Tag: Donostia San Sebastian

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…

USA Men’s Eagles National Rugby Team face Tonga in Basque Country

usa_rugby_logo

Every Fall rugby fans in Europe are treated to a series of great rugby matches known as the Autumn Internationals, in which the best teams from north and south hemispheres compete. As part of this series of games, USA Rugby’s Men’s Eagles are in Europe right now and on Saturday, November 19, are poised to take on Tonga in Anoeta Stadium, Donostia-San Sebastián.

The Men’s Eagles arrived in the Basque Country on Sunday, November 13, to a warm reception by a group of dantzaris at Loiu Airport.  Check out the Facebook site of Rugby Challenge Donostia-San Sebastián, the organization behind this historic match.

This is a major event for rugby fans in the Basque Country, pitting the world’s 15th and 17th ranked teams against each other. The organizers hope it will serve as a springboard to both promote rugby union in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country and showcase Donostia-San Sebastián as a potential venue for future international games. The game, which will be broadcast by the Rugby Channel, kicks off at 5 pm local time (8 am PST; 11 am EST) on November 19. And if you do watch the game, whether in the Basque Country or from afar, you may even see the traditional Tonga war dance, performed before each match – the Sipi Tau (here below in compeitition with the New Zealand Haka):

Just out of interest for this site, Basque-American Iñaki Basauri, a loose forward who plays professionally in France, did play for the Men’s Eagles although he is not part of the current lineup.

See also: https://www.youtube.com/user/USARugbyTV

Say Cheese!

The prestigious International Cheese Festival starts tomorrow, November 16,  in Donostia-San Sebastián and runs until November 18. The Artzai Gazta association, an organization comprised of 110 local small-scale craft producers, played a central role in bringing the festival to the Basque Country. The festival is seen as both a platform to showcase Basque products and a forum to exchange knowledge with other small-scale cheese producers from all over the world. Moreover, at the festival the World Cheese Awards organization will be awarding prizes to its 2016 winners. You can even follow the prize-giving via live online steaming. Check out the details here.

Check out the full program for the festival here.

Important classical music and dance festival begins tomorrow in Donostia

One of the major events on the calendar for classical music fans in the Basque Country is Hamabostaldia, an August festival made up of both music and dance performances that gets underway tomorrow, and runs through the end of the month.

Dating originally from 1939, the festival was reorganized in the late 1970s when the city council took control of the event. It subsequently got the backing of both the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the Basque government and is now the premier occasion of its kind in the Basque Country. Quoting the festival website:

Opera, ballet, the great symphonic orchestras, the small chamber groups, the romantic organ, the choral groups, contemporary composers, local promises, the great names of the international scene, the shows for children… all of them have a place in this Festival that beyond its main headquarters at the Kursaal Palace and the Victoria Eugenia Theatre resounds in many and singular spaces, not only in Donostia but also in Gipuzkoan territory.

Besides concerts and performances of many kinds, there are also spin-offs such as courses and musical summer camps, all designed to encourage and promote the enjoyment and appreciation of classical music in all its forms.

Among this year’s highlights (and check out the full program here) will be a performance of Wagner’s ballet Tristan and Isolda by the Grand Théâtre de Genève Ballet Company, as well as a rendition of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, with a cast including Christopher Maltman, Nicole Cabell, Irina Lungu, Daniel Giulianini, José Faldilha, Miren Urbieta-Vega, and Jose Manuel Díaz, music by the Basque National Orchestra conducted by Manuel Hernández Silva, and the accompaniment of the Easo Choir.

Finally, a spectacular finale to the event will witness the first ever joint performance of the Basque National Orchestra and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, who will be joined by the Orfeón Donostiarra-Donostiako Orfeoia and the Orfeón Pamplonés-Iruñeko Orfeoia, to perform “Te Deum” by Hector Berlioz, “The Lord’s Prayer” by Francisco de Medina, and “Gernika” by Pablo Sorozabal.

Be sure to check out Karlos Sánchez Ekiza’s Basque Classical Music, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute free to download here.

July 22, 1795: Basque territory included in Peace of Basel

The Peace of Basel, signed on July 22, 1795 between Revolutionary France and the Kingdom of Spain, ended the War of the Pyrenees (1793-1795). During that war, French troops had occupied much of Hegoalde and there was even support among certain groups in Gipuzkoa for the province being fully annexed by France.

Western_Pyrenees_1793_to_1795

War of the Pyrenees, 1793-1795. Created by Djmaschek, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

In the negotiations leading up to the signing of the Peace of Basel in 1795 the French enjoyed the upper hand and seriously considered holding on to Gipuzkoa, but ultimately the wider global context–and especially the offer of economically appealing terrain in the Caribbean–meant that Gipuzkoa would be returned to the Kingdom of Spain.

626px-Map_of_Hispaniola

Map of Hispaniola by Nicolas de Fer. Original in The John Carter Brown Library, Brown University. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A century earlier, by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697), the western part of the Spanish-controlled island of Hispaniola had been ceded to the French, who were eager to expand their own power and influence in the Caribbean. Indeed, this was a feature of both pre- and post-revolutionary France. During the negotiations over the 1795 peace treaty, Spain was desperate to recover its lost “national” territory (and punish those people in in Gipuzkoa who had sided with the French), so much so that it offered France complete control of Hispaniola in exchange for the return of the occupied Basque lands (and other territory in Catalonia).

