Tag: Basque COuntry (page 1 of 35)

July 14, 1970: Death of popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano

On July 14, 1970, the popular Basque tenor Luis Mariano died in Paris. Although born in Hegolade, the Southern Basque Country, he became an idol of stage and screen in post-World War II France, where he was one of the biggest stars of operetta. Four months before his death in 1970, already ill for some time with what could have been an untreated case of hepatitis, he wrote: “I was born in a wonderful country that is called the Basque Country.” And his popularity both north and south of the Pyrenees in the country of his birth resounds to this day among many people.

Luis Mariano (1914-1970). Image by Karta24. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mariano Eusebio González y García was born in Irun, Gipuzkoa, on August 13, 1914. On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, together with his parents, he fled north of the border. Settling initially in Baiona, Lapurdi, he joined the Basque exile folklore group Eresoinka, with whom he traveled and performed across Europe in the period 1937-1939. He was also accepted by the music school of Bordeaux, where he studied opera singing and also sang in cabarets by night. His talent was quickly spotted by Jeanne Lagiscarde, who ran the classical department of a Bordeaux record store, and she began to manage his career, relocating him to Paris in the process.

There he continued to perform in stage shows and also in a minor role in the first of several movies he would appear in throughout his career. These were the years of Nazi-occupied Paris, and in the period 1943-1945 he first came to prominence in the world of operetta, performing alongside the likes of Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. His career really took off after the war, however, as he performed in both operettas and movies. As the operetta genre waned in the 1960s, he moved into television performances, yet remained just as popular. In the late 1960s, though, he fell ill and was forced to cancel various shows on account of a nagging fatigue. This culminated in his death in July 1970.

Grave of Luis Mariano in Arrangoitze. Photo by Tibauk. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As per his express wishes, he was buried in the Basque Country, in Arrangoitze (Arcangues), Lapurdi, where he had owned a home for many years. In regard t the Basque Country, he is reported to have said: “I will come to rest forever in this land.”

July 8, 2014: Closure of the iconic Begoña Elevator in Bilbao

On July 8, 2014, at 11 pm the Begoña Elevator, an iconic feature of the late twentieth-century Bilbao cityscape, ceased to function after nearly seventy years of service.

The walkway at the top of the Begoña Elevator. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1940s, Begoña–once a separate town but incorporated by Bilbao in 1925 as part of its major growth in the twentieth century–was a neighborhood in expansion. Yet despite its geographic proximity to the city center, it remained disconnected on account of the steep hill one had to navigate between the two districts. A project was thus conceived to link Begoña to downtown Bilbao precisely at the point of what was known at the time as Bilbao Aduana train station (later San Nicolás, and currently the Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo Euskotren-Metro Bilbao intermodal station).

Viewing area at the top of the elevator. Photo by Bachelot Pierre J-P. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Designed by architect Rafael Fontán, the biggest challenge was to insert a significant structure into an already congested cityscape. He achieved this by taking an existing building as its base and as regards the actual design of the elevator, he opted for a stark modernist structure, in contrast to the older surrounding buildings; this decision, to contrast so starkly the new structure from the vicinity, arguably ultimately contributed to creating its iconic status–at least as regards form–quickly becoming one of the city’s emblematic structures.

Begoña Elevator from Itxaropen/Esperanza Street. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was made out of reinforced concrete and included a walkway and enclosed vantage point over the city at the Begoña entrance, lending the structure a machine-like form in appearance. In this sense, it resembled an architectural model developed in Switzerland during the early twentieth century. When finished, it came to measure 150 feet in height and immediately stood out in the Bilbao cityscape. It was inaugurated in 1947 and served generations of bilbaínos but it began to lose customers in the 1990s, with the construction of the Bilbao metro and a competing elevator as well as other elevators and escalators that were constructed to link the city center to the hillier surrounding neighborhoods.

The structure remains in place, however, and there is much debate over what could be done with this iconic physical testament to an important part of Bilbao’s recent history.

If architecture is your thing, check out Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain, a fascinating work that examines Gehry’s buildings as a kind of narrative.

More general urban studies published by the Center include That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika; Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal; and Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

What’s more, Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, is available free to download here.

