Tag: Economic History (page 1 of 2)

Tales from Basques in the United States: Gregorio de Ajuria’s Role in Nineteenth-Century Mexican History

Today’s story from our series of snapshot biographies of immigrant Basques in the US is taken from vol. 1 of Basques in the United States. It would be misleading to call this a minor anecdote in the history of Basque immigration in the US; we think this more approximates a significant slice of US and Mexican political and economic history in the nineteenth century, in which our Basque immigrant to the US took a center-stage role.

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Rafaela Cota de Temple, Gregorio de Ajuria, and Jonathan Temple, c. 1855

Born in Bilbao in 1818, Gregorio (Francisco Lorenzo) de Ajuria Arria emigrated first to Mexico in 1838 and then later to California in 1845, living initially in Monterey and later in LA, where he set up as a successful merchant. It was there, too, that he met and married California-born Francisca Borja de Jesus Temple in the City of Angels in 1848. This alone could have served as the basis for our story today, with de Ajuria becoming a key figure in the early development of LA, but we’re going to focus on another side of his own fascinating story.

Francisca was the daughter of Jonathan Temple (1796-1866), the first member of the Temple and Workman families to live in LA and after whom present-day Temple Street in the city is named. He had left his native Reading, MA, sometime in the first half of the 1820s and relocated to Hawaii, which had, in 1819, been opened up to American missionaries and merchants from Massachusetts. Temple’s stay in the Islands as a merchant was brief, however, and in 1827 he moved to California, arriving in San Diego that summer. The following year he became the second American or European (after Joseph Chapman) to settle in LA and opened the pueblo’s first store. Temple’s success in LA was rapid and he became the owner of a significant section of the pueblo that would later become downtown LA and what is now the site of City Hall. He also owned the 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos, encompassing most of Long Beach and surrounding areas, and amassed other significant landholdings. Intriguingly, however, through his contact with de Ajuria, Temple would also lease the national mint of the Republic of Mexico, which he obtained in 1856. The story melds with a larger one of the seemingly annual parade of revolutionary movements and political and military strife that engulfed Mexico in that period; and interestingly for our purposes here, it directly involves Temple’s son-in-law, Gregorio de Ajuria.

Temple and his wife, Rafaela Cota, a Santa Barbara native, had one child, Francisca (b. 1831), who, as noted, married Gregorio, an up-and-coming merchant with many contacts in Mexico, in 1848. While the couple remained in LA, living with the Temples through at least the 1850 census (actually taken in early 1851), the de Ajurias moved to Mexico City and then relocated to NYC and Paris several times over the years. They had five children and de Ajuria’s personal wealth, estimated be $10,000 in the 1860 census, was not insignificant.

Indeed, it was his financial position that brought him into contact with Ignacio Comonfort, a military officer and politician from Puebla, Mexico, who had designs on the presidency of the Republic of Mexico. Comonfort was a military commander in the state of Guerrero in the 1830s who was elected to the Mexican Congress in 1842 and 1846, though both times the body was dissolved by the federal government. After fighting against the US in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Comonfort was elected as a senator and appointed the customs administrator for Acapulco. In 1854, he joined the Revolution of Ayutla, an attempt by Juan Álvarez to unseat Gen. Antonio de Santa Anna as president of Mexico. Comonfort traveled to SF and then NYC seeking funds for the revolution and had little luck until he landed in the latter and met with de Ajuria.

De Ajuria was not only a friend of Álvarez but his mercantile company had an office in Acapulco when Comonfort was the city’s administrator (incidentally, Jonathan Temple also held significant land interests between Acapulco and Mazatlán, perhaps due to the assistance of his son-in-law). For a loan of 60,000 pesos, which came in the form of cash and weapons, de Ajuria was promised 250,000 pesos in return if the revolution was a success. With the cache of weapons that Comonfort obtained, thanks to de Ajuria, the revolt moved forward and Santa Anna resigned his office in early Aug. 1855. Álvarez then assumed the presidency of Mexico and Comonfort became the Minister of War, though within months Álvarez resigned and Comonfort took his place as the leader of the country.

