Tag: Flashback Friday (page 1 of 3)

June 11, 1967: Xalbador jeered at national bertsolaritza championship in Donostia

On June 11, 1967, one of the most controversial incidents to ever take place in the history of berstolaritza–Basque oral improvised verse–occurred during the national championship in the main fronton or pelota court of Donostia-San Sebastián: on hearing that the bertsolari (improviser) Xalbador had been selected by the judges over a more popular opponent, Joxe Migel Iztueta aka Lazkao Txiki, to advance to the head-to-head final to compete against Uztapide, a section of the audience began to jeer. The reason for this? He was from Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country in France, and they did not understand his dialect of Basque so well.

Xalbador (1920-1976)

Born in 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Fernando Aire, aka Xalbador, was arguably the most renowned bertsolari in modern times from Iparralde. He began to perform in public after World War II, and by the 1960s was regarded, together with Manuel Olaizola, aka Uztapide, as one of the leading exponents of the art form. However, Xalbador stood out from most of his contemporaries for a number of reasons: first and foremost, he used his natal dialect of Basque from Lower Navarre; besides that, though, he also incorporated melodies that many people in Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) were unfamiliar with; and finally, he also stood apart from many of his rival bertsolaris for the sheer lyrical quality of his verses as well as his ability to draw profound reflections from seemingly inconsequential things. Indeed, his poetic sensibility was such that, following his death in 1976, the famous Basque singer-songwriter Xabier Lete dedicated a song to him, “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), which subsequently became one of the most famous and repeated Basque songs, still sung to this day. And the 1989 national champion bertsolari, Jon Lopategi, also dedicated his winning verse to Xalbador. That all said, he never won a major championship, finishing fourth in 1960, third in 1962 and 1965, and, ultimately, second in 1967.

In the infamous 1967 championship, as mentioned, some members of the audience jeered on hearing the judges’ decision to advance Xalbador to the final head-to-head contest against Uztapide (it should be noted that it remains unclear whether they were jeering the bertsolari or the judges, or both). As per the rules of the competition, Xalbador was obliged to step up to the microphone and compose a verse in response to the decision. As he began his strophe, he found it difficult to make his voice heard, but, gradually, the power and beauty of his words turned the audience around. He sung:

Anai-arrebok, ez, otoi, pentsa
neu’re gustora nagonik,
poz gehiago izango nuen
albotik beha egonik.

Brothers and sisters, do not think
that I am happy;
how much better would I feel
looking on from some corner.

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik…

If you are not happy
it is not my fault…

At this point, the jeers subsided and, incredibly, the audience began to cheer. Xalbador, in turn, his voice barely able to continue with emotion, repeated and concluded the verse:

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik,
txistuak jo dituzute bainan
maite zaituztet orainik.

If you are not happy
it is not my fault:
in spite of your whistles
I still love you.

By the end of the verse the audience had risen to its feet and was applauding the bertsolari from Urepele. The story remains one of the great moving moments in the history of berstolaritza and in Basque culture more generally. This moment was, remarkably, captured on film:

To learn more about bertsolaritza, check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

Another great resource is Bertsolaritza, El bertsolarismo, Bertsolaritza by Joxerra Garzia, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute, free to download here.

On the rich Basque dialects, see The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo.

 

June 6, 1849: Death of Basque guerrilla leader Martina Ibaibarriaga

On June 6, 1849, Martina Ibaibarriaga died in Oña, Burgos. She gained renown as a young woman among the guerrilla ranks fighting the occupying French forces during the Penisnular War (1807-1814).

Martina Ibaibarriaga (1788-1849)

Maria Martina Ibaibarriaga Elorriaga was born in Berriz, Bizkaia, on January 26, 1788, although the family later moved to Bilbao, where her father ran a pharmacy. When French troops invaded and occupied the Basque Country during the period 1807-1808, the initial response of the Basque population was to form bands of guerrillas to fight the occupiers, with these bands being overseen by the guerrilla leader from Navarre, Francisco Espoz Ilundain (aka Francisco Espoz Mina). Martina initially joined a group led by Juan de Belar, alias “El Manco” (the one-armed man), which fought the French in the district in around Durango, but soon she rose to command her own guerrilla group, leading some fifty men in operations against the French.

However, several local authorities then complained that her band were appropriating rations and supplies by force and without paying for them. She was subsequently captured by Espoz Mina’s men in Mungia, Bizkaia, in July 1811, and judged before a meeting of guerrilla chiefs in at Villarcayo, Burgos. Eight of her men were executed by firing squad, but she was spared and, indeed, during the rest of war served in another group under the command of fellow Bizkaian Francisco Tomás Anchia, aka Francisco Longa. In 1812, she met Félix Asenjo, a delegate of the Spanish government from Oña, Burgos, sent to instruct the guerrillas. The two married that same year, although she continued to fight, taking in part in the important Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1813, after which, it seems, she came to meet the Duke of Wellington.

