Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 7)

Meet visiting researcher Aitziber Etxebarria Usategi from the Government of Bizkaia

The Government of Bizkaia has an collaboration agreement with the University of Nevada in order to promote, and research about the Basque Economic Agreement and its relationship with the current federal tax system in the United States. This year, Aitziber has been selected to do this research. Aitziber works for the Government of Bizkaia as an expert in tax collection. She has been working there for 15 years doing different jobs, all of them always connected with taxes. Aitziber aims to compare US estate, inheritance and gift taxes with their Basque equivalent in the light of the differences between the two countries. She plans to write an article about her research in Nevada, to be published with seven other chapters in a book edited by the Center for Basque Studies next year.

 Aitziber arrived on the 26th of February, and is leaving on the 24th of May.

All I can say is that I’ve met very friendly people who gave me a great welcome and that I’m very happy to be here. I’m having a great time in Reno! These weeks I’ve been getting to know Reno. I’ve explored, among other places, the downtown area, the casinos, and Rancho San Rafael Park. I’ve been advised to go visit Pyramid Lake, Black Rock Desert, Virginia City and, of course, Tahoe Lake. I’m also planning a trip to Napa Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. They are going to be very busy days!

What I like the most of Reno is its light. It is very sunny and that light makes everything look magical. People are very friendly as well. They don’t mind being asked for help and they are always very kind and helpful. It’s a good place to live!
Ongi etorri Aitziber!

Special issue of SIBA about sport, identity and nationalism with a Basque accent

The Journal of Iberian and Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies SIBA highlights, among other sporting cultures, Basque sport and politics in its latest special issue, edited by CBS professor Mariann Vaczi.

From Marxism to fascism across the ideological palette, sport has engaged politics and power in diverse ways. Nationalism, nation-building and identity construction through physical culture has become a prominent research subject for social science.  Sport studies have integrated and complemented the most significant theoretical currents and conceptual toolkits of mainstream sociology, history, political science and anthropology. This special issue deploys these approaches in an Iberian and Latin-American context. The authors examine sport, nationalism and sub-national identities; colonialism and post-colonialism; race-relations and indigenous politics; sport in authoritarian regimes, and the use of sport to break with European roots in quest of South American nationhood and identities. The concept of “sport” is understood here quite broadly: activities that have competitive dimensions and/or involve strenuous, ritualized, rule-driven or choreographed physical activity. Crossbreeding sporting elements with other realms of culture such as art and ritual, as with the bullfight; or cognition and logic, as with chess; or folklore, as with human tower building, only yield more exciting and exact conclusions about their social and political embeddedness.

For the entire open access issue, see

Here’s a brief review of the contributions that have Basque relevance in national and sub-national political contexts.

A Panther Among Lions: Iñaki Williams, Race and Basque Identity at Athletic Club de Bilbao

By Mariel Aquino (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Basques are a heavily ethnicized people due to their ancient, obscure, and insular origins: in his 1950s BBC series “Orson Welles Around the World,” the American director presents them as “the Red Indians of Europe.”

Never, however, had Basqueness been conceived in terms of Blackness until the first prominent black soccer player was signed by Athletic Club de Bilbao.

Aquino explores the integration of Iñaki Williams in the club, and how it produced the symbolic, if not necessarily real, inclusion of African immigrant communities within Basque identity. The integration of non-white players in European national teams has gained considerable media attention for the past decade, “signaling as it does,” Aquino writes in her analysis, “the destabilization of normative white European identity.” The case of Iñaki Williams is a particular breakthrough in a club where, because of its Basque-only philosophy, the discussion of player pedigrees in Bilbao actively constructs the boundaries between Basques and non-Basques. Aquino revisits some of the special chapters of defining Basqueness through player recruitment. Each case reveals a particular idea of ethnic identity in terms of birthplace, upbringing, genealogy and national belonging have variously established ingroup and outgroup boundaries. In all its variations, however, Basque identity was white until Iñaki Williams, whose eruption in the field provoked several race related commentaries Spain and Basque Country-wide, arguing that it should be perfectly natural that Blackness and Basqueness go together. This aggressive “rhetoric of colorblindness,” however, Aquino remarks, was ultimately just as “othering:” it was precisely this loud defensiveness that revealed that Black Basqueness, instead of quotidian, remains a major breakthrough.


