Tag: Bilbao (page 2 of 4)

Bilbao transformation discussed in BBC report

Early morning view of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Photo by PA, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arts section of the online BBC news site recently published an interesting article by William Cook on the changes experienced by Bilbao in the last twenty years. Cited in the article, Sir Norman Foster, the world famous architect behind the iconic metro system in the city, recalls: “Of all my memories as an architect, going to sites and seeing buildings, nothing compares with my experience in Bilbao.” He continues: “There was something almost religious about my experience in Bilbao, and I will never forget it.”

Check out the full article here.

When it comes to Bilbao, it goes without saying that we can’t recommend our very own Joseba Zulaika’s award-winning book, That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, highly enough.  But the CBS has also published other works that explore the impact of the Bilbao transformation and related issues in many different ways. See, for example, Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain,  Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi, and Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

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.

September 3, 1902: Euskalduna company launches first ship

On September 3, 1902, the Euskalduna company launched its first ship, the “Portu,” a barge for use by the important Altos Hornos de Vizcaya foundry. Euskalduna, a marine engineering company whose full name was Euskalduna de Construcción y Reparación de Buques de Bilbao, would go on to become one of the most renowned features of the Basque industrial landscape with its headquarters in the heart of Bilbao. It opened for business in 1900 and finally closed in 1988 after a four-year period of severe confrontations  between workers and police over the decision to close the shipyard.

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Aerial view of Bilbao in the 1950s during a new era of expansion for Euskalduna, shown here top left in the picture beside the bridge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

During that time, the company enjoyed mixed fortunes: a boom in the World War I era and beyond that tailed off by the 1930s; growth again in the 1950s and 1960s, with Euskalduna contributing 50% of the capital to a new statewide conglomerate, Astilleros Españoles, which by the late 1960s would be one of the largest shipbuilding companies in Europe; and, ultimately, decline again in the 1970s following the 1973 oil crisis and increasing competition from East Asia. When the decision was taken to close the shipyard in 1984, the workers there engaged in direct confrontation in an effort to maintain their jobs. These confrontations, as well as many negotiations including labor unions, management, and the public administration, went on for four years and this intense period came to define much of Bilbao’s social history in the 1980s.

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Central Bilbao today, with the Euskalduna Conference Centre, the reddish building, to the far right of the picture and the Bilbao maritime Museum behind that. Picture by Ben Bore (Rhys), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following the closure of the shipyard, the emblematic site that had been so important in the industrial history and legacy of Bilbao was converted into a leisure area: today it houses both the Euskalduna Conference Centre and the Bilbao Maritime Museum. The site itself, then, continues to form a central part of the Bilbao economy, although now in a postindustrial and leisure-oriented framework.

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The “Carola” crane, installed in 1957 in the Euskalduna shipyard, it was and still is an important part of the cityscape. Today, though,  it forms part of the Bilbao Maritime Museum. Photo by Txo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, Joseba Zulika shares a very personal view of Bilbao and its historical transformations. And for more on Bilbao and the urban changes associated with the city through time, check out Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

 

 

Recent article spotlights impact of Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC)

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An aerial view of BEC. Image courtesy of Mikel Arrazola, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Exhibition Centre–more commonly referred to as BEC–is spotlighted in a recent article by journalist Mikel Mujika for Basque Tribune. As its name implies, BEC is the site for a number of emblematic events that take place in the Basque Country. Built on the site of what was once arguably the most famous Basque industrial company of its time, Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, in Barakaldo, it is interesting to see how the shift to a service-based economy in the Basque Country is reflected directly in this change.

Mujika takes a retrospective look at the life of BEC and highlights the wide range of events held there. A special point is made about the variety of these events: from, for example, its globally important International Machine-Tool Exhibition to concerts by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, sporting encounters such as the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and cultural events like the national bertsolaritza championships.

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An image of the Euskal Encounter, an annual meeting of information technology enthusiasts, held in BEC, and an opportunity to exchange knowledge and take part in multiple IT activities. Image by Iñigo Sendino, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A cursory glance at the upcoming program of events at BEC suggests that this diversity is still a major feature of the center, with meetings like Biocultura Bilbao, a fair of organic products and responsible consumption, and Intergune 2016, designed to aid Basque businesses in the field of their international outreach. For many observers, the health of BEC is synonymous with the pulse of the Basque economy as a whole.