Upon assuming power, Comonfort issued a manifesto the Mexican nation noting that, among the debts that had been contracted in service to the revolution, the first repayment was to be sent to D. Gregorio de Ajuria, who had provided funds for the revolutionary movement in the South. While it is true that this business had been significantly beneficial to the lender, Comonfort noted, it was important to underscore the fact that, without the assistance he provided, it would have been impossible to sustain the revolution, which was in immediate danger of losing capital. Comonfort, however, went on to state that while he was on principle opposed to leasing the country’s mint, the government lacked the funds to manage it itself, and had succumbed in this case, as in some others, to the law of imperative necessity.

The “imperative necessity” was arranging for Jonathan Temple to assume the lease by a cash payment, said to have been $500,000, an enormous sum for the era, especially from a small-town merchant. There was a precedent, however, because from 1847 on the Mexico City mint had been leased to foreigners. as a result, in addition to the advance payment, de Ajuria (and, perhaps, Temple) made loans of almost $270,000 in 1856 to the government. Temple’s lease of the mint was on a 10- year contract and was managed initially by Alejandro Bellangé, another supporter of the Alvarez-Comonfort coup, and then by José Mendizabal. Ultimately, Comonfort was unseated in yet another revolt in early 1858 and fled to the US (he did, though, return to Mexico as a general in the fight against the French invasion and died in the fall of 1863).

Meanwhile, de Ajuria also became an exile in Paris, where he died in 1864. Although the French Empire in Mexico sought to annul the lease, Temple was able to override this by more loans to the new government. After Jonathan Temple died in the spring 1866, an
extension was signed with his daughter and de Ajuria’s widow, Francisca, as the leaseholder. The Mexican government rescinded the contract a couple of years later, but chronic financial shortages led it to reverse its policy after Francisca Temple de Ajuria came up, in 1871, with a substantial loan of $130,000 to the government. For two decades, the lease stood, presumably on 10-year agreements, but Mexican president Porfirio Diaz finally stepped in and demanded the return of the mint to the government.

In 1892–93, Antonio de Ajuria, Franciscoaand Gregorio’s son and Jonathan Temple’s grandson, acted as the agent on behalf of his mother, then living in Paris, and worked out an indemnity of some $75,000. With this, the mint reverted to Mexican government ownership in Feb. 1893 after almost forty years in the hands of the Ajuria Family. Francisca passed away in Paris in 1893.

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

 

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.
Bilbao. Pasarela del Campo de Volant’n o Zubizuri y las torres P

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.

 

In Honor of St. Patrick’s Day: The Irish Connection in Bizkaia

To mark St. Patrick’s Day, let’s take a look at a little-know dimension of Basque history: the Irish connection in Bizkaia. At the outset I’d like to acknowledge the short but highly informative study by Amaia Bilbao, The Irish Community in the Basque Country c. 1700-1800, from which the following information is taken.

From the mid-seventeenth through the eighteenth centuries different waves of Irish immigrants came to Bizkaia (mainly Bilbao), having abandoned their native land in search of asylum and new economic opportunities. While slow at first, immigration levels picked up and were especially significant in two periods, 1720-1730 and 1750-1760. Thereafter, immigration levels fell off and by the end of the eighteenth century had been reduced to fairly insignificant numbers.

The first Irish immigrants, though lesser in number than later arrivals, were higher in social status and their arrival coincides with a period roughly between the late seventeenth and early to mid-eighteenth century. They were members of the clergy (mainly Dominican priests) and the Catholic landed class fleeing religious and political turmoil in their native land. This social elite came from long established dynasties (like the Madan, Power, Geraldin, Browne, Morgan, and Grant families) in County Waterford in southeast Ireland. These families were in the main Jacobites – loyal to Catholic King James II and the Stuart royal house in opposition to first the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and later  William III from the Orange royal house.

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Uniform and colonel’s flag of the Hibernia Regiment, Irish exiles in the service of the Spanish crown. mid-eighteenth century. A. Valdés Sánchez, Brown University Library, Madrid. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Most of these high-ranking Irish families fled first to France with James II, and only later settled in Bizkaia. Some retained their status by entering into the service of the Spanish army (which, like France, had an Irish Brigade) but most went into trade and later industry, including the Shee, Power, Archer, Laules, Moroni, Joyce Browne, Linch, and Killi Kelly families. Indeed, it was these Irish families that helped to develop the tanning industry in Bizkaia and subsequently encouraged the second-wave of Irish immigration: craftsmen.