A Basque-American Deep Game: The Political Economy of Ethnicity and Jai-Alai in the USA

By Olatz González Abrisketa (University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU)

At the height of its game in the late 1980`s,  jai alai was a 700-million-dollar business a year, with 14 active frontons throughout the United States, which would routinely fill with gamblers and aficionados of the “world`s fastest sport.” González revisits the two golden ages of the Basque sport in the United States: the 1950s-60s, and the 1970s-80s. The author argues that these two eras were also a generation gap not only in terms of age, but the political culture jai alai players brought with them. Overwhelmingly from the Basque Country, sport migrants in the 70-80s responded very differently than previous generations to what the game had to offer in the United States. While the first generation of Basque players were relatively content with the socio-economic opportunities sport migration offered them, the author argues that the emergence of ETA, considered revolutionary, left wing and socialist back then, had an impact on how Basque players viewed their situation in US capitalist culture.

The emergent Basque political culture lent ethos and vocabulary to US based jai alai players: an ethos of resistance and struggle, the strategy of hordago or all or nothing, and deeply politicized resistance strategies like hunger strikes were borrowed from their original Basque context and deployed in  the  American one.

These resistance strategies had great success in players` struggle for greater job security and fair treatment.

Football and politics in Spain: An empirical analysis of the social base of the main football clubs

By Ramón Llopis-Goig (University of Valencia)

Complementing qualitative and historical research, Ramón Llopis-Goig offers a quantitative analysis of soccer fandom and political sentiments with regards to the four most politicized and symbolic teams in Spain: Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Athletic Club de Bilbao, and the Spanish national team. These teams have been major icons for Spanish, Catalonian and Basque identity construction throughout the twentieth century. Llopis-Goig explores the larger questions of regional nationalism, identity, and left vs. right political leanings through fans` self-identification, their following of the Spanish national soccer team, their preferences with regards to regional autonomy, and their left vs. right ideological orientation. According to this study based on representative sampling and a national survey, the fans of FC Barcelona are most left-leaning, and are most in favor of reforming the current state by increasing the autonomy of the region. This resonates with the larger social impetus of the current Catalonian sovereignty process.

The fans of the Basque Athletic Club de Bilbao have the strongest regional identification with their Basque heritage: fans identify as either only Basque or Basque and Spanish, but not exclusively Spanish.

The fans of Real Madrid are the most right-wing leaning, and most likely to define themselves as entirely or partly Spanish. Llopis-Goig`s research concludes that the symbolic import of these clubs remains important for political-ideological identifications, while radical, exclusive and homogenizing loyalties are not as prevalent as stereotypes would have us believe.


Pulling Up Stakes? Sport and Sub-National Solidarity for Catalonia`s Independence

By Mariann Vaczi (University of Nevada, Reno)

This contribution was inspired by an episode the author witnessed in Arrasate and Azpeitia in the Basque Country: Basques invited a Catalan human tower team, the Castellers de Barcelona, to build their breathtaking structures while Basque voted on a symbolic referendum about independence from Spain. This old traditional sport is an emergent symbol of Catalan nation building for the current sovereignty process, and the performance in the Basque Country expressed sub-national solidarity in Basque and Catalonian desires to vote about independence. The iconicity of tower building, and the sport`s ethos of cooperation express joint efforts in the pursuits of regional autonomy. The author takes the emblematic Catalan liberty song, Lluís Lach`s L`estaca (The Stake), which was performed at the event, as a metaphor for the agonic state-region relationships of Spain. During the Franco dictatorship, the stake was an image that tied people, and did not allow them to walk freely—a logic Basque and Catalan pro-independence actors argue they continue to feel. Pulling the stake from several sides, however, wears it out and eventually causes it to collapse.

Lluís Lach`s stake metaphor maps a particular political geography of Spain: the agonic relationship between the center (stake) and the periphery (pull away regions), as well as solidarity and united struggle among them. Sports have eminently contributed to this agonic relationship.

