Tag: Flashback Friday (page 1 of 2)

April 19, 2004: Inauguration of Bilbao Exhibition Centre

BEC entrance. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 19, 2004 the Bilbao Exhibition Centre (known as BEC) was inaugurated in Barakaldo. Jointly owned by the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, Bilbao City Council, Barakaldo City Council, and the Bilbao Chamber Of Commerce, it is the premier convention center in the Basque Country, with around 160 events and 1 million visitors annually.

It boasts six exhibition halls, a conference center, a multi-purpose arena–the Bizkaia Arena, used for concerts, basketball games, and movies–as well as an atrium and restaurants, office space, open areas, and a parking lot. In November this year, the Bizkaia Arena will host the MTV Europe Music Award, known as the EMAs, an event we’ll be sure to post on, so watch this space for more news on who’ll be walking up the red carpet this fall!

Check out the BEC website here.

And see a previous CBS post on BEC from August 2016 that discusses its history and impact.

April 9, 1914: Birth of Feminist Anarchist Militant “Kaxilda”

On April 9, 1914, Soledad Casilda Hernáez Vargas was born to a single mother in Zizurkil, Gipuzkoa. In the 1930s she became a well-known feminist political activist and anarchist militant in Gipuzkoa, taking an active part in fighting at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War as well as later in the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France.

Kasilda (1914-1992)

Subsequently known as Kasilda, Kaxilda, Kasi, or “la Miliciana,” she was raised in  Donostia-San Sebastián in a Bohemian family with strong connections to the anarchist movement. As a young woman in the early 1930s she caused a scandal by bathing nude on the Zurriola Beach in Donostia. Becoming an activist in the anarchist movement, she was arrested in 1934 for distributing propaganda and possessing explosives during the revolutionary strike of October that year.  She was, though, released in 1936 as part of a general amnesty conceded by the newly elected Popular Front coalition government in Madrid. On leaving prison prison, she met fellow Basque anarchist activist Felix Likiano (1909-1982), her partner for the rest of her life.

When the Civil War broke out in July 1936, she joined Likiano in the anarchist militia formed to defend Donostia against the attack of the rebel troops, seeing active service in the Battle of Irun (Aug. 27 – Sep. 5, 1936) and, later, after the fall of her home city, also as part of the Hilario-Zamora Column on the Aragon and Ebro Fronts in 1938. With the triumph of the rebels, however, she and Likiano fled to France, where they were subsequently arrested and sent to the Argelès-sur-Mer and Gurs concentration camps. Released in 1940, the couple then moved first to Baiona in Lapurdi, but ultimately settled in Bordeaux, where their home–nicknamed the “Basque Consulate”–became a well-known meeting place for exiled Spanish Republicans. With the Nazi occupation of France they collaborated actively with the French Resistance.

After a spell in Paris, they returned to the Basque Country, settling in Biarritz. She died in 1992 and on her gravestone one can read the inscription “Andra! Zu zera bukatzen ez den sua!” (Woman! You’re the fire that never goes out!).

April 3, 1942: Birth of Basque language and culture activist Argitxu Noblia

Argitxu Noblia in 2010. Photo by Adrar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 3, 1942, Claire “Argitxu” Noblia was born in Angelu, Lapurdi, at the height of the Nazi occupation of Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country in World War II.  She would go on to found the first ikastola or Basque-medium school in Iparralde in 1969 as well as being a prominent figure in the world of politics and Basque culture in the north.

After studying medicine in Bordeaux she returned to the Basque Country where she worked as an anesthetist in Baiona until retiring in 2002. Outside of work, however, she became active in Basque culture and politics. In 1969, at the head of a group of parents working on their own initiative and together with Libe Goñi, she established a proto-ikastola in her own home in Baiona–just prior to creating the first specific school premises in Arrangoitze–and served as the first director of Seaska, the organization overseeing ikastolas in the north, for six years. She was also part of a group of people that founded the Elkar publishing house in Baiona in 1971 and was involved in the association promoting the creation of the Basque-language radio station Gure Irratia in 1981.