 

 

July 5, 1846: Birth of mathematician Zoel García de Galdeano

On July 5, 1846 Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas was born in Pamplona-Iruñea. In later life, he came to be regarded as a champion of modernizing mathematics in the Spanish state according to the latest developments in Europe and beyond.

Zoel García de Galdeano y Yanguas (1846-1924)

After García de Galdeano’s father was killed while on active service in the Spanish military, he was raised by his maternal grandfather José Yanguas y Miranda (1782-1863), a historian, jurist, and well-known figure in Navarrese political life in the first half of the nineteenth century, promoting a kind of pro-foral liberalism. The young García de Galdeano was thus raised in a learning environment receptive to new ideas. In 1871 he obtained his doctorate and thereafter began a lengthy professional journey teaching math at several high schools throughout the Spanish state as well as promoting the so-called free institutes (experimental secular high schools that emphasized liberal values such as civic responsibility and modernization in its various guises). At the same time, he published voraciously with the aim of introducing the latest European mathematical currents into the peninsula.

Finally, in 1889 he obtained a tenured professorship in analytical geometry at his alma mater, the University of Zaragoza, where he worked until his retirement in 1918. Once established at the university level, he began lobbying to provide more adequate networks and platforms for sharing and disseminating mathematical knowledge.  In 1891 he founded El Progreso Matemático (Mathematical Progress), the first strictly mathematical journal published in Spain; and he was the first mathematician in the state to begin attending international conferences on a regular basis. Most significantly, García de Galdeano was present at the famous 1900 speech of influential German mathematician David Hilbert at the Sorbonne in Paris, in which he posed a set of problems that to a large extent came to define the direction of the discipline through the twentieth century. Moreover, he was one of the main figures behind the creation of the Spanish Mathematics Society in 1911, and became its president in 1916.

He died in Zaragoza in 1924, having played a critical role in modernizing the study of mathematics in the peninsula.

 

June 29, 1854: Death of first Basque-language woman writer Bizenta Mogel

On June 29, 1854 Bizenta Mogel died in Abando, Bizkaia at the age of eighty-two. She should be considered not just the first women to publish a book in Basque, but the first author in children’s literature in the language.

Bizenta Mogel (1772-1854)

Bizenta Antonia Mogel Elgezabal was born in Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa, in 1772. She came from a literary family. Her brother, Juan Jose Mogel (1781-1849), was also a writer, while her uncle, Joan Antonio Mogel (1745-1804), was the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, Peru Abarka (published posthumously in 1881).  Indeed, it was the latter who would play a pivotal role in her education. Orphaned at an early age, together with her brother she went to live with her uncle in Markina, Bizkaia. He taught both siblings how to read and write in Latin, Spanish, and Basque, and she impressed with her obvious intelligence and love of learning.

She married Eugenio Basozabal, with whom she went to live in Abando (now part of Bilbao). He later inherited a printing press on the death of his father, and this helped immensely in her efforts to publish her work.  In 1804 she published Ipui onac (Moral tales), which, according to Jose Manuel López Gaseni, “Translated Basque Literature,” in Basque Literary History (p. 315):

brought together fifty of Aesop’s fables that she translated thanks to her knowledge of Latin, learned from her uncle—the sort of training few women of the period could obtain. The intent of this collection was moralistic and educational, as can be deduced from its subtitle: “Good stories in which young Basque people will find edifying lessons that will help them lead their lives down the right path.” It attempted to substitute traditional stories that, according to the prologue, were considered pernicious and were rejected by the educational institutions of the period.

Moreover, as Mari Jose Olaziregi notes in “Worlds of Fiction: An Introduction to Basque Narrative,” also in Basque Literary History (pp. 140-41), its

significance as the first published work written by a woman also signals the birth of children’s literature in Basque. Although the didactic style and sense of moral purpose is prevalent in the text, we should underscore the importance of the book as a primary example of a new type of fiction as well as being an exponent for a new type of reading public, more literary but still somewhat removed from a more controlled aestheticism. Ipui onak is in fact a translation and adaptation of Aesop’s fables and proved an inspiration for a whole group of fabulists, although in most cases verse was the preferred form of writing. Bizenta’s case is altogether exceptional since it is estimated that only 15 percent of women were literate in the Basque country at that time … It is important to note that Bizenta subscribed to John Locke’s educational model in her work, a model that perceived fables as a useful resort to educate children.