After the war, she settled in Oña with her husband, and there she died in 1849.

 

May 29, 1893: Birth of Basque adventurer Marga d’Andurain

On May 29, 1893, Marguerite Clérisse was born in Baiona. Known by her married name, Marga d’Andurain, she would go on to gain a certain degree of fame and even notoriety  in interwar Europe as a libertine adventurer.

Born into a bourgeois family in the capital of Lapurdi, she received a religious education, including some time spent at the Ursuline institute in Hondarribia, Gipuzkoa. In 1911 she married her cousin, Pierre d’Andurain, a member of the Andurain family, owners of the Château de Maÿtie or Château d’Andurain in Maule, Zuberoa. Pierre was a lover of exotic travels and on marrying the couple immediately traversed Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria. In 1912 they embarked on a journey to Latin America, where they intended to take up cattle ranching. However, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 brought Pierre back to Europe to enlist in the French army and he was wounded in 1916.

After the war, the couple, now with two sons, Jean-Pierre and Jacques, settled in Cairo where they were involved in trade and commerce. With Pierre unable to travel because of his war wounds, Marga decided to carry on exploring the world on her own. In the company of an Englishwoman, Baroness Brault and a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service, she visited Palestine (under a British mandate after World War I) and Syria (under French Mandate), falling in love with the Syrian city of Palmyra. She relocated the family there in 1927, with the intention once more of establishing a cattle ranch. However, the couple ended up running a local hotel there. Here, in the context of the escalating tension of interwar Europe and in a highly sensitive geopolitical area, rumor has it that she was involved in espionage on behalf of Britain, although nothing seems to have been verified on that count. Visitors to the hotel included Agatha Christie and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

In 1933, she came up with a daring plan to be the first Western woman to visit Mecca, the holiest city in Islam and only accessible to Muslims. In order to do so, she legally divorced Pierre and entered into a marriage of convenience in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a Bedouin, Sulaiman Abdulaziz Dikmari, although he died soon after. Subsequently, her plans to visit Mecca, Medina, and Unaizah, before crossing six hundred miles of desert to Hofuf and going on to the island of Bahrain, turned into a nightmare. She was arrested in Jeddah and accused of having killed her new “husband.” In the trial under Koranic law the prosecution demanded that she be stoned to death, but ultimately she was declared innocent and, through French diplomatic pressure, released. The trial itself was somewhat of a cause célèbre, attracting press attention from all over Europe and the US.

On her release, she remarried Pierre but after he died, she returned to France in 1937. One of the many rumors that surround her life there is the allegation that she was an opium dealer in Nazi-occupied Paris during the 1940s, as a cover for her spying duties. She died in 1948, very much in the same kind of circumstances in which she had lived her life. While sailing off of the coast of Morocco, which some observers allege also had to do with drugs smuggling, she was reputedly thrown overboard by the skipper of her yacht in November that year. She was fifty-five years old and her body was never recovered.

Many stories have circulated about Andurain, most of them unverified. In texts she penned herself, she claimed to have inherited the adventurous spirit of the Basques. Sh spoke fluent Arabic and wrote especially about women’s lives in the Muslim world she knew so well.

The Andurain family name lived on, though. Her son Jacques is said to have fired the first shot in anger on the part of the French Resistance in World War II: on August 13, 1941, from a Baby Browning 6.35 mm gun that actually belonged to his mother.  And her granddaughter, Julie d’Andurain, is a well-known French historian.

 

May 22, 1836: Start of Second Battle of Arlaban during First Carlist War

The Arlaban Pass. Image from the Zumalakarregi Museoa.

On May 22, 1836, the second and definitive Battle of Arlaban, fought between Carlists and Liberals, began during the First Carlist War (1833-1840).

During the war, the Arlaban Pass, the main route through the mountainous area that separates southwestern Gipuzkoa and northeastern Araba, was the setting once more for a confrontation between Carlists and Liberals.  The first encounter (January 16-17) had resulted in a victory of sorts for the latter but the Liberals were almost immediately pushed back by their Carlist foes and a stalemate ensued, although with Liberal control of the pass.

