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Book review by Xabier Insausti: Wilhelm von Humboldt eta Euskal Herria

By Xabier Insausti (EHU-UPV, Philosophy)

Iñaki Zabaleta Gorrotxategi (professor, University of the Basque Country) has published a book on Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) and the Basque Country: Wilhelm von Humboldt eta Euskal Herria (UPV/EHU). The basis of the work is the two trips that Humboldt made to the Basque Country in 1799 and 1801. The first trip was brief–he was passing by on his way to Madrid–but he was so enchanted with the language of the Basque Country that he returned for a longer stay two years later. In his second stay he traveled widely through the country, leading him to review his reflections on the relationship between anthropology and the language of a country. Finally, from his travels he established a new paradigm: the idiosyncrasies of a people are largely determined by their language. A country cannot be understood without its language, and it is a language, not a political decision, that makes a nation (Although bad policy can ruin a nation.)

Zabaleta divides the work into two parts. In the first he analyzes Humboldt’s two trips in remarkable detail, specifically highlighting the relationships between popular culture, idiosyncrasies and politics; definitively, Humboldt’s anthropological and humanist project. In the second part, Zabaleta focuses on Humboldt’s reflections after his visits (throughout the second part of his life) that led him to conclusions related to language theory, primarily based on the analysis of the Basque language.

The current importance of this research is unquestionable. Humboldt has no qualms about linking the concepts of language and country (patria). If the language is lost, the homeland is lost. Ultimately, a nation is a linguistic community. Although the political meanings differ greatly, the words of Heidegger seem to echo here: language is the house of being.

The Basque language (euskera) is a pre-Indo-European language. This characteristic makes the language especially interesting to those who have learned to appreciate it, such as German linguists and philosophers, unlike the arrogant Spanish philosophers who despise and ignore it. Even Heidegger became interested in the Basque language, without even knowing what it was.

Although Humboldt says he learned a lot from the Basques, it is no less true that we can learn much from him. Zabaleta’s representation of Humboldt’s experiences and philosophies is academically without blemish, thoroughly documented, and philosophically illuminating. In short, it is an indispensable book in understanding the complex political present.

April 19, 2004: Inauguration of Bilbao Exhibition Centre

BEC entrance. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 19, 2004 the Bilbao Exhibition Centre (known as BEC) was inaugurated in Barakaldo. Jointly owned by the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, Bilbao City Council, Barakaldo City Council, and the Bilbao Chamber Of Commerce, it is the premier convention center in the Basque Country, with around 160 events and 1 million visitors annually.

It boasts six exhibition halls, a conference center, a multi-purpose arena–the Bizkaia Arena, used for concerts, basketball games, and movies–as well as an atrium and restaurants, office space, open areas, and a parking lot. In November this year, the Bizkaia Arena will host the MTV Europe Music Award, known as the EMAs, an event we’ll be sure to post on, so watch this space for more news on who’ll be walking up the red carpet this fall!

Check out the BEC website here.

And see a previous CBS post on BEC from August 2016 that discusses its history and impact.

CBS professor Mariann Vaczi interviewed by New York Times for report about upcoming King`s Cup final, and its whistling controversies

‘Why does the Spanish national anthem have no lyrics?’ a joke went before the 2015 Spanish King`s Cup final between Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona. ‘Because it’s whistled!’ Jeering the Spanish royal family and the national anthem at soccer games catalyses spectacular debates over sovereignty, state–region relations, and the freedom of expression.

