Tag: Flashback Friday (page 1 of 5)

December 9, 1895: Birth of Dolores Ibarruri, “La Pasionaria”

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez, better known as “La Pasionaria” (the passionflower, an early pseudonym), was born on December 9, 1895. She became one of the leading figures in the Civil War of 1936-1939 and gained fame for her use of the slogan “No pasarán!” (They shall not pass!).

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in 1936. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dolores Ibarruri Gomez in 1936. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She was born in Gallarta, Bizkaia, into a mining family and, although she had been encouraged to train to be a teacher, she was forced to leave school at fifteen because her parents could not afford any further education. She subsequently did a variety of jobs including being a seamstress, housemaid, and waitress. In 1915 she married the labor union activist Julián Ruiz Gabiña, and got involved in left-wing politics. The couple joined the Communist Party of Spain and Ibarruri became a member of the provincial committee of its Basque branch. Over the next few years, as well as raising a family, she also rose up through the party ranks and in 1930 was appointed to its central committee. The family then relocated to Madrid where she became a prominent leftist activist in the turbulent decade of the 1930s, taking part in strikes and demonstrations and gaining a reputation as a stirring orator and committed anti-Fascist.

La Pasionaria in 1978. Photo by Nemo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

La Pasionaria in 1978. Photo by Nemo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When the Civil War broke out in 1936 she gained international renown for a series of radio broadcasts against the military uprising, employing inspirational terms like the famed “They shall not pass!” as well as “Better to die standing up than to live kneeling down!” With the definitive fall of the Republic, however, she fled the country in 1939, first to Paris and then on to the Soviet Union. While in Moscow, she worked on propaganda radio broadcasts against the Franco regime in Spain and in 1942 she also became secretary-general of the Spanish Communist Party-in-exile. She ceded that position in 1960, retiring from active politics at the age of sixty-five and accepting the honorary post of president of the party.

Following Franco’s death in 1975, she returned to Madrid in 1977, appearing at a Communist general election rally in Bilbao less than two weeks later in front of more than thirty thousand people. However, she subsequently retreated from active involvement in politics. She died in November 1989 at the age of ninety-three.

November 24, 1912: False fire alarm leads to multiple deaths in Bilbao theater stampede

On November 24, 1912, forty-six people, almost all of them children, died in the Ensanche Circus Theater of Bilbao as the result of a stampede of spectators attempting to flee the building. Someone had shouted out a fire alarm, which ultimately proved to be false.

The Circus Theater, located close to what is today the Plaza Elíptica, had been constructed in 1895 on the site of what had been a circus. While dedicated mainly to popular entertainment shows it was also a sports venue, and by the second decade of the twentieth century it was also showing movies.

On Sunday, November 24, 1912, the theater schedule included a continuous screening of movies between 3:00 pm and midnight, at prices accessible to people of all social classes and children old enough to go to the movies on their own.  Shortly after 6:00 pm a voice shouted out “fire!” This resulted in widespread panic as spectators attempted to flee the packed theater, only to encounter two of the three emergency exits locked. In total, forty-four children and two adults died in the stampede. Funerals for the victims, at which a reported forty thousand people attended, were held on November 27 and all expenses were covered by the Bilbao city council.

The theater itself was demolished in 1914 by official order on account of not fulfilling the required safety norms. In 1916, Bilbao city council constructed a mausoleum on the site where the victims had been buried.

Sources

Julio Arrieta, “Cuarenta y cuatro ataúdes blancos,” El Correo, November 18, 2012.

Una falsa alarma desembocó en tragedia,” Conoce Bilbao con Esme (blog), November 24, 2018.

