Category: This Week in Basque History (page 1 of 14)

February 9, 1918: Birth of raquetista Irene Ibaibarriaga

Arguably the most emblematic sport of the Basques is pelota in its many varieties, one of which, Jai-Alai, was especially popular in the United States at the close of the twentieth century. Another variety, played with tennis racquets by women, was also popular in the twentieth century, from the 1910s to the 1980s. One of the leading raquetistas of her generation, Irene Ibaibarriaga Ormaetxea, was born in Ermua, Bizkaia, on February 9, 1918.

She learned the sport in nearby Eibar, one of the strongholds of Basque pelota and at the age of fifteen she moved to Madrid, where her older sister Pili played professionally, to begin a career in the sport. She was offered a contract to play professionally in the Americas but turned down the opportunity and, despite her career suffering as a result of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), she still managed to make a living from the sport, playing in tournaments in Valencia, Barcelona, and later Donostia, often playing doubles with her sister. Later in her career she suffered a serious injury when a ball damaged her ear. She subsequently retired from the sport.

In 2013, a special tribute was paid to her on the occasion of the 7th Women’s Pelota Day held in Irura, Gipuzkoa. Ibaibarriaga died in 2014 at the age of ninety-six.

Check out Olatz Gonzalez Abrisketa’s Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic.

February 3, 1922: Birth of legendary tambourine player Felisa Arribalzaga

Before the advent of the modern recording industry live music reigned in the popular imagination of people in the Basque Country. One of the great “stars” of this age was Felisa Arribalzaga, born in Muxika, Bizkaia, on February 3, 1922. To say that she was just a panderojole (Basque tambourine player) is to do her a tremendous disservice because she was also an accomplished dancer, singer, and irrintzilari (a performer of the irrintzi, the Basque yell).

Although born in Muxika, on marrying her husband, Eduardo Egiarte, she moved to his home town of Amorebieta-Etxano (also known as Zornotza). The couple had met as teenagers on Mount Bizkargi, between Muxika and Amorebieta, while they were tending their respective flocks of sheep. Egiarte was an accordion player and the couple began performing in Bizkaia under the name the Zornotzako trikitilariak (Zornotza two-row diatonic accordionists). During the Franco years, they continued to perform their Basque music, often clandestinely as it was banned by the regime.

Arribalzaga died in her adopted home town on June 30, 2015.

She remains a great example of how music and dance in traditional Basque culture, according to CBS author Sabin Bikandi, form in many ways a single entity, given that it is impossible to truly understand one without the other.  See Sabin Bikandi, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Music in the Basque Country.

For anyone interested in practicing their Western Basque dialect, check out the following 1997 radio interview (with Spanish subtitles) with Egiarte and Arribalzaga:

February 1, 1903: Birth of philosopher Maryse Choisy

The journalist, writer, and philosopher Maryse Choisy was born in Doinibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) on February 1, 1903. She was most renowned for founding a polemical response to surrealism: the suridealism movement.

Maryse Choisy (1903-1979).

Maryse Choisy (1903-1979).

Raised in the Basque Country by wealthy aunts, Choisy studied philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge in the aftermath of World War I. After a brief period of treatment by Sigmund Freud in the 1920s, she became a journalist  and began a prodigious publishing career that also included novels, poems, and essays. Most famously, she took up a position against surrealism, which, she thought, was based on a false interpretation of Freud’s concept of the unconscious. In turn, she published her “Suridealist Manifesto” in 1927. In 1946, she founded Psyché. Revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l’homme ( Psyche: International Review of Psychoanalysis and Human Sciences) and she subsequently established, together with  Father Leycester King of Oxford,  the Association Internationale de Psychothérapie et de Psychologie Catholique (International Association of Catholic Psychotherapy and Psychology). She was an especially important intellectual figure in interwar Paris and gained even wider renown after founding Psyché. She died in 1979.

January 19, 1977: Basque flag legalized once more

Image by Daniele Schirmo aka Frankie688. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image by Daniele Schirmo aka Frankie688. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Flown for the first time in 1894 and adopted as the official flag of the Basque Country in 1936, any display of the ikurriña or Basque flag was banned by the Franco regime after 1938. Even following the death of Franco in 1975, the public display of the flag was controversial, as noted in a previous post. On January 19, 1977, the ikurriña was made legal once more and in 1979, by the terms of the Statute of Gernika, recognized as the official flag of the Basque Autonomous Community.