Vaczi examines how the two political peripheries have progressively conspired to “wear out” Spanish sovereignty through sport and physical culture, which are particularly apt to present these agonic interactions due to their physicality.





Euskal Inauteriak-Basque Carnivals


We have to say goodbye to the shortest month of the year, but one of the busiest in the Basque Country. During the month of February they celebrate the inauteriak ihauteak, ihoteak or aratusteak (carnivals or Mardi Gras) all over the Basque Country. They are the popular festivals of pagan character that are celebrated in many cases the three days preceding Ash Wednesday and are celebrated differently depending on the area.  

During the Franco period, many of the celebrations that were part of these carnivals were banned and persecuted.  Thankfully in most areas the traditions were recovered.

The following photos show how unique the different costumes and events are throughout the Basque Country.

Image result for euskal inauteriak

Kotilungorriak (Ustaritze)

Image result for euskal inauteriak

Ziripot (Lantz)

Related image

Zanpantzarrak (Ituren)

Image result for euskal inauteriak joaldunak ituren

Lamiak (Mundaka)

Related image

Momotxorroak (Altsasu)

Image result for momotxorroak

Zakuzaharrak (Lesaka)

Related image

Mamoxarroak (Unanua)


Image result for euskal inauteriak mapa

Basque traditional musical instrument in the US: Interview with alboka player Joe Memeo

“As soon as I heard about the alboka I became interested in it, and have been learning and researching the instrument and its history ever since.”

Interview with alboka player Joe Memeo by Xavier Irujo.

The alboka is a traditional Basque musical instrument. Its sound is similar to the pipe, and it is also played using circular breathing, that is, the alboka player does not take a break from blowing into the instrument, and inhales while simultaneously exhaling when a breath is needed. This creates continuous, uninterrupted sound.



Joe is probably one of the very few alboka players in the U.S. and the sole manufacturer of albokas in the country. He has played the alboka for several years now and has participated in events and festivals over the last year with the Elko dance group Ardi Baltza.

How did you get immersed in the Basque culture?

I was able to get involved through my wife, Kiaya Memeo. She grew up within the local Basque community and spent many years Basque dancing and participating in the local festivals. About six years ago she started her own Basque cultural group in the Elko community called Ardi Baltza. Throughout the years I have become more and more involved with the group. I have enjoyed traveling and serving as an Ardi Baltza ambassador to other clubs, such as the Basque Club in Lima, Peru. In addition to this I have also had the opportunity to work with Anamarie and Mikel Lopategui at Ogi, the Basque Pintxo Bar in Elko. I have been able to meet wonderful people all over the US, Basque Country and South America and have been exposed to many facets of this wonderful culture.

How did you become interested in the alboka?

What first attracted me to the alboka was the uniqueness of the instrument. It is unique in almost every aspect: the sound, the build, the playing style, and the limited scale. There is a good metaphor applied to the alboka by Alan Griffin that highlights this: The alboka is like a hedgehog. It is small, spiky, and low on fancy and finesse, but full of individuality. As soon as I heard the alboka I became interested and have been learning and researching the instrument and its history ever since.

How did you learn to play it and, especially, how did you learn to manufacture them?

I bought my first alboka which was made by the incredibly talented alboka luthier Jose Osses and started to learn to play it. I am self-taught by researching music and watching videos of others playing the instrument to learn techniques. Mostly it was a lot of very loud practice (which my wife can attest to) and trying different methods to determine what works and what doesn’t. One of the difficulties was there are only a couple of people in the US that play the alboka, so there were no local resources. There are a few people in Argentina that actively play the alboka that I was able to connect with and they were very helpful with any questions that I had.

Learning to make them started out of necessity. Because the main sources for replacement reeds and expertise for the alboka is in the Basque Country. It took a long time and was expensive to get anything to the US. I was able to get information on the construction of the instrument and purchased the required equipment. One of the appeals of the alboka is its simplicity and simple construction materials. All the parts are made of wood and the horn is a steer horn. Once constructed, the instrument is sealed with bee’s wax. This meant that I can make every part of the alboka by hand. Recently I have been trying out different designs and tunings for the new albokas I have been making.

