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August 27, 1893: The Night of Sagasta’s Shots

On the night of August 27-28, 1893, there was spontaneous public outcry in Donostia-San Sebastián at the refusal of the municipal band to play the politically-charged Basque hymn “Gernikako Arbola” (The tree of Gernika), due to the presence in the city of both the queen regent of Spain and the prime minister, Práxedes Sagasta. The resulting protest was met with force by the authorities and by the morning of August 28 three protesters had been killed and many injured.

The resort city of Donostia-San Sebastián was full of people that Sunday, August 27. As the municipal band was entertaining a large crowd, there were requests to play “Gernikako Arbola” but, on the prior orders of city hall, the band’s conductor declined to do so. The song was considered too political by the authorities due to is defense of the Basque fueros, the specific rights on which a form of Basque home rule had existed for centuries, until their abolition in 1876. With both the queen regent and prime minster of Spain summering in the city, the public authorities took the decision to ban any rendition of the song for fear of causing offense to the illustrious visitors.

Tempers rose among many of those attending the concert and some young people set off firecrackers in protest. A demonstration was quickly organized, with shouts of “Long live the fueros!” and “Death to Sagasta!” as it passed by the Londres Hotel, at which the prime minister was staying. The atmosphere grew tenser as more people joined in the protest, and stones were thrown at the hotel. Some people even tried to get over the barriers outside and enter the premises, which resulted around midnight in the appearance of a squad of civil guards that opened fire on the public. Three people were killed: Vicente Urcelay, Rufino Aspiazu, and Justo Perez.

In the days that followed there were more demonstrations and more confrontations between protesters and the security forces. Meanwhile, other demonstrations were taking place throughout the Basque Country in sympathy with the people in Donostia-San Sebastián. At this moment, the city hall intervened, calling on the central authorities to withdraw their security forces and promising to take the initiative to quell the unrest, which, ultimately, it did; although not without leaving a simmering resentment among certain sections of the Basque population. The issue of the abolition of the fueros was, then, still very important even nearly twenty years later.

In Basque Nationalism and Political Violence (p.67), Cameron J. Watson comments on the events:

The violence of the event certainly brought public attention not only to the level of social protest within the Basque provinces, but also to the actions of the Civil Guard, an organization associated with the institutionalization of the liberal state in Spain. Indeed, it was the raison d’être of the organization to serve the Spanish government, whatever its political complexion, against any opposition. The incident also reflected that although a liberal state had been institutionalized, traditional recourse to force, a staple tactic of Spanish government throughout the century, had not been relinquished. The evidence suggests, then, that the liberal state in Spain was not as tolerant as may have been perceived. That same day, a strong military presence had been posted to Bilbao in order to offset republican demonstrations in the city. It was clear from the level of social protest of varying political persuasions that Spain was suffering a grave domestic crisis. However, what was perhaps most significant about the Donostia–San Sebastián disturbance was the scene of these events itself, a place of liberal tradition and the summer residence of the monarchy.

Check out some other posts on the significance of “Gernikako Arbola” here, here, and here.

Fall 2018 Semester is Here!

A new semester is beginning here at the Center for Basque Studies. Though we mourn the end of summer, it is sure to be a great semester full of new experiences and ways to expand our knowledge of the world.

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada via Wikimedia Commons

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada via Wikimedia Commons

We are offering several classes including two classes taught by our very own Kate Camino, where one would begin to learn the unique and beautiful language of Euskara. Mariann Vaczi is teaching Basque Tranationalism in the United States, which sounds like a fascinating class about the theories of globalization, social identity, diaspora foreign policy, identity construction, and nationalism and how they compare to the Basque individual and institutionalized ethnicity in the United States. Dr. Xabier Irujo is teaching a class on Basque politics, focusing on the history and legal status of Euskadi in relation to Spain and the European Union, as well as post-Franco nationalist movements and party development.  Joseba Zulaika is teaching a class on the Bilbao Guggenheim, focusing on not only the artistic and architectural aspects of the museum, but also its social and political effects on a local and global level. Finally, Dr. Sandra Ott is teaching a course on Basque culture within Euskadi and in emigrant settings, specifically the American West. We can’t wait to see what the next semester holds and wish you all a wonderful autumn!