The work was a major success and went through several reprints. Bizenta Mogel went on to publish other books, and she was also a renowned writer of traditional Christmas bertso-paperak (printed verses for popular consumption), but she was most remembered for her first and groundbreaking work. She was also a teacher and interestingly, she was known for her wide knowledge of medicinal plants, a knowledge she put to great use in helping people with illnesses who came to her in search of a cure.

The Center publishes Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi, an ambitious work that traces the evolution of various literary styles in the Basque language.

Check out this charming representation of Bizenta Mogel’s life in illustrated form (with commentary in Basque):

 

June 11, 1967: Xalbador jeered at national bertsolaritza championship in Donostia

On June 11, 1967, one of the most controversial incidents to ever take place in the history of berstolaritza–Basque oral improvised verse–occurred during the national championship in the main fronton or pelota court of Donostia-San Sebastián: on hearing that the bertsolari (improviser) Xalbador had been selected by the judges over a more popular opponent, Joxe Migel Iztueta aka Lazkao Txiki, to advance to the head-to-head final to compete against Uztapide, a section of the audience began to jeer. The reason for this? He was from Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country in France, and they did not understand his dialect of Basque so well.

Xalbador (1920-1976)

Born in 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Fernando Aire, aka Xalbador, was arguably the most renowned bertsolari in modern times from Iparralde. He began to perform in public after World War II, and by the 1960s was regarded, together with Manuel Olaizola, aka Uztapide, as one of the leading exponents of the art form. However, Xalbador stood out from most of his contemporaries for a number of reasons: first and foremost, he used his natal dialect of Basque from Lower Navarre; besides that, though, he also incorporated melodies that many people in Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) were unfamiliar with; and finally, he also stood apart from many of his rival bertsolaris for the sheer lyrical quality of his verses as well as his ability to draw profound reflections from seemingly inconsequential things. Indeed, his poetic sensibility was such that, following his death in 1976, the famous Basque singer-songwriter Xabier Lete dedicated a song to him, “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), which subsequently became one of the most famous and repeated Basque songs, still sung to this day. And the 1989 national champion bertsolari, Jon Lopategi, also dedicated his winning verse to Xalbador. That all said, he never won a major championship, finishing fourth in 1960, third in 1962 and 1965, and, ultimately, second in 1967.

In the infamous 1967 championship, as mentioned, some members of the audience jeered on hearing the judges’ decision to advance Xalbador to the final head-to-head contest against Uztapide (it should be noted that it remains unclear whether they were jeering the bertsolari or the judges, or both). As per the rules of the competition, Xalbador was obliged to step up to the microphone and compose a verse in response to the decision. As he began his strophe, he found it difficult to make his voice heard, but, gradually, the power and beauty of his words turned the audience around. He sung:

Anai-arrebok, ez, otoi, pentsa
neu’re gustora nagonik,
poz gehiago izango nuen
albotik beha egonik.

Brothers and sisters, do not think
that I am happy;
how much better would I feel
looking on from some corner.

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik…

If you are not happy
it is not my fault…

At this point, the jeers subsided and, incredibly, the audience began to cheer. Xalbador, in turn, his voice barely able to continue with emotion, repeated and concluded the verse:

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik,
txistuak jo dituzute bainan
maite zaituztet orainik.

If you are not happy
it is not my fault:
in spite of your whistles
I still love you.

By the end of the verse the audience had risen to its feet and was applauding the bertsolari from Urepele. The story remains one of the great moving moments in the history of berstolaritza and in Basque culture more generally. This moment was, remarkably, captured on film:

To learn more about bertsolaritza, check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

Another great resource is Bertsolaritza, El bertsolarismo, Bertsolaritza by Joxerra Garzia, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute, free to download here.

On the rich Basque dialects, see The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo.

 

June 6, 1849: Death of Basque guerrilla leader Martina Ibaibarriaga

On June 6, 1849, Martina Ibaibarriaga died in Oña, Burgos. She gained renown as a young woman among the guerrilla ranks fighting the occupying French forces during the Penisnular War (1807-1814).