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A barrel or drum used to tan hides, Igualada Leather Museum, Barcelona. Photo by Joan Grifols. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Specialist Irish craftsmen began arriving in Bizkaia, especially in and around Bilbao, in the mid-eighteenth century, attracted by the opportunities established by their compatriots above all in the tanning industry. This second wave was made up of people of more humble social status. They brought specialist skills and innovative techniques with them. The typical profile of this Irish immigration was that of two or three brothers, who quickly made a name for themselves in the tanning industry as is the case of the Doran, Savage, McDermott, and O’Moran brothers. Social and family networks were then established to encourage further immigration.

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Luis Paret, View of El Arenal in Bilbao  (c.1783-1784). Google Art Project. Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By the mid-eighteenth century, only the French outnumbered the Irish in number when it came to foreign merchants residing in Bilbao. While they were especially prominent in the tanning sector, the Irish were also important cobblers, blacksmiths, watchmakers, and master builders. Most of the tanners settled in what were then the separate towns of Begoña and Abando (today neighborhoods of Bilbao), as well as in Barakaldo and Arrigorriaga. Some exceptions to this Bilbao-centered settlement were Pablo Conningham, who resided in Durango in 1763 and Juan José Doran in Balmaseda.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the Irish community in Bizkaia maintained its distinct cultural identity through in-marriage with both the Irish diaspora community as a whole, especially in Spain, France, and Portugal, but also with families back in Ireland. Such links also served a commercial purpose in the Atlantic trade between ports like Cádiz, Lisbon, and Bilbao. The maintenance of this distinct identity was also the result of some reticence, and even hostility, on the part of Bizkaians toward these incomers, who were labeled with the pejorative term chiguiris. Such differences were reinforced legally–especially in the early part of the century–by restrictions being applied on all foreigners making it difficult to acquire citizen status in the Seigniory of Bizkaia (a measure strongly linked to a policy of thwarting commercial competition from people from outside the seigniory).

Gradually, though, and especially with Irish immigration toward the end of the eighteenth century waning, the distinct nature of the Irish community in Bizkaia began to weaken. First, Irish families were by now long-established in Bizkaia and felt a bond with this new land.  At the same time Bizkaians also appear to have become more accepting of their presence. Through the eighteenth century, one sees joint Irish-Basque companies formed in Bizkaia. In 1752, for example, a company supplying meat to Bilbao, Begoña, Deusto, and Abando was established by Matías Welldon with the Bizkaians Echezarraga and Andirengoechea. Welldon, the Irishman, was the only tanner of the three and he would receive the animal hides for his tannery. Second, by the late eighteenth century, the Irish association with the tanning sector was being challenged by a new wave of skilled immigrants in that sector from the Iparralde and Béarn. And finally, the whole sector itself began to decline as a result of new tax measures introduced by the Spanish crown in 1779.

This resulted in declining Irish immigration and the combination of these factors–greater socioeconomic integration and declining Irish immigration–meant that by the nineteenth century the Irish in Bizkaia lost their distinct identity and were integrated into Bizkaian society as a whole. This integration involved fairly mundane acts like changing surnames (some straightforward such as Everard to Everardo, but others more creative like Murphy to Morfil), but its also included the joining of important merchant clans, such as the Power Larrea and Archer Velasco families. But it also took place among the more humble social classes. And members of the Irish community came to occupy important positions in Bizkaia. For example, Patricio McMahon was appointed Cabo de Barrio (a kind of cross between mayor and principal law enforcement official) of Abando in 1778.

By the nineteenth century, then, the Irish community in Bizkaia had to come to demonstrate a classic pattern of immigration and assimilation. But it is worth recalling the contribution of the Irish to this little-known part of Basque history, especially on a day like today.

Happy San Patrizio eguna or St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

 

February 22, 1926: The Urola Railroad Inaugurated

On February 22, 1926, the Urola railroad, linking the towns of Zumarraga and Zumaia in Gipuzkoa, was inaugurated by the Spanish king, Alfonso XIII. It was the first electrified railroad in the Spanish state and operated until 1986, closing definitively in 1988.

