Category: Gender Issues in the Basque Country (page 1 of 2)

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.

500 Posts! What a pleasure to reach this milestone of sharing!

Yesterday witnessed the 500th post on the Center’s blog! And we think it entirely appropriate that we mark the occasion with a post looking toward the future of Basque Studies, with a roundup of what our young scholars here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies have been doing and hope to do in the future. Particularly exciting for us is the eclectic nature of our graduate students, who hail from all over the world. With such talented and committed young people, Basque Studies has a bright future!

Just like reaching the summit at Anboto, our CBS blog has reached a milestone, but we will continue to climb beyond

In honor of our milestone, today we are looking back, first at the posts that have most engaged you, our readers, over the past couple of years:

 

1. Our most read post, by a fairly long way, is the tragic case of Basque sheepherder Txomin Malasechevarria. This is a cautionary tale about just how hard it was for some people to cope with the extreme solitude of life in the mountains, the psychological effects of this loneliness, and the devastating effects this could have on not just their own lives but also those around them. There are no “winners” in this immigrant story. Check out the post here.

 

2. Next, we have a happier tale that celebrates the key role played by women in maintaining the foundations of Basque communities, through their work in Basque boardinghouses, part of the Basque immigrant experience in the United States.  Check out the post here.

 

3. Then we come to what was, for us at the time, a bit of a surprise, pleasant though it was! It’s a post reporting where the Basque Country ranks in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) league tables. The HDI is a United Nations statistical rating based on life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators that are used to measure human development. In short, it’s a means of measuring the health of a nation. Check out the post here.

 

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4.Coming in at number four is a post that continues to rise steadily in the rankings. It’s our post on the classic Basque song “Txoria txori” (The bird is a bird), a pivotal work in the Basque songbook that touches on quintessential themes in Basque culture, sung by folk, rock, and pop singers alike as well as sports fans and even reworked into an orchestral piece. Check out the post here.

5. Last in our top 5 is a post on the remarkable life and work of Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the woman sheepherder who was winning races, age 92, at the Third Age Olympics and died a centenarian. Check out the post here.

And then, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our personal favorites over the years!

  • One of our favorite pieces of writing was this “post within a post,” if you will, dated June 8, 2015, a review of one our most cherished books, My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, which in its focus on the introduction to the work goes beyond mere review to actually engage with and write about the landscape that serves as the backdrop to the book. Check out the post here.
  • Who doesn’t like chocolate? We certainly do! And we like it so much, we wrote a post about it! Check out our rambling thoughts on Basque chocolate, culture, and history in this post, dating from November 2, 2015.

  • One of our most transcendent posts, dated February 12, 2016, concerns what came to be known as the infamous 1911 “Last Massacre” in Western Folklore. This was a major incident in the history of the American West in which Basques featured prominently and serves as proof, if needed, of how the Basque immigrant experience is an essential part of the fabric of this history. Check out the post here.

  • In another post that takes landscape as its primary focus, dated February 24, 2016, we explore how another Basque Country was “imagined” thousands of miles away from home in the remote Nevada mountains. For a great piece of original writing on the Basque experience in the American West check out the post here.

  • We’re especially proud at the Center to try whenever possible to emphasize the role of women in Basque culture and history. This post from March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, served as a roundup of some of the many posts we had published in this regard.  Keep checking in with the blog because this year we will be doing special posts throughout the month of March to celebrate women’s history month.

  • A relatively recent post, dated December 12, 2016, and one that is dear to our hearts emerged out of a reader’s inquiry about native Basque sheep and pig breeds. It got us thinking so much that we wrote a post about it. Check it out here.

Thanks so much for reading and here’s to another 500 and more. It is all because of you, dear readers, so eskerrik asko once again for engaging with us and for sharing our love of Basqueness!

December 13, 2009: Maialen Lujanbio crowned first woman bertsolari champ

On December 13, 2009, Maialen Lujanbio, from Hernani (Gipuzkoa), became the first woman to win the coveted national bertsolaritza championship.

