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Bizkaia sponsors Basque products at Edinburgh Foodies Festival

The Provincial Council of Bizkaia is one of the sponsors of the forthcoming Foodies Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland (This Friday through Sunday, August 4-6), in part to celebrate a new direct air link between the capitals of Bizkaia and Scotland.

As part of the activities, which will attract around 25,000 visitors, there will be a stand showcasing Basque food and wine production as well as the restaurant industry. The stand will be serving 13 different dishes and there will be Basque music and talks about Basque culture in general.

Two specifically Basque-themed events will be part of the official festival agenda:

Aitor Garate  from Asador Etxeberri Erretegia (No 6 in Top 50 Restaurants in The World) will be speaking at the Chefs Theatre on Friday and Sunday.

‘Bizkaiko Txakolina’ An Introduction to Biscay Wines in the Drinks Theatre at 4:30 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

 

Refugees Welcome, 1937

Today we are delighted to include a guest post by Iñaki Azkarraga, a friend of the Center and keen observer of all things Bilbao. Thanks to contributors like Azkarraga and feedback from our readers, we hope to share the many stories and rich history of the Basques around the world. Eskerrik asko Iñaki!

In these times of sad wartime anniversaries, we come across some public gardens in Bilbao dedicated, precisely, to the memory of those people who reflect the best in humanity at the bloodiest of times. I am referring to Dame Elizabeth Leah Manning (1886-1977), an educationalist and sometime member of the British Parliament.

Eighty years ago, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, Bilbao was being bombed and on the point of being occupied by fascist troops. The Basque government appealed for international help in evacuating the refugees accumulating in growing numbers the city. Numerous negotiations were successful and senior citizens, women, and children began to be evacuated by sea to France, Belgium, the Soviet Union, Mexico, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

Some of these states had encouraged a policy of non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War, abandoning to fate a legitimate democratically-elected government. The British government position was paradigmatic in this regard. However, it was British public opinion, horrified at the news breaking about the bombing of civilians, which forced the government to take in Basque refugees.

This is the context in which the intrepid figure of Leah Manning emerged, a woman who stood up to both the British government and her own Labour Party–the cause of the “pro-Communist and anti-Catholic” Spanish Republic was viewed with some suspicion in many quarters in the UK–and became actively involved in the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief,  and presided over by another prominent woman, the conservative Katherine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Lady Atholl. A key factor in Leah Manning’s involvement was the fact that she had visited Gernika two days after it had been bombed in April 1937. This influenced her decision, definitively, to get involved in the evacuation of Basque children to her homeland, jointly with the Basque government’s Department for Social Assistance.

The task was by no means easy. The British government, with the exception of providing an armed escort in international waters for the humanitarian convoys leaving Bizkaia after March 1937, consistently refused to provide any public funding to help settle and support these refugees, entrusting all this to private initiatives. In order to do this, the Basque Children’s Committee was created with the aim of coordinating resources and raising funds through charity collections, donations by well-known people, and so on. Manning and others like her carried out a mammoth task. In the end, a camp was organized in Stoneham, Southampton, to receive 4,000 people. Thus, on May 20, 1937, once the corresponding official British government permission had been granted in extremis, the Habana ocean liner could set sail from the port of Santurtzi destined for the UK, with 3,861 children aboard, accompanied by medical, auxiliary, and teaching staff. This was one of the largest human convoys organized in one go at that time.

Once on land and after several days in Stoneham, the Basque children were sent off to different parts of the UK, in dozens of charitable groups and institutions that would look after them and monitor their health.

Barely a month later, on June 19, Bilbao fell into the hands of Franco’s army and from 1938 on, little by little, most of these Basque children gradually returned home. However, many also stayed on in the UK for the rest of their lives, or only returned as adults, like Raimundo Perez Lezama, who began his professional soccer career at Southampton and was later considered one of the best ever goalkeepers for Bilbao’s emblematic team, Athletic Club.

