Tag: basque events (page 1 of 9)

The Maskarada: A Unique Basque Cultural Event

Zamalzain, the hobbyhorse/centaur, one of the striking characters in the masakarada performance. Photo by Oier Araolaza, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, January 22, the annual maskarada begin its annual odyssey. Part drama, part dance, part poetic performance (both memorized and improvised),  and with more than a coincidental resemblance to the forthcoming carnival antics across the Basque Country, this is a cultural form unique to Xiberoa (or Zuberoa) in the far northeast of the Basque Country, in which a group of amateurs from the same area traditionally perform a form of transgressive, subversive, and parodic open-air popular theater with the declared aim of poking fun at those in authority. The traveling troupe always includes the same characters, a set group made up of ostensibly “good” and “bad” figures, although the lines do get blurred. At root, this is a tradition designed to cement community ties and one that celebrates both the Basque language and traditional music and dance. It has been practiced since at least the sixteenth century.

This year’s event is being performed by  a group of young people aged 15 to 24 from the villages of Ezpeize-Ündüreine, Ürrüstoi-Larrabile, Ainharbe, Sarrikotapea, Onizepea, and Mitikile in the Pettarra region of northern Xiberoa, and kicked off in Ezpeize itself. The maskarada is returning to this region 100 years after it was last performed here. In the video above you can see the introductory dance following the so-called fall of the first barricade.

One of the most spectacular moments in the maskarada is the godaleta(a) dantza (dance of the glass of wine), in which dancers attempt to momentarily hop on and off a glass of wine. Check out this video of dancers attempting the feat at a separate event in Donibane Lohizune, Lapurdi:

Check out, too, “The Folk Arts of the Maskarada Performance” by Kepa Fernández de Larrinoa in Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika. In his article, Fernández de Larrinoa explains who the characters are in this performance as well as the set pattern of scenes they perform, and what all of this means within the wider context of the culture of Xiberoa.

This book is available free to download here.

 

Basques get ready for San Sebastian Day

Tomorrow, January 20, is a key date on the calendar for some Basques at least: San Sebastian Day, celebrated above all in Donostia-San Sebastián and Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa. The central event in this exuberant, 24-hour party is the danborrada, a loud and proud drum festival in which everyone who can takes part. The festival kicks off at exactly midnight on January 20 and goes on for the next 24 hours, nonstop.

In Donostia, at midnight the mayor hoists the flag of the city in Constitution Square, a central hub of the city’s old quarter that is jam-packed for the celebrations. Meanwhile, participants dressed up as cooks or in old fashioned military uniforms beat out a nonstop rhythmic (and almost deafening) sound as the city well and truly lets its hair down. With carnival season just around the corner, there is more than just a hint of he carnivalesque in all this. The origins of this unique celebration are said to date back to the military occupation of the city by Napoleon’s troops toward the end of the Peninsular War (1807-1814), when some women, whose daily chores included fetching and carrying water from public fountains, began to mock the French soldiers’ drumming by banging on their water pails. Thereafter, in the 1830s local residents began mocking the daily changing of the guard by soldiers stationed in the city. Probably in connection with the carnival season, a traditional time to mock authority, some locals began a raucous custom–like those women a generation before–of using buckets and hardware to mimic the solemnity of these daily military parades.

With time, various clubs and associations–mot famously, gastronomic societies such as the famous Gaztelube (hence the dressing up as cooks)–began to get involved in the celebrations, and this is the tradition that lasts to this day, with members of these associations taking the event very seriously indeed, practicing their drumming until the big day arrives. And even kids get involved, with school groups performing their own danborrada during the daytime on January 20. A traditional repertoire of musical compositions accompany all this drumming, most famously “The March of San Sebastian” (1861), with music by Raimundo Sarriegui (1838-1913) and lyrics by Serafin Baroja (1840-1912)

Modern Basque version 

Bagera!
gu (e)re bai
gu beti pozez, beti alai!

Sebastian bat bada zeruan
Donosti(a) bat bakarra munduan
hura da santua ta hau da herria
horra zer den gure Donostia!

