Tag: Bizkaia (page 1 of 5)

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.”

March 4, 2008: The “non” discovery of the historic trawler, the Nabarra

In March 1937, one of the most famous engagements during the Spanish Civil War in the Basque Country took place: the Battle of Cape Matxitxako.  On March 4, 2008, a team of marine scientists from AZTI thought it had discovered the wreck of one of the Basque trawlers that took part in that encounter, the Nabarra, off the coast of Bermeo, Bizkaia.

The port of Bermeo today. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The port of Bermeo today. Photo by Euskalduna, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

According to its investigation, the characteristics of the wreck the team initially came across matched those of the Nabarra, but it could not be totally sure without further dives, carried out by members of the Kresala association.  More tests were undertaken and the Basque government even announced that all the indications did indeed seem to point to the wreck being the Nabarra.  However, after fully checking the site, at a June 2008 press conference it was confirmed that the wreck was not that of the Nabarra, but instead that of a Nazi German merchant vessel, the Hochheimer, which had been sunk by a British submarine in May 1944.

The mystery of the Nabarra‘s whereabouts thus remains.

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:

October 31, 1808: Battle of Pancorbo

On October 31, 1808, the Battle of Pancorbo (or Zornotza, and also sometimes referred to as the Battle of Durango) in Bizkaia marked one of the early military engagements in the Peninsular War after France had turned on its former ally, Spain, that same year in an attempt by Napoleon to take control of the whole Iberian Peninsula.

By late October of 1808, the French were advancing toward Bilbao. At the Battle of Pancorbo, in the vicinity of what is today Zornotza/Amorebieta in Bizkaia, French forces under the command of Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre defeated the Army of Galicia, led by Lieutenant General Joaquín Blake y Joyes. While the French claimed victory, their triumph was incomplete because Lefebvre failed to carry out Napoleon’s order to encircle and destroy Blake’s army–a key component in the left flank of the Spanish forces defending a front that stretched from the Cantabrian Sea to the Mediterranean.

Although Bilbao fell to Lefebvre’s forces on November 2, because Blake’s forces were not destroyed, he was able to effect a retreat and successfully re-engage the French, west of the city, at the Battle of Balmaseda (Bizkaia) on November 5. That said, ultimately the military superiority of the French, now under the direct control of Napoleon proved decisive, and by the end of the year they had captured Madrid.

 

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.

February 19, 1999: Inauguration of Euskalduna Conference Centre

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbera.

On February 19, 1999, the newly completed Euskalduna Conference Centre was inaugurated in Bilbao. Designed by architects Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios to resemble a ship under construction, because it stands on the site formerly occupied by the Euskalduna shipyard, the building won the Enric Miralles award for architecture at the 6th Spanish Architecture Biennial in 2001 and in 2003 the International Congress Palace Association declared it to be the world’s best congress center. It is without doubt one of the key emblematic sites–historical, cultural, and architectural–of Bilbao and a “must see” building for any visitor to the capital of Bizkaia.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna was a shipyard located in the heart of Bilbao that also came to specialize in the construction of rail and road vehicles. It operated between 1900 and 1988, when it closed in controversial circumstances due to downsizing. The famous “Carola” Crane, a symbol of the shipyard in its heyday, still stands and now forms part of the Ria de Bilbao Maritime Museum, which is located alongside the Euskalduna Conference Centre.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna is today home to both the city’s opera season and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as a multipurpose conference and event center with a 2000-seat auditorium, a 600-seat theater, conference rooms, meeting rooms, a press room, restaurants, an exhibition hall, an a commercial gallery.

Photo by Asier Sarasua Aranberri.

Check out the Euskalduna website here.

The Center has published several books on the transformation of Bilbao (and the Basque Country in general), a story in which the Euskalduna is prominent. See, for example, Joseba Zulaika’s award-winning That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of  a City as well as 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.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

February 10, 1925: Collapse of emblematic Basque bank Crédito de la Unión Minera

On February 10, 1925, one of the most well-known Basque banks, Crédito de la Unión Minera (Mining Union Credit)–an early Bilbao banking institution founded in the spring of 1901–suspended all payments as a prelude its collapse as a result of the financial downturn in the 1920s. Curiously, the full liquidation of its assets would drag on a further seventy-five years, culminating at the dawn of the new millennium.