In sum, this is a story of solidarity and social mobilization during times of war.  Like today, there were refugees fleeing a conflict, but in the face of little action on the part of governments, they found a fitting response on the part of civil society and in the necessary leadership that, through people like Leah Manning, was capable of raising the humanitarian cause over any other consideration. I hope these words serve as a suitable tribute to this courageous person.

http://www.basquechildren.org/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leah_Manning

http://blogs.deia.com/historiasdelosvascos/2012/05/11/la-odisea-de-los-ninos-vascos-en-inglaterra/#more-102

https://errepublikaplaza.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/los-ninos-de-la-guerra-las-evacuaciones-infantiles-de-1937/

http://www.elcorreo.com/alava/sociedad/201705/07/ocho-dias-para-acoger-20170505173326.html

 

 

Euskal Jaiak

For those of you lucky enough to be in the Basque Country, jaiak (festivity) season is well underway. This past weekend brought thousands out to celebrate San Inazio, with jaiak across the Basque Country.

We will try to highlight some of these festivities here at the CBS books blog throughout the month. But for now, check out the website http://www.jaiak.net for complete schedules of these colorful festivities, not only in the Basque Country but throughout the peninsula.

All I can say for now is that, man, I wish I was over there!

Was the Spanish Omelet invented in the Basque Country?

Arguably the most iconic dish in Spain is the tortilla, the Spanish or potato omelet, a staple of households across the country and almost always an option–whether in pintxo or tapa form–in any bar, cafe, or restaurant you may step into. But did this humble, tasty dish actually originate in the Basque Country? While some have suggested the idea that an “egg omelet” of sorts was known during Spain’s imperial expansion in the 16th century, still others point to more concrete evidence dating from the 19th century.

The first documented mention of the tortilla dates from 1817 in a message to the Parliament of Navarre–part of a system whereby people could leave messages for the parliament to discuss–detailing the sparse living conditions of the inhabitants of the more remote mountainous areas north of the capital of Iruñea-Pamplona; specifically, the message stated that typically 2-3 eggs (and even less) were used with whatever was to hand to thicken the mixture, including potatoes or breadcrumbs, to feed between 5 and 6 people.

Still another legend states that, in 1835, during the Carlist siege of Bilbao led by Tomás Zumalacarregui, the Basque general demanded a meal at a farmhouse one day and all that was available–with most of the local food sources reduced to a bare minimum–was a few eggs, a potato, and an onion. The extekoandre or woman of the house combined the scant provisions and the resulting dish so pleased the Carlist leader that he adopted it as a quick nutritious meal for his troops.

Check out the fascinating story of Zumalacarregui in The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui in Navarre and the Basque Provinces, by C.F. Henningsen.

*Tortilla image by LLuisa Nunez courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Zumalacarregui image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

July 25, 1593: Henry IV of France converts to Roman Catholicism

On July 25, 1593, Henry IV of France (and Henry III of Navarre) definitively converted to Roman Catholicism thereby paving the way to assume the French throne.

Born in Pau to Jeanne d’Albret, the Queen of Navarre (about whom see a previous post here), he was baptized as a Catholic but raised a Protestant and was crowned Henry III of Navarre on the death of his mother in 1572. During the sixteenth-century French Wars of Religion he was a prominent leader of the Protestant forces. On the death of his brother-in-law and distant cousin Henry III of France, he was called to the French succession and crowned Henry IV of France in 1589. He initially tried to maintain his Protestant faith but in the face of much popular opposition to he converted to Roman Catholicism after four years on the throne. His major achievement thereafter was to promulgate the Edict of Nantes (1598), which guaranteed religious freedom for Protestants and effectively ended the Wars of Religion. He was assassinated in 1610.

