Tag: basque culture (page 1 of 26)

March 21, 1941: Birth of composer Sara Soto

Most of you reading this will be aware of the importance of music in Basque culture and we could quite easily dedicate an entire blog to Basque music alone. Today’s Flashback Friday story concerns an interesting figure in the world of Basque music that is sometimes overlooked in studies of the topic. Sara Soto Gabiola was born in Gorliz, Bizkaia, on March 21, 1941, although her family moved to Irun, Gipuzkoa, when she was very young.

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

Sara Soto Gabiola (1941-1999).

She suffered from a muscular illness as a child, which limited her ability to move around easily, and she found an escape from the physical limitation imposed on her by developing a keen appreciation for the arts: she drew and painted and was an avid reader. But in was in music that she found her true métier. Although she did undertakle some formal studies of harmony, she was largeñy self-taught.

Her first compositions, influenced strongly by the Basque artistic collective Ez Dok Amairu and in particular Lourdes Iriondo and Xabier Lete (with whom she established a lasting friendship), she started composing songs for accompaniment by the guitar. Lete wrote the lyrics for several of her compositions, including the popular “Kanta Kanta,” recorded by Maria Ostiz in the late 1960s, and Iriondo recorded her song “Maitasun honek zugan dirudi” in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s the renowned sculptor, artist, and all-round Basque renaissance figure Nestor Basterretxea commissioned her to compose an accompanying soundtrack for what would become arguably his most famous work, the Serie Cosmogonica Vasca (Basque Cosmogonic Series), today housed in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.  The result was the choral work “Karraxis,” based on verses by Basterretxea, which premiered in 1979 in Donostia-San Sebastián with the Ametsa Choir from Irun and some members of the Orfeón Donostiarra choir as well. In the mid-1980s she worked with Basterretxea again to create the “Cripta,” a piece for the organ inspired by the artist’s murals for the crypt in the Sanctuary of Arantzazu.  Although these were her best known works, she composed many more choral and organ pieces and left a profound mark on Basque music. She died in Irun in June 1999.

February 28, 1513: Twelve cannons added to the Gipuzkoa coat of arms

The origins of coats of arms go back to the surcoat, a garment worn by knights over their armor and emblazoned with their personal “arms” or design. In time, these arms became identified with larger entities like a whole noble family, a royal house, town, province, and so on. In effect, these coats of arms became easily identifiable emblems by which to represent such an entity, a kind of logo. On February 28, 1513, Queen Joanna of Castile, Joanna the Mad (!), conceded Gipuzkoa the right to incorporate twelve cannons on its coat of arms.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1513-1979, featuring the monarch and twelve cannons. Image by Miguillen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1513-1979, featuring the monarch and twelve cannons. Image by Miguillen, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1512, Gipuzkoan troops, in the service of her father, Ferdinand, and the crown of Castile and Aragon had taken part  in its conquest of Navarre. The Gipuzkoans fought the Navarrese at the Battles of Belate and Elizondo. During the war, the Gipuzkoans took twelve French cannons that had been used by the Navarrese in the siege of Iruñea-Pamplona.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1979-present. Image by HansenBCN, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coat of arms of Gipuzkoa, 1979-present. Image by HansenBCN, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Between 1513 and 1979, then, those twelve cannons, representing Gipuzkoan service to the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon and the military defeat of the Kingdom of Navarre featured on the province’s official coat of arms. In 1979, though, by a vote of the provincial council of Gipuzkoa, it was decided to remove the cannons. The reason given was that they represented a glorification of war and that the symbol was humiliating for Navarre. At the same time, it was also decided to withdraw the figure of a monarch being crowned (thought to represent either Alfonso VIII or Henry IV of Castile).

The legend Fidelisima Bardulia, numquam superada means “Most loyal Bardulia, never overcome” (Bardulia being an ancient Roman term for a region in the north of the Iberian Peninsula that derived from the Roman term for a tribe of people, the Varduli, who inhabited present-day Gipuzkoa).  The trees are Taxus baccata, a conifer known in English as the common yew, while the figures holding clubs represent the aforementioned Varduli.

February 3, 1922: Birth of legendary tambourine player Felisa Arribalzaga

Before the advent of the modern recording industry live music reigned in the popular imagination of people in the Basque Country. One of the great “stars” of this age was Felisa Arribalzaga, born in Muxika, Bizkaia, on February 3, 1922. To say that she was just a panderojole (Basque tambourine player) is to do her a tremendous disservice because she was also an accomplished dancer, singer, and irrintzilari (a performer of the irrintzi, the Basque yell).

Although born in Muxika, on marrying her husband, Eduardo Egiarte, she moved to his home town of Amorebieta-Etxano (also known as Zornotza). The couple had met as teenagers on Mount Bizkargi, between Muxika and Amorebieta, while they were tending their respective flocks of sheep. Egiarte was an accordion player and the couple began performing in Bizkaia under the name the Zornotzako trikitilariak (Zornotza two-row diatonic accordionists). During the Franco years, they continued to perform their Basque music, often clandestinely as it was banned by the regime.

Arribalzaga died in her adopted home town on June 30, 2015.