January 16, 1843: Birth of Blessed Rafaela Ybarra

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri was born on January 16, 1843 in Bilbao into a comfortable middle-class family. In 1861 she married José de Vilallonga and went on to have seven children (although two died in infancy). She was devout and a visit to Lourdes in 1883 resulted in getting over a serious illness. In 1890, with the permission of her husband, she made private vows to be chaste and fully obedient to God. Coinciding with the spectacular nineteenth-century industrial take-off and urban boom in Bilbao, and the social and demographic problems these changes provoked, she organized various welfare institutions for women and children in Bilbao. In 1894, along with three others, she founded a religious order to help all the poor children of Bilbao, opening a home to help the less fortunate in 1899 (a year after her husband had passed away). In 1900, after struggling with a long illness, she herself died. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the order she had helped found, the Angeles Custodios (Guardian Angels), received diocesan approval.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1929 a beatification process opened and in 1952 she became titled as a Servant of God. Then, in 1970 she was named as Venerable and in 1984 she was ultimately beatified.  A process is currently taking place by which she is being considered for sainthood.

December 9, 1895: Birth of Dolores Ibarruri, “La Pasionaria”

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez, better known as “La Pasionaria” (the passionflower, an early pseudonym), was born on December 9, 1895. She became one of the leading figures in the Civil War of 1936-1939 and gained fame for her use of the slogan “No pasarán!” (They shall not pass!).

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in 1936. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in 1936. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She was born in Gallarta, Bizkaia, into a mining family and, although she had been encouraged to train to be a teacher, she was forced to leave school at fifteen because her parents could not afford any further education. She subsequently did a variety of jobs including being a seamstress, housemaid, and waitress. In 1915 she married the labor union activist Julián Ruiz Gabiña, and got involved in left-wing politics. The couple joined the Communist Party of Spain and Ibarruri became a member of the provincial committee of its Basque branch. Over the next few years, as well as raising a family, she also rose up through the party ranks and in 1930 was appointed to its central committee. The family then relocated to Madrid where she became a prominent leftist activist in the turbulent decade of the 1930s, taking part in strikes and demonstrations and gaining a reputation as a stirring orator and committed anti-Fascist.

La Pasionaria in 1978. Photo by Nemo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

La Pasionaria in 1978. Photo by Nemo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When the Civil War broke out in 1936 she gained international renown for a series of radio broadcasts against the military uprising, employing inspirational terms like the famed “They shall not pass!” as well as “Better to die standing up than to live kneeling down!” With the definitive fall of the Republic, however, she fled the country in 1939, first to Paris and then on to the Soviet Union. While in Moscow, she worked on propaganda radio broadcasts against the Franco regime in Spain and in 1942 she also became secretary-general of the Spanish Communist Party-in-exile. She ceded that position in 1960, retiring from active politics at the age of sixty-five and accepting the honorary post of president of the party.

Following Franco’s death in 1975, she returned to Madrid in 1977, appearing at a Communist general election rally in Bilbao less than two weeks later in front of more than thirty thousand people. However, she subsequently retreated from active involvement in politics. She died in November 1989 at the age of ninety-three.

November 24, 1912: False fire alarm leads to multiple deaths in Bilbao theater stampede

On November 24, 1912, forty-six people, almost all of them children, died in the Ensanche Circus Theater of Bilbao as the result of a stampede of spectators attempting to flee the building. Someone had shouted out a fire alarm, which ultimately proved to be false.

The Circus Theater, located close to what is today the Plaza Elíptica, had been constructed in 1895 on the site of what had been a circus. While dedicated mainly to popular entertainment shows it was also a sports venue, and by the second decade of the twentieth century it was also showing movies.

On Sunday, November 24, 1912, the theater schedule included a continuous screening of movies between 3:00 pm and midnight, at prices accessible to people of all social classes and children old enough to go to the movies on their own.  Shortly after 6:00 pm a voice shouted out “fire!” This resulted in widespread panic as spectators attempted to flee the packed theater, only to encounter two of the three emergency exits locked. In total, forty-four children and two adults died in the stampede. Funerals for the victims, at which a reported forty thousand people attended, were held on November 27 and all expenses were covered by the Bilbao city council.

