Tag: bayonne

Baiona renames street in honor of Estitxu Robles-Aranguiz

Estitxu Robles-Aranguiz in 1970. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, the City of Baiona yesterday unveiled a plaque commemorating the life and work of singer Estitxu Robles-Aranguiz Bernaola, known simply as Estitxu or “Beskoitzeko urretxindorra” (the nightingale of Beskoitze), and in doing so named a street in her honor in the city.

She was born in Beskoitze (Briscous), Lapurdi, in 1944 to a family of political refugees from Bizkaia fleeing the Franco dictatorship. Her father, Manu Robles-Aranguiz, was one of the founders of the Basque nationalist labor union ELA, and had himself already been forced into exile during the previous Spanish dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera in the 1920s. Born into a naturally musical family made up of ten siblings, she studied classical guitar and at an early age Estitxu formed the Ainarak (The Swallows) group together with her sisters Edurne, Garbiñe, Gizane, and Maitane; while four of their brothers–Alatz, Irkus, Ugutz, and Iker–created the Soroak quartet. In 1967, at the age of twenty-three she began appearing solo in festivals, performing for the first time in public in Bilbao. A year later she released her first single, and this in turn led to more public performances in Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Iparralde, with her rendering of American spiritual, gospel, country, and folk-inspired music in Basque. This early success as a pioneer of the New Basque Folk movement even led to an overseas tour in 1969 when, at the invitation of exiled Basque communities in Latin America, she performed in Mexico and Venezuela. Indeed, her first album was produced in Caracas, and went by the title Una voz increíble (Promus, 1970).

All of this coincided with the waning years of the Franco regime, and her performances in Basque were on more than one occasion subject to strict censorship controls. Still, in the 1970s her recording career really took off as she released a number of singles, albums, and children’s music collections. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she moved away from Basque reworkings of American Folk music toward more traditional Basque music, performing in the United States in 1983. After recording the album Zortzikoak (Xoxoa, 1986), however, she fell ill and was unable to perform for several years. She reappeared in public in 1993, performing a concert in Irun, Gipuzkoa, and signing off by saying “Laster artio, Euskal Herria!” (See you soon, Basque Country!), but three weeks later she was taken ill with cancer once more an died in a Bilbao hospital. A tribute album titled simply Estitxu (Agorila, 1994) was subsequently released in her memory.

What’s in a Name? Some Basque Place Names in North America

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Cape Alava and Ozette Island. Photo by Kimon Berlin, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the weternmost point of the contiguous 48 US states is called Cape Alava, and was named after a Basque, José Manuel de Alava, who was born in 1843 in Vitoria-Gasteiz? It’s in Clallam County, Washington, and forms the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. It was named after Alava in 1794 for his role as commissioner during discussions leading to the Nootka Sound Conventions, agreements between Great Britain and Spain that averted a war between the two empires over overlapping claims to parts of the Pacific Northwest in the 1790s.

What’s more, Arizona may also be a Basque-derived name, according to the National Park Service’s page, as explained here at Buber’s Basque Page.

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Downtown Durango, CO. Photo by Sascha Bruck, via Wikimedia Commons

What appears less open to question is the Basque connection when it comes to the name Durango, whether in Colorado, Iowa, or Texas, even if it did come via a town of the same name in Mexico, since the Mexican town derives its name from Durango, Bizkaia. Nor is there any doubt as regards Port aux Basques, the oldest of the collection of towns that make up the present-day Channel-Port aux Basques in Newfoundland, Canada. Similarly, Key Biscayne, an island in Miami-Dade County, Florida, owes its name, reputedly, to the fact that a “Biscayan” (which at that time meant a Basque) had lived on the lower east coast of Florida for a while after being shipwrecked. What’s more, a seventeenth-century map shows the place name Cayo de Biscainhos, the probable origin of today’s Key Biscayne.

Other place names with some Basque connections include the following (in a by no means definitive list):

  • Anza, Riverside Co., CA (named after explorer Juan Bautista de Anza)
  • The Les Basques regional county municipality in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, Canada
  • Navarre, Santa Rosa Co., FL
  • St. Ignace, Mackinac Co., MI (after the Basque Saint Ignatius of Loiola/Loyola)
  • St. Xavier,  Big Horn Co., MT (after the Basque Saint Francis Xabier/Xavier)
  • Uvalde, TX (a corruption of Ugalde, the Basque last name of a Spanish governor at that time).

Moreover, the name of Bayonne, Hudson Co., NJ, seems to be connected to Bayonne (in Basque, Baiona) in Lapurdi, although there is some disagreement as to whether this is actually the case. And Jean Lafitte, in Jefferson Parish, LA, is named after a famous privateer who was possibly born in Biarritz, Lapurdi.

Do you know of any more Basque-related place names in North America?