Category: This Week in Basque History (page 1 of 11)

August 11, 1936: Basque-language books burned in Tolosa by Franco’s troops

On August 11, 1936, in an early and telling act on the part of General Franco’s cultural strategy during the Civil War, rebel troops carried out a public mass book burning of Basque-language texts in the Old Square of Tolosa; the historically important Gipuzkoan town that had been one of the epicenters of the so-called Euskal Pizkundea, the Basque cultural renaissance based on a flourishing of artistic creation in Basque.

Book burning in Tolosa, August 11, 1936

Book burning in Tolosa, August 11, 1936

The rebel troops had recently occupied Tolosa in their drive westward across Gipuzkoa. Once entrenched in the town, they entered the printing press of Ixaka Lopez Mendizabal, a writer, editor, and printer at the heart of the aforementioned renaissance and removed all the books they could find in either Basque or concerning Basque culture. Repeating their search in the municipal and school libraries, they stacked their loot up in the Old Square before proceeding to burn the pile in a very public act of cultural negation.

In February 1937, Franco’s rebel government passed an official order to cleanse the Basque Country of all such “seditious” books.

August 6, 1994: First Euskal Encounter, the Basque LAN Party

On August 6, 1994, the town of Urretxu in Gipuzkoa played host to the first Euskal Encounter, a LAN party or a gathering of people with computers or compatible game consoles in which a local area network (LAN) connection is established between the devices, primarily for the purpose of playing multiplayer video games together.

Image from Euskal Encounter 22 (2014). Photo by Fernando Loz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image from Euskal Encounter 22 (2014). Photo by Fernando Loz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The initial event–originally termed the Euskal Amiga Party–took place over the course of one day in the Ederrena fronton and included thirty-six participants. Today, the Euskal Encounter has expanded to become a general meeting place for computing professionals an enthusiasts. The latest edition of the event, Euskal Encounter 26, was held over a four-day period between July 26 and 29 in the Bilbao Exhibition Center (BEC) and was attended by five thousand people.

See reports on the event in Basque and Spanish below.

July 30, 1965: Birth of Richard Tardits, first Basque-born NFL player

On July 30, 1965, Richard Tardits was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. Originally a rugby player, after going to college in the United States he took up football and went on to play linebacker for the New England Patriots between 1990 and 1992.

Tardits played rugby at junior level for Biarritz Olympique, and represented the French national side at the same level. Moving to the United States to attend college he took up football and played for the Georgia Bulldogs. There, he held the record for most sacks (until surpassed by David Pollack in 2004), earning the nickname “Le Sack.”

He was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals in 1989 but never played for the Arizona team, instead going on to play twenty-seven games for the Patriots in three seasons in the early 1990s. Following his NFL career, he took up rugby once more, playing for the Mystic River Rugby Club, and represented the US national team on twenty-two occasions between 1993 and 1999.

July 22, 1860: Birth of Jean Pierre Goytino, founder of California’ko Eskual Herria

On July 22, 1860, Jean Pierre Goytino was born in the village of Ainhoa, Lapurdi. He went on to emigrate to the United States and found the weekly newspaper California’ko Eskual Herria in 1893.

Jean Pierre Goytino (1860-1920)

The son of a border guard, he was sent to seminary, and trained to be a teacher. In the 1880s, he took up public teaching positions in Lapurdi, but ran into trouble with school inspectors over his religious beliefs at a time when there was a growing tension in France between state and Church over the question of religious instruction in education. In the mid-1880s he emigrated to the United States and there, in Los Angeles, began working for a French-language newspaper, Le Progrès, aimed at the important Basque community in the city. He soon saw the need, however, for a Basque-language broadsheet aimed at this same community, following in the wake of the short-lived Escualdun Gaceta, published by LA-based lawyer Martin Biscailuz. The first edition of California’ko Eskual Herria appeared on July 15, 1893  (it was renamed Eskual Herria in 1897) and as well as Los Angeles, it had distributors in San Francisco, San Diego, and Mexico City. At its creation, the Los Angeles Herald wrote: “Mr J.P. Goytino, editor of Le Progrès, has commenced the publication of a paper in the Basque tongue, called Eskual Herria. Those who can red it will undoubtedly find it pungent and interesting, as it is difficult for Mr. Goytino to be otherwise.”

