Tag: Bilbao (page 1 of 6)

July 10, 1904: Birth of Ticiana Iturri, first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia and pioneer in women’s health issues

Anyone who studies women’s history invariably comes up against the wall of conventional tropes that underscore the significance of major public events in which, routinely, women have been excluded from the central narrative. When it comes to documenting and interpreting the lives of women in the past, then, one must frame the study within different sets of analytical parameters that emphasize an extra dimension that women have faced historically in stepping outside socially prescribed roles as wives, mothers, daughters, and so on. Ticiana Iturri Landajo, born in Portugalete, Bizkaia, on July 10, 1904, is one such example. Her story is, in many ways, modest, within the aforementioned terms of the “big” events in history; yet framed another way, her achievements and contributions to Basque society are inumerable.

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Tician Iturri Landajo (1904-1969).

Iturri was born into a middle-class family in Portugalete, one of the significant industrial and maritime centers flanking Bilbao during the city’s spectacular economic boom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the family moved to Seville when she was still very young on account of her father’s work, it retained close ties with Bizkaia, returning each summer to vacation there. After completing her medical studies in Madrid, she obtained an official post as a consultant doctor in Bizkaia. She was officially approved as member number 553 in the medical association of Bizkaia in 1932, the first woman member, and opened a clinic in Bilbao specializing in pediatrics, gynecology, and obstetrics.

As the first licensed woman doctor in Bizkaia, she faced significant opposition and criticism from the more traditionalist members of her profession. In general, though, she was supported by the medical association and most of her peers. A noted feminist, through the 1930s she worked intensively on many women’s issues, and was especially active in defending the rights of single mothers. She also collaborated in the Basque nationalist women’s group, Emakume Abertzale Batza, through which she organized nursing classes. After the war, she worked in the School of Pediatrics in Bilbao, where she helped to improve hygiene measures, and in 1955 she obtained a position as a gynecologist in  the official social welfare system of her home province.

She dedicated the rest of her life to her work and the reproductive rights of women, especially single mothers. She died in 1969.

In recognition of her contribution to women’s health issues in Bizkaia, the medical association of Bizkaia named the classrooms on the fourth floor of its headquarters the “Iturri classrooms.”

June 1, 1882: Bilbao-Durango railroad opened

Who doesn’t like trains? Well, ok, let’s put it another way: whatever your opinion of trains, in today’s tech-savvy communication obsessed world, let’s remember that railroads once represented the latest in communications technology. With this in mind, on June 1, 1882 the beloved (for some at least) duranguillo, the Bilbao-Durango railroad line, was opened to the public for the first time. It had the distinction of being the second metric gauge railroad line, a narrower gauge than those established previously, constructed in Spain to serve public transport needs.  And its successful implementation, both from an engineering and an economic point of view, established a model of narrow gauge railroad lines for the whole Cantabrian zone. And despite being a mere twenty miles in length, it still serves as an important route today.

After an inaugural run on May 30, trains started circulating on the line on June 1. The line, run by the Compañía del Ferrocarril Central de Vizcaya (Central Railroad Company of Bizkaia), passed from the Bilbao terminus in Atxuri through the stations of Bolueta (Bilbao), Galdakao, Bedia, Lemoa, and Amorebieta before arriving at Durango. On that inaugural run, a giant banner was unfolded in the station at Amorebieta that read “Amorebieta-co erriyac pozes bateric Biscaico burdiñ bide erdigoarrari” (the town of Amorebieta elated at the central railroad of Bizkaia”). This was a true glimpse at the future, at the impact of an amazing new form of technology and communication.

January 16, 1843: Birth of Blessed Rafaela Ybarra

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri was born on January 16, 1843 in Bilbao into a comfortable middle-class family. In 1861 she married José de Vilallonga and went on to have seven children (although two died in infancy). She was devout and a visit to Lourdes in 1883 resulted in getting over a serious illness. In 1890, with the permission of her husband, she made private vows to be chaste and fully obedient to God. Coinciding with the spectacular nineteenth-century industrial take-off and urban boom in Bilbao, and the social and demographic problems these changes provoked, she organized various welfare institutions for women and children in Bilbao. In 1894, along with three others, she founded a religious order to help all the poor children of Bilbao, opening a home to help the less fortunate in 1899 (a year after her husband had passed away). In 1900, after struggling with a long illness, she herself died. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the order she had helped found, the Angeles Custodios (Guardian Angels), received diocesan approval.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri (1843-1900). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1929 a beatification process opened and in 1952 she became titled as a Servant of God. Then, in 1970 she was named as Venerable and in 1984 she was ultimately beatified.  A process is currently taking place by which she is being considered for sainthood.

November 24, 1912: False fire alarm leads to multiple deaths in Bilbao theater stampede

On November 24, 1912, forty-six people, almost all of them children, died in the Ensanche Circus Theater of Bilbao as the result of a stampede of spectators attempting to flee the building. Someone had shouted out a fire alarm, which ultimately proved to be false.