August 22, 1638: Battle of Getaria

On August 22, 1638, the Battle of Getaria–a naval encounter in the Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659)–took place off the coast of Gipuzkoa. It was won by the French fleet, and marked the first significant victory for the French navy that had been revamped under Cardinal Richelieu, in turn consolidating Richelieu’s position as chief minister under Louis XIII.

In June 1638, Richelieu ordered the invasion of the Kingdom of Spain because French territory was surrounded by hostile Habsburg territories as a result of the Thirty Years’ War. The House of Habsburg was the main rival of the French royal House of Bourbon for political power in much of Europe. French forces crossed the border and besieged the Basque border town of Hondarribia in Gipuzkoa. In turn, the army was accompanied by a fleet between 27 and 44 French warships under Henri de Sourdis, whose mission it was to prevent any aid reaching Hondarribia on the part of the Spanish navy.

The Battle of Getaria, as depicted by Andries van Eertvelt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Getaria, as depicted by Andries van Eertvelt. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A Spanish fleet, under Admiral Lope de Hoces, was then ordered to attack the French even though it was significantly smaller in size. De Hoces’ ships sailed into the Basque port of Getaria, further along the coast, from which they took up a defensive position from which to engage the French – the shallower waters preventing the larger French ships from close engagement. However, de Sourdis employed a twofold tactic of prior bombardment followed by the sending in of fireships–vessels deliberately set on fire and allowed to drift into an enemy fleet–before cutting off any escape routes with the smaller ships in his fleet. On August 22, the winds were favorable enough to employ the fireship method and the Spanish fleet was destroyed.

As a result of the victory, the Kingdom of France came to control the Bay of Biscay, although the siege of Hondarribia was ultimately unsuccessful for the French.

The Franco-Spanish War dragged on, somewhat inconclusively, until 1659. However, the end of the war marked an important date in Basque history because the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), the official agreement signed between the two countries to end the conflict, established for the first time a definitive international border bisecting Basque territory. As Cameron Watson notes in Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (p. 42).

With this treaty, not only was the international border established once and for all, but the two crowns would be unified through marriage (Louis XIV of France would marry the Spanish infanta María Teresa, daughter of the Castilian monarch Felipe IV, the following year), and the king of France, while retaining the title of king of Nafarroa, relinquished any claim to the Nafarroan [territory] within the Castilian political orbit. The treaty thus marked a definitive political partition of the ancient kingdom.

Modern Basque History is available free to download here.

Incoming Grad: Callie Greenhaw!

 

Welcome to our newest graduate student, Callie Greenhaw! Callie is a University of Nevada, Reno alumni, having earned her BA in Anthropology with a minor in Archaeology in 2016. When Callie was an undergrad at UNR, she took Dr. Ott’s Basque class to fill an academic requirement, and ended up really enjoying it. Growing up in Elko, Nevada, Callie was surrounded by Basque culture constantly, but did not realize its significance until this class. She enjoyed the class so much in fact, that she considered minoring in Basque Studies, but did not have time, and instead took as many Basque Studies classes as she could before graduating.

 

Before returning to UNR to pursue her PhD in Basque Studies, Callie traveled to Greece and the UK to pursue her studies, and went on to earn her MS in Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology from the University College London in 2017. Up until now, Callie’s field of study has been dental anthropology, her thesis at the UCL being the postmarital residence patterns of post-medieval Chichester in West Sussex by analyzing the sexual variation of dental nonmetric traits.

 

During her time with us at The Center for Basque Studies, Callie will be studying the Basques of Elko. Her goals include providing an academic study to the Elko Basque community and add to the collection of research on the Basque Diaspora, learn Euskara, and gain teaching experience and publish some of her research.

Of pigs and onions: Prestigious broadcaster includes Basque subjects in its endangered food series

One of the world’s most prestigious broadcasting institutions, the BBC, produces a radio show titled The Food Programme for its Radio 4 network. This show includes a special series on endangered foods, part of international project created by Slow Food to save foods at risk of extinction, titled the Ark of Taste, which among its many fascinating reports has included short descriptions of both the Euskal Txerria Pig and the Red Onion of Zalla (Bizkaia) – both topics covered here at our humble blog. In both cases, too, the reports make a compelling case for the intersection between food and human culture.

Click here to listen to the report on the Euskal Txerria (3 min 56 sec). See a couple of posts we have done on Basque pigs here and here.