Martina Ibaibarriaga (1788-1849)

Maria Martina Ibaibarriaga Elorriaga was born in Berriz, Bizkaia, on January 26, 1788, although the family later moved to Bilbao, where her father ran a pharmacy. When French troops invaded and occupied the Basque Country during the period 1807-1808, the initial response of the Basque population was to form bands of guerrillas to fight the occupiers, with these bands being overseen by the guerrilla leader from Navarre, Francisco Espoz Ilundain (aka Francisco Espoz Mina). Martina initially joined a group led by Juan de Belar, alias “El Manco” (the one-armed man), which fought the French in the district in around Durango, but soon she rose to command her own guerrilla group, leading some fifty men in operations against the French.

However, several local authorities then complained that her band were appropriating rations and supplies by force and without paying for them. She was subsequently captured by Espoz Mina’s men in Mungia, Bizkaia, in July 1811, and judged before a meeting of guerrilla chiefs in at Villarcayo, Burgos. Eight of her men were executed by firing squad, but she was spared and, indeed, during the rest of war served in another group under the command of fellow Bizkaian Francisco Tomás Anchia, aka Francisco Longa. In 1812, she met Félix Asenjo, a delegate of the Spanish government from Oña, Burgos, sent to instruct the guerrillas. The two married that same year, although she continued to fight, taking in part in the important Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1813, after which, it seems, she came to meet the Duke of Wellington.

After the war, she settled in Oña with her husband, and there she died in 1849.

 

Kali Kester Winner of Carmelo Urza Scholarship

By Kate Camino for Astero:

Kali Kester

As reported earlier USAC and NABO excitedly partnered on the Carmelo Urza Scholarship for students to study abroad on either its Bilbao or Donostia programs. The first deadline to apply for the scholarship for those planning to study abroad in the fall, was April 1st. Now it is our pleasure and honor to announce that the winner of the first ever Carmelo Urza Scholarship is Kali Kester. Kali is from Battle Mountain, Nevada and a member of the OberenakBasque Club. She participated in Basque dance from the age of 5 on, and is now attending UNR pursuing a double major in Community Health Science and Spanish. Her plan is to spend the 2018-19 school year between Donostia in the fall and Alicante in the spring. She is excited about the prospect of becoming entirely immersed in both the Basque and Spanish cultures. Besides taking a full load of classes, she also hopes to become involved with a local Basque dance group there. In her words, “I am so incredibly honored to be receiving this scholarship because the Basque community and culture have been such an influential and important part of my life.” Zorionak Kali! Deadline to apply for the scholarship for Spring 2019 is November 1st. The application is available here.

May 22, 1836: Start of Second Battle of Arlaban during First Carlist War

The Arlaban Pass. Image from the Zumalakarregi Museoa.

On May 22, 1836, the second and definitive Battle of Arlaban, fought between Carlists and Liberals, began during the First Carlist War (1833-1840).

During the war, the Arlaban Pass, the main route through the mountainous area that separates southwestern Gipuzkoa and northeastern Araba, was the setting once more for a confrontation between Carlists and Liberals.  The first encounter (January 16-17) had resulted in a victory of sorts for the latter but the Liberals were almost immediately pushed back by their Carlist foes and a stalemate ensued, although with Liberal control of the pass.

On May 22, the Liberals, led by Generals Luis Fernández de Córdova and Baldomero Espartero, attempted once more to engage the Carlists, led by Generals Nazario Eguía and Bruno Villareal, and cross the Arlaban Pass into Gipuzkoa. The Liberals had razed to the ground a Carlist arsenal in Araia (Araba) and the fighting, much of which took place in and around Leintz Gatzaga in Gipuzkoa, continued for four days until May 26. In the struggle, which in many ways came down to a tactical contest between Espartero and Villareal, the Carlists eventually forced their Liberal counterparts to withdraw from the area. As the Liberal forces retreated toward Vitoria-Gasteiz, they burned many of the baserris (Basque farmsteads) in the area of Legutio (Araba). There were around six hundred casualties on each side during the four-day battle, which resulted in the Carlists taking back control of the Arlaban Pass.

The Zumalakarregi Museoa in Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa, is a great site–both physical and online–in which to learn more about the Carlist Wars.

Check out, too, the wonderfully evocative first-hand account of what the First Carlist War was like in A Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui by the military adventurer Charles Frederick Henningsen: a swashbuckling memoir that brings the conflict to life as well as a serving as a unique window onto Basque society in the early nineteenth century.

