Category: Flashback Friday (page 1 of 12)

September 13, 1936: Fall of Donostia-San Sebastián in Spanish Civil War

On September 13, 1936, five columns of Navarrese troops marched into Donostia-San Sebastián, meeting with no resistance, to take the city in the name of the military rebels who had risen up two months earlier against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic.

Map showing the frontline in Gipuzkoa until October 1936 in one-week intervals, as of late evening every Sunday, by Dd1495, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That previous July, the garrison of Spanish troops stationed in Donostia had actually joined in the military uprising but it was put down by socialist and anarchist militiamen loyal to the republic. In August, however, Navarrese troops (the requetés or Carlist militias who sided with the military rebels during the war), aided by some Gipuzkoan Carlists, began a campaign to seal off the border at Irun, thereby cutting off a potential arms supply from France for the pro-Republic forces. After laying siege to the town, and with aerial support, the rebels took Irun on September 5,  effectively paving the way to march on toward Donostia. With the fall of Irun, a westward drift of refugees (those that did not manage to cross the border into Iparralde) began that would define much of the civilian experience of the civil war in the Basque Country.

Rebel troops entering Donostia

Having suffered bombardment from sea, and with rebel troops advancing into the city from both the east and inland Gipuzkoa, Donostia ultimately fell without resistance.

Be sure to check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, a key work that among other themes examines the effects of war on ordinary people in the Basque Country. This book is available free to download here.

The Center has also recently published David Lyon’s Bitter Justice, an important study based on a wealth of primary material that examines the fate of Basque prisoners during the Spanish Civil War.

 

September 6, 1522: Elkano arrives back in Europe to complete first circumnavigation of world

September 6, 1522 marks the historic date on which Basque seafarer, Juan Sebastian Elkano (also spelled Elcano) set foot once more on European soil after successfully leading the first expedition to sail round the world (following the death of original expedition leader Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines in 1521).

The final voyage of the Victoria, the ship skippered by Elkano, was by no means without incident. William A. Douglass picks up the story in his Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean (p. 85), from the time the expedition left the Moluccas (or Maluku Islands, in present day Indonesia):

The Victoria set sail on December 21, 1521, with a contingent of sixty, including thirteen islanders from Tidore. They were negotiating hostile Portuguese waters as they skirted India and the Cape of Good Hope, never daring to land and therefore subject to great privations. By the time they arrived in the Cape Verde islands, on July 9, 1522, an additional twenty-eight men had perished. The Portuguese authorities managed to capture and imprison thirteen of the crew, including two Basques who had gone ashore in search of food and water. After it became evident that the governor would not release the captives, Elkano set sail, and on September 6, 1522, the Victoria reached the Spanish port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with eighteen Europeans (three Basques, including himself) and four islanders on board, as well as a modest cargo of spices that was impounded immediately by Cristóbal de Haro to satisfy the expedition’s financial obligations.

In Selected Basque Writings (p. 53), the renowned philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt also makes mention of this feat, noting that Elkano “was thus the first to have really circumnavigated the world and Charles V gave him a coat of arms of a globe with the known engraving: ‘You are the first to have circled m’ (Primus me circumdedisti). The Victoria was kept as a holy remnant of this voyage until it fully disintegrated of age.”

In previous posts, we have discussed Elkano’s death on yet another expedition (see here) and new online documents that shed more light on his personality (see here).

August 31, 1813: Burning of Donostia-San Sebastián

“The Storming of San Sebastian” by Denis Dighton (c) The National Trust for Scotland, Leith Hall Garden & Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

August 31 is a key date in the history of Donostia-San Sebastián. It marks the day on which, during the Peninsular War (1807-1814), victorious British and Portuguese troops that had been involved in laying siege to the (French-controlled) city that summer ran amok, razing Donostia-San Sebastián to the ground.

Donostia stood as the last major outpost of French control and the prize target for the combined allied powers of Britain, Spain, and Portugal in their attempts to crush Napoleonic French influence in the Iberian Peninsula. It was, however, well fortified and the siege of the city by the advancing troops under British command had lasted all summer.

When, finally, the allied troops did break through the main lines of defence on August 31, they ran amok, looting and pillaging from the innocent inhabitants of the city, which had been occupied by French forces for the previous five years. Most of the city was razed to the ground as a result, kept burning for several days thereafter, and had to be built again, practically from scratch.

The awful events of are remembered annually in Donostia with a nighttime torchlight procession taking place along August 31 street on this date.

August 22, 1777: Basque writer Joan Antonio Mogel comes up before Inquisition

Joan Antonio Mogel (Also spelled Moguel, 1745-1804) was a priest and writer, and the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, the full title of which–El Doctor Peru Abarca catedrático de la lengua vascongada en la universidad de Basarte o Diálogos entre un rústico solitario bascongado y un barbero callejero llamado Maisu Juan–is typically shortened to Peru Abarka.  Although written by the turn of the century, it was not published until 1881.

Born in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, he was ordained in 1770 and appointed the parish priest in nearby Markina, Bizkaia. During his time in Markina, however, he was accused of improper behavior with a young woman and was obliged to declare before a trial of the Inquisition on August 22, 1777 in Logroño. Following the inquiry, he was charged with improper conduct and although the prosecutor called for a prison sentence, he was instead sent to a retreat in Milagro where he began to write in earnest.

Mogel’s work, with representative texts, is discussed (pp. 391-401) in Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language, edited by Juan Madariaga Orbea.