November 11, 1995: Inauguration of the Bilbao Metro

On November 11, 1995 Line 1 of the Bilbao Metro–one of the emblematic features of the city–started operating on a route between Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo (the Seven Streets or Old Quarter) in the heart of the city and the coastal town of Plentzia, approximately eighteen miles away.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interior view of Abando station, Bilbao Metro. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although plans to construct a metro service in Bilbao date back to the 1920s, it was only in the late 1987 that a construction project was finally approved. Construction in Bilbao itself began in 1987, with the inaugural Line 1 destined to connect the city center with the right bank of Greater Bilbao and the coastal communities stretching out to Plentzia. When the first part of Line 1 eventually opened for business in November 1995, twenty-three stations served this route.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro runs both under and overground. Here, a train is departing from Bolueta station toward the Etxebarri tunnel. Photo by Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, there are three Lines operating in and around Greater Bilbao, with studies being carried out on potentially adding two more lines in the future. As of 2018, there were forty-one stations throughout the network, which covers 43 km (28 miles) of route. Total passenger figures for 2017 were 88,172,137.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A fosterito Bilbao Metro entrance, Bagatza station. Photo by Ardo Beltz. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Metro is especially noteworthy for its fosterito glass entrances, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, and in 1998 Sarriko station won the prestigious Brunel Award for Railway Design.

Check out the Bilbao Metro website here.

The CBS publishes Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal. This original work discusses transportation and logistics as key elements of the political economy, and places the topic at the center of much ongoing debate about national identity.

See, too, more broadly on Bilbao, urban regeneration, and architecture: That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika (available free to download here), Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi, and  Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain.

November 4, 1979: Creation of the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (EHE) association

On November 4, 1979, the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (Basque in the Basque Country, EHE) association was launched in Durango, Bizkaia under the slogan “Euskararik gabe, Euskal Herririk ez” (Without Basque there is no Basque Country). It is an association that defends the right to live in Basque in the Basque Country. Today, its principal goal is to achieve a Basque-speaking Basque Country made up of polyglot or multilingual people.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, the association focuses its concerns on certain areas: the right to learn and study in Basque throughout the educational systems of the whole Basque Country, the right to use Basque and be dealt with in the language in all official situations (including, for example, healthcare, legal contexts, and any circumstances involving the public administration), the right to receive information via the media in Basque, the more general demand for linguistic normalization (comprising much of the aforementioned goals), and challenging what it interprets as any assaults on the linguistic rights of Basque speakers.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From the outset, and to this day, the EHE association emphasized its activist nature. That is to say, it is an association that is nonaligned to any political party but advocates peaceful social protest to raise awareness about the minoritized status of Basque as well as in pursuit of basic goal of demanding a Basque-speaking Basque Country. This is considered controversial in some quarters, especially as the association challenges many official administrative goals of bilingualism in the Basque Country, asserting that such goals–in the context of a minoritized language–actually result in a situation of diglossia, in which an “H” or “high” language continues to occupy a dominant position over an “L” or “low” language.

Language is a key theme for many of the Center’s publications. See, for example, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio (free to download here) and The Challenges of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.

 

 

October 31, 1808: Battle of Pancorbo

On October 31, 1808, the Battle of Pancorbo (or Zornotza, and also sometimes referred to as the Battle of Durango) in Bizkaia marked one of the early military engagements in the Peninsular War after France had turned on its former ally, Spain, that same year in an attempt by Napoleon to take control of the whole Iberian Peninsula.

By late October of 1808, the French were advancing toward Bilbao. At the Battle of Pancorbo, in the vicinity of what is today Zornotza/Amorebieta in Bizkaia, French forces under the command of Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre defeated the Army of Galicia, led by Lieutenant General Joaquín Blake y Joyes. While the French claimed victory, their triumph was incomplete because Lefebvre failed to carry out Napoleon’s order to encircle and destroy Blake’s army–a key component in the left flank of the Spanish forces defending a front that stretched from the Cantabrian Sea to the Mediterranean.

Although Bilbao fell to Lefebvre’s forces on November 2, because Blake’s forces were not destroyed, he was able to effect a retreat and successfully re-engage the French, west of the city, at the Battle of Balmaseda (Bizkaia) on November 5. That said, ultimately the military superiority of the French, now under the direct control of Napoleon proved decisive, and by the end of the year they had captured Madrid.