Besides the instrument itself, I also make and have available accessories and learning aids for the alboka. One of the learning aids I have made is the “Circular Breathing Aid”. The alboka is played using circular breathing (this is where the player does not take a break from blowing into the instrument and inhales while simultaneously exhaling when a breath is needed, this creates a continuous, uninterrupted sound). This can be a very difficult technique to master. The tool I have created mimics the mouthpiece of the alboka and lets the player practice circular breathing while adjusting the air resistance depending on the player’s skill. If you are like me and live with (or around) other people, the most important aspect of this tool is that it is silent and can be used for practice anywhere.

For how long have you participated in cultural events, concerts or celebrations with the alboka?

I have been playing the alboka for several years now but have only been participating in events and festivals over the last year. I have been participating and playing with Ardi Baltza in local festivals and most recently the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko that featured many Basque performers. In the coming year I plan to travel with Ardi Baltza to events and gatherings across the US and to have a booth at many more events with informational material and albokas for sale.

What is the response of the American public to this unique Basque instrument?

The response from Americans has been great. The alboka has not had a lot a representation in the US, so people have been very excited to see it growing, but for a lot of people it is still very new. There has also been a lot of interest in this instrument in the US outside of the Basque communities. Quite a few of the albokas I have made went to people that do not have big ties to Basque communities.  I think this shows the wider appeal and appreciation of the alboka.

My goal is to be a resource for individuals and clubs that are interested in learning to play the instrument or that just want to know more about it. My hope is to connect everybody who is interested in the alboka and to spread knowledge about it as much as I can. I have also started the website ( that has many links to good information and learning material on the internet, as well as all the albokas and accessories I have available.



Monday Movies: Duck Crossing

The passage of ducks is a recurring image in the history of cinema. Suffice it to mention such canonical films like The Circus (Charles Chaplin, 1928), Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978), Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974), Black Cat, White Cat (Emir Kusturica, 1998), Five (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003), etc., all of which have a shot where a group of ducks cross the scene. Basque short film maker Koldo Almandoz uncovers this mystery in his ingenious work Duck Crossing.

Koldo Almadoz`s short film Duck Crossing is a fake documentary, a subgenre that became very popular through This is Spinal Tap65 (Rob Reiner, 1984), and which was inspired to a great degree by the first films of Peter Watkins. Almandoz uses the mockumentary genre to show his fine irony in Duck Crossing, and uses many false documentary elements like irony, intrigue, false characters, and the use of archived material. In this work, he reflects about the curiously recurring shot that he calls the passage of ducks. The narrator`s voice over tells us about the significant role that ducks have played in the history of cinema, which lends the story a certain verisimilitude. The illustrating images, a group of black and white photographs of important films seem to verify his words.

A little later, we hear the testimonies of some of the directors who made these films, such as Michael Winterbottom, Emir Kusturica, David Fincher, Roman Polanski or Abbas Kiarostami. All of them praise the quality of the ducks as actors. Besides, the film unites the opinions of Tomás Sarasola, manager of the leading role duck, and the veterinary surgeon Jone Landaribar. Finally, the narrator recovers the thread of the plot to praise the acting talent of the ducks, and the technique of the passage of ducks.

Nevertheless, not everything is false in Duck Crossing. Although the approach and the development of the mockumentary may be absurd, its premise is very real. It is absolutely true that since the most remote beginnings of cinema until today, film directors all over the world have included in their movies a shot where a group of ducks emerges in the scene. The enormous work of research that the director has done—which is the most outstanding and amazing part of the short film—attests to that. It is this unquestionable reality, precisely, which incites the curiosity of the viewer, and captures them in the plot of the director. Once again, suspense defines the short film. But, just as with the most captivating mysteries, in this one there is no answer either. It doesn`t matter. Because what mattered was the road travelled. Almandoz summarizes it perfectly with the last phrases of the voice over of the narrator:

“The absence of a logical explanation disturbs us. But it is, in the end, part of the magic of cinema, which continues to hypnotize us with these small details.”



Almandoz said this about how he first thought about making this short film:

I was watching A very long engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2004) in the movie theater. I watched the scene where the postman comes, and some ducks cross the screen. I thought that I had just seen the same recently in Así en el cielo como en la tierra by José Luis Cuerda (1995). Then, I came to the conclusion that the world is full of the passage of ducks. In fact, the scene where a group of ducks cross the screen appears in many films. That`s how the idea came. Nevertheless, it took me time to figure out what I would do with this discovery.