Additionally, there was an annex to the treaty by which any Basques in Hegoalde (and specifically Gipuzkoa) who had shown sympathies for the occupying French were given guarantees of receiving no reprisals from Spanish authorities. Yet the immediate effects of the treaty for Gipuzkoa, and Donostia-San Sebastián in particular, were severe: many of the political and military leaders who had attempted to broker a deal with the French invaders were arrested, along with ordinary citizens, and sentenced to jail sentences, exile, and even in one case–that of José Javier Urbiztondo–death by hanging.

Across the Atlantic, France found it increasingly difficult to hold the island and its forces were withdrawn in 1803. Following a successful slave revolt, the independent Republic of Haiti (in the western part of the island marking the original territory of French settlement) was proclaimed in 1804. In the eastern part of the island, meanwhile, a more tortuous path eventually resulted in a lasting independence (following previous attempts in 1821 and 1844) for the Dominican Republic in 1865.

Henry Moore sculptures grace seafront promenade in Donostia

As part of the activities being held in conjunction with Donostia-San Sebastián being named European Capital of Culture for 2016, six sculptures by Henry Moore (1898-1986) were installed on Tuesday, June 21 in the city’s Zurriola Promenade in a “Street Art” initiative, and will remain in place, free for all to view, until September 4.

Moore is considered to be one of the great 20th-century sculptors and in bringing the six pieces to Donostia, the organizers–Obra Social “La Caixa” Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation, and the Donostia City Council–are seeking to encourage a posthumous artistic dialogue between Moore and the equally renowned two towering figures of 20th-century Basque sculpture, Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) and Jorge Oteiza (1908-2003), whose works also adorn the city.

This is a unique opportunity to see works by these three masters in the same outdoor setting.

See a video report (in Spanish) on the inauguration of these visiting sculptures here.

There are numerous references to Moore’s work in Oteiza’s Selected Writings, edited by Joseba Zulaika.

Hidden Mountains in Donostia, Basque Country

Gabriel Urza recently wrote an interesting travel piece for The Guardian on what for some may be a little-known part of Donostia-San Sebastián: the three hills surrounding the city.

576px-Etor-donostia

Mount Ulia in the foreground, with Urgull and Igeldo in the background. Photo by Etor – Entziklopedia Enblematikoa, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In many ways, Igeldo, Urgull, and Ulia serve as the frame for the dramatic setting of Donostia next to the bay of Biscay. Igeldo is the most accessible of the three. At the base of this westernmost peak one can find Eduardo Chillida’s famed “Wind Comb” sculpture and an old amusement park. Urgull, meanwhile, is located near the old part of the town and close to San Telmo Cathedral. This is the site of a huge statue of Jesus, looming over the old fishing boats in the harbor. Ulia, the eastern bookend to the city, is the smallest of the three mounts and the least ‘developed’. according to the article, some effort is required to find your way up there, from Gros Beach, but interesting sights certainly await the intrepid traveler. See the full article here.

 

 

Danborrada!

January 20th is a special day for every citizen of Donostia. It’s San Sebastian Day, the festival where thousand of people, from kids to adults, take their drums to the streets to play Raimundo Sarriegi’s compositions. You can hear some of the compositions, including Donostiako Martxa, the unofficial hymn of Donostia, in Eresbil’s webpage.

Wearing all kind of fake military uniforms, cook costumes, and traditional Basque costumes, each of the danborrada (tamborrada in Spanish), a group of drum players representing schools, associations, and gastronomic clubs, walk the streets of the Old City, the downtown and the outskirts of Donostia.

Kids playing drums during the 2010 Danborrada, by Donostia-San Sebastian 2016.

Kids playing drums during the 2010 Danborrada, by Donostia-San Sebastian 2016.

The festival has it roots in the Napoleonic invasion of the city, when young people will make fun of the soldiers and their parades. In the late 19th century, the danborrada was one of the various carnival activities. In the 20th century, San Sebastian day grown to become the mayor festival in the city. During the last years, the main change has been the more and more active participation of women, which are now more visible.

In 2016, San Sebastian Day is even more special, because it’s the starting point of Donostia’s year as European Capital of Culture.

Morning on Urgull

Photo Dec 11, 8 51 37 AM

Monte Urgull in the morning light from La Concha

During my recent trip to the Basque Country to take part in the Durango Book Fair and attend to other CBS books business, I awoke early on one of my mornings in Donostia-San Sebastián, and with no meeting until 1:00 pm decided to go for a walk along the seawall of La Concha, up through the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town, and up Monte Urgull, the old city fortress turned into city park. It’s not the first time that I have climbed up the mountain’s paths, criss-crossing among heavy stone walls, old barracks and artillery battery sites, and usually populated by a variety of tourists and regular city users with their dogs or their children or their running shoes pounding the pavement.