Read the full article here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Basque economy, check out the introductory text Basque Economy: From Industrialization to Globalization, by Mikel Gómez Uranga, free to download here.

See, too, Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, which looks at the most recent changes in the Basque economy, free to download here.

For a provocative case study of how such changes are affecting Basque society, check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

Boise and Bilbao: Two Boomtowns

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A recent report by the Idaho Statesman looks at the links between two boomtowns, Boise and Bilbao. The visit of a Basque delegation, led by Basque President Iñigo Urkullu, to Idaho last year enhanced the historic connection between the two regions. There have been economic ties between the city of Boise and the Basque Country since the nineteenth century, when the burgeoning sheep industry in Idaho increased the need for talented sheepherders from the Basque Country. A century later, these connections were still evident through cultural events such as the Basque Soccer Friendly and Jaialdi in 2016, celebrating the Basque heritage and culture. These events only served to take the exisitng economic and cultural exchange to new heights.
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This year, a business delegation from the Basque province of Bizkaia visited Boise to renew the economic and cultural partnership between Boise and Bilbao. According to Asier Alea Castaños, General Manager of Trade Promotion for the Bizkaian Government, at present over a million people reside in Greater Bilbao with a GDP per capita reaching 122 percent of the European Union (EU) average. Bizkaia’s economic competitive advantage is backed by higher education institutions that rank higher than the rest of Europe in terms of research and development. And this Bizkaian economic and technological edge, coupled with the existing links between the two cities, provides the Boise business community with huge opportunities.
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Boise has itself experienced technological booms in recent years with high-tech projects such as Trailgead poised to attract investment from the Basque Country. With a cost of doing business only one-third of that in California or Washington, Boise can be an attractive investment option for Basque investors.

Boise has extensive business clusters in software, environmental technology, advanced energy, hi-tech manufacturing, hardware assembly, national call centers, and agricultural technology. And Boise’s comprehensive business cluster complements that of some of the main industries in and around Bilbao such as the aeronautic, automotive, electronic, information technology, energy, and maritime sectors. It would appear, then, that there are multiple opportunities for new links to be developed between these two Basque boomtowns.

Read the full article here.

The Center has published several books on the Basque economy. For a general introduction, see Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

Tow other works address innovation policies in the Basque Country:

Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera, free to download here.

And Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, available free to download here.

For some general historical background on the particular tax and finance system that so defines the particularity of the Basque Country, see Basque Fiscal Systems: History, Current Status, and Future Perspectives, edited by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga and Eduardo Alonso Olea.

Another key feature of the Basque economy in recent years has been its urban transformation. This process is examined in Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

And for a wonderful monograph of one of the most controversial economic issues in the Basque Country today, namely the plans for a new high-speed rail network to create a single interconnected “Basque city,” check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

June 10, 1835: Beginning of the Siege of Bilbao during First Carlist War

June 10, 1835 marks the start date of the famous siege of Bilbao by Carlist forces during the First Carlist War (1833-1839). The nineteenth-century Carlist Wars (with later conflicts taking place in the 1840s and 1870s) are somewhat under the radar of most general European history narratives but they were crucial in defining the political and administrative direction that modern Spain took. Interestingly for the purposes of this blog they also played a major role in shaping the fortunes of the Basque Country, which served as a principal theater of war in the 1830s and 1870s. In short, the outcome of these two civil wars established not just the Basque Country’s modern legal relationship with Spain but also played a big part in the decision of many Basques to leave their homeland in search of a better life on the other side of the Atlantic.

Although ostensibly the result of a dynastic struggle between different pretenders to the Spanish throne, the Carlist Wars were more complex civil confrontations that reflected different visions of how Spain should be organized politically. Most Basques were on the Carlist side (supporters of the pretender Don Carlos), among other reasons because they believed it guaranteed them the continuation of a political system that safeguarded Basque rights when it came to decision-making authority. On the other side, the Liberals (supporters of the regent  Mar’ía Cristina on behalf of the infant princess Mar’ía Isabel) sought to modernize Spain, centralizing decision-making authority and removing or lessening where possible those specific Basque rights.