On May 22, the Liberals, led by Generals Luis Fernández de Córdova and Baldomero Espartero, attempted once more to engage the Carlists, led by Generals Nazario Eguía and Bruno Villareal, and cross the Arlaban Pass into Gipuzkoa. The Liberals had razed to the ground a Carlist arsenal in Araia (Araba) and the fighting, much of which took place in and around Leintz Gatzaga in Gipuzkoa, continued for four days until May 26. In the struggle, which in many ways came down to a tactical contest between Espartero and Villareal, the Carlists eventually forced their Liberal counterparts to withdraw from the area. As the Liberal forces retreated toward Vitoria-Gasteiz, they burned many of the baserris (Basque farmsteads) in the area of Legutio (Araba). There were around six hundred casualties on each side during the four-day battle, which resulted in the Carlists taking back control of the Arlaban Pass.

The Zumalakarregi Museoa in Ormaiztegi, Gipuzkoa, is a great site–both physical and online–in which to learn more about the Carlist Wars.

Check out, too, the wonderfully evocative first-hand account of what the First Carlist War was like in A Twelvemonth’s Campaign with Zumalacarregui by the military adventurer Charles Frederick Henningsen: a swashbuckling memoir that brings the conflict to life as well as a serving as a unique window onto Basque society in the early nineteenth century.

 

May 13, 1890: First major general strike in Bizkaia

On May 13, 1890, two hundred miners at the Orconera Iron Ore Company Limited walked out in protest over the firing of five colleagues (and socialist activists) for their part in organizing protests over working conditions to coincide with international May Day that year. News of the walk out spread quickly to other mines and thousands more eventually went on strike. It was the first major strike in the “new” industrial Bizkaia, and set a pattern for labor protest that would extend until well into the twentieth century.

Nineteenth-century miners.

By midday on May 13, the ranks of the miners had swelled to some 4-5,000 men. gathering in the hilly terrain rising up from the left bank of Greater Bilbao in which they plied their trade, the miners then descended to the industrial satellite towns of Ortuella and Gallarta, where they were joined by a further 2-3,000 factory workers. By day’s end, production throughout the whole left-bank mining zone–the area at the heart of Bilbao’s spectacular industrial transformation process in the nineteenth century–had come to a complete standstill.

Mine workers in Gallarta, Bizkaia.

The strikers then planned to march on Bilbao itself the following day, with the addition of thousands of other workers from the riverside cities of Barakaldo and Sestao. By some estimates, some 20-30,000 were now on strike from both mines and factories and they were intent intent on marching toward Bilbao. The authorities in turn perceived this as a real threat and by the afternoon of May 14 placed the army on standby to counter any such march. What’s more, the activists coordinating the protest were arrested.

By May 15, there was a stalemate: production had been dramatically reduced in the principal mining and manufacturing area of Bizkaia, yet the strikers were unwilling to confront the armed forces. This in turn encouraged some mines and factories to return to work. That day, too, the jailed strike leaders issued a series of demands that were flatly refused by the collective mine and factory owners–for them, nothing short of complete defeat and humiliation of the striking workers would be acceptable.

General José María Loma Arguelles (1822-1893).

Yet just at that moment, a conciliatory figured appeared in the shape of one General José María de Loma–a native of Araba and head of the armed forces controlling the situation. He actually threatened to withdraw his troops if the owners did not sit down and negotiate the demands of the workers. This they were forced to do, and the result was the so-called Loma Pact in which many of the original demands, regarding basic working hours for example, were met. By May 17, the industrial zone of Bilbao was back to normal and a larger-scale crisis had been averted.

For a more detailed account of the strike, see Ricardo Miralles, “La Gran Huelga Minera de 1890. En los Orígines del Movimiento Obrero en el País Vasco,” Historia Contemporánea, 3 (1990): 15-44. Free to download here.

May 6, 1463: Jacob Gaon, king’s tax collector, killed in Tolosa

On May 6, 1463, Jacob Gaon, a tax collector for King Henry IV of Castile, was killed in Tolosa (Gipuzkoa) over a dispute involving rights relating to the foruak/fueros (the charters governing Basque fiscal and institutional relations with central political authority).

Gaon came from a prominent Jewish family in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Araba) and like several relatives worked as a tax collector for the Kings of Castile, to which the province of Gipuzkoa belonged. Indeed, since 1256, Tolosa had enjoyed its own foru/fuero regulating its independent fiscal status within the Castilian political orbit (the result of its strategically important position on the border with the rival Kingdom of Navarre); an agreement that was amended in both 1282 and 1290 to exempt inhabitants from numerous royal tributes.