It was published every Saturday and had subscribers throughout the American West, Latin America, and even back in the Basque Country. It ceased publication in 1898 and Goytino died in 1920.

July 14, 1970: Death of popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano

On July 14, 1970, the popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano died in Paris. Although born in Hegolade, the Southern Basque Country, he became an idol of stage and screen in post-World War II France, where he was one of the biggest stars of operetta. Four months before his death in 1970, already ill for some time with what could have been an untreated case of hepatitis, he wrote: “I was born in a wonderful country that is called the Basque Country.” And his popularity both north and south of the Pyrenees in the country of his birth resounds to this day among many people.

Luis Mariano (1914-1970). Image by Karta24. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mariano Eusebio González y García was born in Irun, Gipuzkoa, on August 13, 1914. On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, together with his parents, he fled north of the border. Settling initially in Baiona, Lapurdi, he joined the Basque exile folklore group Eresoinka, with whom he traveled and performed across Europe in the period 1937-1939. He was also accepted by the music school of Bordeaux, where he studied opera singing and also sang in cabarets by night. His talent was quickly spotted by Jeanne Lagiscarde, who ran the classical department of a Bordeaux record store, and she began to manage his career, relocating him to Paris in the process.

There he continued to perform in stage shows and also in a minor role in the first of several movies he would appear in throughout his career. These were the years of Nazi-occupied Paris, and in the period 1943-1945 he first came to prominence in the world of operetta, performing alongside the likes of Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. His career really took off after the war, however, as he performed in both operettas and movies. As the operetta genre waned in the 1960s, he moved into television performances, yet remained just as popular. In the late 1960s, though, he fell ill and was forced to cancel various shows on account of a nagging fatigue. This culminated in his death in July 1970.

Grave of Luis Mariano in Arrangoitze. Photo by Tibauk. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As per his express wishes, he was buried in the Basque Country, in Arrangoitze (Arcangues), Lapurdi, where he had owned a home for many years. In regard t the Basque Country, he is reported to have said: “I will come to rest forever in this land.”

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.

 

 

July 5, 1846: Birth of mathematician Zoel García de Galdeano

On July 5, 1846 Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas was born in Pamplona-Iruñea. In later life, he came to be regarded as a champion of modernizing mathematics in the Spanish state according to the latest developments in Europe and beyond.

Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas (1846-1924)

After García de Galdeano’s father was killed while on active service in the Spanish military, he was raised by his maternal grandfather José Yanguas y Miranda (1782-1863), a historian, jurist, and well-known figure in Navarrese political life in the first half of the nineteenth century, promoting a kind of pro-foral liberalism. The young García de Galdeano was thus raised in a learning environment receptive to new ideas. In 1871 he obtained his doctorate and thereafter began a lengthy professional journey teaching math at several high schools throughout the Spanish state as well as promoting the so-called free institutes (experimental secular high schools that emphasized liberal values such as civic responsibility and modernization in its various guises). At the same time, he published voraciously with the aim of introducing the latest European mathematical currents into the peninsula.

Finally, in 1889 he obtained a tenured professorship in analytical geometry at his alma mater, the University of Zaragoza, where he worked until his retirement in 1918. Once established at the university level, he began lobbying to provide more adequate networks and platforms for sharing and disseminating mathematical knowledge.  In 1891 he founded El Progreso Matemático (Mathematical Progress), the first strictly mathematical journal published in Spain; and he was the first mathematician in the state to begin attending international conferences on a regular basis. Most significantly, García de Galdeano was present at the famous 1900 speech of influential German mathematician David Hilbert at the Sorbonne in Paris, in which he posed a set of problems that to a large extent came to define the direction of the discipline through the twentieth century. Moreover, he was one of the main figures behind the creation of the Spanish Mathematics Society in 1911, and became its president in 1916.

He died in Zaragoza in 1924, having played a critical role in modernizing the study of mathematics in the peninsula.