Duck Crossing (2009) is part of Kimuak, the Basque Government’s program for the distribution and promotion of Basque short films worldwide. Koldo Almandoz is a short film maker based Donostia-San Sebastian, whose short films have gained national, state level and international acclaim.


Basque culture, Basque books, and bertsoak bloom in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The Center’s booth at the Western Mercantile

It was our pleasure here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies to be invited to participate in the 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nevada. This year’s festival was focused on the contributions of Basques in the West and included sessions on Basque arborglyphs, Basque poetry, Basque writing, the experience of Basques in ranching—featuring the insight of longtime Nevada resident and stalwart of Winnemucca’s Basque community, Frank Bidart—only 95 years young!

Portrait of beloved Basque sheepherder and owner—and shepherd of generations of 4-H sheep program participants in the Reno area—Abel Mendeguia, by Linda Dufurrena, on display in the Western Folklife Center

One of the highlights of the whole show was the participation of berstolariak, especially those from the Basque Country including reigning champion Maialen Lujanbio, as well as Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran and Miren Artetxe! The Basque bertsolariak were also accompanied by US Basque improvisers Jesus Goñi from Reno and Martin Goicoechea from Rock Springs, Wyoming. From Buffalo, Wyoming, Center author and musician David Romtvedt participated in many musical venues playing generally with his daughter Caitlin, and they were also a common sight to be seen playing after hours, usually in the company of Ardi Baltza accordionist Anamarie Lopategui. Basque-American author and Elko native Vince Juaristi was also in attendance with his stories of growing up Basque in the US. There were also dance performances by Elko’s Ardi Baltza and Elko Ariñak dancers, the latter being accompanied by Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa. Popular Basque musical group Amerikanuak played, led by Jean Flesher from Salt Lake City, a true pioneer of Basque culture in the US (as many of the people mentioned here are), with members from as far away as Berlin, Germany in attendance! The Basque show on Thursday night was hosted by the Center’s own Kate Camino. Center friend and author Joxe Mallea presented on aspen carvings and artist Zoe Bray painted portraits of Basques and presented her portraits at the Western Folklife Center. The session on Basque writing featured the readings from My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, Florence Larraneta Frye, David Romtvedt, who read from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space and Elko’s own Gretchen Skivington who presented on and read from her brand new novel Echevarria. And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or many people, the numbers of Basque participants was truly a wonder to behold.

The Center also participated in the show’s vendors with stand in the Western Mercantile. After hours, the Basque party continued at Elko’s Ogi Deli and the Star Hotel!

We have come a long ways from when cowboys and sheepherders fought range wars in this same part of northern Nevada. It was such a pleasure to be included and for Basque contributions to be recognized by all the cowpunchers! 😉

Apply Now! Graduate Assistantships for the Ph.D. in Basque Studies

The Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, has two Graduate Assistantships available from the Fall of 2018 and seeks to recruit two well-qualified graduate students for its Tutorial Ph.D. program. Spread the word, or apply today!

The Tutorial Ph.D. in Basque Studies provides students in the humanities and social sciences with an opportunity to pursue doctoral studies about one of the western world’s most intriguing people, the Basques, through course work and research for the dissertation. Applicants should hold a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline.

Program at a glance

Admissions cycle: Fall, Spring
Application deadlines: April 15, Nov. 1
Assistantship types available: Graduate
Director of Graduate Studies: Sandra Ott (D.Phil.)

Why choose this Ph.D. in Basque Studies?

The Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno is the leading academic and research institution for Basque Studies in the United States. The University library has one of the world’s largest collections of Basque-related materials outside of Basque Country, currently at 55,000 volumes. The Center’s four full-time faculty undertake original research in a range of disciplines and participate in international and national networks of scholarship.

Graduates receive a Doctor of Philosophy in Basque Studies with an emphasis on one of the following fields:

Consequently, the degree is in Basque Studies and the student’s transcript will list a major area of study, such as Basque Studies (Anthropology), Basque Studies (History) and so on.