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Carlist plans of the city for the siege of Bilbao in 1835. By Antonio de Goycoechea. In the Zumalakarregi Museum. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

During the First Carlist War, while most of the rural Basque Country supported the Carlist cause, larger urban enclaves tended to favor the modernizing ambitions of the Liberal side. The Carlist forces there were led by a brilliant and charismatic Basque general, Toma‡s Zumalacarregui (also spelled Zumalakarregi), who argued for a strike on Madrid from the Carlist bastion in Navarre, via Vitoria-Gasteiz, in sweeping fashion down from the Basque Country. He was overruled, however, by Don Carlos and was instead ordered to capture the Liberal bastion of Bilbao as an emblematic prize for the Carlist cause. Carlist forces thus laid siege to the city on June 10, but during the siege Zumalacarregui was shot and wounded, and subsequently died from his wounds. The siege formally ended on July 1, with the Carlists unsuccessful in their attempts to take the city.

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Tomas Zumalacarregui, the charismatic Carlist leader. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

Thereafter, the Carlists, bereft of their charismatic leader, plagued by internal divisions and grave tactical errors, and confronted with a following increasingly tired of battle, slid toward defeat. In 1839, the Carlist leader Rafael Maroto signed the Treaty of Bergara with his Liberal adversary Baldomero Espartero. This ended the war and set Spain on a path toward an administrative reshaping that gradually eroded Basque political rights.

The Zumalakarregi Museum in Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa (his birthplace) is a great source of information for this period in Basque history in general.

For a general introduction to the Carlist Wars and their impact on the fortunes of the Basque Country, see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History, available free to download here.  

The political and administrative implications of the Carlist Wars for the Basque Country are discussed in detail by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga in The Making of the Basque Question: Experiencing Self-Government, 1793-1877.

And for a riveting first-hand account of the Carlist offensive in the Basque Country during the first war, including an account of the siege of Bilbao, check out The Most Striking Events of a Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui in Navarre and the Basque Provinces by C.F. Henningsen.

 

 

Athletic Bilbao women’s soccer team 2015-2016 champions!

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A huge congratulations from everyone at the Center to the women of Athletic Bilbao who have been crowned txapeldunak (champions) of the Spanish soccer league for the 2015-2016 season with still a final round of games to play. This is the fifth occasion on which Athletic has won the league.

Check out a brief report at the club’s official site here.

Zorionak, neskak!!! 

Bilbao Mendi Film Festival 2015

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The Bilbao Mendi Film Festival starts today, December 11, and runs through December 20. This is a specialist film festival, now in its eighth year, dedicated to all kinds of mountain, adventure, outdoor activity, and extreme sports films.

For more information, click here.

Zulaika book reviewed in El País

December 10: Joseba Zulaika’s Euskadi Prize-winning Vieja luna de Bilbao. Crónicas de mi generación  was reviewed by Mercè Ibarz for the Catalonia edition of El País.

Vieja luna de Bilbao

Ibarz underscores the work’s expressive and compositional freedom. “It is a book, she continues, “of memories and at the same time an urban psycho-geography of the sustained collective longing to change life and transform the city that reads like a novel; an essay constructed from all kinds of materials from intrahistory and from culture, the highest and the lowest; a story that gives voice to hundreds of Bilbao people that Zulaika has interviewed over twenty years as both ethnographer and the observer-participant he is in all this.”

See the full review (in Spanish) here.

And check out the English version of the book, That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City.

Vaquero Bar, the Artxanda Funicular, and the Iron Ring of Bilbao

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“La Huella digital,” (the Finger Print) sculpture by Juan José Novellas on Artxanda commemorating the defenders of Bilbao’s Iron Ring.

I arrived in Bilbao December2 on a wonderfully beautiful fall/winter day. The kind of day I’ve only been treated to a few times in the Basque Country (chilly and wet have been more my December experiences with some notable exceptions) and so despite being exhausted from the trip I knew that I couldn’t just retire to my hotel room and try to get some sleep. It was the kind of day that demanded to be explored and I couldn’t ignore it as tired as my body was.