She remains a great example of how music and dance in traditional Basque culture, according to CBS author Sabin Bikandi, form in many ways a single entity, given that it is impossible to truly understand one without the other.  See Sabin Bikandi, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Music in the Basque Country.

For anyone interested in practicing their Western Basque dialect, check out the following 1997 radio interview (with Spanish subtitles) with Egiarte and Arribalzaga:

Kerri Lesh talks “Txakolina” on Academic Minute and NPR podcast

Just before the Thanksgiving weekend on November 20th, Academic Minute featured a series of pieces about various drinks, to include beer and caffeinated beverages. Among the academics featured, Kerri Lesh presented on Txakolina–“a hard to define wine.”

As a cultural and linguistic anthropologist and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Kerri’s research examines the use of the Basque language, Euskara, in the creation of value for marketing local gastronomic products.  Her dissertation, divided into chapters on various Basque beverages, analyzes how each product distinctly functions in various markets when using Euskara to promote it.  One of her chapters looks at the various ways in which the traditional Basque wine, txakolina, is advertised and commodified to create value for the product as well as the Basque language.

Her piece that is featured can be found here on Academic Minute and on NPR’s podcast, discusses the uniqueness of this locally produced Basque wine, and the uncharacteristic ways in how it is defined. Aside from her love of food and wine, the aim for Kerri’s dissertation is to demonstrate ways in which value is created for the Basque language in contribution to language normalization.

Kerri plans to defend her dissertation this upcoming May, and to teach a course during the first session of summer titled “Consuming Identities: Food and Drink as Cultural Heritage.”

 

November 4, 1979: Creation of the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (EHE) association

On November 4, 1979, the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (Basque in the Basque Country, EHE) association was launched in Durango, Bizkaia under the slogan “Euskararik gabe, Euskal Herririk ez” (Without Basque there is no Basque Country). It is an association that defends the right to live in Basque in the Basque Country. Today, its principal goal is to achieve a Basque-speaking Basque Country made up of polyglot or multilingual people.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, the association focuses its concerns on certain areas: the right to learn and study in Basque throughout the educational systems of the whole Basque Country, the right to use Basque and be dealt with in the language in all official situations (including, for example, healthcare, legal contexts, and any circumstances involving the public administration), the right to receive information via the media in Basque, the more general demand for linguistic normalization (comprising much of the aforementioned goals), and challenging what it interprets as any assaults on the linguistic rights of Basque speakers.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From the outset, and to this day, the EHE association emphasized its activist nature. That is to say, it is an association that is nonaligned to any political party but advocates peaceful social protest to raise awareness about the minoritized status of Basque as well as in pursuit of basic goal of demanding a Basque-speaking Basque Country. This is considered controversial in some quarters, especially as the association challenges many official administrative goals of bilingualism in the Basque Country, asserting that such goals–in the context of a minoritized language–actually result in a situation of diglossia, in which an “H” or “high” language continues to occupy a dominant position over an “L” or “low” language.

Language is a key theme for many of the Center’s publications. See, for example, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio (free to download here) and The Challenges of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.

 

 

October 3, 1994: Premiere of long-running Basque TV soap opera Goenkale

On October 3, 1994, the Basque TV series Goenkale premiered. It would go on to run for 3,708 episodes, finally coming to an end on December 28, 2015. It became the most watched show on the Basque-language channel ETB 1 and one of the most popular shows of all time for EITB, the Basque public broadcasting service.

Set in the fictional coastal town of Arralde, the soap opera followed the fortunes of the town’s inhabitants and several emblematic locales such as the Boga Boga bar, a popular local bakery, a video store, a gastronomic society, and the local police station, all centered around “Goenkale” or Upper Street, the principal street in Arralde.

It was originally scheduled to run for just three months, but its immediate success led to it being renewed. With episode number 3000 on July 5, 2010, it became officially the longest running TV series in Spanish broadcasting history to date, and the second longest-running show on European TV.

See a report on the show here.

 

Bill Douglass Featured in the Las Vegas Sun

Bill Douglass, the founder of the Center for Basque Studies, was interviewed by Yvonne Gonzalez of the Las Vegas Sun for a Q + A in her piece about the Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada. Since Douglass has been researching and writing about the Basques and Basque culture since the 1960s, he was the natural choice to ask questions about Basque cuisine, culture, history and how all of these aspects helped shape the American West into what it is today.

Bill Douglass

Bill Douglass

He explained how the Basque cuisine is different in the United States than in Euskadi because of the different availabilities to seafood. He also talked about the history of Basque boardinghouses and how it shaped the way we think of Basque cuisine today, as well as the way Basque immigrants have been viewed in the United States and the fluctuating status of the sheep industry. It is a fascinating interview and if you want to learn more about Basque culture, history or the diaspora, this is a great read!

The Basque mural in Gardnerville, Nevada by Beverly Caputo; to read more about The Basque mural, click here: https://bit.ly/2N7E1I7

The Basque mural in Gardnerville, Nevada by Beverly Caputo; to read more about The Basque mural, click here: https://bit.ly/2N7E1I7

To learn more about the interview or The Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada click here: https://bit.ly/2MSKWop

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.

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.

Older posts