She took an early interest in politics while still at university and stood as a candidate for one of the first Basque nationalist formations in Iparralde, Enbata, in the 1960s. She served on the Baiona city council between 1989 and 1995, and was then briefly head of the Iparralde section of the Basque Nationalist Party before later joining Eusko Alkartasuna.

If all that were not enough, she has also been an advocate of public health, peace, and women’s issues, serving in numerous associations to this end. In 1995 she received the Grand Prix Humanitaire from the French government and in 2009 the Femmes 3000 federation awarded her with a prize for her voluntary work.

One of the Center’s publications, The Transformation of National Identity in he Basque Country of France, 1789-2006 by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga, discusses the social, political, and cultural context in which Argitxu Noblia has been such an influential figure in Iparralde.

March 27, 1944: Bombing of Biarritz by US Air Force

At 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday, March 27, 1944, toward then end of World War II, the Basque towns of Biarritz and Angelu in Lapurdi was bombed by 44 Consolidated B-24 Liberators in the 458th and 466th Bomb Groups.  In eight minutes they dropped 44 tonnes of bombs on the Nazi-occupied town, resulting in 117 casualties and around 250 injuries.

The official aim of the mission that day–according to the archives–was to destroy the nearby Parma airfield and the Latécoère aircraft company factory, although it is also likely that it included the target of a German base there storing V-1 doodlebugs and V-2 rockets. Moreover, the Nazis had constructed a major command center in bunkers beneath Biarritz. The mission was part of the conclusion of a more general strategy to bomb occupied France on the part of the Allies between June 1940 and May 1945; and served as a prelude to the D-Day landings of June 1944 in Normandy. However, lacking the necessary precision technology, many devices went astray in the carpet bombing and hit the civilian population as well as the Nazi occupiers, with approximately one hundred German soldiers among the dead, and destroying 375 residential homes in the process too.

See “Les mystères du bombardement de Biarritz” in Sud-Ouest, March 26, 2013 (in French) and “70 urte, AEBko hegazkinek Biarritz eta Angelu bonbardatu zituztela” at EITB, March 27, 2014 (in Basque). Check out a video report on the bombing by ETB, the Basque public broadcaster, here (in Basque) and listen to a fascinating piece of oral history in this first-hand account by people who experienced the bombing (in Basque).

The Center’s own Sandra Ott has written extensively on the German occupation of the Basque Country during World War II. Check out her War, Judgment, And Memory In The Basque Borderlands, 1914-1945 and Living With the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940–1948as well as her edited work, War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946.

Note (from Wikipedia): At the end of World War II in Europe, the U.S. Army’s Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in Biarritz. Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz were converted into quarters, labs, and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened August 10, 1945 and about 10,000 students attended an eight-week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the US, so students attended for just one term. After three successful terms, the G.I. University closed in March 1946.

March 19, 1367: The Battle of Inglesmendi, the English Mount

On March 19, 1367, what came to be known as the Battle of Inglesmendi (the English Mount) near Ariñez/Ariñiz in Araba took place. Here, once again in history, the Basque Country was the site of a broader conflict that even drew in European powers. Araba had been part of the Kingdom of Castile since 1199 and this was an episode in the Castilian Civil War, a war of succession in the period 1351-1369 that ultimately became part of a larger conflict then raging between England and France, the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). Basically, England supported the succession to the Castilian throne of the reigning monarch, King Peter, the Cruel, while France supported (tacitly rather than officially) the candidacy of his illegitimate brother Count Henry of Trastámara.

Edward, the Black Prince. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout March, Henry’s forces, including significant Aragonese noblemen and French free companies led by the Breton knight Betrand du Guesclin, engaged their counterparts on the side of Peter, a similar mercenary force made up principally of English and Gascons and led by Edward of Woodstock, the so-called Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III, King of England.  Henry’s forces were adept at the use of guerrilla tactics against the superior numbers of the Black Prince.

