Tag: exile

Cecilia García de Guilarte: The First War Correspondent on the Northern Front


Cecilia García de Guilarte (1915-1989). From ‘Un barco cargado de…’ [A Boat Laden With…], a blog devoted to her life.

It’s a real pleasure to come across the life stories of people who don’t typically make it into the history books, as happened recently when I discovered the figure of Cecilia García de Guilarte. Born in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, in 1915, she was the first journalist to cover the Northern Front after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

García de Guilarte was the oldest of four children born into a working-class family originally from Burgos. Her father worked at the paper mill in Tolosa, one of the most important companies in the town. Indeed, she also started her working life in the mill. There, influenced by her father’s labor union activities for the CNT, the confederation of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions, she took to writing for union publications. Her facility for writing led her, at age 20, to publishing articles for a Madrid weekly, Estampa, signing her name, as she would do thereafter, “Cecilia G. de Guilarte.”

With the outbreak of the war, she continued her work as a journalist, writing for the union’s official publication CNT Norte and becoming the de facto first correspondent to cover the Northern Front (Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia, Santander, and Asturias), between 1936 and 1937. During this time she secured exclusive stories, such as her interview of the German pilot Karl Gustav Schmidt, who had crashed after the aerial bombardment of Bilbao by Nazi planes in the service of Franco in January 1937. At the same time she met and married Amós Ruiz Girón, the former chief of municipal police in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, who was at the time in the Cuerpo Disciplinario de Euzkadi, a policing force created by the Basque government during the war.

Following the fall of the Northern Front to Franco’s rebel forces, García de Guilarte escaped to Catalonia, from which fled fled to France in 1939 after it, too, fell. While in exile in France she wrote briefly for the newspaper Sud-Ouest before crossing the Atlantic to escape World War II and settling in Mexico with her husband. There she embarked on a productive career in journalism, writing for several journals and newspapers, including many connected to the community of Basque exiles. She was also editor of El Hogar and Mujer. She combined all this with a similarly active political life as a member of the Izquierda Republicana de Euskadi, and she also taught classes in art and theater history at the University of Sonora. As well as all this, she also published voraciously: novels, essays, biographies, and plays.

She was able to return to Tolosa in 1964, although she would have to wait over another decade, and the death of Franco in 1975, before he husband could rejoin her in the Basque Country. Back home, she became the theater critic for the Voz de España, a newspaper published in Donostia-San Sebastián, until it closed in 1979. She died in 1989, having taken an active part in the social and cultural life of Donostia both before and after Franco’s death.


See the bilingual Spanish/English blog Un barco cargado de…’ [A Boat Laden With…], which covers all aspects of her life and includes numerous photos and interviews: https://unbarcocargadode.wordpress.com/

See, too, an excellent blog post about her life at the following site: http://monografiashistoricasdeportugalete.blogspot.com.es/2014/02/celia-g-gilarte-periodista-de-guerra.html

Further Reading

War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott. This multi-authored work traces the impact of both the Spanish Civil war and World War II on people’s everyday lives, with a special focus on (but not limited to) the Basque Country. This work is available free to download here.  

Expelled from the Motherland, by Xabier Irujo. This is a book that, while taking as its central subject matter the life and work of the exiled Basque president or lehendakari, Jose Antonio Agirre, also explores the stories of many other Basque exiles in Latin America and beyond.

Ni ez naiz hemengoa

When my grandmother started losing her memory due to Alzheimer disease, she first forgot where her keys were, then the path to home or even where her home was. Later, she forgot that she lived in Hernani, the Basque town where she had been living since leaving her hometown in Spain sixty years ago. In the end, she thought that my siblings and I were her sisters and brothers, and she started talking more and more about her parents, who were, in her mind, waiting for her at home. This is exactly what happened to Josebe.

Josebe left her hometown of Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country for Chile. There she married, had children, and lived a fulfilling life. But then Alzheimer’s disease started erasing all these memories, bringing her back to her childhood.

I’m not from here is a documentary by Maite Alberdi and Giedre Zickyte, published by The New York Times. It tells the story of Josebe living in a retirement home in Chile. A story of thousands, it is a touching reflection on migration and identity, memory and disease.