CBS professor Mariann Vaczi, who has published about sport and nationalisms in Spain, was interviewed by the New York Times for a report about the upcoming King`s Cup (Copa del Rey) final between Sevilla and FC Barcelona, and the championship`s whistling controversies in a tense political climate of Catalan secessionism. See the report here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/sports/barcelona-copa-del-rey-final.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fsports&action=click&contentCollection=sports&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=4&pgtype=sectionfront

The report also drew from Vaczi`s research article titled “Football, the Beast and the Sovereign,” from which the following are excerpts:

Tension was palpable as we were roaming the streets of Madrid in May 2012 before the Spanish King’s Cup final between the Basque Athletic Bilbao and the Catalan FC Barcelona. This championship always represented Spain’s centralist powers, and now it would be played between two teams from regions of marked Republican and secessionist aspirations. King Juan Carlos himself was not going to show up for the final that bore his name, as he was resting off the hip injury he had procured at a safari in Botswana. Instead, his son Prince Felipe represented the royal family. Fifty-five thousand Basque and Catalan football fans packed into Madrid’s Calderón stadium. The Spanish national anthem was reduced to a mere 27 seconds to mitigate the embarrassment of its furious whistling, but that was not the only highlight of the anti-monarchy protest. Basque and Catalan fans were jumping and waiving pro-independence flags, savoring the moment as they sang together the well-known children’s song to mock the king’s wild game hunt:

“An elephant was balancing

On a spider’s web

And as he saw he didn’t fall

He called another elephant.

Two elephants were balancing

On a spider’s web

And as they saw they didn’t fall

They called another elephant

Three elephants…”

It went on and on, insistently, all the way to 15 elephants. With the seventh, I almost pitied the future king Felipe, who endured the insult with unimpassioned face. With the 10th, the elephants turned into a haunting specter:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quf8AjhX0gs#action=share

The first notable football game whistling goes back to 1925 to the regime of Primo de Rivera, who had just overthrown the constitutional government in 1923 with a military coup d’état. The military dictatorship suspended the 1876 constitution, dissolved the Spanish Parliament, and banned political parties and regional governments. The friendly match between FC Barcelona and C.E. Júpiter took place in June 1925 in Catalonia. At half time, when the Royal Marines played the Spanish Marcha Real, fans whistled the anthem so furiously that the Marines, confused as to why the ‘Spaniards’ whistled ‘their own anthem’, switched to their God Save the Queen. To their further bafflement, the British anthem met with enthusiastic applause. The event had major political repercussions. The stadium was shut down for three months, and the president of FC Barcelona was exiled from Spain. According to anecdote, the Les Corts stadium would be re-opened only after 12 religious practitioners blessed it in order to exorcise the ‘malevolent separatist spirits’ that had contaminated it

The post-dictatorship tradition of king jeering started in 2009, when Athletic Club and FC Barcelona qualified for the King’s Cup final. As King Juan Carlos emerged in the VIP booth of Valencia’s Mestalla stadium, the Spanish national anthem would be played, but it was not heard: 55,000 Basques and Catalans were standing, holding innumerable Basque and Catalan national flags high, whistling the anthem and the royal family. The state-owned Radio Televisión Española reduced the sound of the whistling and amplified the anthem to audible levels, which stirred a political controversy over censoring an act of free expression.

 

In spite of the National Court decision that declared that whistling fell within the category of free expression, pro-monarchy voices continued to call for the criminalization of whistling each time the Basque and Catalan teams qualified for the Cup Final. ‘Eighty-seven years later’, an article went before the 2012 King’s Cup final, ‘[Madrid province president] Esperanza Aguirre evokes the ghost of the dictator Primo de Rivera, who shut down Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium’, as Aguirre called for the cancellation of the final if fans whistled.

 

‘Where shall we put these 70,000 pigs, because pigs they are, these Basque and Catalan football fans who attend the King’s Cup final to insult and profane the symbols of Spain?’ a TV show host of La Ratonera declared in March 2015. ‘I would not even call them Basques and Catalans’, a caller added in a tone symptomatic of the tensions the game generated. ‘They are separatists, separratas “separatist rats”, there is no other way to call them’.