Irutxuloko, Gaztelupeko
Joxemaritar zahar eta gazte
Joxemaritar zahar eta gazte
kalerik kale danborra joaz
umore ona zabaltzen hor dihoaz
Joxemari!

Gaurtandik gerora penak zokora
Festara! Dantzara!
Donostiarrei oihu egitera gatoz
pozaldiz!
Inauteriak datoz!

English translation

Here we are!
us too
we’re always happy, always cheerful!

There’s a Sebastian in the sky
one unique San Sebastián in the world
that’s the saint and this is the town
That’s what our San Sebastián is!

From Irutxulo, from Gaztelupe
The Joxemaritarras old and young
The Joxemaritarras old and young
from street to street playing the drum
there they go spreading good cheer
Joxemari!

From now on away with any hardships
Let’s party! Dance!
Shouting out to all the people of Donostia
Joyful!
The carnival is coming!

And don’t forget, the great town of Azpeitia also celebrates San Sebastian Day in its own unique way…

2017 Basque cider season kicks off with annual ceremonial opening of the barrels

Yesterday’s ceremonial opening of the new cider barrels to welcome in the forthcoming “txotx” cider season–the traditional time between January and April when the cider is drunk straight from the barrel in Basque cider houses–is so much more than just a publicity stunt. It marks a key event on the Basque culinary and cultural calendar, with the dry apple cider produced there an important symbol of the Basques’ culture, as we revealed in a previous post.  That said, it would be disingenuous to think that the event is not a canny marketing opportunity for the cider houses, too, but let’s just say this is one of those moments where commercial and cultural interests intersect successfully.

The great “txotx” experience. Photo by Jon Urbe (Argia.com), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Every year a Basque personality has the honor of taking the first drink from the new vintage, and this year that honor went to Eneko Atxa from Zornotza, Bizkaia, the 3-star Michelin chef at Azurmendi in Larrabetzu, also in Bizkaia. Prior to taking the first drink, at the Zapiain cider house in Astigarraga, Gipuzkoa, Atxa offered up the traditional toast to “Gure sagardo berria” (Our new cider). In keeping with tradition, too, Atxa also planted an apple tree in the grounds of the Sagardoetxea, the Basque Cider Museum. And the event was accompanied by traditional dances (the “Sagar-dantza” or apple dance) and the participation of the bertsolariak (improvising oral poets) Amets Arzallus and Jon Maia. See highlights of all this in the video, from Berria TB.

It is worth noting than numerous public figures also attended the event, highlighting its importance, and that this year’s celebration coincides with the recent announcement of a new regulatory classification system for the product: henceforth, all cider produced with apples cultivated exclusively in the Basque Country will be branded under the “Euskal Sagardoa” label (Basque Cider, natural cider from the Basque Country). Of the 12.5 million liters (approx. 3.3 million gallons) of cider produced in the 2016 vintage–a figure slightly down on the previous year–around 12% currently comply with these guidelines and will go by the name Euskal Sagardoa, although there is a 15-year plan in place to increase this figure significantly. In the meantime, there is also the Gorenak label, which covers producers who also use apples cultivated both within and outside the Basque Country.

Basque cider is also bottled, of course, as in these two examples of the Zapiain (Hegoalde, the Southern Basque Country) and Eztigar (Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country) cider houses. Photo by Bichenzo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Whatever the case, the cider house “experience” is about so much more than just a glass (or more… maybe) of the crisp, refreshing dry apple nectar; it’s about good hearty no-frills food, conversation, conviviality, and, if you’re really lucky, some collective song. For anyone interested in Basque culture, the “txotx” experience is not to be missed!

Korrika 2017: Route and details announced!

The route and details of the 20th edition of the Korrika have just been announced. This is a biannual sponsored run that winds its way all over the Basque Country aiming to raise awareness of the reality of the Basque language as well as funding for adult learning centers for learning Basque. The non-stop 24-hour run is divided up into individual kilometers, with a special baton being passed on from participant to participant along the way.  Come rain or shine (quite often the former … it is the Basque Country, in spring, after all) the run goes on, night and day, until it reaches its chosen destination, where a previously secret message is taken from the baton and read to the amassed crowd.