 

June 29, 1854: Death of first Basque-language woman writer Bizenta Mogel

On June 29, 1854 Bizenta Mogel died in Abando, Bizkaia at the age of eighty-two. She should be considered not just the first women to publish a book in Basque, but the first author in children’s literature in the language.

Bizenta Mogel (1772-1854)

Bizenta Antonia Mogel Elgezabal was born in Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa, in 1772. She came from a literary family. Her brother, Juan Jose Mogel (1781-1849), was also a writer, while her uncle, Joan Antonio Mogel (1745-1804), was the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, Peru Abarka (published posthumously in 1881).  Indeed, it was the latter who would play a pivotal role in her education. Orphaned at an early age, together with her brother she went to live with her uncle in Markina, Bizkaia. He taught both siblings how to read and write in Latin, Spanish, and Basque, and she impressed with her obvious intelligence and love of learning.

She married Eugenio Basozabal, with whom she went to live in Abando (now part of Bilbao). He later inherited a printing press on the death of his father, and this helped immensely in her efforts to publish her work.  In 1804 she published Ipui onac (Moral tales), which, according to Jose Manuel López Gaseni, “Translated Basque Literature,” in Basque Literary History (p. 315):

brought together fifty of Aesop’s fables that she translated thanks to her knowledge of Latin, learned from her uncle—the sort of training few women of the period could obtain. The intent of this collection was moralistic and educational, as can be deduced from its subtitle: “Good stories in which young Basque people will find edifying lessons that will help them lead their lives down the right path.” It attempted to substitute traditional stories that, according to the prologue, were considered pernicious and were rejected by the educational institutions of the period.

Moreover, as Mari Jose Olaziregi notes in “Worlds of Fiction: An Introduction to Basque Narrative,” also in Basque Literary History (pp. 140-41), its

significance as the first published work written by a woman also signals the birth of children’s literature in Basque. Although the didactic style and sense of moral purpose is prevalent in the text, we should underscore the importance of the book as a primary example of a new type of fiction as well as being an exponent for a new type of reading public, more literary but still somewhat removed from a more controlled aestheticism. Ipui onak is in fact a translation and adaptation of Aesop’s fables and proved an inspiration for a whole group of fabulists, although in most cases verse was the preferred form of writing. Bizenta’s case is altogether exceptional since it is estimated that only 15 percent of women were literate in the Basque country at that time … It is important to note that Bizenta subscribed to John Locke’s educational model in her work, a model that perceived fables as a useful resort to educate children.

The work was a major success and went through several reprints. Bizenta Mogel went on to publish other books, and she was also a renowned writer of traditional Christmas bertso-paperak (printed verses for popular consumption), but she was most remembered for her first and groundbreaking work. She was also a teacher and interestingly, she was known for her wide knowledge of medicinal plants, a knowledge she put to great use in helping people with illnesses who came to her in search of a cure.

The Center publishes Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi, an ambitious work that traces the evolution of various literary styles in the Basque language.

Check out this charming representation of Bizenta Mogel’s life in illustrated form (with commentary in Basque):

 

June 21, 1813: Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz

On June 21, 1813, combined Iberian and British forces led by the Duke of Wellington defeated the French army under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan at the Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz, a turning point in the Peninsular War (1807-1814). Coming in the aftermath of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, it could be argued that this battle served to underscore the beginning of the end of Napoleonic dominance of Europe.

Monument to the battle in the Virgen Blanca Square, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Basotxerri. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, French forces had been forced to retreat northward. In May 1813, Wellington’s coalition forces moved quickly from northern Portugal toward the French border to cut off their escape route, and the French were forced to retreat to Burgos. And on June 21, the two sides engaged in the battle, about two miles outside the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in the valley of the River Zadorra.

Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz (1813). Map by Gregory Fremont-Barnes. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The French forces occupied the south side of the river, encircled by the coalition forces to the west and north. Wellington divided his attack into four columns, striking at the French from the south. west, and north, while the final assault was aimed at the French rearguard. Perhaps the key moment came when the column led by General Thomas Graham appeared from the north along the road to Bilbao, around noon. Seeing this, the French realized they were encircled and began to retreat toward Vitoria-Gasteiz. At the same time, their escape route toward the north-east (Pamplona-Iruñea and Baiona) was also cut off by troops commanded by the Bizkaian Colonel Francisco Tomás Anchia, aka Francisco Longa. Finally, the combined coalition forces managed to cross the Zadorra and push the French back further still. The morale of the latter collapsed, and tens of thousands fled the battle along the only escape route possible, toward the east and Agurain (Salvatierra).There were approximately 5,000 deaths on each side.

