Category: Gipuzkoa (page 1 of 4)

August 22, 1638: Battle of Getaria

On August 22, 1638, the Battle of Getaria–a naval encounter in the Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659)–took place off the coast of Gipuzkoa. It was won by the French fleet, and marked the first significant victory for the French navy that had been revamped under Cardinal Richelieu, in turn consolidating Richelieu’s position as chief minister under Louis XIII.

In June 1638, Richelieu ordered the invasion of the Kingdom of Spain because French territory was surrounded by hostile Habsburg territories as a result of the Thirty Years’ War. The House of Habsburg was the main rival of the French royal House of Bourbon for political power in much of Europe. French forces crossed the border and besieged the Basque border town of Hondarribia in Gipuzkoa. In turn, the army was accompanied by a fleet between 27 and 44 French warships under Henri de Sourdis, whose mission it was to prevent any aid reaching Hondarribia on the part of the Spanish navy.

The Battle of Getaria, as depicted by Andries van Eertvelt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Getaria, as depicted by Andries van Eertvelt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A Spanish fleet, under Admiral Lope de Hoces, was then ordered to attack the French even though it was significantly smaller in size. De Hoces’ ships sailed into the Basque port of Getaria, further along the coast, from which they took up a defensive position from which to engage the French – the shallower waters preventing the larger French ships from close engagement. However, de Sourdis employed a twofold tactic of prior bombardment followed by the sending in of fireships–vessels deliberately set on fire and allowed to drift into an enemy fleet–before cutting off any escape routes with the smaller ships in his fleet. On August 22, the winds were favorable enough to employ the fireship method and the Spanish fleet was destroyed.

As a result of the victory, the Kingdom of France came to control the Bay of Biscay, although the siege of Hondarribia was ultimately unsuccessful for the French.

The Franco-Spanish War dragged on, somewhat inconclusively, until 1659. However, the end of the war marked an important date in Basque history because the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), the official agreement signed between the two countries to end the conflict, established for the first time a definitive international border bisecting Basque territory. As Cameron Watson notes in Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (p. 42).

With this treaty, not only was the international border established once and for all, but the two crowns would be unified through marriage (Louis XIV of France would marry the Spanish infanta María Teresa, daughter of the Castilian monarch Felipe IV, the following year), and the king of France, while retaining the title of king of Nafarroa, relinquished any claim to the Nafarroan [territory] within the Castilian political orbit. The treaty thus marked a definitive political partition of the ancient kingdom.

Modern Basque History is available free to download here.

Joseba Zulaika returns to Itziar to talk about his classic Basque Violence

In June 22 Joseba Zulaika gave a talk in Itziar, his home town and the place of the ethnographic work for which he is best known, Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament. Almost forty years ago, having concluded his fieldwork, Zulaika was asked to give a talk in Itziar and he said that this one, now that ETA is ended, felt like a repetition of that one—when he had to face his village neighbors and explain what he had “discovered” about the place.

Zulaika repeated his argument about the Homeric plot underlying “The Tragedy of Carlos”—the two “milk brothers” and close friends Martin and Carlos who later became political antagonists in the eyes of the community and when Carlos was killed by ETA Martin didn’t approve of it. Zulaika later applied the Homeric scheme to the painful history of ETA in Itziar—the plight of the hero who falls into a tragic error. The tragic error is really an error, yet it is the sort of error a good man would make. It is thus an act both free and conditioned. It is not forced upon him, but he makes it under conditions so adverse that we watch him with compassion. There could be many readings of Itziar’s events but Zulaika emphasized that, far beyond the current “terrorist” all encompassing discourse, only an ethnographic approach could make justice to the actual histories of the pople. Zulaika said that giving his talk in Itziar was unlike giving it anywhere else—because he was in the presence of the protagonists of his ethnography and this implied a “repetition” in the deeper sense that the presence of Martin and Carlos and the former ETA activists wasn’t just a memory of past events, but an affirmation of the present and future realities of Itziar in this post-ETA era.

May 6, 1463: Jacob Gaon, king’s tax collector, killed in Tolosa

On May 6, 1463, Jacob Gaon, a tax collector for King Henry IV of Castile, was killed in Tolosa (Gipuzkoa) over a dispute involving rights relating to the foruak/fueros (the charters governing Basque fiscal and institutional relations with central political authority).

Gaon came from a prominent Jewish family in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Araba) and like several relatives worked as a tax collector for the Kings of Castile, to which the province of Gipuzkoa belonged. Indeed, since 1256, Tolosa had enjoyed its own foru/fuero regulating its independent fiscal status within the Castilian political orbit (the result of its strategically important position on the border with the rival Kingdom of Navarre); an agreement that was amended in both 1282 and 1290 to exempt inhabitants from numerous royal tributes.