Crédito de la Unión Minera was established in 1901 on the back of both significant growth in Bilbao itself (as a consequence of the strong mining export market) and the inflow of capital from former colonies following the fall of the Spanish empire. As its name indicated, this particular bank was associated closely to the mining sector on Bizkaia. Thereafter, the “Crédito” managed to retain its independence, in the wake of a series of fusions among other Bilbao banking interests, thanks to a successful aggressive commercial policy that saw its share price soar on the Bilbao stock market. This initial success was bolstered during World War I (1914-1918) with Spanish neutrality in the conflict benefiting the important Basque banking sector.

With the end of the war, however, and the economic downturn in the 1920s, those banks that had been especially speculative or adventurous were suddenly in trouble.  Specifically, as a result of over speculation, the Crédito was suffering from a lack of cash flow and on February 10, 1925, it suspended all payments prior to its official collapse.

Interestingly, it was still possible to cash in on the remaining assets of the bank right up until late 2001!

For more on this fascinating story, check out a great article by Eduardo J. Alonso Olea, “El Crédito de la Unión Minera: 1901-2002,” in Historia Contemporánea 24 (2002): 323-53. Available here.

September 24, 1596: Royal Provision leads to 200-year-long dispute over mining rights in Bizkaia

On September 24, 1596, a Royal Provision (a measure or proclamation falling somewhat short of a law but more important than a mere regulation) awarded two individuals, Domigo Olabe and Santiago Madariaga, the exclusive right to exploit the whole territory of Bizkaia for the mining of gold, silver, lead, tin, and copper. The Seigniory of Bizkaia, through its own government, opposed the measure on the grounds that it breached the Fuero or Law of Bizkaia, the legal codification that established the basis on which the Seigniory retained jurisdiction over a wide range of matters and formed part of the Castilian political orbit. In turn, the Seigniory took legal action against the decision in a case that lasted just short of 200 years! In November 1791 the case was settled in Bizkaia’s favor.

Information taken from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos, p. 102.

For more information on the intricate system codified in the Fuero, check out Gregorio Monreal Zia, The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): Introductory Study and Critical Edition.

August 12-13, 1912: 112 Basque fishermen die in sudden storm

On the evening of August 12, 1912, as they were accustomed to doing every day, the fishermen of several ports along the Bizkaian coast set out in small 40-50 feet boats to fish in the waters close to their homes. This was a form of coastal rather than deep-sea fishing, a typical Basque practice and one intimately linked to the traditional culture of Basque fishing communities as a whole. It had been a mild day with a warming southerly wind, but all of a sudden, as the evening drifted into night, there was a dramatic change, and a cold northerly wind came in from an area of low pressure in the far North Atlantic, around Iceland: an unprecedented phenomenon for that time of year.  The air temperature fell dramatically, and the sea became increasingly more squally.

At the time a number of these boats were approximately 45-50 miles off of the Bizkaian coast. This would have been just about the moment they were thinking of returning to port with their evening catch, but instead they got caught up in the storm, which carried on ferociously all night and into the morning of August 13. The boats could not cope with such appalling conditions and many sank.

On shore, people realized that their loved ones and neighbors were in danger, and an appeal was made to send out rescue launches, but between the terrible conditions at sea and the time it was taking to alert the authorities in Bilbao, help was not immediately forthcoming.

In total, there were 143 recorded deaths, most of them fishermen from Bermeo, but including others from Lekeitio, Elantxobe, and Ondarroa. A memorial service was held for all the dead on August 23 in Bermeo, to which King Alfonso XIII also came.

The tragedy marked a watershed moment in fishing practices and techniques in the Bay of Biscay.

Check out the following two-part video about the tragedy, recreating life in fishing communities at the time (in Basque):

Bizkaia sponsors Basque products at Edinburgh Foodies Festival

The Provincial Council of Bizkaia is one of the sponsors of the forthcoming Foodies Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland (This Friday through Sunday, August 4-6), in part to celebrate a new direct air link between the capitals of Bizkaia and Scotland.

As part of the activities, which will attract around 25,000 visitors, there will be a stand showcasing Basque food and wine production as well as the restaurant industry. The stand will be serving 13 different dishes and there will be Basque music and talks about Basque culture in general.

Two specifically Basque-themed events will be part of the official festival agenda:

Aitor Garate  from Asador Etxeberri Erretegia (No 6 in Top 50 Restaurants in The World) will be speaking at the Chefs Theatre on Friday and Sunday.

‘Bizkaiko Txakolina’ An Introduction to Biscay Wines in the Drinks Theatre at 4:30 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

 

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