Tag: Donostia San Sebastian (page 1 of 2)

October 1, 1910: Pioneering Basque aviator Benito Loygorri crash-lands in Donostia-San Sebastián

Benito Loygorri Pimentel (1885-1976)

Born in Biarritz, Lapurdi, but raised in Gipuzkoa, Benito Loygorri Pimentel was an engineer and a pioneering Basque aviator. At the age of 18 he witnessed one of the early flights by the Wright brothers in France, specifically in Pau, near the Basque Country, and Le Mans, and was captivated by the idea of flying. He subsequently became the first person in Spain to achieve an international pilot’s license in August 1910. Shortly after this, on October 1, 1910, he set off from Biarritz airport to give a flying exhibition above the city of Donostia-San Sebastián. Some 35 minutes after taking off, and with his girlfriend by his side, he entered the city and circled the bay.  Conflicting accounts exist on what happened next, but whatever the case, he landed the aircraft right there in the middle of the city on Ondarreta Beach, either intentionally or not. In “Benito Loygorri, primer piloto español,” Alejandro Polanco Masa quotes an article in the journal of the time Vida Marítima that stated: “he landed without any incident at all.” A contrasting report is given by José Delfín Val in “Un aviador pionero y su hermano, el ilustrador de novelas ‘picantes‘,” who writes that the plane, “crashed into the water on account of the engine cutting out near Ondarreta Beach.” Loygorri went on to have a long and eventful life, abandoning the burgeoning world of aviation in the 1920s to concentrate on a career in industry, most notably becoming the head of General Motors in Spain and Portugal. He died at age 90 and a commemorative stamp was issue in his honor in Spain.

 

September 13, 1936: Fall of Donostia-San Sebastián in Spanish Civil War

On September 13, 1936, five columns of Navarrese troops marched into Donostia-San Sebastián, meeting with no resistance, to take the city in the name of the military rebels who had risen up two months earlier against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic.

Map showing the frontline in Gipuzkoa until October 1936 in one-week intervals, as of late evening every Sunday, by Dd1495, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That previous July, the garrison of Spanish troops stationed in Donostia had actually joined in the military uprising but it was put down by socialist and anarchist militiamen loyal to the republic. In August, however, Navarrese troops (the requetés or Carlist militias who sided with the military rebels during the war), aided by some Gipuzkoan Carlists, began a campaign to seal off the border at Irun, thereby cutting off a potential arms supply from France for the pro-Republic forces. After laying siege to the town, and with aerial support, the rebels took Irun on September 5,  effectively paving the way to march on toward Donostia. With the fall of Irun, a westward drift of refugees (those that did not manage to cross the border into Iparralde) began that would define much of the civilian experience of the civil war in the Basque Country.

Rebel troops entering Donostia

Having suffered bombardment from sea, and with rebel troops advancing into the city from both the east and inland Gipuzkoa, Donostia ultimately fell without resistance.

Be sure to check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, a key work that among other themes examines the effects of war on ordinary people in the Basque Country. This book is available free to download here.

The Center has also recently published David Lyon’s Bitter Justice, an important study based on a wealth of primary material that examines the fate of Basque prisoners during the Spanish Civil War.

 

August 31, 1813: Burning of Donostia-San Sebastián

“The Storming of San Sebastian” by Denis Dighton (c) The National Trust for Scotland, Leith Hall Garden & Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

August 31 is a key date in the history of Donostia-San Sebastián. It marks the day on which, during the Peninsular War (1807-1814), victorious British and Portuguese troops that had been involved in laying siege to the (French-controlled) city that summer ran amok, razing Donostia-San Sebastián to the ground.

Donostia stood as the last major outpost of French control and the prize target for the combined allied powers of Britain, Spain, and Portugal in their attempts to crush Napoleonic French influence in the Iberian Peninsula. It was, however, well fortified and the siege of the city by the advancing troops under British command had lasted all summer.

When, finally, the allied troops did break through the main lines of defence on August 31, they ran amok, looting and pillaging from the innocent inhabitants of the city, which had been occupied by French forces for the previous five years. Most of the city was razed to the ground as a result, kept burning for several days thereafter, and had to be built again, practically from scratch.

The awful events of are remembered annually in Donostia with a nighttime torchlight procession taking place along August 31 street on this date.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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