Henry IV of Castile (1463). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In May 1463 Gaon went to Tolosa with the aim of demanding the so-called pedido tax, which, the locals claimed, they had never paid before on account of their foral privileges. After threatening them, several inhabitants killed Gaon, beheaded him, and put his head  on top of a pillory for all to see. On hearing the news, Henry IV, who was at the time in Hondarribia, also in Gipuzkoa, stopped at Tolosa on his way back to Castile in search of the culprits. Unable to locate them, having been informed that they had taken refuge in a nearby mountain “on the other side of the river,” he settled instead for demolishing the house in which the crime had taken place.

Subsequently, however, on receiving documents demonstrating that the inhabitants of Tolosa had never paid the pedido tax on account of foral law,  Henry acknowledged the exemption and issued a pardon.

For an excellent introduction to the Basque foral system, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): A Critical Edition, edited and annotated by Gregorio Monreal.

Flashback Friday: December 5, 1976: Basque flag displayed before historic match between rival Basque soccer teams

Sunday, December 5, 1976, remains a momentous date in contemporary Basque history on account of the remarkable events that took place in Atotxa Stadium, Donostia-San Sebastián: a key crossroads moment of social, political, and sporting history.

That day, the local soccer team in Donostia, Real Sociedad, took on its main rival, Athletic Bilbao in the classic Basque derby game. However, the moment that really defined the match took place before a ball was even kicked. As the two teams took to the field, the respective captains—Inaxio Kortabarria of Erreala and Jose Angel Iribar of Athletic—led their players into the contest while jointly carrying an ikurriña, the Basque flag, which was at the time an illegal act in Spain.

The flag was sown by the sister of one of the Erreala players, José Antonio de la Hoz Uranga, who himself smuggled it into the stadium that day, even managing to hide the banned symbol from a police check on the way to the game. Having done so, Kortabarria went over to the Athletic locker room and suggested the idea of jointly taking the field by holding the flag, in an act aimed at calling for its legalization over a year after the death of Spanish dictator General Franco. In the end, both captains agreed that all the players competing had to agree with the idea—something, all of them local, agreed to without reservation. In the historic photo that marks that occasion, it is de la Hoz Uranga (who did not play that day) who appears covered by the flag walking between the two captains.

Erreala beat Athletic 5-0 that day, but more importantly, the act of carrying out the ikurriña did much to accelerate the legalization of the Basque flag by the Spanish authorities. Ultimately, its public display was finally legalized on January 17, 1977.

Sport in general, including a special focus on Basque sports, is addressed in the CBS publication Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

June 4, 1873: Basque rebel priest’s squad of soldiers execute 37 border guards

On June 4, 1873, a squad of volunteer soldiers, under the command of the rebel priest Manuel Santa Cruz Loidi (pictured above), executed 37 border guards on the Endarlatza bridge between Gipuzkoa and Navarre during the Carlist War of 1872-1876. From that moment on the civil and military authorities in Gipuzkoa held annual remembrance services for those executed until the entry of Carlist forces into the province during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, when the service was suspended (despite the fact that during the nineteenth-century war Santa Cruz himself had been condemned to death on account of his sanguinary exploits by the very Carlist forces he purported to support). During that same Carlist War Sant Cruz’s squad carried a black flag with a skull and the inscription “Battle to the Death.”

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 193.

The Carlist Wars are discussed in Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present, available free to download here.

April 18, 1815: A Daring Basque Robbery

On April 18, 1815, a convoy including the Duke of Bourbon, the cousin of the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, was making its way over the Arlaban Pass that marks the border between Araba and Gipuzkoa. On the steep climb up the hill, the carriage containing the duke, which was being pulled by two oxen, became slightly separated from the convoy. Seizing the opportunity, five armed men appeared from out of the woods and proceeded to liberate the duke of all the equipment, treasures, and documents he was carrying.

Asalto al coche (Robbery of the coach), 1786-1787, by Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arlaban Pass had, it should be noted, gained an infamous reputation for such highway robbery. Indeed, many of the so-called highwaymen gained a kind of infamous notoriety, men like the guerrillas Espoz and Mina as well as Sebastián Fernández de Leceta or “Dos Pelos” (Two Hairs). 

Witnesses to the robbery said that the thieves were Basques, as could be discerned from their accents, which also led people to believe they came from an area between Tolosa and Hernani in Gipuzkoa. The main suspect was subsequently thought to be one N. de Lazkao, who was fairly identifiable because of his green eyes and red beard. But despite the dispatch of multiple search parties and an investigation that lasted ten years, no one was ever apprehended.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 167-68.