The Tutorial Ph.D. program offers a unique opportunity for the right student. The program suits students who have clear goals and are willing to assume responsibility for formulating, presenting and justifying a program of study and dissertation topic. The center highly recommends that potential applicants contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Sandra Ott (, to discuss their proposed research and verify that a mentor will be available for their topic.

How do I apply?

Go to Applicants must meet the admissions standards of the UNR Graduate School and submit the following materials online as part of the application:

  • A Statement of Purpose, including a preliminary proposal for doctoral research
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of recommendation (to be provided directly to the Center by the referees)

The program supports admissions in both the fall and spring semesters. The application deadline for fall admission is April 15. The application deadline for spring is Nov. 1.

Is funding available?

The Center for Basque Studies has four, four-year graduate assistantships that are awarded on a competitive basis. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies (775-682-5573, for further details.

What’s next?

You can apply now if you are ready to begin at the University. To learn more about the Tutorial Ph.D. in Basque Studies, visit the Center’s website or contact the Director of Graduate Studies for more information.





The Impact of Catalonia Crisis on Basque’s Bid for an Independence


The Basque region situated in the northern Iberian Peninsula possesses its unique language, culture and long history of self-determination. In 19th century the Spanish King took an oath under the Guernica tree that the Spanish Kingdom would honor the autonomy of Basque region. Nevertheless, the Basque right to autonomy was scraped in 1876 and had remained so until the brief period of the Spanish Civil War. For many Basques, autonomy was not genuine enough, which perpetuated militant group ETA which aimed at achieving full independence for Basque motherland. ETA, however, formally gave up its violence approach last year when the separatist group handed over weapons to French authorities. It is no surprise that many Basques naturally sympathize the with Catalan independence bid. Tens of thousands of Basques rallied in Bilbao the day before the Catalan referendum to show support for Catalan nationalists.  Nevertheless, the Catalan crisis has markedly increased Basque cautious approach to its own independence bid.

Following the aftermath of the Catalan independence referendum in October 2017, the opinion poll indicated that 63 percent of Basques were not interested in pursuing Catalan’s path to independence and only 22 percent were in favor. In addition, 44 percent of the participants demanded larger autonomy, and just 23 percent were interested in full independence. A Basque author who produces literature in Euskara (the Basque language), Kirmen Uribe argued that Basque citizens were exhausted after 40 years of separatist violence, thus, many plea for a timeout. Uribe added that there is fear that aggressive efforts to gain independence would split the Basque community again, further exacerbating the Basque approach to independence. While it does not end the dream that one day Basque will be an independent country, there is no need to rush the process, according to Andoni Ortuzar, the leader of the Basque Nationalist Party PNV..

For further reading please visit the following website:


Women Bertsolari: From the First Attempts to the Current Achievements

The bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry is one of the most intimate practices of the Basque language, where poets improvise and sing a song around a concept provided by the audience, following a set of rules about rhyme, meter and melody. For this reason, bertsolaris are some of the greatest masters of the Basque language. Until recently, however, the bertsolaritza was a strictly male domain. The village frontons, squares, and the National Improvised Poetry Competition featured men only, until a few brave female pioneers emerged to reclaim the voices of women in traditional culture.

In traditional Basque society, the fronton or village square was the public stage for the inculcation of values, the performance of identities, the practice of social control, and the negotiation of power. The main protagonists of the fronton were men: men playing pelota, men singing bertsos.

“How do you remember your great jump into the town square?” one of those female pioneers, Maialen Lujanbio was asked in an interview in 2009 for the journal Oral Tradition, after she became the first ever female txapeldun or champion of improvised poetry. “I started to be known by everyone,” she answered. “Because they put us… where we didn’t`t belong.” Women’s great jump into the town square, into the public sphere of frontons, sport halls and stadiums, is a powerful metaphor for access in a society where such arenas had been reserved for men.