 

The 2017 route, from the Korrika website (click on image to enlarge).

This year’s edition will cover 2000 kilometers (approximately 1,243 miles) in eleven hectic days between March 30 and April 9. The slogan for the event this year is “Batzuk” (some) as a play on words between bat (one) and zuk (you), as a symbol of how the Basque language can bring everyone together as one. The event kicks off in Otxandio (Bizkaia) and winds up in Iruñea-Pamplona and thousands are expected to attend and participate. Funds are raised by people “purchasing” individual kilometers, buying merchandise, or just making one-off donations.

This is a great celebration of the Basque language and what it means to be Basque in which anyone and everyone, whether they speak Basque or not, is encouraged to come along, either physically or in spirit, virtually, via the web. We at the Center encourage everyone, wherever you are, to get involved. Why not even organize your own Korrika?

Information and merchandise is available from the 2017 Korrika website here.  And don’t forget to check back in regularly between now and March for updates and further news!

And for a great explanation of the history and meaning of the Korrika, see Teresa del Valle’s Korrika: Basque Ritual for Ethnic Identity.

 

Basque climber to embark on most extreme challenge of career

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Basque mountaineer Alex Txikon. Photo by Amaia Larruzea (Mendialdiak) at Alex Txikon’s website.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you will know by now just how important mountains are to Basques; and how Basques, so relatively few in number, truly punch above their weight when it comes to forming part of the world’s mountaineering elite. For example, here on the blog we’ve looked at the careers and impact of Edurne Pasaban, Juanito Oiarzabal, and Alberto Iñurrategi. In the same vein, one of the rising stars of Basque mountaineering, Alex Txikon from Lemoa, Bizkaia, recently announced his intention to embark on the most extreme challenge of his career to date, “even,” he himself suggests via his website, “the most ambitious challenge in the world of mountaineering”: an ascent of Everest, in winter, and without oxygen. To put this challenge into some perspective, bear in mind that nobody has attempted to climb Everest in winter in more than two decades, and that it was first scaled in winter only in 1980, with oxygen, by the great Polish mountaineer Krzysztof Wielicki and his companion Leszek Cichy.

Txikon (in green) and fellow expedition members get a real Basque send-off from a txistulari at Loiu Airport, Bilbao. Photo at Alex Txikon’s website.

Txikon came to the attention of the mountaineering world, together with companions Simone Moro and Ali Sadpara, after they climbed Nanga Parbat in Pakistan–the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 meters (26,660 ft) above sea level–in the winter of 2015; the first ever winter ascent of the so-called killer mountain (check out the story of that adventure and some great images here). On the expedition to climb Everest in 2017 he will be accompanied by Carlos Rubio as well as cameramen Aitor Bárez and Pablo Magister.

If you want to follow this adventure, check out Alex Txikon’s website here, where you’ll be able to follow the whole expedition in real time! (By the way, at the same website Alex recounts an amazing nighttime climb in Oñati, Gipuzkoa, as part of his training for the Everest ascent, with some incredible pictures. Check out that story here).

Some Basque-American traditions during the Holiday Season

With the holiday season here, most of you out there will know that this is a time typically embraced by Basque-Americans to have a good old time, Basque-style, with plenty of eating, drinking, dancing, and general bonhomie. One only need check out Astero to get a flavor of all the events going on during the holiday season, but it’s worth recalling that all these Christmas parties, the lunches and dinners, as well as the New Year’s celebrations, are rooted in a long tradition stretching back many years. This custom–which in academic terms we could say was based on a drive to cement community and cultural ties, to keep those bonds strong, and maintain and pass on traditions, often in the face of adverse wider social conditions–has in recent years changed significantly, but I think it’s interesting to consider how and why these gatherings came about.