Henry II of Castile, from La Virgen de Tobed by Jaume Serra. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the Inglesmendi encounter, a vanguard of Henry’s army formed by jinetes (Castilian light cavalry) had wiped out a detachment of the Black Prince’s army and then headed back to their base. On their way, they met with an exploration detachment of the Black Prince’s army. After suffering many casualties, the Black Prince’s troops entrenched in a nearby mountain, where English longbowmen resisted Henry’s Castilian light cavalry. The cavalry then changed tactics; its French and Aragonese horsemen dismounted and attacked as infantry, winning the battle, and taking many prisoners. Thereafter, the mountain would be known as Inglesmendi (the English Mount, in Basque).

Battle of Nájera with the Black Prince and Peter the Cruel allied (to the left of the image) against Henry II of Castile and the French. 15th century Jean Froissart’s Chronicles (Bib. Nat. Fr., FR 2643, fol. 312v). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was a surprise defeat for the Black Prince, hitherto considered invincible. However, while his forces were temporarily demoralized by the setback, he ultimately recovered, and with broader political events favoring King Peter, he ultimately defeated Henry’s troops at the Battle of Nájera in La Rioja on April 3. That said, Henry himself managed to escape across the Pyrenees and continued to fight Peter. Moreover, Peter lost the support of England on account of his non-payment of dues for the assistance offered, was isolated internationally, and was eventually killed by Henry at the Battle of Montiel in 1369, resulting in Henry II assuming the throne of Castile.

March 10, 1784: Birth of Basque Enlightenment Figure Maria del Pilar Acedo Sarria

Maria del Pilar de Acedo y Sarria, Countess of Echauz, Countess of Vado, Marchioness of Montehermoso (1784-1869). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On March 10, 1784, Maria del Pilar Acedo y Sarria was born in Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, to José María Manuel Acedo y Atodo, Count of Echauz and Luisa de Sarria y Villafañe, Countess of Vado. Her father was a member of the renowned Royal Basque Society of Friends of the Country, an important eighteenth-century Enlightenment institution that fostered scientific, cultural, and economic learning with the aim of contributing to the improvement of Basque society. Raised in an Enlightened aristocratic environment, she spent most of her early years being educated in Vitoria-Gasteiz. In 1800 she married a nobleman, Ortuño María de Aguirre y del Corral, Marquis of Montehermoso, the head of the Provincial Council of Araba and also a member of the Royal Basque Society. They settled in a family palace in Vitoria-Gasteiz and would go on to have one daughter, Maria Amalia, in 1801. Domestic life, as befitted an aristocratic family so connected to the Royal Basque Society, was one of education, learning, debate, and numerous social gatherings. Maria del Pilar Acedo was fluent in several languages, wrote poetry, and played the guitar as well as being an enthusiastic participant in these gatherings with similarly Enlightened company.

The Sixteenth-Century Montehermoso Palace, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Today, the Montehermoso Cultural Center. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1807, Vitoria-Gasteiz was occupied by French troops as part of the Peninsular War (1807-1814), Napoleon’s campaign to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. And in 1808, Napoleon named his older brother, Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain. On a trip to Madrid that year, Acedo met the elder Bonaparte and he in turn visited Vitoria-Gasteiz, where he stayed at her palace.  The two became lovers and she accompanied him when he returned to Madrid, where she “officially” became his mistress. At the same time, her husband was also welcomed in the king’s trusted circle. But his rule was not a happy one. He was unpopular and had no influence in the ongoing Peninsular War. He ultimately abdicated and returned to France after the French defeat at the Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1813. He was accompanied once more, by Acedo, whose husband had died (while accompanying King Joseph on a trip to France) in 1811. However, shortly after arriving in France, their relationship ended.

Having inherited lands, wealth, and titles from both her parents, Acedo was free to live indepedently in France. She lived temporarily in several places there, including Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) in Lapurdi. In 1816, she remarried a French noble military officer Jacques Amádée de Carabène, and they settled in Carresse Castle in Bearn, where she lived off the income from her estates in Spain and spent the rest of her life carrying out charitable works. She lived a long and full life and died there in 1869.

March 5, 1937: Battle of Cape Matxitxako

On March 5, 1937, the Battle of Cape Matxitxako took place off Bermeo, Bizkaia, during the Spanish Civil War. It was a naval battle between the Spanish heavy cruiser Canarias in the service of Franco’s military rebels and four pro-Republic Basque armed trawlers escorting a convoy. The trawlers were protecting the transport ship Galdames, which was sailing to Bilbao with 173 passengers. They were confronted by the rebel cruiser Canarias off Cape Matxitxako.