Piment d’Ville- Espelette Peppers in Boonville, CA

The other day, while looking for information on Basques in Northern California, I came across Piment d’Ville “a sweet, spicy Basque red chile.” Apparently, a group of Mendocino locals has begun growing and harvesting espelette peppers, and as they put it:

The spice has gradually replaced black pepper in everyday Basque cooking. We find ourselves using piment d’ville on everything from popcorn to simple roast chicken or in a red chile cream sauce. It also works well with chocolate or on a cocktail glass.

The company sells the peppers ground into different spices, from a sea salt mix to smoky or spicy jars of the chile. Their website even includes delicious sounding recipes, can’t wait to try them out for myself!

For those of you who have been to the Basque Country, I’m sure you’ve seen espelette peppers everywhere, in markets but also hung outside homes to dry. They are fundamental to Basque cuisine and it’s great to see it spread to another corner of the globe. Try the spice out in your next recipe, it won’t disappoint!

BBC Travel reports on Basque language

If you haven’t already read it, check out a report by the BBC Travel website on Euskara, the Basque language. One of the interviewees in the piece, Karmele Errekatxo, offers a profound perspective on Euskara: “Language is the identity of a place … If you take language from a place, it dies.” Also interviewed is a good friend of the Center, Pello Salaburu, author of Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque, and coeditor (with Xabier Alberdi) of The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country.

Check out the full BBC article here.

The Center has published a number of books on the topic of the Basque language.

Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture, by Estibaliz Amorrortu, is a great introduction to the social dimension of Basque. This book is available free to download here. See, too, Koldo Zuazo’s fascinating study The Dialects of Basque.

And these works are complimented by the handy and instructive CBS-Morris English-Basque/Basque-English Dictionary-Hiztegia.

* Image: Inkscape 0.91 screenshot in Basque (Fedora 22) by Assar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Begoña Echeverria to offer The Hammer of Witches reading tomorrow in Sparks

Tomorrow, July 26, from 7:00-8:00 pm in the Sparks Museum, Begoña Echeverria will give a presentation on the burning of Basque witches in 1610 and will include readings from her book The Hammer of Witches. Following the readings, she will also perform, as part of the group NOKA, some Basque witch songs.

 Check out the full schedule here.

Harpo Marx the Basque?

Too Many Kisses  is a 1925 movie directed by Paul Sloane and based on John Monk Saunders’s story, “A Maker of Gestures.” It is notable for being the earliest surviving film to feature Harpo Marx, but also for its setting: Iparralde or the Basque Country in France. The plot concerns a father who sends his Lothario son to Iparralde in the belief that he will not be able to leave a trail of broken hearts behind him there because Basques only marry among themselves (!) Harpo Marx plays a minor role as the Village Peter Pan. See a full description of the film, for a long time thought to have been lost, here.

As the above clip demonstrates, the movie makers were fairly liberal in their interpretation of Basque culture but it’s an interesting testament, nonetheless, to showing that the Basque Country was known in the US in the 1920s as somewhere singular and different. What do you think? Does Harpo make a convincing Basque?

July 15, 1738: Church ruling on knowledge of Basque in Navarre

Francisco Ignacio Añoa y Busto (1684-1764)

On July 15, 1738, the bishop of Pamplona-Iruñea, Francisco Añoa (from Viana) decreed that no receiver who did not speak Basque should be allowed to work in Navarre. Receivers were functionaries who received and collated all kinds of information about legal disputes and judicial business. The decree was made following a long dispute between the receiver Juan José Huarte, a non-Basque speaker, and several Basque-speaking locals in Izaba, which ultimately resulted in Huarte being removed because he could not communicate with the local people with whom he was obliged to work. In this general dispute, non-Basque-speaking receptors suggested hiring interpreters, but this idea was rejected by the Civil Courts of Navarre because of the “difficulty of understanding the scope of the words” and because there were perfectly qualified Basque-speaking receptors to do the work. Interestingly, Gipuzkoa did hire interpreters because legally it belonged to the Chancellery of Valladolid in Castile.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 139-40.

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