Model recreation of the battle in the Araba Armory Museum. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By the end of the year, Wellington’s forces had captured both Donostia-San Sebastián, Pamplona-Iruñea, and were encamped in France. The Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz had proved to be a turning point in the war.

Interestingly, the battle was the inspiration for Beethoven’s Opus 91, titled “Wellington’s Victory, or, the Battle of Vitoria” (Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria) or just the “Battle Symphony” or “Wellington’s Victory,” which portrays the battle as musical drama.

 

June 11, 1967: Xalbador jeered at national bertsolaritza championship in Donostia

On June 11, 1967, one of the most controversial incidents to ever take place in the history of berstolaritza–Basque oral improvised verse–occurred during the national championship in the main fronton or pelota court of Donostia-San Sebastián: on hearing that the bertsolari (improviser) Xalbador had been selected by the judges over a more popular opponent, Joxe Migel Iztueta aka Lazkao Txiki, to advance to the head-to-head final to compete against Uztapide, a section of the audience began to jeer. The reason for this? He was from Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country in France, and they did not understand his dialect of Basque so well.

Xalbador (1920-1976)

Born in 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Fernando Aire, aka Xalbador, was arguably the most renowned bertsolari in modern times from Iparralde. He began to perform in public after World War II, and by the 1960s was regarded, together with Manuel Olaizola, aka Uztapide, as one of the leading exponents of the art form. However, Xalbador stood out from most of his contemporaries for a number of reasons: first and foremost, he used his natal dialect of Basque from Lower Navarre; besides that, though, he also incorporated melodies that many people in Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) were unfamiliar with; and finally, he also stood apart from many of his rival bertsolaris for the sheer lyrical quality of his verses as well as his ability to draw profound reflections from seemingly inconsequential things. Indeed, his poetic sensibility was such that, following his death in 1976, the famous Basque singer-songwriter Xabier Lete dedicated a song to him, “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), which subsequently became one of the most famous and repeated Basque songs, still sung to this day. And the 1989 national champion bertsolari, Jon Lopategi, also dedicated his winning verse to Xalbador. That all said, he never won a major championship, finishing fourth in 1960, third in 1962 and 1965, and, ultimately, second in 1967.

In the infamous 1967 championship, as mentioned, some members of the audience jeered on hearing the judges’ decision to advance Xalbador to the final head-to-head contest against Uztapide (it should be noted that it remains unclear whether they were jeering the bertsolari or the judges, or both). As per the rules of the competition, Xalbador was obliged to step up to the microphone and compose a verse in response to the decision. As he began his strophe, he found it difficult to make his voice heard, but, gradually, the power and beauty of his words turned the audience around. He sung:

Anai-arrebok, ez, otoi, pentsa
neu’re gustora nagonik,
poz gehiago izango nuen
albotik beha egonik.

Brothers and sisters, do not think
that I am happy;
how much better would I feel
looking on from some corner.

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik…

If you are not happy
it is not my fault…

At this point, the jeers subsided and, incredibly, the audience began to cheer. Xalbador, in turn, his voice barely able to continue with emotion, repeated and concluded the verse:

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik,
txistuak jo dituzute bainan
maite zaituztet orainik.

If you are not happy
it is not my fault:
in spite of your whistles
I still love you.

By the end of the verse the audience had risen to its feet and was applauding the bertsolari from Urepele. The story remains one of the great moving moments in the history of berstolaritza and in Basque culture more generally. This moment was, remarkably, captured on film:

To learn more about bertsolaritza, check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

Another great resource is Bertsolaritza, El bertsolarismo, Bertsolaritza by Joxerra Garzia, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute, free to download here.

On the rich Basque dialects, see The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo.

 

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