Cape Matxitxako off the coast of Bizkaia. Photo by Telle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On March 4, the four Basque trawlers–the BizcaiaGipuzkoaDonostia, and Nabarra–departed the port of Baiona in Lapurdi with the aim of escorting the Galdames, which besides passengers was also carrying mail, machinery, weapons, supplies, and funds. The first engagement between the two sides took place on March 5, some 20 miles north of Bilbao. The Canarias fired first, hitting the Gipuzkoa, which in turn retaliated. The other trawlers attempted to maneuver the Canarias closer to the shore, from where their ground support could more easily strike it. All the while, their aim was to keep the Canarias away from the Galdames by engaging directly with the rebel ship.  The Donostia withdrew after being hit, but the Nabarra continued to engage the Canarias directly. She was eventually hit and came to a halt; 20 men abandoned the sinking trawler, while another 29 were lost with the ship, including her captain, Enrique Moreno Plaza. Ultimately, the Galdames was hit by a salvo from Canarias, lost four passengers, and was captured by Franco’s cruiser. The 20 men who abandoned the ship were rescued and taken aboard the Canarias.

Monument to the fallen Basque sailors at the Battle of Cape Matxitxako. Photo by Telle. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (pp. 262-63), Cameron Watson discusses how Anglo-Irish poet C. Day Lewis (father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis) immortalized the event in “The Nabara” (1938):

Day-Lewis never visited the Basque Country, but saw the struggle of many Basques against the military uprising of Francisco Franco as a universal theme. His epic prose poem “The Nabara,” published in 1938, pays homage to what he considered to be the indomitable spirit of the Basque people, suggested by an event that took place in 1937 during the Civil War, when five modestly armed Basque trawlers engaged in a hopeless naval battle with a Spanish rebel cruiser in the waters of Bilbo, in a bold attempt to break a Spanish blockade of the Basque city that was starving Bilbo’s inhabitants. The struggle of the ill-equipped fishing boats lasted longer than might have been expected, ending only when the last of their number, the Nabarra (Nafarroan), was finally sunk by superior forces, losing thirty-eight members of its original fifty-two-man crew. Day Lewis wrote: “Freedom is more than just a word, more than the base coinage of Statesmen, the tyrant’s dishonoured cheque, or the dreamer’s inflated currency. She is mortal, we know, and made in the image of simple men who have no taste for carnage but sooner kill and are killed than see that image betrayed … a pacific people, slow to feel ambition, loving their laws and their independence–men of the Basque Country.”

You can download Modern Basque History for free here.

 

 

February 25, 1119: Conquest of Tutera by Alfonso the Battler

On February 25, 1119, Tutera (Tudela) in Navarre, an important center of Muslim political power and culture in the Iberian peninsula, fell to the forces of Alfonso I, “the Battler ,” King of Aragon. So ended an important era in the history of the city, one in which it was even for a while the capital of an independent taifa (a Muslim-ruled principality).

Bust of Musa ibn Musa in Tutera. Photo by Arenillas. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Founded as a Roman villa by the name of Tutela, and following a period of Visigothic rule, the town came under Muslim control during the initial eighth-century conquest of Hispania by the Umayyad Caliphate. In 802 the town was fortified and renamed Al-Tutili by Amrus ibn Yusuf,  a native of Huesca (probably of Visigothic origin) and governor of Zaragoza.  It then became the Emirate of Al-Hakam and the permanent residence of Musa ibn Musa, “the Great,” leader of the Banu Qasi clan, rulers of the Upper Ebro Valley in the ninth and early tenth centuries.  The Banu Qasi family were of Hspano-Roman or Visigothic ancestry and had intermarried with local Basque nobles: Musa ibn Musa was the maternal half-brother of Iñigo Arista, the King of Pamplona-Iruñea, and he even married Arista’s daughter. He is also presumed to have supported the Basques against the Franks in the Second Battle of Orreaga (Ronceveaux) in 824, a battle generally credited as giving birth to the Kingdom of Pamplona-Iruñea. Indeed, Musa’s power was such–ultimately extending to control of Zaragoza, Huesca, and Toledo, as well as Tutera–that  he was even referred to as the “Third King of Spain” alongside Abd ar-Rahman II  of the Emirate of Córdoba and Ordoño I of the Kingdom of Asturias.