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For those that could, Christmas was one of the few opportunities for Basque-Americans to let their hair down a little. Picture from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

As Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao point out in Amerikanuak (p. 386), such events were in former times typically less public than they are today. In their words, as regards the winter events (p. 388):

These Basque get-togethers all shared the characteristic of being closed ethnic affairs. With the exception of the Boise Sheepherders’ Ball, they were unheralded, inconspicuous events on the local social calendar. They were often held at some distance from the local population centers. None of this is surprising when we consider that the dates coincide with the periods of tension between the Basques and their neighbors … In such a climate, the Basques were not prone to display their ethnic identity publicly. If the Basque hotel and the private picnic or dance served as an ethnic refuge, where the immigrant could enjoy Basque cuisine, conversation, and company, he attempted in his dealings with the wider society to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Even the origins of the famed Sheepherders’ Ball, perhaps the most famous of all Basque winter social events, recall an altercation between different Basque insurance groups in the late 1920s. As John and Mark Bieter note in An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho (p. 100):

Both organizations scheduled Christmas dances for herders in town on the same night. The influential sheepman John Archabal mediated the controversy and convinced the two sides to organize one dance with a lamb auction for charity. Both parties agreed, and the annual Sheepherders’ Ball became a mainstay in Boise and, later, in other southern Idaho towns.

The Sheepherders’ Ball became known as an “apron and overalls” dance, because admission required sheepherder garb or traditional Basque costumes. Sometimes a stand was set up near the door, where any partygoers who arrived inappropriately dressed could buy jeans on the spot. Although it was reserved for Basques and their guests, the Sheepherders’ Ball attracted the attention of the general public. On December 19, 1936, the Boise Capitol News wrote: “Black-eyed sons and daughters of the Pyrenees danced their beloved ‘jota’ with snapping fingers and nimble feet Friday evening at the annual Sheepherders’ Ball held at Danceland, to the music of Benito Arrego’s accordion and pandareen.”

Nowadays, these holiday season get-togethers are more open affairs, with everyone welcome, as noted in our recent post on the Basque Ladies’ Lagunak Christmas Luncheon in Reno. But it’s good to see that this great tradition of holiday season lunches, dinners, and dances continues to bind the Basque-American community together.

Besides these events, there is also a tradition of Basque-American participation in Christmas parades, as Nancy Zubiri writes in her invaluable book, A Travel Guide to Basque America:

On Christmas Eve for several years local Basque Children traveled down the usually snow-lined main street of Gardnerville in  hay-wagons, displaying the Nativity scene, signing gabon kantak (Christmas carols) and playing instruments–an Old Country tradition. Their procession would end at the Overland, where they received gifts and [Elvira] Cenoz served them the traditional hot chocolate. But the custom ended when the number of children dwindled.

Nowadays, the Garnerville Basque Club, Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, usually takes part in the town’s annual festive Parade of Lights.

Christmas was also an occasion for family gatherings of course, as the stories collected in Portraits of Basques in the New World, edited by Richard W. Etulain and Jeronima Echeverria, testify to. For example, Ysidra Juanita “Jay” Arriola Uberuaga Hormaechea, born in Boise in 1908, recalled the holiday season of her youth (pp. 194-95):

We never knew what Christmas was until I was grown up, went to work, and earned some money. I brought in a fresh Christmas tree to our home at 310 Grove, in Boise. It was the first tree that our family ever had. Christmas day for us people was shared big suppers, dancing, and enjoying ourselves, in that way … Maybe, a little package for the kids. That was it … That’s the way it was when I was a girl.

Similarly, and in the Old Country tradition, Marjorie Archabal remembered (p. 91) Christmas Eve meals at which some thirty people gathered, women on one side of the table, men on the other, with the Archabal family patriarch and matriarch at the head. These meals took days to prepare, with the menu consisting of tongue, tripe, and codfish, among many other dishes. Meanwhile, growing up in a Basque home in northeastern Montana in the 1940s and 1950s, Rene Tihista recalled a blend of Basque and American traditions, with turkey making appearance at the family table (p. 121):

When I was a kid all the holiday gatherings with my uncles and cousins were held at our place. Mom raised a huge turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Dad played the accordion and violin and sang Basque songs. Of course wine flowed freely during our get-togethers. I would sit on dad’s knee and sing “Uso Zuria,” a song he taught me about a white dove that travels to Spain. It was the only Basque song I knew, but it must have been a hit because the grown-ups made me sing it over and over.