For the full article, please visit:


Center’s Xabier Irujo Presents Closing Session for Basque Conference on the Exile of 1936

Expelled from Motherland (35)-blog

Dr. Xabier Irujo, left, was, as a child, a member of the Basque exile in Venezuela, an experience that has shaped much of Dr. Irujo’s work.

On December 15th our own Xabier Irujo, along with writer Arantzazu Amezaga Iribarren presented the closing remarks at the 14th International Conference La otra cara de la memoria historica (The other face of historical memory), which took place in various places in Tolosa and Donostia-San Sebastián from December 10–15, 2015. The subject of this years conference was “Hetorodoxias del exilio de 1936” (Heterodoxies of the 1936 exile). Dr. Xabier Irujo’s work on the exile is extensive and the subject of this talk was “Diálogo ondulado: exilio y heterodoxias” (Ondulating dialogue: exile and heterodoxies).

The annual conference is organized by Hamaika Bide Elkartea, an organization aimed at recoving memory of the exile, together with the GEXEL Group of the Autonomous University or Bareclona, together with Deusto University and the University of the Basque Country. The aim of the this year’s conference is to shed light on the forgotten or understudied members of the exile. Read more, in Spanish, here in the Diario Vasco.

Professor Xabier Irujo has published widely on exile and on the Civil War, most recently publishing with the University of Nevada Press Gernika: The Market Day MassacreThe Center he published an extensive history of the Basque exile, Expelled from the Motherland.

Flashback Friday: Safe and Sound

On November 6, 1941, Jose Antonio Jose Antonio Agirre Lekube (1904-1960), lehendakari or president of the Basque Country, arrived in Philadelphia and met his friends Manuel Maria Intxausti and Manuel de la Sota. On May 8, 1940, Agirre had departed from Paris (France) to Brussels (Belgium) along with his wife and children to visit relatives living there. Immediately after their arrival, the Agirre family was caught unaware when, on May 10, Adolf Hitler’s forces invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Thereafter, they struggled to escape from Europe to America. Eventually in August Agirre exiled safe and sound to Brazil. On November 4, after receiving a residence permit from the US Government, he arrived in Miami, before passing through Argentina. After his short visit in Philadelphia on November 6, Agirre went to New York and settled there, where he found a large Basque immigrant community. In the city of New York, then, he headed the reorganization of the Basque government-in-exile.

A short film documentary of 1942 about Jose Antonio Agirre and the Basque government-in-exile delegation in the city of New York:

Source: Basque Film Library.

download (2)

Portrait of Jose Antonio Agirre. Source: Jon Bilbao Basque Library, UNR

basque government nyc

Members of the Basque government-in-exile in New York. From left, Antonio de Irala, Telesforo Monzon, Santiago Aznar, Manuel de la Sota, Ramon Aldasoro, Jose Antonio Agirre, and Gonzalo Nardiz.

The remarkable story of Agirre’s escape from Europe is told in his own words in Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe.

On related topics, see Expelled from the Motherland: The Government of President Jose Antonio Agirre in Exile, 1937-1960, by Xabier Irujo; A Basque Patriot in New York: Jose Luis de la Lombana y Foncea and the Euskadi Delegation in the United States, by Iñaki Anasagasti and Josu Erkoreka; and War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott.

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

Basque Children of ’37 Association UK

The Basque Children of ’37 Association UK seeks to preserve the memory of the experience of almost 4,000 children who were evacuated to the UK in 1937 from Bilbao.

Basque refugee children aboard Habana 2

Basque refugee children aboard the SS Habana, from BasqueChildren.org, the website of the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK

In the spring of 1937, following the bombing of Durango and Gernika and with Franco’s troops on the brink of entering Bilbao and thereby defeating Basque resistance to the military uprising, the children were evacuated to the UK for their own safety. They were shipped aboard the SS Habana, which sailed from Bilbao on Friday, May 21, dropping anchor the following evening at Fawley, at the entrance to Southampton Water. On the morning of Sunday, May  23, the ship docked at Southampton, and the children were initially accommodated in a large camp at North Stoneham, Eastleigh. Later, they were dispersed to numerous “colonies” throughout the country.