 

October 20, 1620: Unification of the Crowns of Navarre and France

On October 20, 1620, by the Edict of Pau, King Louis II of Navarre and XIII of France formally oversaw the unification of his two crowns, thereby bringing to a close the full sovereignty of the whole of Navarre, a kingdom that had existed independently since 824. From this moment on, the ruling monarch would be known as the King of France and Navarre.

King Louis II of Navarre and III of France (1601-1643), around the time of the Edict of Pau. By Peter Paul Rubens, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

King Louis II of Navarre and III of France (1601-1643), around the time of the Edict of Pau. By Peter Paul Rubens, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By the terms of the Edict of Pau, the Navarrese territories of Lower Navarre (Nafarroa Beherea), Béarn (Biarn in Gascon), and the Donezan (Donasan in Occitan) passed into the hands of the French crown, while another possession, Andorra, would henceforth be ruled jointly as a co-principality. These were all lands with their own highly developed systems of self-government.

By the terms of the Edict, moreover, the Sovereign Council of Béarn was transformed into the Parliament of Pau with jurisdiction over Lower Navarre in the Basque Country (whose own governing authority, the Chancellery of Donapaleu /Saint-Palais, was incorporated into the new parliament). One consequence of this decision was that Basque, which had been used in official circles to that date in conjunction with the other official languages of the Kingdom of Navarre, would be replaced by French as the one official language of the public administration. Moreover, an additional provision of the Edict was that the easternmost Basque province of Zuberoa would now come under the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Bordeaux, thereby separating and differentiating it from its neighbor Lower Navarre.

In one final, and slightly ironic move (in light of the changes that had taken place), by a further edict of 1624, the Parliament of Pau was renamed the Parliament of Navarre, while retaining its location in Pau, Béarn.

 

 

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 18, 1997, the at the time controversial and now emblematic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was inaugurated.

A lot of our regular readers will no doubt be familiar with the so-called Guggenheim effect in Bilbao. After a controversial start, with many critical voices raised questioning the significant Basque public investment in this flagship project, the museum has had a significant impact in putting Bilbao–and the Basque Country more broadly–on the international map. Much of this is down to architect Frank Gehry’s groundbreaking design of the building itself, which, if you catch the airport bus into Bilbao, comes into view in spectacular fashion as you enter the city proper.

Check out our special post here on the twentieth anniversary celebrations for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

 

 

October 7, 1915: Inaugural run of the Artxanda Funicular in Bilbao

The Lower Station. Photo by Wayne 77, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Lower Station. Photo by Wayne 77, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 7, 1915, a funicular railway linking Bilbao with Mount Artxanda, one of the emblematic mountains overlooking the city,  operated for the first time. The Artxanda Funicular still runs to this day, and is an obligatory experience for many visitors to the city because at the summit one is treated to some of the best views of Greater Bilbao as it winds it way out along the Nerbioi River to the ocean.

View of the Artxanda Funicular from downtown Bilbao. Photo by pere prlpz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of the Artxanda Funicular from downtown Bilbao. Photo by pere prlpz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In late nineteenth-century Bilbao, the area around Mount Artxanda became a popular recreation spot for the inhabitants of Bilbao. The city was experiencing a major industrial boom and leisure pursuits–the display of having and using one’s “free time”–were important for the more affluent classes. A casino was constructed and the area was also renowned for its “txakolis” (bars developed out of farmhouses whose principal beverage was the local wine known as txakoli). Yet the area remained difficult to get to and, with the coming of the twentieth century, different plans were put forth to construct a rail link to the top of the mountain.