 

 

 

August 12-13, 1912: 112 Basque fishermen die in sudden storm

On the evening of August 12, 1912, as they were accustomed to doing every day, the fishermen of several ports along the Bizkaian coast set out in small 40-50 feet boats to fish in the waters close to their homes. This was a form of coastal rather than deep-sea fishing, a typical Basque practice and one intimately linked to the traditional culture of Basque fishing communities as a whole. It had been a mild day with a warming southerly wind, but all of a sudden, as the evening drifted into night, there was a dramatic change, and a cold northerly wind came in from an area of low pressure in the far North Atlantic, around Iceland: an unprecedented phenomenon for that time of year.  The air temperature fell dramatically, and the sea became increasingly more squally.

At the time a number of these boats were approximately 45-50 miles off of the Bizkaian coast. This would have been just about the moment they were thinking of returning to port with their evening catch, but instead they got caught up in the storm, which carried on ferociously all night and into the morning of August 13. The boats could not cope with such appalling conditions and many sank.

On shore, people realized that their loved ones and neighbors were in danger, and an appeal was made to send out rescue launches, but between the terrible conditions at sea and the time it was taking to alert the authorities in Bilbao, help was not immediately forthcoming.

In total, there were 143 recorded deaths, most of them fishermen from Bermeo, but including others from Lekeitio, Elantxobe, and Ondarroa. A memorial service was held for all the dead on August 23 in Bermeo, to which King Alfonso XIII also came.

The tragedy marked a watershed moment in fishing practices and techniques in the Bay of Biscay.

Check out the following two-part video about the tragedy, recreating life in fishing communities at the time (in Basque):

August 7, 1357: The Faltzes Uprising

On August 7, 1357 the people of Faltzes (Falces) in Navarre rose up en masse in protest against the retinue of Prince Luis, governor of the Kingdom of Navarre during the reign of Charles II–known as le Mauvais, the Bad.

Faltzes-Falces today. Photo by Ibon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The peasant uprising or matxinada (on which see a previous post here) was the result of Charles II raising taxes in Faltzes in order to finance the battles he was waging in France during the Hundred Years’ War. When the people of Faltzes refused to pay the increased taxes, Charles sent his brother Louis to the area, but on arriving he came across an angry response and fled in fear of his life.

Some of the people involved in the resistance subsequently fled Faltzes, fearful of reprisals by Charles, southward to the Kingdom of Castile.  Charles subsequently ordered the destruction of the town’s crops and property, and eight of nineteen people arrested were condemned to death by hanging.

In September that same year, however, Charles offered a general pardon and those individuals that had fled the area returned home.

Charles II having the leaders of the Jacquerie executed by beheading. Illustration from the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, BL Royal MS. 20 C vii, f. 134v, made after 1380. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, Charles II is known more widely for his harsh repression of another peasant uprising, the Jaquerie just outside Paris, one year later.

August 1, 1974: Birth of Basque danseur noble Igor Yebra

On August 1, 1974, Igor Yebra was born in Bilbao. He grew up to become the premier male Basque ballet dancer, as well as being a choreographer and instructor. He is considered to be a great example of the danseur noble, a male ballet dancer who projects great nobility of character.

Named after the main character in Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, Yebra’s first love was soccer and he dreamed of playing for hometown team Athletic Bilbao, but he soon became involved in the world of dance through the influence of his parents who ran a dance school. He started his formal training at the relatively late age of 13 and first danced professionally, while still a student, for the Ballet de la Comunidad de Madrid; a company with which he went on to become principal dancer. After six years with this company, however, he struck out on his own– despite receiving offers from recognized companies like the New York City Ballet, Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón, Scottish Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre–to become a freelance ballet dancer, working with several companies including the Australian Ballet, the Cuban National Ballet, the Bolshoi, and as guest principal for the Bordeaux National Ballet and the Rome Opera Theatre Ballet.

He has won numerous awards throughout his career, such as the Leonide Massine Prize in 2003 and the “Gialino d’Oro” in 2010, presented by the Italian Ministry of Culture. In 2006 he realized a personal dream by opening his own dance school in Bilbao, and he has been a member of the UNESCO International Dance Council since 2009.

July 25, 1593: Henry IV of France converts to Roman Catholicism

On July 25, 1593, Henry IV of France (and Henry III of Navarre) definitively converted to Roman Catholicism thereby paving the way to assume the French throne.

Born in Pau to Jeanne d’Albret, the Queen of Navarre (about whom see a previous post here), he was baptized as a Catholic but raised a Protestant and was crowned Henry III of Navarre on the death of his mother in 1572. During the sixteenth-century French Wars of Religion he was a prominent leader of the Protestant forces. On the death of his brother-in-law and distant cousin Henry III of France, he was called to the French succession and crowned Henry IV of France in 1589. He initially tried to maintain his Protestant faith but in the face of much popular opposition to he converted to Roman Catholicism after four years on the throne. His major achievement thereafter was to promulgate the Edict of Nantes (1598), which guaranteed religious freedom for Protestants and effectively ended the Wars of Religion. He was assassinated in 1610.

July 15, 1738: Church ruling on knowledge of Basque in Navarre

Francisco Ignacio Añoa y Busto (1684-1764)

On July 15, 1738, the bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea, Francisco Añoa (from Viana) decreed that no receiver who did not speak Basque should be allowed to work in Navarre. Receivers were functionaries who received and collated all kinds of information about legal disputes and judicial business. The decree was made following a long dispute between the receiver Juan José Huarte, a non-Basque speaker, and several Basque-speaking locals in Izaba, which ultimately resulted in Huarte being removed because he could not communicate with the local people with whom he was obliged to work. In this general dispute, non-Basque-speaking receptors suggested hiring interpreters, but this idea was rejected by the Civil Courts of Navarre because of the “difficulty of understanding the scope of the words” and because there were perfectly qualified Basque-speaking receptors to do the work. Interestingly, Gipuzkoa did hire interpreters because legally it belonged to the Chancellery of Valladolid in Castile.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 139-40.

July 13, 1955: Birth of pilotari Panpi Ladutxe

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

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

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