Tag: Durango

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.

New online archive launched to preserve memory of Civil War in Bizkaia

On Friday, January 27, in tandem with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day on which we remember genocide in all its forms, the cultural association Durango 1936 Kultur Elkartea launched its new website to preserve the memory of the Spanish Civil War–and especially its effects on individual people–in the Durango district of Bizkaia: the area made up of Durango itself together with the towns of Abadiño, Amorebieta-Etxano (Zornotza), Atxondo, Berriz, Elorrio, Garai, Iurreta, Izurtza, Mañaria, Otxandio, and Zaldibar. As we have mentioned in previous posts (see here and here), this area was a particularly important target for Franco’s rebel forces (with the material support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy) and witnessed civilian bombing on what was, to that time in European history, an unprecedented scale. It is the effects of this civilian bombing–death, injury, persecution, and exile–as well as the repression that followed that the association seeks to portray in the content of its new website.

As well as including a fascinating inventory of both primary documents and photographs, the website is also interesting for its inclusion of video interviews (in Basque and Spanish) with people who were directly affected by the war–first-hand witnesses themselves or the relatives of people who suffered during the conflict–and as such serves as an important database for preserving the memory of the civil war in this part of Bizkaia. These interviews can be accessed in four different ways: by the name of the person being interviewed, by the particular event with which the interview is concerned, by the name of the town from which the person being interviewed comes from, or by the name of a particular victim of the war. The video interviews can be accessed directly here and the list of people mentioned can be found here. Check out the sample interviews with Maite Andueza Zabaleta (Durango) and Joseba Angulo Tontorregi (Abadiño) below.

The site is still be developed but you can check it out here.  If you have a story to share about someone from the area and their experiences during the civil war, please do not hesitate to contact the association either via its contact form here, or via email at durango1936@durango1936.org.

Gernika, 1937: The Market Day Massacre, by Xabier Irujo, looks at the case of the bombing of Gernika, but many of the book’s findings are equally applicable to the impact of the civil war on the Durango area of Bizkaia as well.

Check out, too, War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, which takes a broader look at the impact of war, particularly on noncombatants. It should be remembered that Basques were among the refugee peoples of Europe in the aftermath of both the Spanish Civil War and World War II and many Basques lived in exile and as refugees for many years following this, including our own professor Xabier Irujo. This book is available free to download here.

 

 

March 31, 1937: The Mola Proclamation and the Bombing of Durango and Elorrio

On March 31, 1937, nine months into the Spanish Civil War, General Emilio Mola, the main figure in charge of the northern campaign by the military rebels against the democratically elected government of Spain’s Second Republic, issued the following chilling proclamation:

I have decided to end the war rapidly in the north. The lives and property of those who surrender with their arms and who are not guilty of murder will be respected. But if the surrender is not immediate, I shall raze Bizkaia to its very foundations, beginning with the war industry. I have the means to do so.

That same day, heavy bombers from Fascist Italy’s Legionary Air Force (Aviazione Legionaria) bombed the Bizkaian towns of Durango and Elorrio in relays over a period of five days.

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Plaque in Durango, Bizkaia, in memory of all those who lost their lives as a result of the bombing. Photo by Txo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Casualty figures, the vast majority of them non-combatants, are disputed, with different figures of between 150 and 350 deaths quoted by different authors, although the official number quoted at yesterday’s commemorations was 336. Churches were also bombed in Durango as part of the operation, resulting in the death of one priest and several nuns. Some images of the town in the aftermath of the bombing can be seen here.

This was arguably the first instance in history of aerial bombing of a civilian population on European soil. And it clearly served as an operational model for the bombing of Gernika, later that same month, on April 26.

See some pictures of an official event of remembrance yesterday in Durango here. And our friends at the Gerediaga Association have produced this moving video in remembrance of the bombing of Durango:

For more on the general context in which these events took place, see Modern Basque History by Cameron Watson, which you can download for free here.  For more detailed studies of the impact of the civil war in the Basque Country, check out War, Justice, Exile, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott and Gernika 1937: The Market Day Massacre by Xabier Irujo.

 

Getting all Azoka’d

The Azoka is in full swing and as always it is such a riot of activity that it’s a bit hard to keep up. It has been going great: interest in the Center’s books is really high, especially in the Basques in the United States, Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, and Garmendia and the Black Rider. It is also a time to catch up with so many old friends and make new ones. A special treat this year is the presence of Bill Douglass, who is here to celebrate the launch of the Spanish and Basque versions of his Death after Life: Tales of Nevada, published by the Black Rock Institute but distributed in part by the Center. Other highlights for me have been seeing Imanol Murua, my old hiking buddy from his days at UNR and an accomplished journalist, writer, and teacher. Here are a few pics from my first days at the Azoka:

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Books, check, posters, check. All ready to go!

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Always love to have people perusing our books, especially when there is a real Basque cowboy in the background!

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Fifty years of Azoka! So proud to be a part of it!

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Poster for our good friend Imanol Murua’s book on the end of ETA.

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Outside the Azoka at night. It’s so cool how much of a social event a cultural gathering is here in the Basque Country.

 

My Little Part of 50 Years of the Azoka

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My first day of my first Azoka in 2009. I was so excited to be a part of it all.