Henry IV of Castile (1463). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In May 1463 Gaon went to Tolosa with the aim of demanding the so-called pedido tax, which, the locals claimed, they had never paid before on account of their foral privileges. After threatening them, several inhabitants killed Gaon, beheaded him, and put his head  on top of a pillory for all to see. On hearing the news, Henry IV, who was at the time in Hondarribia, also in Gipuzkoa, stopped at Tolosa on his way back to Castile in search of the culprits. Unable to locate them, having been informed that they had taken refuge in a nearby mountain “on the other side of the river,” he settled instead for demolishing the house in which the crime had taken place.

Subsequently, however, on receiving documents demonstrating that the inhabitants of Tolosa had never paid the pedido tax on account of foral law,  Henry acknowledged the exemption and issued a pardon.

For an excellent introduction to the Basque foral system, see The Old Law of Bizkaia (1452): A Critical Edition, edited and annotated by Gregorio Monreal.

April 29, 1784: Death of Basque soldier and New World politician Agustín de Jáuregui

Agustín de Jáuregui (1711-1784). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On April 29, 1784, shortly after leaving his post as viceroy of Peru, the Basque soldier and politician Agustín de Jáuregui y Aldecoa died in an accident in Lima.

Born in Lekaroz in the Baztan Valley of Navarre in 1711, he entered into the military at the age of twenty-five and crossed the Atlantic to , fighting at the British siege of Cartagena de las Indias in 1740, and rising to the rank of lieutenant general. Later, he also saw active service against the British in Cuba and Honduras and in Spain’s siege of the Portuguese city of Almeida in 1762.

In 1772 he was appointed governor of what was termed at the time the Captaincy General of Chile. While governor, he promulgated a series of administrative reforms, including establishing a postal service and overseeing the first census there. He also carried out reforms related to public order, reorganized the tax-collection system, and created a militia to serve as a kind of rural police force as well as a reserve military unit.

In 1780 he was appointed viceroy of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Almost immediately, he had to deal with the Túpac Amaru rebellion of 1780, an uprising of native and mestizo people against the so-called Bourbon reforms in Peru: changes designed to strengthen Spanish royal power there by giving more power to royal officials. Jáuregui succeeded in defeating the leader of the revolt, Túpac Amaru II (José Gabriel Condorcanqui) in 1781, and he was subsequently executed. Other rebel leaders were killed or executed in the period 1781 to 1783.

Shortly after leaving his post in April 1784, Jáuregui died in an accident in Lima. There were rumors that he had been poisoned beforehand as revenge for crushing the Túpac Amaru rebellion so brutally, but these remain unsubstantiated.

 

April 23, 1911: Inauguration of “El Irati” railroad

On April 23, 1911, what came to be known popularly as the “El Irati” railroad in Navarre–a 36-mile-long railroad connecting Pamplona-Iruñea to Zangoza and Agoitz (Aioz)–was inaugurated. It was the first electrified railroad in Spain, and indeed among the first in Europe, and it would operate until 1955.

It was conceived originally as a means of aiding development of the lumber industry in the Irati Forest (today a major tourist destination in Navarre) and in particular the major sawmill in Ekai de Lónguida/Ekai-Longida. However, it also became an important passenger line, especially for people traveling between Zangoza and Agoitz. Although plans to develop a railroad in the area went back as far as 1868, it was not until 1900 that they were taken up again seriously–this time concerning an electrified railroad–by local entrepreneur Domingo Elizondo, the principal developer of the lumber industry in the Irati Forest. With the support of the Provincial Council of Navarre, Spanish government approval was conceded to the project in the years 1907-8, and the El Irati company was created to oversee the project. The railroad itself was subsequently constructed between 1909 and 1911.

Domingo Elizondo (1848-1929)

For the next thirty years it functioned successfully. A 1941 study calculated that the railroad transported an average of over 240,000 people and 46,000 tonnes of goods a year. At about this time, it began to decline in terms of passenger numbers as buses became a more and more typical site in rural Navarre. By the mid-1950s, its losses were significant enough to force the El Irati company to write all the city councils of the towns through which it passed asking for financial aid to keep the railroad running. Failing to get the sufficient financial support, though, the line was closed definitively on December 31, 1955.

Nowadays, where part of the railroad once ran there is the Greenway of the Gorge at Lumbier-Irunberri, a 4-mile trail for hikers and bicyclists to enjoy. Since 2013, however, work has been ongoing in developing this track further to encompass much of the original length of the railroad in a trail measuring over 28 miles in total and running from Uztarrotz  to Zangoza.

Check out numerous historical images of the railroad here.

And there is an interesting and detailed article on the history of the railroad, “Ferrocaril del Irati – de Pamplona a Sangüesa y ramal a Aoiz,” here.

 

 

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!).

Older posts