Excavation of the Great Mosque of Tutera. Photo by Arenillas. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tutera flourished under Musa’s rule, becoming an important economic and cultural as well as political center. There was religious tolerance, a thriving economy, and a vibrant cultural life. The multicultural reality in Tutera was made up of Muslim, Mozarab (Iberian Christian), and Jewish communities. That multicultural spirit lived on, initially to some extent at least, after its fall to Alfonso I and was perhaps best reflected by the Jewish traveler and scholar Benjamin of Tudela (1130-1173), author of The Travels of Benjamin, an important medieval text chronicling both Jewish communities in particular and broader cultures and societies throughout large parts of Europe, Africa, and Western Asia.

 

 

February 19, 1999: Inauguration of Euskalduna Conference Centre

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbera.

On February 19, 1999, the newly completed Euskalduna Conference Centre was inaugurated in Bilbao. Designed by architects Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios to resemble a ship under construction, because it stands on the site formerly occupied by the Euskalduna shipyard, the building won the Enric Miralles award for architecture at the 6th Spanish Architecture Biennial in 2001 and in 2003 the International Congress Palace Association declared it to be the world’s best congress center. It is without doubt one of the key emblematic sites–historical, cultural, and architectural–of Bilbao and a “must see” building for any visitor to the capital of Bizkaia.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna was a shipyard located in the heart of Bilbao that also came to specialize in the construction of rail and road vehicles. It operated between 1900 and 1988, when it closed in controversial circumstances due to downsizing. The famous “Carola” Crane, a symbol of the shipyard in its heyday, still stands and now forms part of the Ria de Bilbao Maritime Museum, which is located alongside the Euskalduna Conference Centre.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna is today home to both the city’s opera season and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as a multipurpose conference and event center with a 2000-seat auditorium, a 600-seat theater, conference rooms, meeting rooms, a press room, restaurants, an exhibition hall, an a commercial gallery.

Photo by Asier Sarasua Aranberri.

Check out the Euskalduna website here.

The Center has published several books on the transformation of Bilbao (and the Basque Country in general), a story in which the Euskalduna is prominent. See, for example, Joseba Zulaika’s award-winning That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of  a City as well as Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi and Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

February 10, 1925: Collapse of emblematic Basque bank Crédito de la Unión Minera

On February 10, 1925, one of the most well-known Basque banks, Crédito de la Unión Minera (Mining Union Credit)–an early Bilbao banking institution founded in the spring of 1901–suspended all payments as a prelude its collapse as a result of the financial downturn in the 1920s. Curiously, the full liquidation of its assets would drag on a further seventy-five years, culminating at the dawn of the new millennium.

Crédito de la Unión Minera was established in 1901 on the back of both significant growth in Bilbao itself (as a consequence of the strong mining export market) and the inflow of capital from former colonies following the fall of the Spanish empire. As its name indicated, this particular bank was associated closely to the mining sector on Bizkaia. Thereafter, the “Crédito” managed to retain its independence, in the wake of a series of fusions among other Bilbao banking interests, thanks to a successful aggressive commercial policy that saw its share price soar on the Bilbao stock market. This initial success was bolstered during World War I (1914-1918) with Spanish neutrality in the conflict benefiting the important Basque banking sector.

With the end of the war, however, and the economic downturn in the 1920s, those banks that had been especially speculative or adventurous were suddenly in trouble.  Specifically, as a result of over speculation, the Crédito was suffering from a lack of cash flow and on February 10, 1925, it suspended all payments prior to its official collapse.

Interestingly, it was still possible to cash in on the remaining assets of the bank right up until late 2001!

For more on this fascinating story, check out a great article by Eduardo J. Alonso Olea, “El Crédito de la Unión Minera: 1901-2002,” in Historia Contemporánea 24 (2002): 323-53. Available here.

Older posts