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Maialen Lujanbio receives her winning txapela from 80-year-old bertsolari Joxe Agirre or “Oranda” at the 2009 national championship. Photo by Ukberri.net, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lujanbio’s triumph, in front of 14,500 spectators at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre in Barakaldo, Bizkaia, represented a milestone in the development of this key art form that is a pillar of Basque culture. She finished first out of the eight competitors in the final, with a total of 1,630.75 points; followed by runner-up Amets Arzallus, from Hendaia (Lapurdi), with 1,582 points.  After being crowned winner with the championship txapela (beret), Lujanbio stepped up to the microphone to sing the following improvised bertso or verse (with English subtitles):

Bertsolaritza, the art of oral improvisation in Basque, is an amazing phenomenon that is so central to Basque culture. We can’t recommend highly enough Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. This is a great introduction to the world of bertsolaritza that explains both how it has developed down the centuries and the multiple forms it takes today, as well as explaining comparative phenomena around the world. This book is also available free to download here.

Be sure to check out, too, the website of the Xenpelar Dokumentazio Zentrua, a great source of information about bertsolaritza:  http://bdb.bertsozale.eus/en/info/7-xenpelar-dokumentazio-zentroa

And if you’re in the Reno area, please stop by the Jon Bilbao Basque Library, which currently features a fascinating window exhibit on bertsolaritza (through April 2017).

Basque Country women’s soccer team loses to Ireland

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Elixabete Sarasola Nieto, from Donostia, who plays for AFC Ajax and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Basque Country women’s soccer team narrowly lost 2-1 against the Republic of Ireland, ranked 30th in the world, on Saturday, November 26. The Irish team went ahead in the first half with a spectacular free-kick by Stephanie Roche, but the Basque Country equalized with an equally great strike by Athletic Bilbao striker Yulema Corres. Ireland scored the winning goal in the second half, in which it clearly dominated the Basque Country, courtesy of Leanne Kiernan. Ireland thus got revenge for its 2-0 defeat by the Basque Country in a corresponding game in Azpeitia, Guipuzkoa, in 2014.

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Marta Unzué Urdániz, from Berriozar (Navarre), a defender who plays for Barcelona and the Basque Country. Photo by Xavier Rondón Medina, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Like their male counterparts the Basque Country women’s soccer team does not have an official status and can only play friendly matches. The game, held at Tallaght Stadium in South Dublin, was the eighth time that the Basque national team has turned out, and its second game against Ireland, having also played against Argentina (twice), Chile, Catalonia (twice), and Estonia. with a record of 3 wins, 2 ties, and 3 losses.

Teams

Republic of Ireland WNT: Byrne (McQuillan 85), Berrill (McCarthy 46), Caldwell, Quinn, Fahey, Duggan (Murray 71), O’Gorman (Kavanagh 85), Kiernan (Prior 79), O’Sullivan, Russell (De Burca 79), Roche (McLaughlin 46).

Basque Country: Ainhoa (Eli Sarasola 46), Iraia, Garazi Murua (Esti Aizpurua 60), Joana Arranz (Baños 67), Ramajo, Unzué, Erika, Moraza (María Díaz 46), Beristain (Anne Mugarza 77), Manu Lareo (Ibarrola 74), Yulema Corres.

Check out a report on the game here: https://www.fai.ie/ireland/match/55501/2016/999943238?tab=report

For general information on the Basque Country women’s soccer team: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_Country_women%27s_national_football_team

See also a complete record of all the Basque Country’s international games here: http://www.eff-fvf.eus/pub/calendarioEliminatoriaSelEspecial.asp?idioma=eu&idCompeticion=17

November 16, 1528: Birth of Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre

Born on November 16, 1528, to Marguerite of Angoulême and King Henry II of Navarre, Jeanne d’Albret would eventually become not only an important historical figure in general in her role as the spiritual and political leader of the Protestant Huguenots but also a major personality in Basque history for introducing the Protestant faith into the Basque Country and sponsoring the publication of a key text in the Basque language. Besides all this, she also stands out for being a strong, forthright woman leader of a significant sixteenth-century European power, the Kingdom of Navarre.

