As you may have read in our post on the Day of the Basque Language, celebrations were held around the world. Our professor Xabier Irujo took part in the festivities that took place in Montevideo, Uruguay, so we’ve decided to share the jam-packed schedule of events. The way the Basque community in Uruguay was able to organize and observe the event sets a high bar for us all!
The Euskara Eguna (Day of the Basque Language) celebrations organized by the Euskal Erria Society of Montevideo began with the re-inauguration on December 2, 2016, of the Plaza Jesús de Galíndez. Attendees, including Agurtzane Aguado, president of the Society, unveiled a plaque in honor of Galíndez, an exiled Basque nationalist, who was a victim of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and was assassinated in 1956.
On the 3rd, an act commemorating the bombing of Gernika took place in the city’s Plaza Gernika. A lecture was given by Dr. Xabier Irujo, director of the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, while the txistulari Aitor Ormaetxe from Mar de Plata and the dantzari Martin Mendiola also performed. The event was closed with a concert by the Voces de la Plaza de Montevideo choir.
That evening, a meeting of three Basque-American publishers, Euskal Erria of Montevideo, Ekin of Buenos Aires, and the CBS Press in Reno was held at the headquarters of the Euskal Erria Society. There were book presentations of the many publications that came out in 2016. Dr. Irujo presented the ten titles that the CBS Press had published last year, including Basques in Cuba edited by William Douglass, which is a tribute to the book that Jon Bilbao published with Ekin in 1958. With the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the CBS Press also published a bilingual edition of Macbeth, which was translated for the first time into Basque by Bingen Ametzaga in 1942, although this translation had remained unpublished until now. Ekin of Buenos Aires published four books in 2016: La Odisea de Xabiertxo by Koldo Ordozgoiti, Historia de Radio Euskadi by Leyre Arrieta, Contraviaje by Arantzazu Ametzaga, and Diasporako Bertsoak by Asier Barandiaran. These four authors offered a presentation of their works the same day, December 3, at the Durango Book Fair in the Basque Country. The Euskal Erria publishing house produced three works in 2016: William MacAlevey’s The Rise of Legal Professions in Bilbao, José Luis de la Lombana by Iñaki Anasagasti and Josu Erkoreka, and, lastly, Ecos Vascos del Uruguay, a selection of Basque-Uruguayan inspired poems by the former Minister of the Interior and Defense of Uruguay, Raul Iturria.
There were hundreds of attendees who enjoyed a traditional roast (asado con cuero) and a recitation of poems from Iturria’s anthology of poetry.
On Monday, December 5, during the afternoon, Dr. Irujo gave another lecture at the CLAEH University’s headquarters, during which he spoke about the episodes of genocide that struck Basque soil between 1936 and 1945.
The celebrations culminated at the Parliament’s House of Representatives with an homage to the reception on October 8, 1941 that said House made to the Lehendakari Jose Antonio Agirre. The Deputy of the Partido Nacional, Pablo Iturralde, promoter of the tribute, spoke first, referring to the speech that the lehendakari offered before the House of Representatives. He ended by saying: “Today we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the episode that for both Agirre and the Uruguayan Basque community was so significant and moving, because in our country and especially in this House, the national representatives of that moment had the courage to contradict the powerful voice of international fascism that slandered the Basque people with impunity, even accusing them of the genocide in the town of Gernika that they themselves had bombarded with unknown brutality. That is why the descendants of those immigrants today have appealed to us so that, making use of the representation that Uruguayan citizens have conferred upon us, we pay homage to those men who in such dignified fashion came before us.”
After Deputy Iturralde’s speech, the president of the Basque Parliament Bakartxo Tejería’s message was viewed on screen, which made reference to the message that Lehendakari Agirre made to the Uruguayan Parliament. Afterward, the Deputy of the Frente Amplio Party Jorge Pozzi, who is of Basque descent, spoke about his spiritual connection to the Basque world and culture. He was followed by Germán Cardoso of the Partido Colorado, Daniel Radio of the Partido Independiente, José Luis Hernández of the Movimiento de Participación Popular (Frente Amplio), and, finally, José Arocena of the Partido Nacional. All of them referred to the noble and hardworking spirit of the Basques and the contribution that these people had made to the culture and history of the country, as well as to the desire for the independence of the Basque people. The MPP representative made public his support for the struggle for recognition of the Basque nation’s right to self-determination.
At the end of the session, which turned out to be very emotional and warm-spirited, the attendees went to the Acuña Figueroa of the legislative palace where the representative of the Euskal Erria publishing house, Mr. Alberto Irigoyen, and the President of the Parliament, Gerardo Amarilla, intervened. A facsimile of Lehendakari Agirre’s diary was given to the latter, as well as a copy of the history of the Euskal Erria Society and a history book on the Basque government-in-exile. The president of the Euskal Erria Society, Agurtzane Aguado, said that there are many Uruguayan figures who have referred to the contribution of the Basques to Uruguay, and recalled the words that Dr. Alberto Guani, President of the Supreme Court of Uruguay in 1941, said of the honor given by that institution to the Lehendakari Agirre: “For the first time in the history of the High Court of Uruguay, a meeting of this nature has been held in honor of a politician; And this has been so because when humanity fights a decisive battle between freedom and slavery, perversion and honesty, justice cannot remain blind to the drama and has the duty to put the sword that it carries as a symbol for the service of human dignity, represented by men like Mr. Agirre, defeated in the first part of the battle in which the forces of good triumphed.” Dr. Irujo closed the act by referring to the deep gratitude of all exiled Basques and immigrants to the American nations that provided asylum to these people when they suffered persecution and oppression in a war-torn Europe. Finally, the choir Voices of the Plaza concluded by singing “Agur Jaunak.”