And no doubt many of you out there, if you are part of a Basque-American family, will be enjoying similar kinds of celebrations this holiday season.

If you do have any stories you’d like to share with us about your own Basque-style holiday celebrations, we’d be pleased to hear from you!

 

 

 

The 2016 Bilbao Mendi Film Festival

This year’s Bilbao Mendi Film Festival kicked off on December 9 and runs through December 18. This is an annual festival that celebrates cinematic representations of mountains, mountaineering, hiking, climbing, skiing, adventure, exploration, extreme sports, and the great outdoors in general. Check out the trailer on the main website to get a flavor of what it’s all about.

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Basque-themed work appearing at the festival this year includes Akabuko Martxea, a documentary directed by Aitor Gisasola and Fredi Paia about efforts to recreate the tradition of sheep transhumance in herding sheep from the Urbia Mountains to the Uribe Kosta coastal district.

In the fall of 2015 two Gipuzkoan shepherds, Mikel Etxezarreta and Eli Arrillaga, spent five days herding 250 sheep from Zegama in Gipuzkoa to Getxo in Bizkaia. Their aim was to recreate the tradition of transhumance, a way of life that came to an end in the early 1980s. Indeed, Etxezarreta himself last carried out such a trek in 1982.

The Basque-made documentary, Kurssuaq. La exploración del Río Grande, will also be shown. We covered this amazing kayak expedition in a previous post here. Similarly, Humla, produced and directed by Mikel Sarasola, charts the adventures of four kayakers as they attempt to negotiate the mighty Humla Karnali, the longest river in Nepal.

The documentary Common Ground, meanwhile, charts the expedition of a group of climbers, including the brothers Iker and Eneko Pou from Vitoria-Gasteiz, to the remote Chukotka region of Siberia. In a similar vein, Eñaut Izagirre’s Incognita Patagonia, produced for National Geographic, covers a climbing expedition to the Cloue Icefield on Hoste Island, at the southern tip of Latin America.

Elsewhere, Jon Herranz directs Mar Alvarez No Logo, a documentary about woman firefighter and part-time climber, Mar Alvarez.

In somewhat of a different direction, Iker Elorrieta’s film I Forgot Myself Somewhere examines the challenges faced by women in northern Pakistan to get an education.

And Xabier Zabala’s Imaginador is a biography of photographer Santi Yaniz, famed for his work in the Basque Country and the Pyrenees.

See a full list of the films on show here.

Prestigious award for great friend of the Center

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As part of the ongoing celebrations held in conjunction with the unique experience that is the annual Durangoko Azoka, the Basque Book and Record Fair held in Durango, Bizkaia, the  prestigious Argizaiola Award is presented to people who, in the bleakest of moments, have managed to bring light and warmth to Basque culture; to keep the culture going, in other words, when the chips are down. In 2013, for example, our very own Bill Douglass received the award.

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Five of the recipients of the 2016 Argizaiola Award, L to R: jaime Albillos Arnaiz, Kepa Mendia Landa, Carmen Belaza, Jose Ramon Zengotitabengoa, and Justo Alberdi Artetxe. Image taken from the Durangoko Azoka website.

This year, the award has been given to six people to represent the hundreds of individuals who have over the years carried out inurri-lana (literally “ant work”) in favor of Basque culture. In sum, this is public recognition for the often overlooked tireless efforts, long hours, and great personal investment of so many people to keep Basque culture alive and thriving. The six individuals were chosen to represent specific geographical areas – five in the Basque Country itself: Kepa Mendia Landa (Araba),  Justo Alberdi Artetxe (Bizkaia), Jaime Albillos Arnaiz (Gipuzkoa), Patxika Erramuzpe (Iparralde), and Carmen Belaza (Nafarroa); and one to represent the Basque Diaspora: our great friend Jose Ramon Zengotitabengoa, whose son Sam now represents the family on the Center’s Advisory Board.