Wines of the Basque Country: “Springing” for a bottle of Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli

Spring time is approaching (believe it or not), and for me one of my favorite warm weather activities is sitting on a patio with a refreshing rosado or rosé wine.

As promised, I intend to share some of the benefits of doing fieldwork in a place that is world-renowned for their gastronomy.  I am excited to share that I had an interview with one of the most prominent txakolineros here in the Basque Country.

Txomin Etxaniz, as I have been told by many, is considered a founding father for the Getariako Txakolina Denominación de Origen.  I was therefore thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Mikel, who’s grandfather is the nephew of Txomin Extaniz himself.  Mikel’s father was one of the men responsible for starting the Denominación de Origen (Designation of origin) in 1989, which originally grew from the seven families that were involved.   It was much earlier, however, that the family was written into the history of viticulture in the region.  In 1649, the Gipuzkoa Protocol Archives mention Domingo de Etxaniz as being linked to growing vines in Getaria.  The family and team still produce this relic of Basque viticulture that started well before Basque gastronomy became world-famous.  From my personal experience, it is one of the most popular labels you can find in the United States for Getariako Txakolina D.O.   

I don’t know if there is anything better than drinking this rosado on a hot summer’s day.  This is the Basque version of the label, while it is translated into English in the United States.

(Txakolin Gorria, translates tored” txakoli, versus the txakolin beltza which means “black” txakoli-much like the French use of “noir” in Pinot Noir).  The acidity seems to be perfectly balanced by the fruitiness that results from mixing the hondarrabi beltza varietal with the better known white hondarrabi zuri (white varietal).  Take it a step further by pairing it with seafood, a creamy brie, or strawberries, and your tastebuds will jump for joy.

While this is a fairly easy find in the United States, which demands much of the rosado production, there’s nothing like drinking this beauty here, close to its roots in Euskalherria.  Did I mention this place comes with a view?

To find this young, zippy wine in the US, you can check out websites like: Wine Searcher

Check out the producer’s website: Txomin Etxaniz

Here is a line-up of all their delicious fermented grape products: 

Stay tuned for more wine and food recommendations fresh out of the Basque Country.  Still to come is this family’s espumoso and late harvest wine (pictured above)!

Cheers, or as they say in the Basque Country, “Topa!”

January 30, 1669: Irun and Hondarribia almost go to war over weights and measures!

Overview of the siege of the fortress of Hondarribia in 1638 with ground troops and French squadron at sea. German engraving. Irun can be seen to the top left of the engraving. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On January 30, 1669, following a traditional custom, the neighboring town councils of Irun and Hondarribia in Gipuzkoa were due to meet to undertake their annual inspection of each other’s weights and measures in this commercially important and geopolitically sensitive border area. That year, however, the Irun council members informed their counterparts in Hondarribia that the visiting inspection had already been carried out. Not deterred by this, the Hondarribia council members swore to attend the planned visit. When they arrived, the representatives of Irun greeted them with a show of arms, which prompted those of Hondarribia to withdraw back to their own town. The latter then complained to he Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, which mediated between the two, rescheduling the meeting for February 7.

View of Hondarribia. Painting by Luis Paret, 1786. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

February 7 arrived and the appointed Hondarribia commissioners began their inspection of Irun’s weights and measures, only to discover that the Hondarribia stamps there had been removed from the weights in question, with the name of Irun replacing them. On reporting this to the authorities, these weights were declared legally null and void. This provoked the ire of the people of Irun, leading to many taking to street with sticks, stones, swords, and firearms in protest. Worried that this could escalate into a full-blown violent conflict between the towns, the chief magistrate had no option but to restore the legal status of Irun’s weights.

Furious at the decision, the people of Hondarribia waited a few days and then sent a nocturnal expedition to attack Irun. Arriving at night in small barges traveling up the River Bidasoa, the expedition alighted near the Irun hospital, made its presence known by firing several shots and threatening the people there, an then withdrew back to the safety of Hondarribia. Thereafter, the Provincial Council made another attempt to mediate but this was in vain. The matter was then referred to the higher authority of the Castilian Royal Council, which subsequently threatened anyone who dared take up arms again in the matter with prison or even worse, namely the infamous galleys (where prisoners were sentenced o “work the oar” or become human chattel, virtual slaves). The warning appeared to work as no further incidents were reported, although neighborly relations can hardly have been too friendly!

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp.126-27.

December 2, 1856: Treaty of Baiona establishes border between North and South Basque Country

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The Basque Country, with Iparralde made up of Lapurdi, Nafarroa Beherea (Lower Navarre), and Zuberoa; and Hegoalde made up of Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Nafarroa Garaia (Upper Navarre or just Navarre). Image by Unai Fdz. de Betoño, based on User:Theklan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On December 2, 1856, the first in a series of four Treaties of Baiona (the others signed in 1862, 1866, and 1868 respectively) fixed the current border between the French Republic and the Kingdom of Spain, and thus between Iparralde and Hegoalde, the North and South Basque Country.  To that time the border was by no means a settled issue, with disagreements on the parts of both countries particularly over where to demarcate boundaries in Catalonia in the east and the Basque Country in the west.