It was originally envisaged as both a passenger and freight line, connecting key towns in the nascent industrial and demographic growth of this river valley in Gipuzkoa. Starting at Zumarraga, a station on the main Madrid-Irun line, this narrow-gauge railroad followed the Urola River, stopping at towns like Azkoitia and Azpeitia, as well as important destinations for many visitors like Loiola (the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loiola and home to the Sanctuary bearing his name) and the Zestoa spa, before finishing at the port town of Zumaia.

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Zumaia station. The terminus for the old Urola railroad line.

In its early years it was transporting just under 400,000 people annually, and during its most successful period in the 1950s and 1960s, 800,000 people used the line annually (with a record number of just under a million in 1962). As regards freight, it transported around 55,000 metric tons annually until the mid-1950s, when freight services began to decline in part due to improved road connections (by the end of its lifetime the Urola line was only transporting 2,000 metric tons annually).

In the 1980s, a Basque government report stated that, without significant investment, the line would have to be closed (to be replaced by a bus service for passengers).  Despite significant protest, including a 1988 demonstration involving 7,000 people, the line was ultimately closed.

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Steam locomotive “Portugal” E205 with railroad cars on the line between the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia and Lasao. Photo by Nils Öberg, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, however, the Urola railroad is enjoying a new lease of life, at least in part, through the auspices of the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia. Here, as well as visiting the impressive collection, enthusiasts old and young alike can enjoy a charming ride to Lasao and back (a 10 km/6 miles round-trip) on an old steam train. Having done this myself last year, I’m still not sure who enjoyed themselves more on that ride, the kids or the drivers!

Check out this short article on the Urola line, part of a wider series of articles about the railroad in Gipuzkoa that also includes an interesting piece here on the Basque Railway Museum.

Modern railroads, and especially the new project for a high-speed train service in the Basque Country and beyond, are central to Nagore Calvo Mendizabal’s argument in her compelling study, Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building.  If you thought that railroads and nation-building were a relic of the past, of nineteenth-century industrialization and growth, think again. Railroads are still a highly political, as well as economic, issue, and impact people’s very group identity, as adeptly demonstrated in this remarkable work.

The Basque Economy: Present Reality and Future Prospects

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The Euro symbol. By Svilen.milev, at Wikimedia Commons

Two interesting articles on the Basque economy have recently been published by BasqueTribune:

In “How is the Basque Economy Doing?” economist Joseba Barandiaran offers a general overview of the present situation, describing a predominantly service-based economy but with an important manufacturing sector. While noting the healthy state of this “relatively rich economy,” Barandiaran also points out certain major challenges that need to be addressed: improving the technological dimension of Basque manufacturing, increasing RDI investment, and, perhaps most difficult of all, addressing the continuing demographic decline in the Basque Country. Read the full article here.

In “The Basque Country: We Lived in the Future (We Just Were Not Aware of It)” economist Asier Alea criticizes the assumption that advanced economies are merely service-based, arguing for a critical reflection on the place of manufacturing in contemporary societies. In his view, the recent crisis has demonstrated that those economies that maintained a robust manufacturing sector were better able to cope with the ensuing problems. We are, he argues, now on the verge of a new industrial revolution that will also herald new social and cultural changes involving a global vision rooted in strong local identities; changes that, he contends, the Basque Country is well placed to capitalize on, having embraced this vision already. Read the full article here.

If you’re interested in these topics, check out some of the Center publications on the Basque economy and related issues such as globalization and innovation.

Basque Economy: From Industrialization to Globalization, by Mikel Uranga, available free to download here. A general survey of the historical evolution of the modern Basque economy from its roots in heavy industry to the more diverse contemporary situation.

Implications of Current Research on Social innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera. An examination of social innovation in the Basque Country, focusing on knowledge transfer, learning, and innovation.

Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos.  A study of the different ways in which innovation is understood in the Basque Country.

Basque Cooperativism, edited by Baleren Bakaikoa and Eneka Albizu. A comprehensive exploration of why the cooperative movement has flourished in the Basque Country and its response to the challenge of globalization.

Behavior and Organizational Change, edited by Sabino Ayestarán and Jon Barrutia Goenaga. Leadership, management, and cooperation in the workplace are all examined here from the perspective of the Basque Country.

See also a couple of more recent publications that examine the general issues raised in the abovementioned books in more detail:

Innovation and Values: A European Perspective, by Javier Echeverria. Charts the historical development of innovation policies and offers a new line of research that takes into account the history and philosophy of science and technology, but which underscores the profound specificities of the concept of innovation.