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Examples of an argizaiola, or “board of wax,” a kind of coiled ornamental candle. In many traditional cultures,  any light-giving source, anything to keep darkness at bay, holds a special place in the human imagination. Photo by Juan San Martin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jose Ramon, a Bizkaian born in Zaldibar in 1938 and raised in the  Durango district, has certainly had an eventful life involving much traveling. At age fifteen he left home to pursue his studies. He went to university in Liège, Belgium, for five years before moving to England, where he lived and worked for nine years, followed by a two-year stay in Germany. Eventually, he moved to the United States, where he enjoyed a successful thirty-five-year business career in Chicago as well as raising a family before retirement. Through his and others’ efforts, the Society for Basque Studies in America was established, which served as a catalyst for numerous academic initiatives to promote and study Basque culture in the US. He also played a prominent role in establishing Nestor Basterretxea’s Basque Sheepherders’ Monument in Reno and served on the Center’s advisory board for many years.

Zorionak, Jose Ramon, and all the other “ants” who have done so much for Basque culture over the years!

 

New books for Durangoko Azoka 2016

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Just a quick reminder to all our readers in the Basque Country who may be thinking of attending this year’s Azoka in Durango, the great book and record fair that turns into one huge celebration of Basque culture in general (with just a wee bit of good old-fashioned partying involved as well), this year’s publications by the Center will be at our stand. This is the 51st year of the Azoka, taking place this time round between December 2 and 6. For full details check out the official website: http://durangokoazoka.eus/eu/

New 2016 Releases

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Part of the Center’s Migration Studies Series, Basques in Cuba, edited by William A. Douglass, is an ambitious attempt on the part of a variety of scholars from different disciplines and countries to chart the impact of Basque immigration in Cuba, and the effect of this back in the Basque Country.

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The Basques by Jacques Allières, part of the prestigious Classic Series, is a work originally intended as an introduction to Basque history and culture, with a special focus on the Basque language, for a Francophone public. It is published here for the first time in English and serves as a unique perspective on the Basque Country by the renowned French linguist.

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Multilevel Governance and Regional Empowerment by Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka is a timely addition to the growing scholarship on the multiple layers of government within the European Union. In an age marked by the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, the movement in favor of a similar vote in Catalonia, and the Brexit referendum of 2016, this work reminds us of the importance of understanding such multiple power structures.

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Iban Zaldua’s This Strange and Powerful Language is a must for anyone interested in a general and accessible introduction to Basque-language literature. Zaldua’s easy-to-follow and often humorous prose guides readers through the decisions that writers make to publish in the Basque language, while offering a general introduction to the major literary work in the language.

If you can’t make it to Durango, don’t forget that you can shop for all our books online here: http://basquebooks.myshopify.com/

Senegal TV network reports from Basque Country

The Senegal online TV network Diaspora 24 recently included a short report on Senegalese people residing in the Busturialdea region of Bizkaia. Senegalese make up the most important Sub-Saharan African community in the Basque Country, many first coming to fill positions in the Basque fishing industry and as a result settling in towns and villages along the Basque coastline. However, now the approximately 3,500 people of Senegalese origin reside throughout the country and have their own organization to help represent their interests: the Mboolo Elkar association.

As part of the report, carried out by Gernika-resident Fadima Faye, originally from Senegal, there was a visit to the Urdaibai Bird Center, “An International Airport for Birds,” as one of the emblematic sites of interest in the region. Interestingly, a migrating Osprey named “Cousteau,” which was tagged this year and left the center in September, has been located recently in its winter habitat along the Casamance River in Senegal.

See some pictures of the visit here:  http://www.birdcenter.org/en/news/news/643-2016-11-16-16-49-44

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