Photo Dec 11, 10 59 59 AM

High above looking through the turrets on the city below

This morning was a bit different though. It being pretty early (not that early, but Donostia-San Sebastián does not seem to be a city that moves quickly in the morning), there was no one at all around and I was alone to the climb up through the walls and ramparts and among the old cannons all the way to the base of the giant statue of Jesus on the hill’s summit.

 

Photo Dec 11, 11 13 58 AM

As I walked up I realized something else, aside from the beauty and stillness of the morning. Without the usual clamor of residents and tourists it became much easier to imagine this place as it had once been—an important castle and contested point for armies fighting back and forth across the northern Iberian Peninsula. In 1813, for example, the Allied (mainly British and Portuguese) forces besieged the castle and the city as they forced Napoleon’s armies out of the Iberian Peninsula. In the course of this siege, the walls were breached and the city was burned and up to 1,000 city residents killed (of course, mostly innocent civilians suffering the horrors to war, this number is as most numbers are probably contested, via Wikipedia, The Siege of San Sebastian). The French, meanwhile, shut up on the hill’s formidable castle, were able to surrender with honors and the officers allowed to keep their swords.

Photo Dec 11, 10 58 37 AM

Among the old cannons and looking over the ramparts at the top at the city shining below it was easy to imagine the horrors of war, women and children running to and fro bearing water and running errands, peasants carrying the heavy loads, liveried artillerymen sighting and shooting over the burning city below, officers commanding with pomp and circumstance.

Photo Dec 11, 11 05 34 AM

Then, of course, a man with his dog arrived, the dog sniffing around the the cannons didn’t care anything about this history, and then below, an older group walking across a sunny glade pointing out the sights below and the place became what it really is now again, a city park.

If you’re interested in the history of the Basque Country since the Napoleonic Wars mentioned above, check out Cameron J. Watson’s Modern Basque History.

Center Books Take Stage at Tabakalera

Etxepare presentation

Left to right: Daniel Montero, Argitxu Camus-Etxecopar, Aizpea Goenaga, Bill Douglass, Mari Jose Olaziregi, and Koldo San Sebastián

Five of the Center’s books on the Basque diaspora in the United States were presented at the brand new and ultra hip Tabakalera Cultural Center in Donostia-San Sebastián yesterday. Myself, along with researchers Koldo San Sebastián and Argitxu Camus-Etxecopar, author (and all-around Mr. Basque) Bill Douglass, and with co-sponsors of the event the Etxepare Basque Institute represented by director Aizpea Goenaga and director of the diffusion of Basque Mari Jose Olaziregi, presented five books that treat the Basque diaspora in the United States from a variety of perspectives: the 2 volumes of Basques in the United States, led by Koldo San Sebastián and Argitxu Camus-Etxecopar but also representing a network of reseachers looking at Basque immigration through time and space, Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean by Bill Douglass, Zelestina Urza in Outer Space by David Romtvedt, and Garmendia and the Black Rider by Kirmen Uribe and illustrated by Mikel Valverde. We chose these books to present on the diaspora because of the variety of perspective, viewpoints and voices that they bring to writing about the presence of Basques in the United States.

The event received wide coverage in the Basque press, including an important story in El Diario Vasco.

As readers of this blog will surely know, Basques in the United Statesrepresents a giant undertaking that has already been the product of many years of research and that will certainly result in many more. Now containing names and bibliographic information for nearly 10,000 Basque immigrants, we hope in forthcoming editions to grow this into as a complete and comprehensive as possible encyclopedia of all first-generation Basque immigrants to the United States. We hope to do this with the continuing diligence of researchers like Koldo and Argitxu (and too many others to name here), but also with your help, that is why we’ve set up basquesintheus.blogs.unr.edu where we hope that interested people will also help us continue this important historical work.

Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean is a different kind of work altogether, one of the most recent publications by one of the most important Basque researchers and anthropologists of all-time, it takes readers on an exciting journey along with the galleons and caravels of the “Spanish” empire when Basque mariners formed an essential corpus in the empires exploration of this tremendous area which was known for more than 200 years as the “Spanish lake.”

Zelestina Urza in Outer Space provides yet a different aspect on Basque immigration, telling the story of young Zelestina Urza, who is just 16 years old when she arrives in Wolf, Wyoming from the green hills of Arnegi, throuhg her story, and her friendship with another young Native America woman, not only is the Basque diaspora explored, but also are the whole idea of the “winning” of the west and what it really meant in human terms.

Finally, Garmendia and the Black Rider takes maybe the most exotic take on the Basque diaspora of all of the books presented. Written by acclaimed Basque poet and novelist Kirmen Uribe, it treats the subject of the Basque immigrant from the perspective of modern Basque culture, and, as a children’s book, also with an eye that brings the Western experience to life in a completely different way that what we are usually presented with.

In addition to the presentation of the book, there was also other exciting news at the presentation. The Etxepare Institute has organized, in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the creation of a William A. Douglass chair in Anthropology, which will help us continue to build strong academic links that promote Basque Studies throughout the United States and the world!

What an exciting day for Basque culture in the diaspora and everywhere!