighborhood in expansion. Yet despite its geographic proximity to the city center, it remained disconnected on account of the steep hill one had to navigate between the two districts. A project was thus conceived to link Begoña to downtown Bilbao precisely at the point of what was known at the time as Bilbao Aduana train station (later San Nicolás, and currently the Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo Euskotren-Metro Bilbao intermodal station).

Viewing area at the top of the elevator. Photo by Bachelot Pierre J-P. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Designed by architect Rafael Fontán, the biggest challenge was to insert a significant structure into an already congested cityscape. He achieved this by taking an existing building as its base and as regards the actual design of the elevator, he opted for a stark modernist structure, in contrast to the older surrounding buildings; this decision, to contrast so starkly the new structure from the vicinity, arguably ultimately contributed to creating its iconic status–at least as regards form–quickly becoming one of the city’s emblematic structures.

Begoña Elevator from Itxaropen/Esperanza Street. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was made out of reinforced concrete and included a walkway and enclosed vantage point over the city at the Begoña entrance, lending the structure a machine-like form in appearance. In this sense, it resembled an architectural model developed in Switzerland during the early twentieth century. When finished, it came to measure 150 feet in height and immediately stood out in the Bilbao cityscape. It was inaugurated in 1947 and served generations of bilbaínos but it began to lose customers in the 1990s, with the construction of the Bilbao metro and a competing elevator as well as other elevators and escalators that were constructed to link the city center to the hillier surrounding neighborhoods.

The structure remains in place, however, and there is much debate over what could be done with this iconic physical testament to an important part of Bilbao’s recent history.

If architecture is your thing, check out Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain, a fascinating work that examines Gehry’s buildings as a kind of narrative.

More general urban studies published by the Center include That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika; Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal; and Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

What’s more, Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, is available free to download here.

 

 

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