Basque refugee children donation appeal

Funding appeal for Basque refugee children, from BasqueChildren.org, the website of the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK

Some of these Basque refugee children were taken in by the Attenborough family in the city of Leicester. Two of the Attenboroughs’ sons would later go on to achieve international renown: Richard (1923-2014), as a film actor, director, and producer, who won the Best Director Oscar for the movie Gandhi (1982); and David (1926- ), as a broadcaster and naturalist, responsible for creating some of the most highly regarded nature and wildlife documentaries in the history of the genre. Here, in a site devoted to remembering Richard’s life, under the “Oral Histories” section, Albert Hall and Betty Holyland specifically recall the Attenboroughs’ experience with the Basque Children’s Refugee Committee in the late 1930s. The Attenboroughs’ involvement in taking in both Basque and (later, in  World War II) Jewish refugee children is also noted in a short bio of Mary Attenborough.

The Basque Children of ’37 Association also serves as a forum for discussion and to promote dialogue between the children themselves, their descendants, researchers, and any interested persons. It provides a bibliography and a photo gallery on the Basque refugee children and their experiences.

Additionally, there is a touching portrait of life for some of these refugee children in a series of photos here, together with a short accompanying text marking the 75th anniversary of their arrival in Carshalton (at the time in the county of Surrey, now a suburb of London).

The CBS publication  War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, addresses the themes of  war, occupation, and exile during the turbulent period from the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War to the conclusion of World War II. This collection of essays attempts to convey the upheaval from the perspective of ordinary people’s lives, examining the human impact of war and displacement.


Ondare Bizia: Exile-Emigration-Return


“Ondare Bizia”  (Living Heritage) is a platform to encourage society to reflect on the historical and social phenomenon of exile, migration, and ultimately return to the Basque Country. The project was founded with the help of  Bizkailab Action Program of the Provincial Government of Bizkaia and the University of Deusto. The coordinators are Pedro J. Oiarzabal, a researcher at the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute, and Nerea Mujika, Director of the Institute of Basque Studies at the University of Deusto. 


Ondare bizia, immigration, exile, return. Images from the Basque Library, UNR

Paul Laxalt and father Dominique travers summer snow pack. Laxalt sheep range in High Sierra. Gus Bundy.

Paul Laxalt and father Dominique traverse summer snow pack. Laxalt sheep range in High Sierra. Gus Bundy. From the Basque Library, UNR

The project seeks to record interviews with people about their experiences. Click here to see a selection of recorded interviews (with subtitles in English) under the heading “Fragments of Our Lives: Exile, Emigration, and Return to Bizkaia.”

To read more about the immigration experiences of one particular Wyoming town, check out Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming, edited by David Romtvedt (and keep an eye our for David’s new novel, forthcoming this spring) and Dollie Iberlin, and for diaspora experiences in a more urban setting, The Gardeners of Identity: The Basques of the San Francisco Bay Area by Pedro Oiarzabal.


Commemorations Mark Basque Participation in Key World War Two Battle

Euskalkultura.com recently reported on a moving recent commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Pointe de Grave, at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary in Western France, and the Basque participation in this battle.

In 1945, during the closing stages of World War II, Basque exiles from the Franco dictatorship making up the Gernika Battalion were instrumental in the Allied victory at the Battle of Point-de-Grave, one of the last outposts of Nazi resistance.

Gernika Battalion marching through Bordeaux

Members of the Gernika Battalion being honored by France in a victory parade

For their part in the battle, the Basques were awarded the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military honor, and were accorded an official reception in Baiona (Bayonne) for their efforts. Charles de Gaulle himself commented: “France will never forget the sacrifice of the Basques for the liberation of their territory.”

Gernika Battalion with De Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle salutes members of the Gernika Battalion holding the ikurriña or Basque flag

The battle and the wider context in which it took place–the dictatorship in Spain that led to many Basques fleeing Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) and the Nazi occupation of Iparralde (the Northern Basque Country)–are discussed in the CBS publication Modern Basque History:  Eighteenth Century to the Present, by Cameron Watson.

On the effects of the Spanish Civil War and World War II on Basques from both sides of the Pyrenees, see War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott. This work explores the multiple dimensions of the effects of war such as displacement, occupation, and resistance, and demonstrates the extent to which the Basque Country was at the center of European events during this key time in European history.