Building the Basque City. The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal. A critical examination of different perspectives on nation and state formation in Spain and the Basque Country within a European context, taking economic issues such as the controversial High Speed Train project and European integration as its focus.

 

 

 

Flashback Friday: A Young Man’s Fight In An Old Man’s War

On December 4, 1270, Theobald II, King of Navarre, died at the age of thirty-two as a consequence of the plague while he was taking part in a religious military campaign in Tunisia, North Africa. In 1238, he was born of Theobald I and Marguerite de Bourbon. In 1253, after the death of his father, Theobald II was crowned when he was only fourteen years old. Since he was regarded as too young to govern the kingdom, at first his mother assumed these duties. In November 1253, in the context of Navarre-Castile warfare, the “Young,” as he was nicknamed, swore an oath to preserve all the statutes, rights, and privileges of the entire territory of Navarre and its people. Soon after, Theobald II moved with his mother to Champagne, France, with the aim of gaining  the support of and an alliance with Louis IX against Castile. This alliance was strengthened through the marriage of Theobald II to Isabella, Louis IX’s daughter. As soon as they got the French support, Theobald II returned to the Basque Country to resume his title as King of Navarre.  In 1267, due to his alliance with Louis IX of France, Theobald II swore an oath to fight a holy war against Tunisia. In 1270, a military incursion into this African territory was launched that turned out to be a fatal disaster. After his death, Theobald was embalmed and his body was placed in a sarcophagus inside a mausoleum in the French town of Provins, located in the vicinity of Paris. This was destroyed some centuries later during the French Revolution (1789-1799).

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Portrait of Theobald II

 


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

 

2015 Books Round-up III: Basque Cities in the Spotlight

Here, in the third installment of our summary of the books published by the CBS in 2015, we focus on two key works for understanding the past, present, and future of urban landscapes, connectivity, and communications in the Basque Country.

In a rapidly changing society the Basque Country is becoming an increasingly urbanized society connected to other urban nuclei throughout Europe.  What do these changes mean for Basque society? What special challenges does it face? What are the contesting responses to such challenges? These and other questions are addressed in the following two works.

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Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

Urban renewal policies seek to reverse physical, economic, and social decline in particular areas or neighborhoods—or in whole cities. Such policies are typically associated with public sector solutions to problems in the urban decline of former industrialized spaces that involve developing new economic activities by means of transforming such spaces once more into dynamic and attractive areas. The present work explores the multiple dimensions—incorporating physical-morphological, economic, functional, cultural, and residential elements—of urban renewal policies in the Basque Country and beyond. Individual chapters discuss urban regeneration in Bilbao, the legal framework of urban planning as a public function, the “smart city” model of sustainable and intelligent urban spaces, and culture as a strategic element for the reactivation, renewal, and development of new urban models, including the specific case of cultural heritage as a factor in the urban regeneration of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the legal implications of expropriating cultural assets, public and private collaboration to create cultural clusters, and, finally, the tensions that exist between institutionally driven visions of such transformation and more community-based approaches.

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Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

The book presents a novel perspective in which the Spanish state formation and Basque nationalism develop in complex ways of antagonism and complementarity. The book questions the very notion of the Basque Country and its implications in the new global context. It examines critically some of the key institutions, territories, social practices and collective representations that historically have constituted the Basque Country. One of the most contentious current projects in the articulation of the Basque territory, conflating opposing political agendas and economic outlooks, is the High Speed Train.  The author studies this project in depth to come up with valid lessons regarding the need for infrastructural development and communication between the Basque region, Spain and the European Union. The value of the work rests in her simultaneously viewing the need for inter-dependencies as well as the resulting social conflicts and strategic contradictions emerging from various constituencies. Beyond her Basque region, this work has relevant implications for a better articulation of the Spanish state in the new European context. Her analysis deals with the core issues of the current debates on city renewal, the globalization of the economy and culture, and the redefinition of the basic political and financial institutions. Her work has a bearing on new urbanism, cultural studies, Spanish society, and European infrastructures.