I am a sucker for a funicular (cable car) and, given the beauty of the day, I knew that the view of Bilbao afforded from Mount Artxanda would be spectacular, so I decided I would walk from my hotel on the edge of the Casco Viejo (old town) over to the funicular that climbs Mount Artxanda on the eastern side of Bilbao. I had been up it once before, during my first visit to the Azoka in 2009, but I didn’t remember well where it was so I just sort of wandered along the east shore of the Nervión River figuring I’d find it eventually. But Bilbao being a city that keeps its secrets well (or my having not such a great nose for navigation), I went the wrong way and realized I wasn’t going to find it. That was when I stumbled across the Vaquero Bar (Cowboy Bar). Now, being a bit of a cowboy myself in my day, this seemed to me the perfect place to go in, ask for directions, and whet the whistle with an afternoon caña before making the trek up the mountain (via cable car).

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The Cowboy Bar, where barkeep César treated to me a personal guided tour through Bilbao’s history and present.

There were a couple of old men sitting in front of the bar who eyed me suspiciously as I snapped a quick photo of the bar’s facade for posterity (and blog inclusion), but the bar was empty other than a slighly older than middle-aged barkeep. I asked for a beer and then asked for directions to the funicular. Well, this was the right question to ask apparently, because the barman, César, not only gave me directions but then treated me to a 20-minute monologue on funicular history, the Iron Ring of Bilbao, the current political situation of the Basque Country, and the world in general.

Mount Artxanda was a key point in the Iron Ring of Bilbao. Being one of the most important industrial cities of “Spain” it was a key objective of Franco’s forces and the capital of Euskadi. The Basque government, quickly cut off from the rest of the republic at the onset of the civil war, constructed an elaborate set of defenses to protect the city, the Iron Ring (Bilbao being one of the world’s iron cities par excellence for much of its history), an impregnable set of defenses created with the idea of a long siege in mind (although also with World War I type defense in mind as well, not the new type of warfare ushered in the the ascendancy of mechanized assault). However, for César, and for history at large, the breach of the Iron Ring wasn’t due to superior armament, but due to treachery: one of the engineers who designed the Iron Ring, Alejandro Goicoechea, deserted to Franco’s forces days before the assault with the defensive plans, thus allowing the Francoists to breach it at its most vulnerable point.

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The shining city of Bilbao from the summit of Mount Artxanda.

With César’s directions in mind, and with his worldview coloring my vision, I walked along the banks of the Nervión. The shining tourist city that Bilbao has become (at least along the Nervión),  was replaced by the industrial city it had been, where piles of minerals extracted from the hills and awaiting shipment replaced boutiques and internationally famous museums, where, according to César, there had been dignity in work rather than the ignominy of servitude to foreign tourists.

The funicular had been designed, on the other hand, for the cities’ pleasure. It had climbed originally to a casino and pleasure garden as the cities’ wealthy houses and the workers’ shanties that supported them, started to climb out of the river valley. There had been a luxurious casino at the summit before the civil war that was destroyed during the bombardment and battle for the city but photos of which I looked at while I waited, along with some mountain biking boys who use the cable car for a ride to the top before what I’m sure was an exhilarating descent into the valley below. Most of the users weren’t tourists, but people going about their days: the mountain biking boys, an old woman working on a crossword, a woman with three Basque-speaking in children in tow. All using it for transport. César had told me that the station had served as a bomb shelter for the neighborhood during Franco’s aerial bombardments, but I saw no evidence of that, as easy to imagine as it was.

On the summit I walked along the edge. The city below glowed as the day neared sunset and the monument to the Basque soldiers shone, but was mainly ignored by the park’s users: a couple making out, a man teaching a girl how to fly his drone (which she nearly crashed and you could see his heart leap about), a few older people seated on benches with their eyes closed soaking in the warmth. A city is a collection of people, of history, sure, but mainly of the lives of people and their experiences and views, as I’d learned when I visited the Cowboy Bar below and as I walked along the Iron Ring above the glowing city.

 

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