By 2015, whistling the national anthem was anticipated as the great subversive moment of the year. Ninety-five thousand Basques and Catalans packed in Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium and produced a decibel that the press called ‘monumental’, ‘stratospheric’, and ‘thunderous’. Spain’s ruling conservative People’s Party qualified the incident as ‘horror’ that ‘offends us’, declared that the whistling demonstrated ‘the disease part of the society suffers’ and reiterated the proposition that insulting Spain’s symbols should be punishable. The State’s Anti-Violence Commission issued a fine of 123,000 Euros for the clubs, and the General Attorney launched an investigation about whether the whistling constituted punishable offense to the monarch, and insult to national symbols.

For more, check out the essay here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00141844.2017.1321564

 

Martin Hotel: Second Location in Carson City

Martin Hotel to Add Second Location in Carson City

Martin HotelThe Martin Hotel in Winnemucca will now open a second location in Carson City. The restaurant’s owner, John Arant, told the Nevada Appeal that Carson City and the Martin would make a good match. The Carson venue will feature the same menu as the Winnemucca restaurant, and the dining rooms will also be identical, including photographs by Linda Dufurrena, and paintings by Gordy Glazier and Teddy Swecker. Arant expects to employ 25 people or so at his new locale. More information about the new restaurant is available in this article in the Nevada Appeal. On Egin!

CBS professor Sandy Ott`s new book gets great reception: Listen to Podcast, read review!

“Succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the German occupation and Vichy collaboration in the Basque Country. Ott`s compelling narrative and thoughtful conclusions nuance what we know about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Vichy years.” John Merriman, Yale University

CBS professor Sandy Ott`s book was recently published by Cambridge University Press, and is getting great reception.

In post-liberation France, the French courts judged the cases of more than one hundred thousand people accused of aiding and abetting the enemy during the Second World War. In her book, Sandy Ott uncovers the hidden history of collaboration in the Pyrenean borderlands of the Basques in southwestern France through nine stories of human folly, uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, desire, vengeance, duplicity, greed, self-interest, opportunism and betrayal. Covering both the occupation and liberation periods, she reveals how the books characters became involved with the occupiers for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to settle scores and to gain access to power, money and material rewards, to love, friendship, fear and desperation. These wartime lives and subsequent postwar reckonings provide us with a new lens through which to understand human behavior under the difficult conditions of occupation, and the subsequent search for retribution and justice.

New Books in German Studies created a Podcast interview with Sandy about her work as an anthropologist in the Pyrenees, which goes back to the 1970s; the inception of the idea of the book; her methods, and her relationship with the subjects of her studies. Listen to the interview below:

http://newbooksnetwork.com/sandra-ott-living-with-the-enemy-german-occupation-collaboration-and-justice-in-the-west-pyrenees-1940-1948-cambridge-up-2017/

Furthermore, Shannon L. Fogg from Missouri University of Science and Technology wrote a great review about Living with the Enemy in German Studies Review. As Fogg concludes,

“Living with the Enemy provides a rich and nuanced view of daily life in the French Basque Country and raises interesting questions about postwar justice. Ott does not shy away from the complexity of wartime interactions and explores the complicated, multifaceted, and ambiguous motivations that lay beneath Franco-German relationships. Drawing on historical and ethnographic methods, Sandra Ott has mined the trial dossiers for what they can tell us about the past, but she is also careful to acknowledge their limits. Her own voice as an anthropologist, one who has maintained relationships with Basque locals stretching back to 1976, adds another layer to her analysis and demonstrates the enduring memories of World War II. The end result is a regional study that contributes ‘greatly to our understanding of the choices people made and the factors that motivated them’ (6), as well as to our ideas about collaboration and cohabitation during the war.”

Read the rest of the review here: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/687383

Dr. Ott also received full professorship at the University of Nevada, Reno.

ZORIONAK, Sandy, for your book, interview, review, and for your full professorship!

April 9, 1914: Birth of Feminist Anarchist Militant “Kaxilda”

On April 9, 1914, Soledad Casilda Hernáez Vargas was born to a single mother in Zizurkil, Gipuzkoa. In the 1930s she became a well-known feminist political activist and anarchist militant in Gipuzkoa, taking an active part in fighting at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War as well as later in the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.