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Jeanne d’Albert (1528-1572), Queen of Navarre, c. late-16th century. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jeanne married Antoine de Bourbon, the Duke of Vendôme, in 1548 and, on Henry II’s death in 1555, they were crowned joint rulers of Navarre. Influenced by her mother, she had taken an early interest in humanism and individual liberty, which led ultimately to her conversion to Calvinism in 1560. Jeanne d’Albert was a hands-on ruler, with a sharp intellect and a conviction in her beliefs. As Queen of Navarre between 1555 and 1572 (and Queen Regnant on the death of her husband in 1562), as well as carrying out a series of important economic and judicial reforms, she made Calvinism the official religion of her territories. To this end, she commissioned the priest and Protestant-convert Joannes Leizarraga (1506-1601), himself a central figure in Basque letters and one of the first people to attempt to create a standardized version of the Basque language, to translate the New Testament into Basque. This was eventually published under the title Iesus Christ Gure Iaunaren Testamentu Berria (The New Testament of Jesus Christ our Lord) in 1571.

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The New Testament, as translated into Basque by Joannes Leizarraga (1571). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Her attempts to instill Calvinism in her lands led to a series of religious wars throughout the 1560s, during which her husband Antoine was fatally wounded in 1562, with pressure applied on her by the surrounding Catholic monarchs, Charles IX of France and Philip II of Spain. These wars culminated in the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1570), whereby hostilities would end, Jeanne’s son,  Henry, would marry the French King Charles IX’s Catholic sister Marguerite, and the Protestant Huguenots would have the right to hold public office in France, a privilege which they had previously been denied. Jeanne died in June 1572, two months before her son’s marriage. On her death, he became King Henry III of Navarre; and in 1589 he ascended the French throne as Henry IV, founding the Bourbon royal house that came to dominate both France and, ultimately, Spain.

Jeanne d’Albret left her mark on Basque history in many ways. She ranks as a strong-willed ruler with a clear vision of how she wanted to reform the society over which she ruled. She held strong humanist values that championed individual freedom and she did all she could to try and instill those values on those around her. And, it should be remembered, she was responsible for commissioning one of the most important historical publications in and contributions to the development of the Basque language.

Further reading:

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/protestant/a/jeanne_dalbret.htm

http://www.reformed.org/webfiles/antithesis/index.html?mainframe=/webfiles/antithesis/v1n2/ant_v1n2_royalty.html

In The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and Their Traditions, Philippe Veyrin discusses the impact of Jeanne d’Albret, especially with regard to her religious reform, at length.

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

Athletic Bilbao women’s soccer team 2015-2016 champions!

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A huge congratulations from everyone at the Center to the women of Athletic Bilbao who have been crowned txapeldunak (champions) of the Spanish soccer league for the 2015-2016 season with still a final round of games to play. This is the fifth occasion on which Athletic has won the league.

Check out a brief report at the club’s official site here.

Zorionak, neskak!!! 

How two Basque sportswomen balance their professional and sporting lives: Maider Unda and Patricia Carricaburu

Today we’re going to take a look at how two Basque sportswomen at the top of their game balance their commitments both inside and outside the sporting arena. In both cases, they take part in their respective sports for the love of playing rather than for any major financial remuneration. And both women demonstrate a strong connection to the land of their birth.

Born in 1977, Maider Unda is one of the top Basque sportswomen today. She is from the Atxeta baserri in Oleta, a neighborhood of Aramaio, Araba, where she still lives, herding sheep and producing the renowned Idiazabal cheese in partnership with her sister. She is a successful freestyle wrestler who, in the 72 kg category, finished in fifth place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won the bronze medal at the 2012 Games in London. In the same category she has also won a bronze medal at the World Championships (2009), a bronze at the European Games (2015), and a silver (2013) and two bronzes (2010, 2012) at the European Championships. She is currently attempting to qualify for this year’s Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.

In the following report (in Spanish) she discusses her professional and sporting life, including how she took over the family farm after her parents retired:

Check out Maider’s personal website here.

Born in 1988, Patricia Carricaburu, from Altzürükü, Zuberoa, is a French international rugby player who plays in the prop forward position, in which Basques have a long and noble tradition of playing. She was part of the French team that won this year’s 6 Nations Tournament, the premier championship in European rugby. At the club level, she made her debut for local team US Menditte, nicknamed the “Neska Gaitz” or “Bad Girls,” in Mendikota, Zuberoa, before moving to the RC Lons team, near Pau in Béarn.