Memoria Bizi-Living Memory

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Pedro Oizarzabal provides an overview of the Memoria Bizia Project at CBS

This summer Pedro Oiarzabal will be in the US, collecting new materials for the Memoria Bizia (Living Memory ) project. He is going to be especially working in Nevada. Everybody is welcome to be part of this unique and challenging project.  Anyone interested in participating in the Memoria Bizia (Living Memory) project to collect the personal testimonies of elderly Basques across the U.S. and Canada, as an interviewer or an interviewee, or anyone wanting to establish an interviewing team in their local area or wanting to join an existing one, please send a message to info@nabasque.org

You can follow us on facebook too.

An Interview with Pedro Oiarzabal: Get Involved with Memoria Bizia

Pedro J. Oiarzabal, a researcher on Migration and Diaspora Studies at the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute (University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain) and the Jon Bilbao Research Fellow at the Center for Basque Studies is visiting us in order to continue with his innovative and daring research project: Memoria Bizia (Living Memory). The Basque Diaspora Living Heritage Project 2014-16. United States and Canada. We had the opportunity to talk to him during his brief stay in Reno.

Can you tell us what the goal of the project is?

Memoria Bizia aims at collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of migration and exile through the personal oral testimonies of elderly Basque men and women residing in the United States and Canada. In fact, this community, the Basque communities across the U.S. and Canada, become active protagonists instead of being research “subjects.”

In a sense, this research, if not unique, at least departs from the typical academic study, would you say?

In this project, the researcher becomes just the conduit of the social community-based network that we are creating. The project’s main idea is to build an intergenerational and sustainable bridge within the different Basque communities to save the living memory of their elders. In this regard, Memoria Bizia seeks to empower local Basque individuals, communities, and their associations to be active participants in their own history. It is a different way of generating information and knowledge, while fostering values such as ownership.

How do you intend to accomplish it?

From the very beginning, the community has taken part in the design and implementation of the project, with the North American Basque Organizations (NABO) being the main force behind Memoria Bizia. For years, we have talked about the need to carry out interviews with the last Basque migrant generation. Fortunately, last year, four organizations—NABO, the Basque Government, the Etxepare Basque Institute, and the University of Deusto—understood the importance of recording those testimonies and got together to fund this project. In addition, I have designed specific training workshops to teach individuals how to conduct and process oral history interviews. In a way, the interviewer and the interviewee are coauthors and co-owners of the resulting testimony.

What do you intend to do with the oral history interviews?

Both the interviewer and interviewee are constructing narratives by weaving an intertwined living memory tapestry, resulting in an unprecedented database open to everyone who wishes to explore and analyze the history of immigration and settlement through Basque eyes. This digital database will constitute a living treasure for future generations to come. Consequently, we have established three official repositories for the long-term preservation of the audio/video recordings: the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Boise, and the University of Deusto Library. Our goal is to establish more archives to store hard copies of the recordings in the near future.

This idea of an open network goes beyond Basque America, right?

Correct, not only Basque communities but also different institutions, such as the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Montreal (Quebec), the Great Basin College, Elko, the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at the Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and New York University have seen the urgent need for such research and have enthusiastically joined this open network. We are extremely fortunate to have them as partners and grateful for their unconditional support.

What has been the response from the local communities?

It has been phenomenal! So far, local interviewing teams, made up of numerous trained volunteers, have been set up in different locations, including Montreal and Toronto in Canada, and New York, Chino, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Elko, Ontario (Oregon), Boise, and Reno in the U.S. And also there are associated projects in Miami, Bishop, and Northwest Mojave (California). This constitutes the largest ever ensemble community-based network with the goal of collecting and preserving the oral history of Basques in the United States and Canada in a systematic and standardized way. We are also in the process of identifying potential interviewees, while we have begun interviewing some of those already identified.

What next? If a person wants to join the project, what does he/she need to do?

The project is eager to geographically span areas such as Fresno, Los Banos, Susanville, Gardnerville-Minden, Utah, and Wyoming in the United States, and British Columbia in Canada. At the same time, we need to reinforce the existing teams with new volunteers, particularly young members of the Basque communities. We are also seeking new partners to sponsor new initiatives across the country. Consequently, anyone interested in participating in the project, as an interviewer or an interviewee, or anyone wanting to establish an interviewing team in their local area or wanting to join an existing one, please contact Kate Camino at info@nabasque.org