The theater itself was demolished in 1914 by official order on account of not fulfilling the required safety norms. In 1916, Bilbao city council constructed a mausoleum on the site where the victims had been buried.

Sources

Julio Arrieta, “Cuarenta y cuatro ataúdes blancos,” El Correo, November 18, 2012.

Una falsa alarma desembocó en tragedia,” Conoce Bilbao con Esme (blog), November 24, 2018.

November 23, 1808: The Battle of Tutera/Tudela

On November 23, 1808, during the Peninsular War (1807-1814), Napoleonic forces made up of French and Polish troops under the command of Marshal Jean Lannes defeated their Spanish adversaries under General Francisco Javier Castaños (born in Madrid, but Basque in origin on both sides of his family) at the Battle of Tutera/Tudela in Navarre.

"Battle of Tudela" (1827) by January Suchodolski, depicting Napoleon receiving the captured banners from Wincenty Krasiński. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Battle of Tudela” (1827) by January Suchodolski, depicting Napoleon receiving the captured banners from Wincenty Krasiński. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An early encounter in Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsular, following on from the Battle of Pancorbo (also on Basque terrain), this was an important point in the swift march of the Imperial French army toward Madrid, which was captured before the end of the year.

Interestingly, the Battle of Tutera/Tudela is one of the many historic French battles whose name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

November 11, 1995: Inauguration of the Bilbao Metro

On November 11, 1995 Line 1 of the Bilbao Metro–one of the emblematic features of the city–started operating on a route between Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo (the Seven Streets or Old Quarter) in the heart of the city and the coastal town of Plentzia, approximately eighteen miles away.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although plans to construct a metro service in Bilbao date back to the 1920s, it was only in the late 1987 that a construction project was finally approved. Construction in Bilbao itself began in 1987, with the inaugural Line 1 destined to connect the city center with the right bank of Greater Bilbao and the coastal communities stretching out to Plentzia. When the first part of Line 1 eventually opened for business in November 1995, twenty-three stations served this route.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, there are three Lines operating in and around Greater Bilbao, with studies being carried out on potentially adding two more lines in the future. As of 2018, there were forty-one stations throughout the network, which covers 43 km (28 miles) of route. Total passenger figures for 2017 were 88,172,137.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro is especially noteworthy for its fosterito glass entrances, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, and in 1998 Sarriko station won the prestigious Brunel Award for Railway Design.

Check out the Bilbao Metro website here.

The CBS publishes Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal. This original work discusses transportation and logistics as key elements of the political economy, and places the topic at the center of much ongoing debate about national identity.

See, too, more broadly on Bilbao, urban regeneration, and architecture: That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika (available free to download here), Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi, and  Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain.

November 4, 1979: Creation of the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (EHE) association

On November 4, 1979, the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (Basque in the Basque Country, EHE) association was launched in Durango, Bizkaia under the slogan “Euskararik gabe, Euskal Herririk ez” (Without Basque there is no Basque Country). It is an association that defends the right to live in Basque in the Basque Country. Today, its principal goal is to achieve a Basque-speaking Basque Country made up of polyglot or multilingual people.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, the association focuses its concerns on certain areas: the right to learn and study in Basque throughout the educational systems of the whole Basque Country, the right to use Basque and be dealt with in the language in all official situations (including, for example, healthcare, legal contexts, and any circumstances involving the public administration), the right to receive information via the media in Basque, the more general demand for linguistic normalization (comprising much of the aforementioned goals), and challenging what it interprets as any assaults on the linguistic rights of Basque speakers.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From the outset, and to this day, the EHE association emphasized its activist nature. That is to say, it is an association that is nonaligned to any political party but advocates peaceful social protest to raise awareness about the minoritized status of Basque as well as in pursuit of basic goal of demanding a Basque-speaking Basque Country. This is considered controversial in some quarters, especially as the association challenges many official administrative goals of bilingualism in the Basque Country, asserting that such goals–in the context of a minoritized language–actually result in a situation of diglossia, in which an “H” or “high” language continues to occupy a dominant position over an “L” or “low” language.

Language is a key theme for many of the Center’s publications. See, for example, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio (free to download here) and The Challenges of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.

 

 

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