Click here to listen to the report on the Zalla Onion (3 min 57 sec). See our post on these wonderful red onions here.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Getting to Know Basque Books: From Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa

While reading Bizkaia to Boise I couldn’t help but have the image of Pete Cenarrusa as the dashing male protagonist in a Golden Era of Hollywood film directed by Frank Capra. He fit the role perfectly, a child of Basque immigrants, grew up on a ranch and knew all about agriculture, did not speak English when he first went to grade school but worked his way to become a graduate at the University of Idaho, a fraternity member, a skilled boxer, a Marine Corps pilot that served in World War II, and a passionate teacher and politician. He was friendly, caring and determined. If his life story could have been written about 60 years earlier, you just know it would have been adapted into a screen play and Cenarrusa would’ve been played by the likes of Jimmy Stewart or Carey Grant. There was no doubt that Cenarrusa was a classic example of a true American man.Bizkaia to Boise book cover

All the while, Cenarrusa was still undeniably Basque. The child of Jose Mari Zenarruzabeitia-Muguira from the countryside of Munitibar and Ramona Gardoqui from Gernika, Cenarrusa always spoke Basque at home. His interest in his heritage extended to his time at University of Idaho, where he was often found at the library researching the current events of Euskadi, which at the time were troubling, WWII was brewing and he researched as well the recent bombing of his mother’s hometown of Gernika and the dictatorship of Franco. Based on this research, Cenarrusa was up on and involved in Basque politics for the remainder of his life, and even planted three seedlings of the tree of Gernika in the Boise.

Lt Governor Brad Little with Pete Cenarrusa from Emmett, Idaho via Wikimedia Commons

Lt Governor Brad Little with Pete Cenarrusa from Emmett, Idaho via Wikimedia Commons

It is clear that Cenarrusa was a person of great character, even in the arena of politics, where most people reputations are tarnished and their worst sides are pointed out, Democrats and Republicans alike couldn’t say much bad about Cenarrusa. It seems that in the end, Cenarrusa just wanted the best for his family, his state and his country, and was one of the few who got in and took action to do what he thought was best for the future. In the end, I think the best way to summarize this book is a quote from the intro of Bizkaia to Boise written by C.L. “Butch” Otter: “There is no one I know in the public life who is more respected, more admired, and more beloved than Pete Cenarrusa. After reading this book, I think you’ll know why.”

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.

Getting to Know Basque Books: Selected Basque Writings

There’s a great quote by Wilhelm von Humboldt from his study Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert (The Eighteenth Century, Gesammellte Schriften vol.2, 38) that goes: “The individual can only represent the ideal of human perfection from a single angle (i.e., from his own uniqueness). However, comparative observation of many of these partial and different representations draws us closer to a clear idea of a comprehensive view of Man.” I first came across this quote while reading Selected Basque Writings: The Basques and Announcement of a Publication by Wilhelm von Humboldt. He was talking about comparative anthropology, but I enjoy the image it provokes. That we in our own uniqueness are in ourselves a variety of human perfection, but in only one interpretation, and that it takes various perspectives and “different representations” of perfection to discover what it truly means to be human. Humboldt’s view of what it means to be human is apparent in his account of his travels through the Basque Country. Just as the quote above, it shows his value not only for the study of anthropology, but for the human experience.

Being the first English translation of Humboldt’s account of his travels to the Basque Country in 1801, these Selected Basque Writings are often praised as an essential work in the study of the Basque Country and its culture.

WIlhelm von Humboldt by RaphaelQS via Wikimedia Commons

The book is broken up into chapters, each of which describe a different area in the Basque country with vivid description, from the path into mountain wilderness in Deba to the “sea with its pyramid of mountains” in Somorrosto to the industrial sights of Victoria-Gasteiz. Not only does Humboldt describe the Basque landscape in great detail, but the Basque people, as he admires their strength and independence, as well as their ways of governing themselves with a strong sense of nationalism to their homeland. Humboldt also looks into the Basque language, dress, food, dance and many other aspects of culture.

Fiestas en la localidad de Deba by Vicente Martin via Wikimedia Commons

An incredibly insightful and interesting read, it has something for anyone interested in anthropology, politics, philosophy, history, travel or just anyone looking to better understand the Basque Country and its culture.

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.

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