 

May 13, 1890: First major general strike in Bizkaia

On May 13, 1890, two hundred miners at the Orconera Iron Ore Company Limited walked out in protest over the firing of five colleagues (and socialist activists) for their part in organizing protests over working conditions to coincide with international May Day that year. News of the walk out spread quickly to other mines and thousands more eventually went on strike. It was the first major strike in the “new” industrial Bizkaia, and set a pattern for labor protest that would extend until well into the twentieth century.

Nineteenth-century miners.

By midday on May 13, the ranks of the miners had swelled to some 4-5,000 men. gathering in the hilly terrain rising up from the left bank of Greater Bilbao in which they plied their trade, the miners then descended to the industrial satellite towns of Ortuella and Gallarta, where they were joined by a further 2-3,000 factory workers. By day’s end, production throughout the whole left-bank mining zone–the area at the heart of Bilbao’s spectacular industrial transformation process in the nineteenth century–had come to a complete standstill.

Mine workers in Gallarta, Bizkaia.

The strikers then planned to march on Bilbao itself the following day, with the addition of thousands of other workers from the riverside cities of Barakaldo and Sestao. By some estimates, some 20-30,000 were now on strike from both mines and factories and they were intent intent on marching toward Bilbao. The authorities in turn perceived this as a real threat and by the afternoon of May 14 placed the army on standby to counter any such march. What’s more, the activists coordinating the protest were arrested.

By May 15, there was a stalemate: production had been dramatically reduced in the principal mining and manufacturing area of Bizkaia, yet the strikers were unwilling to confront the armed forces. This in turn encouraged some mines and factories to return to work. That day, too, the jailed strike leaders issued a series of demands that were flatly refused by the collective mine and factory owners–for them, nothing short of complete defeat and humiliation of the striking workers would be acceptable.

General José María Loma Arguelles (1822-1893).

Yet just at that moment, a conciliatory figured appeared in the shape of one General José María de Loma–a native of Araba and head of the armed forces controlling the situation. He actually threatened to withdraw his troops if the owners did not sit down and negotiate the demands of the workers. This they were forced to do, and the result was the so-called Loma Pact in which many of the original demands, regarding basic working hours for example, were met. By May 17, the industrial zone of Bilbao was back to normal and a larger-scale crisis had been averted.

For a more detailed account of the strike, see Ricardo Miralles, “La Gran Huelga Minera de 1890. En los Orígines del Movimiento Obrero en el País Vasco,” Historia Contemporánea, 3 (1990): 15-44. Free to download here.

May 6, 1463: Jacob Gaon, king’s tax collector, killed in Tolosa

On May 6, 1463, Jacob Gaon, a tax collector for King Henry IV of Castile, was killed in Tolosa (Gipuzkoa) over a dispute involving rights relating to the foruak/fueros (the charters governing Basque fiscal and institutional relations with central political authority).

Gaon came from a prominent Jewish family in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Araba) and like several relatives worked as a tax collector for the Kings of Castile, to which the province of Gipuzkoa belonged. Indeed, since 1256, Tolosa had enjoyed its own foru/fuero regulating its independent fiscal status within the Castilian political orbit (the result of its strategically important position on the border with the rival Kingdom of Navarre); an agreement that was amended in both 1282 and 1290 to exempt inhabitants from numerous royal tributes.

Henry IV of Castile (1463). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In May 1463 Gaon went to Tolosa with the aim of demanding the so-called pedido tax, which, the locals claimed, they had never paid before on account of their foral privileges. After threatening them, several inhabitants killed Gaon, beheaded him, and put his head  on top of a pillory for all to see. On hearing the news, Henry IV, who was at the time in Hondarribia, also in Gipuzkoa, stopped at Tolosa on his way back to Castile in search of the culprits. Unable to locate them, having been informed that they had taken refuge in a nearby mountain “on the other side of the river,” he settled instead for demolishing the house in which the crime had taken place.

Subsequently, however, on receiving documents demonstrating that the inhabitants of Tolosa had never paid the pedido tax on account of foral law,  Henry acknowledged the exemption and issued a pardon.

For an excellent introduction to the Basque foral system, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): A Critical Edition, edited and annotated by Gregorio Monreal.

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