 

Flashback Friday: The Disciple of Barandiaran

On November 13, 1914, Julio Caro Baroja, the renowned anthropologist of Basque origin, was born in Madrid, Spain. He was the eldest son of Rafael Caro Raggio and Carmen Baroja Nessi. At a very early age, Julio moved to the Navarrese town of Bera, in the Basque Country. There, he would spend hours with his uncle, the famed author Pío Baroja. During his adolescence, he learned about Basque culture when he began reading books in his uncle’s library and this interest led him to undertake ethnographic research in the Basque Country. As a student of the Basque archaeologist and ethnographer Jose Migel Barandiaran, he quickly became drawn to Basque history and culture. In 1941, he had already completed a doctorate in ancient history. From this moment on, his contribution to Basque anthropology and historiography consisted of publishing numerous books and articles, including The Basques (1949) and Vasconiana (1974). Among other things, Baroja, who was considered a nonconformist scholar, observed Basque society as a synthesis and integration of modernity and tradition. In 1995, Julio Caro Baroja passed away in Bera and was buried in the local cemetery. Born in the context of World War I and dying in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baroja lived through many of the turbulent events that marked the “short twentieth century,” which also influenced a considerable part of his work on Basque studies.

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From left, Julio Caro Baroja, Joxemiel Barandiaran Aierbe, and Juan Garmendia in Ataun, Gipuzkoa, in the 1970s.

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From left, Eloy Placer, Julio Caro Baroja, William A. Douglass, and Jon Bilbao during the Summer Session Abroad in Uztaritze, Lapurdi, organized by the Basque Studies Program in 1970. Source: Jon Bilbao Basque Library, UNR


For more information and a selection of his works translated into English, check out the book edited and translated by Jesús Azcona, The Selected Essays of Julio Caro Baroja.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: Dead Soldier

On October 16, 1896, Jose Aramendi Arraiza, a Basque soldier on the island of Cuba, passed away at the age of twenty-two. In the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898), soldiers of Basque birth or descent served in the Spanish armed forces. From the beginning of the colonial crisis in Cuba in 1868, the loyalty of Basques to the Spanish crown, reflected in their participation in its armed forces, responded primarily to economic and constitutional issues. Generally, the enrolled men defended the preservation of the traditional political and economic status quo in the Basque Country. Between 1868 and 1898, because the Cuban crisis was a prominent threat to a particular Basque oligarchy, the Basque provincial councils demonstrated a capacity to mobilize their citizens for war to fight the secessionist movement in the Caribbean territory. In this context of transformative change, those traditional classes feared the loss of their social status. In 1898, United States declared war on  and eventually defeated Spain, followed by the independence of Cuba. Then Cuba became a protectorate of the United States.

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Map of Cuba

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Col. Theodore Roosevelt and American soldiers after the fighting at San Juan Hill in Cuba, 1898


The Cuban War of Independence and its ramifications in the Basque Country is discussed in some detail in Basque Nationalism and Political Violence: The Ideological and Intellectual Origins of ETA, by Cameron J. Watson.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: Privileged Fleets

On September 25, 1728, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” (La Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas) was established in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa. An early eighteenth century Spanish reform had established a system by which the government issued royal licenses for the establishment of commerce companies endowing them privileged positions in colonial trade. This system followed the Dutch, English, and French models, by which the government granted some companies permission to be the sole merchants and have monopoly rights on certain trading routes between the American colonies and the Old World. In this way, moreover, the chartered companies became important mainstays of the Spanish empire and its military rule in America. Thus, those privileged fleets were allowed not only to consolidate their positions in transatlantic markets, but they played an even larger role in Spanish foreign relations abroad. Following its Basque predecessor’s steps–the“Company of Honduras” established by Diego de Murga in 1714–the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” was created with the intention of establishing a shareholding company between Venezuela and the Old World. In 1742, the “Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas” obtained the monopoly of trade to Venezuela. Through the establishment of this and other commercial companies, Basque merchants took an active role in the Atlantic trade of different kind of products in the West Indies during the eighteenth century.

The Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas logo

The Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas logo

headquarters

The Royal Gipuzkoan Company’s business headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, in the 1940s

Check out Gloria Pilar Totoricaguena’s book Basque Diaspora: Migration and Transnational Identity, which will give you the whole picture of this and other stories about the Basque presence overseas (available free to download here). On the eighteenth century, see Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (2003).

For further discussion on Basque emigration, see: José Manuel Azcona Pastor’s Possible Paradises: Basque Emigration to Latin America (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2004); and William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao, Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1975).


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

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