I am really excited to be preparing to journey to the Durango Azoka again, for the 6th time. And to take part in the 50th anniversary of this great cultural event. Trying to explain the Azoka to people here in the US, and especially my academic friends, can be difficult—we are used to book events being stuffy and sparsely attended affairs. Not so the Durango Azoka, it brings thousands of people from all over the Basque Country into the small town of Durango to celebrate Basque culture and the Basque language, Euskara. For a history of it’s standardization (an essential precursor to an event like the Azoka) see our brand new book, Writing Words: The Unique Case of the Standardization of Basque.

In preparation for my trip I’ve put together some of my favorite photos from my previous years at the Azoka.

And this year I will be posting special blog posts from the front lines of the Azoka, so stay tuned all next week for live updates!

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In 2014 author Begoña Echeverria (left) made the trip with me to help promote her book, The Hammer of Witches. One of her highlights was meeting a favorite author of hers, Itxaro Borda (right)

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A bird’s eye view of the controlled chaos that happens every year at Plateruena, the cafe-theatre which serves as meeting place for coffee or drinks, a place to grab some food, and venue for everything from read alongs to concerts to dance classes.

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Of all the fun that I have at the Azoka, the absolutely best thing is seeing people, especially kids, take an interest in our books. Here a family peruses our The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi, by Mark Kurlansky

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On an off-day, in 2009, I was treated to a visit of the famous Puente Colgante (the hanging bridge) over the River Nervión in Bilbao by an incomparable tour guide, our own contributor Katu.

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Taking a break in 2010 I took the stroll from my home away from home in Bizkaia during the Azoka, Elorrio, to stroll to Arrazola, under the shadow of the storied mountain of Anboto

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In 2011 a coworker took me to visit the famous sanctuary of Arantzazu, with its famous Oteiza facade of the apostles.

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The calm before the storm when the door’s open. They are long days, but it is so worth it to help share and spread Basque culture!

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The Liburudenda Donosti, the Donosti Bookstore, another regular stop on my circuit of the Basque Country.

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View from my window at the Hotel Elorrio in San Agustín, a hamlet of Elorrio on a morning before making the about 20-minute bus ride down to the Azoka. It’s not all quite this bucolic however, if I pointed my camera a little to the left, we would see the warehouse for the large Basque grocery store chain Eroski, which is an important piece of industry for Elorrio and is nowhere near as photogenic 😉

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Bilbao’s Gran Vía, alit for Christmas, in 2014

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Given that I don’t usually have a cell phone, it is always an adventure meeting with authors and others. Here, I waited to pick up some books from author Kirmen Uribe, whose children book Garmendia and the Black Rider we just published this year before he and his father-in-law attended an Athletic Bilbao soccer game in San Mamés stadium. Sadly I didn’t get to attend, but it was fun seeing the excitement of fans anticipating a big game.

What’s in a Name? Some Basque Place Names in North America

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Cape Alava and Ozette Island. Photo by Kimon Berlin, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the weternmost point of the contiguous 48 US states is called Cape Alava, and was named after a Basque, José Manuel de Alava, who was born in 1843 in Vitoria-Gasteiz? It’s in Clallam County, Washington, and forms the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. It was named after Alava in 1794 for his role as commissioner during discussions leading to the Nootka Sound Conventions, agreements between Great Britain and Spain that averted a war between the two empires over overlapping claims to parts of the Pacific Northwest in the 1790s.

What’s more, Arizona may also be a Basque-derived name, according to the National Park Service’s page, as explained here at Buber’s Basque Page.

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Downtown Durango, CO. Photo by Sascha Bruck, via Wikimedia Commons

What appears less open to question is the Basque connection when it comes to the name Durango, whether in Colorado, Iowa, or Texas, even if it did come via a town of the same name in Mexico, since the Mexican town derives its name from Durango, Bizkaia. Nor is there any doubt as regards Port aux Basques, the oldest of the collection of towns that make up the present-day Channel-Port aux Basques in Newfoundland, Canada. Similarly, Key Biscayne, an island in Miami-Dade County, Florida, owes its name, reputedly, to the fact that a “Biscayan” (which at that time meant a Basque) had lived on the lower east coast of Florida for a while after being shipwrecked. What’s more, a seventeenth-century map shows the place name Cayo de Biscainhos, the probable origin of today’s Key Biscayne.

Other place names with some Basque connections include the following (in a by no means definitive list):

  • Anza, Riverside Co., CA (named after explorer Juan Bautista de Anza)
  • The Les Basques regional county municipality in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, Canada
  • Navarre, Santa Rosa Co., FL
  • St. Ignace, Mackinac Co., MI (after the Basque Saint Ignatius of Loiola/Loyola)
  • St. Xavier,  Big Horn Co., MT (after the Basque Saint Francis Xabier/Xavier)
  • Uvalde, TX (a corruption of Ugalde, the Basque last name of a Spanish governor at that time).

Moreover, the name of Bayonne, Hudson Co., NJ, seems to be connected to Bayonne (in Basque, Baiona) in Lapurdi, although there is some disagreement as to whether this is actually the case. And Jean Lafitte, in Jefferson Parish, LA, is named after a famous privateer who was possibly born in Biarritz, Lapurdi.

Do you know of any more Basque-related place names in North America?