The Circus Theater, located close to what is today the Plaza Elíptica, had been constructed in 1895 on the site of what had been a circus. While dedicated mainly to popular entertainment shows it was also a sports venue, and by the second decade of the twentieth century it was also showing movies.

On Sunday, November 24, 1912, the theater schedule included a continuous screening of movies between 3:00 pm and midnight, at prices accessible to people of all social classes and children old enough to go to the movies on their own.  Shortly after 6:00 pm a voice shouted out “fire!” This resulted in widespread panic as spectators attempted to flee the packed theater, only to encounter two of the three emergency exits locked. In total, forty-four children and two adults died in the stampede. Funerals for the victims, at which a reported forty thousand people attended, were held on November 27 and all expenses were covered by the Bilbao city council.

The theater itself was demolished in 1914 by official order on account of not fulfilling the required safety norms. In 1916, Bilbao city council constructed a mausoleum on the site where the victims had been buried.

Sources

Julio Arrieta, “Cuarenta y cuatro ataúdes blancos,” El Correo, November 18, 2012.

Una falsa alarma desembocó en tragedia,” Conoce Bilbao con Esme (blog), November 24, 2018.

November 11, 1995: Inauguration of the Bilbao Metro

On November 11, 1995 Line 1 of the Bilbao Metro–one of the emblematic features of the city–started operating on a route between Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo (the Seven Streets or Old Quarter) in the heart of the city and the coastal town of Plentzia, approximately eighteen miles away.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although plans to construct a metro service in Bilbao date back to the 1920s, it was only in the late 1987 that a construction project was finally approved. Construction in Bilbao itself began in 1987, with the inaugural Line 1 destined to connect the city center with the right bank of Greater Bilbao and the coastal communities stretching out to Plentzia. When the first part of Line 1 eventually opened for business in November 1995, twenty-three stations served this route.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, there are three Lines operating in and around Greater Bilbao, with studies being carried out on potentially adding two more lines in the future. As of 2018, there were forty-one stations throughout the network, which covers 43 km (28 miles) of route. Total passenger figures for 2017 were 88,172,137.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro is especially noteworthy for its fosterito glass entrances, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, and in 1998 Sarriko station won the prestigious Brunel Award for Railway Design.

Check out the Bilbao Metro website here.

The CBS publishes Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal. This original work discusses transportation and logistics as key elements of the political economy, and places the topic at the center of much ongoing debate about national identity.

See, too, more broadly on Bilbao, urban regeneration, and architecture: That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika (available free to download here), Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi, and  Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain.

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 18, 1997, the at the time controversial and now emblematic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was inaugurated.

A lot of our regular readers will no doubt be familiar with the so-called Guggenheim effect in Bilbao. After a controversial start, with many critical voices raised questioning the significant Basque public investment in this flagship project, the museum has had a significant impact in putting Bilbao–and the Basque Country more broadly–on the international map. Much of this is down to architect Frank Gehry’s groundbreaking design of the building itself, which, if you catch the airport bus into Bilbao, comes into view in spectacular fashion as you enter the city proper.

Check out our special post here on the twentieth anniversary celebrations for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

 

 

October 7, 1915: Inaugural run of the Artxanda Funicular in Bilbao

The Lower Station. Photo by Wayne 77, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Lower Station. Photo by Wayne 77, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 7, 1915, a funicular railway linking Bilbao with Mount Artxanda, one of the emblematic mountains overlooking the city,  operated for the first time. The Artxanda Funicular still runs to this day, and is an obligatory experience for many visitors to the city because at the summit one is treated to some of the best views of Greater Bilbao as it winds it way out along the Nerbioi River to the ocean.

View of the Artxanda Funicular from downtown Bilbao. Photo by pere prlpz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of the Artxanda Funicular from downtown Bilbao. Photo by pere prlpz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In late nineteenth-century Bilbao, the area around Mount Artxanda became a popular recreation spot for the inhabitants of Bilbao. The city was experiencing a major industrial boom and leisure pursuits–the display of having and using one’s “free time”–were important for the more affluent classes. A casino was constructed and the area was also renowned for its “txakolis” (bars developed out of farmhouses whose principal beverage was the local wine known as txakoli). Yet the area remained difficult to get to and, with the coming of the twentieth century, different plans were put forth to construct a rail link to the top of the mountain.

View of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda. Photo by Ardfern, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda. Photo by Ardfern, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, in 1915 a definitive plan was approved and the funicular was built using  machinery designed by the Von Roll company, a Swiss enterprise specializing in mountain railroad construction. The inaugural run that same October was presided over by the mayor of Bilbao, Julián Benito Marco Gardoqui. In the years that followed, the funicular served as both a means for city dwellers to spend some time in the rustic environment of Mont Artxanda, and for the local farmers to take their produce down into the heart of the bustling city to sell.

It did not function during two significant periods–in the civil war when it was bombed (1937-1938) and following an accident (1976-1983, during which time it was renovated)–but today it thrives as it always has done, transporting locals and visitors alike to the recreation area around Mount Artxanda. Check out a previous blog by our Basque Books Editor on his own Artxanda Funicular experience here. And why not take a virtual ride below?

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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