View of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda. Photo by Ardfern, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

View of Bilbao from Mount Artxanda. Photo by Ardfern, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, in 1915 a definitive plan was approved and the funicular was built using  machinery designed by the Von Roll company, a Swiss enterprise specializing in mountain railroad construction. The inaugural run that same October was presided over by the mayor of Bilbao, Julián Benito Marco Gardoqui. In the years that followed, the funicular served as both a means for city dwellers to spend some time in the rustic environment of Mont Artxanda, and for the local farmers to take their produce down into the heart of the bustling city to sell.

It did not function during two significant periods–in the civil war when it was bombed (1937-1938) and following an accident (1976-1983, during which time it was renovated)–but today it thrives as it always has done, transporting locals and visitors alike to the recreation area around Mount Artxanda. Check out a previous blog by our Basque Books Editor on his own Artxanda Funicular experience here. And why not take a virtual ride below?

 

 

October 3, 1994: Premiere of long-running Basque TV soap opera Goenkale

On October 3, 1994, the Basque TV series Goenkale premiered. It would go on to run for 3,708 episodes, finally coming to an end on December 28, 2015. It became the most watched show on the Basque-language channel ETB 1 and one of the most popular shows of all time for EITB, the Basque public broadcasting service.

Set in the fictional coastal town of Arralde, the soap opera followed the fortunes of the town’s inhabitants and several emblematic locales such as the Boga Boga bar, a popular local bakery, a video store, a gastronomic society, and the local police station, all centered around “Goenkale” or Upper Street, the principal street in Arralde.

It was originally scheduled to run for just three months, but its immediate success led to it being renewed. With episode number 3000 on July 5, 2010, it became officially the longest running TV series in Spanish broadcasting history to date, and the second longest-running show on European TV.

See a report on the show here.

 

September 22, 1956: First ship to repatriate Basque refugees from Soviet Union sets sail

On September 22, 1956 a ship carrying refugees from the Spanish Civil War, principally from the Basque Country, set sail from the port of Odessa in the then Soviet Union, bound for Valencia. Many of the refugees had spent nearly twenty years in exile, and most had left as children.

We have posted previously on the plight of Basque refugee children fleeing the effects of the bloody civil war in the 1930s: on the anniversary of the famous 1937 evacuation from Santurtzi, Bizkaia, on the Basque Children of ’37 UK association, and on the tireless work of individuals like Dame Elizabeth Leah Manning to ensure these children found sanctuary from the horrors of war. Today, however, we remember an equally significant date: that moment, twenty years later, when some of those children, now adults, were allowed to return to the Basque Country, despite the dictatorship in Spain.

While many of the other Basque children exiled in countries like the UK, Belgium, and Switzerland had been allowed to return through the 1940s, those that had been evacuated to Stalin’s Soviet Union were regarded with the utmost suspicion by the Franco regime. Only Stalin’s death in 1953 and the gradual reincorporation of Spain into the international political fold allowed for a slight relaxing of relations between the two countries. This led, in turn, to an agreement on the part of the Franco regime to allow the exiles back, although as noted it was nearly twenty years since many of them had fled.

Despite being reunited with their families, after up to twenty years in exile, readapting to life back in the Basque Country was by no means straightforward for the refugees. For many of the “Russians,” as they were called, life in the Franco regime was hard, and they even ran into hostility and suspicion both on the part of the public authorities and the general public. Some even went back to the Soviet Union, which had in their opinion treated them better.

This date, then, serves to reinforce the tremendous impact of war, violence, and displacement on modern and contemporary Basque society.

If you are interested in the broader impact of conflict on modern Basque history, check out War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott (description and free download here); Basque Nationalism and Political Violence by Cameron Watson; Our Wars: Short Fiction on Basque Conflicts, edited by Mikel Ayerne Sudupe; Empire & Terror: Nationalism/Postnationalism in the New Millennium, edited by Begoña Aretxaga, Dennis Dworkin, Joseba Gabilondo, and Joseba Zulaika (description and free download here); and States of Terror, by Begoña Aretxaga.

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