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The mouth of the River Bidasoa separating Hendaia (top center) in Lapurdi from Hondarribia (bottom center) and Irun (top right) in Gipuzkoa. Photo by jmerelo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) represented a first attempt to address the matter formally. A treaty ending the long Franco-Spanish War of 1635-1659, this agreement was signed on traditional neutral ground: Konpantzia, or Pheasant Island, a small landmass of 73,410 square feet in the River Bidasoa between Hendaia (Lapurdi) and Irun (Gipuzkoa), today jointly administered between the two towns.

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Konpantzia, Pheasant Island, the small plot of neutral land between Irun (L) and Hendaia (R). Photo by Ignacio Gavira, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As regards the border, by the 1659 treaty France gained most of Northern Catalonia in the east. In the west, meanwhile, matters were somewhat more complicated due to disagreements over where to establish the frontier exactly between Iparralde and Hegoalde at three critical points: the Xareta district, made up of Ainhoa and Sara in Lapurdi and Urdazubi and Zugarramurdi in Navarre; Aldude, a wedge of terrain in Lower Navarre that cuts geographically into Navarre; and Luzaide (Valcarlos in Spanish), a wedge of terrain in Navarre that cuts geographically into Lower Navarre. While a working boundary was established in these areas, there would clearly have to be more negotiations before arriving at a definitive settlement. In the eighteenth century, further agreements refined the settlement in the east, while as regards the west, the Treaty of Elizondo (1785) fixed the border at both Aldude and Luzaide.

The 1856 Treaty of Baiona definitively established the far western extent of the Franco-Spanish border in the middle of the River Bidasoa’s current at low tide, which in turn demarcated fishing zones and local rights to control passage up and down the river. Moreover, the so-called Kintoa district (Le Pays Quint in French; Quinto Real in Spanish)–an area of grazing land between the two Navarres that had historically been hotly and sometimes bloodily disputed–was officially ceded to the Spanish Kingdom but would be administered by the French Republic: in other words, the land would be owned by the former but leased perpetually to the latter. Today, its approximately 30 inhabitants are French citizens by default but have the right to dual Franco-Spanish citizenship. Public education and health services are provided by the French Republic and they  pay income tax in France but they must pay property taxes in Spain. The postal and utilities services are French but policing is controlled by the Spanish Civil Guard.

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The Esnazu district of Aldude, showing some of the grazing pastures in this borderland area. Photo by Patrick.charpiat, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In sum, the 1856 treaty brought with it a definitive settlement of sorts regarding the border between the two countries. A total of 602 markers mark the division along the length of the border, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, with marker no. 1 in the River Bidasoa. Border and customs posts were also more formally established in the wake of the four treaties as a whole, which in itself led to a growth in gau lana (night work) or the lucrative smuggling trade that was, until comparatively recently, such a feature of Basque culture in these borderland areas. More recent developments have included the transfer of a small plot of land (just under 30,000 square feet) in 1984 between the two countries as part of the construction project to build a road linking the Erronkari Valley in Navarre to Arrete (French)/Areta (Occitan)/Ereta (Basque) in Bearn; and the entry into force of the European Union’s Schengen Agreement (1995), by which border controls for people and goods were abolished and freedom of movement across the border ensured.

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International border marker no. 8 between Bera (Vera de Bidasoa) in Navarre and Biriatu (Biriatou) in Lapurdi. Photo by Pymouss44, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

For many obvious reasons the muga or border exercises a powerful influence on the Basque imagination. Clearly, it has acted as a barrier to greater unity among Basques, but equally one could argue that its very existence has served to bring Basques together in numerous ways as a challenge to overcome.

Further Reading

Robert Laxalt, A Cup of Tea in Pamplona. This absorbing action-packed tale is an evocative portrait of the world of Basque smuggling in 1960s, and the importance of the border in Basque culture, as portrayed by the great Basque-American storyteller Robert Laxalt.

Zoe Bray, Living Boundaries: Frontiers and Identity in the Basque Country. This work explores how the international border shapes Basque identity on both sides of the frontier.

Aitzpea Leizaola, “Mugarik ez! Subverting the Border in the Basque Country,” in Ethnologia Europaea: Journal of European Ethnology 30, no. 2 (2000): 35-46. This article explores the multiple ways in which the international border that cuts through the Basque Country is still very much a contested site.

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