Maialen Lujanbio sings the winning bertso at the 2017 National Championship:

The CBS Seminar Series featured the bertsolari and PhD student Miren Artetxe Sarasola, who talked about the most important landmarks of this journey in her lecture titled “Women bertsolari: From the first attempts to the current achievements.” Miren defined those landmarks in terms of Pathfinders, i.e. the first women poets who affected a breakthrough in a male realm; Networks, or the organizations created by and for female performers; Theorization, or the academic study of this new cultural development within the broader currents of Basque feminism; and Spaces of Empowerment, where female bertsolaris may find encouragement and inspiration for singing bertsos. The main achievements of the past ten years, Miren argues, is that a different consciousness is emerging around bertsolaritza: new themes and contents emerge through women’s participation, creating a more inclusive cultural sphere that also features women’s worlds and experiences.

Following the lecture, three bertsolaris, Miren Artetxe Sarasola, Maialen Lujanbio and Jesus Goñi sang bertsos at the Center for Basque Studies before a crowd of faculty, students, friends and family. The performances were followed by a potluck snack at the CBS, and a poteo in Louis Basque Corner in downtown Reno.



Basque couture designer Cristóbal Balenciaga inspires lush new psychosexual drama Phantom Thread

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned couturier of the 1950s, who designs clothes for the European aristocracy and socialite. Below and beyond the glamour of visiting dames and princesses, whose garderobe he designs from their first communion through first season as debutante to wedding gown, he lives a monkish life. His passion can only thrive in his dogged insistence on routine, whose disruption sends him into rants and rages. Unsurprisingly, women wither away into oblivion by his side, until he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a few decades his junior, who becomes his lover and muse. Phantom Thread is a luxurious, yet menacing story of two strong-willed personalities who find their own, predictably bizarre solution to how to maintain their relationship before the divisive and isolating tendencies of creativity.

The movie`s Reynolds Woodcock is

“a control freak with a monomaniacal zeal for dressmaking largely based on the real-life fashion forefather Cristóbal Balenciaga,”

the The New York Times writes. Director Paul Thomas Anderson was searching for the most cinematographic artist type for his main character when, debating between writer and painter, he picked up a biography of Balenciaga at an airport. “I generally didn’t have that much knowledge or interest in the fashion world until I started finding out a little bit about a guy named Cristóbal Balenciaga,” Anderson said. “He led a very monastic life, completely consumed with his work — sometimes at the expense of other things in his life. Our characters become something very different. Our story focuses on if you have a character like that, what would it take to disrupt his life. Usually, it’s love that does that.”

Balenciaga in 1950, and a cocktail dress designed in 1951.

Phantom Thread indeed diverges liberally from Balenciaga`s life in some ways (for one, Balenciaga was homosexual), but it keeps some of the core elements of the Basque designer`s personality, lifestyle and art. Known as “the King” in the fashion world in general, Christian Dior called Balenciaga “the master of us all,” and Coco Chanel once said he was “the only couturier in the truest sense of the word.” The formal purity, sobriety and sculptural design of his work reflected Balenciaga`s aversion to extravagance. He was reclusive, and prayed daily in a nearby church. He was a true misfit in his environment; as Joseba Zulaika quotes Roland Barthes, “the idea of fashion is antithetic to the idea of sainthood” (That Old Bilbao Moon, 184). In the only interview he ever granted, in his characteristic spirit of brooding melancholy Balenciaga said this about the most opulent of professions:

“Nobody knows what a hard métier it is, how killing is the work. Under all this luxury and glamour. Now c`est la vie d`un chien [it`s a dog`s life].”

Balenciaga was born in Getaria in 1895, and before he designed for the world`s elite, he would first dress Neguri`s and San Sebastian`s upper class through his exhibitions in Bilbao. His designs incorporated elements of Basque traditional costumes. The 1949 December issue of Harper`s Bazaar featured on its cover a Balenciaga dress inspired by the azpiko gona, a long gathered wool underskirt, generally red, decorated with horizontal bands. “Much of Balenciaga`s creation was nourished by the tension between Spanish and Basque traditional designs and European high modernism,” Zulaika writes in his Old Bilbao Moon (185).







Balenciaga dress inspired by the azpiko gona, 1949.


The Balenciaga Museum in Getaria.





The movie received 6 Academy Award nominations for 2018. For an article about Balenciaga`s person behind the movie in Spanish, see the review in El País:

For Phantom Thread, see the trailer here:


Older posts