Check out this report on Patricia (in French), which as well as including some glowing comments about her by the coach of the French national team and fellow Basque, Jean-Michel Gonzalez, also shows her in her day job as an accountant in an automobile repair shop in Maule, and includes her singing traditional Basque songs–another personal passion inherited from her family–toward the end of the clip (at approx. 2m 30s). Indeed, she also sings in the Bedatse Liliak (Spring flowers) group, with friends from her home village:

Women, and gender issues more generally, in sport is one of the principal themes running through Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

March 8: In Honor of Basque Women on International Women’s Day

Here at the Center, on the occasion of International Women’s Day–whose theme this year is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”–we’d like to take the opportunity to honor Basque women through the ages by sharing with you some of the posts we’ve done this past year on Basque and Basque-American women, and to look ahead to the future.

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World renowned rock climber Josune Bereziartu

In the past few months we’ve looked at the lives of an eclectic group of Basque women, from figures of historical significance like the swashbuckling Lieutenant Nun, Catalina de Erauso, one of the first Basque photographers Eulalia de Abaiatua, and pioneering physicist and meteorologist Felisa Martín Bravo, to contemporary sportswomen who enjoy international renown such as Edurne Pasaban and Josune Bereziartu as well as Basque chanteuse Anne Etchegoyen.

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The remarkable Yolande Betbeze  Fox (1928-2016)

On the other side of the Atlantic, our attention has switched to an ongoing series devoted to prominent American women of Basque descent, which to date include the recently deceased “Basque spitfire” Yolande Betbeze Fox; fashion icon Norma Kamali; philanthropist extraordinaire Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen; all-round renaissance woman Jauretsi Saizarbitoria; talk show host supreme Cristina Saralegui; and eminent academic Jeri Echeverria.

Hammer of witches

We’ve also reviewed some of our own publications that explore women’s themes in many different and complex ways, such as the moving biography My Mama Marie and innovative anthology Ultrasounds: Basque Women Writers on Motherhood as well as the novels The Hammer of Witches and Zelestina Urza in Outer Space. The female voice and memory, meanwhile, permeate Arantxa Urretabizkaia’s novel The Red Notebook. And don’t forget that one of our textbooks, Basque Gender Studies, is free to download (just click here).What’s more, many other stories of Basque women are included in the 2-volume work, Basques in the United States with principal research by Koldo San Sebastián, with the assistance of Argitxu Camus-Etxekopar, Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, Jone Laka, and José Luis Madarieta and more. And we hope to share some of these stories with you in the months to come.

A Pioneering Basque Woman Physicist and Meteorologist: Felisa Martín Bravo

Today, February 11, is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and here at the Center we’d like to celebrate the pioneering career of Basque physicist and meteorologist Felisa Martín Bravo  (1898-1974).

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Felisa Martín Bravo

Born in Donostia-San Sebastián in 1898, she graduated high school in her home city and then completed a bachelor’s degree in physical science at the University of Madrid, graduating in 1922. She remained in Madrid to study for her doctorate while working in a research group led by Julio Palacios. Here, applying the Bragg and Debye–Scherrer methods, she established the crystal structure of nickel and cobalt oxides as well as lead sulfide by means of x-rays.

She completed her dissertation in 1926, and later traveled to the United States to teach both Spanish and physics at Connecticut College in New London, CT. While in the US, she also took time out to visit various research labs at Harvard and Yale. After returning to Madrid, she also began work as an assistant at the Spanish Meteorological Office. In 1932, she went to the University of Cambridge where, besides attending classes by the renowned physicist Ernest Rutherford, she also improved her knowledge of the atmospheric sciences thanks to the classes of C.T.R. Wilson. She returned to her job at the Meteorological Office in 1934 but when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, her life, like those of so many others changed dramatically.

The main Meteorological Office was moved to Valencia, under control of the pro-Franco forces, but she decided to remain loyal to the Second Republic and remain in Madrid. In doing so, she lost her job. But in the chaos of the war, it transpired that a director was needed for the Igeldo Meteorological Observatory, just outside Donostia-San Sebastián, and she came to occupy that post between 1937 and 1940. Thereafter, she returned to Madrid and was able, finally and overcoming innumerable hurdles put in her place by the new Franco regime (including an inquiry into how “clean” she was of undesirable political sympathies), to resume a position in the Meteorological Office where she became a fully accredited meteorologist and researched atmospheric electricity.

Little is know of her life after retirement. She died in Mexico in 1974.

Information sourced in Uxune Martinez, “Igeldoko Behatokiko meteorologoa: Felisa Martin (1898-1974),” Zientzia Kaiera (September 19, 2014).

 

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