Kasilda (1914-1992)

Subsequently known as Kasilda, Kaxilda, Kasi, or “la Miliciana,” she was raised in  Donostia-San Sebastián in a Bohemian family with strong connections to the anarchist movement. As a young woman in the early 1930s she caused a scandal by bathing nude on the Zurriola Beach in Donostia. Becoming an activist in the anarchist movement, she was arrested in 1934 for distributing propaganda and possessing explosives during the revolutionary strike of October that year.  She was, though, released in 1936 as part of a general amnesty conceded by the newly elected Popular Front coalition government in Madrid. On leaving prison prison, she met fellow Basque anarchist activist Felix Likiano (1909-1982), her partner for the rest of her life.

When the Civil War broke out in July 1936, she joined Likiano in the anarchist militia formed to defend Donostia against the attack of the rebel troops, seeing active service in the Battle of Irun (Aug. 27 – Sep. 5, 1936) and, later, after the fall of her home city, also as part of the Hilario-Zamora Column on the Aragon and Ebro Fronts in 1938. With the triumph of the rebels, however, she and Likiano fled to France, where they were subsequently arrested and sent to the Argelès-sur-Mer and Gurs concentration camps. Released in 1940, the couple then moved first to Baiona in Lapurdi, but ultimately settled in Bordeaux, where their home–nicknamed the “Basque Consulate”–became a well-known meeting place for exiled Spanish Republicans. With the Nazi occupation of France they collaborated actively with the French Resistance.

After a spell in Paris, they returned to the Basque Country, settling in Biarritz. She died in 1992 and on her gravestone one can read the inscription “Andra! Zu zera bukatzen ez den sua!” (Woman! You’re the fire that never goes out!).

EuskarAbentura Program

From Astero, by Kate Camino:

EuskarAbentura Program

EuskarAbenturaWe have been contacted by Iker Goñi of EuskarAbentura Elkartea about a wonderful opportunity for young Basque speakers. This year’s edition of EuskarAbentura is an expedition through all territories of Euskal Herria from July 1-31, 2018. It is open to 16 and 17-year-old Basque speakers (born in 2001 or 2002) from all seven territories of the Basque Country and the diaspora. The expedition will follow the Camino de Santiago (or the Way of Saint James, in English). There will be activities each day including museum visits, workshops, sporting events, and talks on astronomy and other topics. This program is free of charge if you are selected as a participant.

In order to apply you must:

  • Have been born in 2001 or 2002
  • Speak Basque
  • Submit a work in Euskara on one of the following topics: Basque and your town, Basque and the sea, Basque and women. The formats you can choose from for this work are historical, literature, plastic arts, music, or audiovisual.

For complete information and to apply, visit https://euskarabentura.eus/en/take-part/

What is your word for Basque? CBS Advisory Board Meets in March 2018

The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies was pleased to welcome its Advisory Board members at its annual meeting, which took place on March 31 in the Basque Conference Room at the University of Nevada Reno. A welcome dinner and cocktails were served the night before at the Louis` Basque Corner. It was great to see our board members again!

 

On Saturday, the meeting started with the introduction and acknowledgement of visitors, particularly Marc Johnson, President of UNR, and Kevin Carman, Provost. The President and Provost talked about the past achievements and future plans of the University, and the importance of the CBS and the Basque Library for the academic and  community life of the university. A round of introductions followed, whose highlight was when CBS professor Sandy Ott asked participants to say a word that they thought best described Basques in the Basque Country and beyond. Guess what words got most mentions! (scroll down to solution below, at *).

The meeting then proceeded to CBS Director`s Report by Xabier Irujo, including report on the CBS press, which fulfills an important function of publishing Basque research in English. Additional discussions included fund-raising and planned giving, a report on the Jon Bilbao Basque Library by Iñaki Arrieta Baro, questions of board membership, and elections of chairs and vice-chairs for specific task forces. It was a lively and productive meeting! Many thanks for the participants and organizers!

