The Arborist, the monthly newsletter of the Nevada State Arboretum, has some really exciting news this month. A sapling from the famous Tree of Gernika has been planted on the grounds of the Nevada State Arboretum at the University of Nevada, Reno. The Tree of Gernika, an ancient oak tree, marks the spot where the General Assemblies of Bizkaia, the principal decision-making authority in the province and a key symbol of Basque political autonomy, have met down the centuries. Indeed, as we noted in a previous post, for the second president of the United States, John Adams, the political system he himself witnessed on a visit to the Basque Country represented a true “democratic republic” and served as an inspiration for his own notion of federal democracy: the model that ultimately came to underpin the current US system of democratic government.
While it will remain unmarked until it takes root, at some time it will be unveiled. Given the importance of Reno, and the Center, a “shining light” in the time of darkness during the Franco dictatorship, this symbolic planting in Reno is a fitting demonstration of the closeness between the Basque Country and Reno. The Center’s own Joseba Zulaika was instrumental in bringing the sapling and also explained the importance in The Arborist article. I would really like to encourage everyone to read that, so I won’t paraphrase it too much, but it is a real honor to share this news with the world and again, please see the article in The Arborist for more photos and information about this really exciting event!
Check out the nineteenth-century hymn, “Gernikako Arbola” (The Tree of Gernika), written by the bard Jose Maria Iparragirre, which plays on the symbolism of the tree as a source of political liberty: “The Tree of Gernika / is blessed / and well loved / among the Basques / Give and share out / your fruit throughout the world / we venerate you / holy tree.”
For more on the historic importance of the Tree of Gernika as a key site representing Basque political difference through the ages, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition, by Gregorio Monreal Zia. This is the most comprehensive work in English on the legal and political foundations of Basque particularity in Spain. But besides being a scholarly text about government and administration, it is also a lively and informative source about the historical importance of community and popular democratic participation in Basque political life. This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in democracy, citizen participation in politics, and the historical roots of the US political system.
The pintxo, a little bite of heaven.
Pintxoak and live music are going to be served up at the inaugural Heritage Sessions event partnership between Reno’s beloved cultural juggernaut Artown—which takes over most Reno-ites’ social schedules for in-town events during the month of July—and the Heritage Restaurant at the Whitney Peak Hotel (Reno’s only full-service nongaming and nonsmoking hotel) on Friday night. These events will celebrate up-and-coming indie music acts and innovative culinary arts and so of course it is no surprise at all, given their innovative and constantly evolving nature, that executive chef Ben Deinken has chosen to prepare Donostia*-style pintxoak. They will be served accompanied by the indie folk/baroque pop of Paper Bird from Denver, Colorado.
It’s hard not to want to try them all!
(*Donostia is the Basque name for the beautiful Basque seaside city known as San Sebastián in Spanish and officially as Donostia-San Sebastián, which is also coincidentally the 2016 European Capital of Culture.)
Pintxoak (the plural of pintxo in Basque, it is also common to see pintxos in Spanish) are Basque tapas and while sometimes they are relatively “simple” things like Spanish tortilla or jamon serrano and bread, in some places, in Donostia especially, they have evolved into complicated culinary small bites. They come in both hot and cold varieties. In Donostia and elsewhere in the Basque Country an entire evening can easily be filled up with walking from place to place sampling a pintxo or two, or three, as in my case above 😉 and either a zurito (small beer) or a txikito (small wine).
Of course, Reno is no stranger to Basque food and culture, although Donostia-style pintxoak may be something of a surprise for eaters more used to the heartier fare of the typical family-style Western US Basque restaurant. So, if you’re reading us in Reno, this will be a fun and unique event and I for one won’t miss it!
The Center is welcoming the visit of art researchers Oihane Sanchez and Leire Baztarrica. They will be in residence until December 21.
Oihane is a second-year graduate student at the School of Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. Her project consists in relating the Guggenheim Museum with the metropolitan area of Bilbao in general, and with the local artists in particular. She plans to compare these relationships with those taking place in the American Far West–in cities such as Reno.
Leire is a photographer and designer. She is a fifth-year student specializing in Creativity and Design within the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. The project she plans to develop is a study of Reno’s neon lights, analyzing their formal aspects, colors, and symbolic content, as well as cataloging them. As part of her research, she also plans to interview and photograph local people. See some of Leire’s work here.