 

    

 

*The winning words of Basque identity were “pride,” “tenacity,” “indarra” (strength), “etxea” (house), “community,” “food, drink and party loving.” No surprise there 🙂 ! What is your word for Basque?

 

 

 

April 3, 1942: Birth of Basque language and culture activist Argitxu Noblia

Argitxu Noblia in 2010. Photo by Adrar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 3, 1942, Claire “Argitxu” Noblia was born in Angelu, Lapurdi, at the height of the Nazi occupation of Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country in World War II.  She would go on to found the first ikastola or Basque-medium school in Iparralde in 1969 as well as being a prominent figure in the world of politics and Basque culture in the north.

After studying medicine in Bordeaux she returned to the Basque Country where she worked as an anesthetist in Baiona until retiring in 2002. Outside of work, however, she became active in Basque culture and politics. In 1969, at the head of a group of parents working on their own initiative and together with Libe Goñi, she established a proto-ikastola in her own home in Baiona–just prior to creating the first specific school premises in Arrangoitze–and served as the first director of Seaska, the organization overseeing ikastolas in the north, for six years. She was also part of a group of people that founded the Elkar publishing house in Baiona in 1971 and was involved in the association promoting the creation of the Basque-language radio station Gure Irratia in 1981.

She took an early interest in politics while still at university and stood as a candidate for one of the first Basque nationalist formations in Iparralde, Enbata, in the 1960s. She served on the Baiona city council between 1989 and 1995, and was then briefly head of the Iparralde section of the Basque Nationalist Party before later joining Eusko Alkartasuna.

If all that were not enough, she has also been an advocate of public health, peace, and women’s issues, serving in numerous associations to this end. In 1995 she received the Grand Prix Humanitaire from the French government and in 2009 the Femmes 3000 federation awarded her with a prize for her voluntary work.

One of the Center’s publications, The Transformation of National Identity in he Basque Country of France, 1789-2006 by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga, discusses the social, political, and cultural context in which Argitxu Noblia has been such an influential figure in Iparralde.

New Book: Jón Gudmundsson Laerdi’s True Account and the Massacre of Basque Whalers in Iceland in 1615

From the Center for Basque Studies Press Basque Books Bulletin:

New book!

Jon Gudmudsson Laeri’s True Account and the Massacre of Basque Whalers in Iceland in 1615

On the night of September 20, 1615, the eve of the feast of St. Matthew, an expedition of Basque whalers lost their ships in a fjord near Trékyllisvík, Iceland, during a terrible storm. This led to a series of events that culminated in their October massacre at hands of the islanders. The Basque mariners’ bodies, dismembered, would not be buried. However, not all Icelanders saw that massacre with good eyes. One of them, Jón Guðmundsson, better known as Jón lærði (1574–1658) or “the wise man”, wrote an essay on those events in defense of the victims titled “Sönn frásaga” (The true story). Four hundred years later, on April 20, 2015, an international conference investigated various aspects of this tragic episode of the history of Iceland and the Basque Country. The academic meeting took place at the National Library of Iceland with the participation of experts from all over the world. The program, commemorating the fourth centenary of the massacre of Basque whalers in Iceland, was sponsored by the Government of Gipuzkoa and the Government of Iceland and organized by the Etxepare Institute, the Basque-Finnish Association, the Center for Basque Studies of the University of Nevada, Reno and the Barandiaran Chair of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

$26.00
ISBN 978-1-935709-83-1
SHOP HERE

 

If you’re interested in Basque whaling (and comics), you might also like …

Basque graphic artist’s stunning tale of Joanes, a mythical Basque whaler, and his flying whaleboat.

Joanes 1: The Flying Whaleboat

Joanes 2: Whale Island

Joanes 3: Priest of Pirates

Or buy all 3 together and save!

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