Tag: History of the Basque Country (page 1 of 13)

April 24 and April 26, 1937: Eibar and Gernika bombed

Eibar after the bombing in 1937

We have been commemorating the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika all week and today, we’ll just take a brief moment to recall that Gernika represented the climax to series of aerial attacks on Basque towns, the first use of this tactic (now arguably the most prominent form of waging war) on European soil. In earlier posts we have discussed the bombings of Durango and Elorrio as well as of Otxandio, and it also worth recalling that the town of Eibar in Gipuzkoa also suffered a bombardment on April 24. At 6 pm that day, the church bells rang out to warn people of the imminent attack. Most tried as best they could to get to shelter, and others fled west toward Bizkaia. Around 60 people were killed in the attack.

In That Old Bilbao Moon, Joseba Zulaika cites at length (p. 30) fragments from the diary of Wolfram von Richthofen, who was in charge of the elite Condor Legion, the Nazi unit dispatched to Spain to help Franco in the Spanish Civil War and test out the tactic of terror bombing, which would feature so prominently in World War II. The very “normality” of his observations makes for chilling reading:

4.4.1937. I have gone to Otxandio. Marvelous effects of the bombardment, and of the fighter plane and of the A/88 . . . Dead and mutilated people everywhere; heavy trucks, carrying part of the munitions, blown up.

24.4.1937. Elorrio has been evacuated by the enemy, one of our battalions is further advanced 500 meters in red territory. It is very entertaining to see, at the beginning of the sunset, the fire that comes out of the rifle mouths. . . . First they were bombarded once by the Italians, but then they were spared because of their pretty palaces.

25.4.1937. Finally the bomber planes arrive; the Ju dropped heavy bombs over Ermua very beautifully. . . . Again the Italians miss the target and bomb Eibar by mistake. . . . Elgueta, which was taken care of completely by the Italians on the 23rd, has a horrendous aspect. Very good results of the bombardment, the hits fell very tightly.

26.4.1937. Eibar, touching. . . . With the exception of a few houses, the center of the town was completely burned out. The beginning of the fire and the collapse of some houses was a very interesting
phenomenon.

27.4.1937. [The day after the bombing of Gernika] After lunch, a nice trip to the coast of Deba, where the headquarters of the Italian General Staff are, and to Ondarroa, the frontline, where there is also a command post.

Magnificent coast, which recalls Amalfi. . . . Toward Zarautz, where I find Sander and lodge for the night. Beautiful grand hotel at the edge of a pretty sea, with a good room and good food. There, magnificent.

In the morning again we discuss everything point by point. The transmission of news from unit to unit is a matter of concern. . . . It is not worth having transmissions of our own for this zarzuela operetta.

In the afternoon, Sander, Jaenecke and myself play cards.

28.4.1937. Also in the afternoon, precise information that Gernika has been literally razed to the ground.

29.4.1937. In the afternoon, playing cards with Sander and Jaenecke; the latter always ransacks us.

 

William Smallwood Donates Testimonies of Gernika bombing to Basque Museum

US writer William L. Smallwood, aka Egurtxiki, recently donated the transcripts of more than a hundred personal testimonies he collected from eyewitnesses to the destruction of Gernika 80 years ago. His donation was made to the documentation center at the Gernika Peace Museum. Smallwood collected the testimonies in the early 1970s as part of research for his book on the bombing, The Day Guernica was Bombed: A Story Told by Witnesses and Survivors.

The 87-year-old former World War II pilot and biologist Smallwood, who was born in Iowa, studied in Idaho, and who now resides in Arizona, made the trip to the Basque Country to be part of the 80th anniversary commemorations of the event and formally hand over the testimonies he collected more than forty years ago. His work has also recently been translated into Basque.

From his book’s own description: This book is the result of a person who started learning Basque in the sheep camps of Idaho in order to research the story of the Gernika bombing. In Mountain Home (Idaho) William Smallwood was baptized “Basilio Egurtxiki” by Dr. John Bideganeta, a second-generation Basque and a distinguished citizen of the town. “Egurtxiki” is the literal translation into Basque of Smallwood and the Basilio came from the man who was more of a father than any other man in his life, Basilio Yriondo, an “amerikanua,” a Basque sheepherder in the American West. In September of 1971 Egurtxiki came to Gernika to research his book on the bombing and, after earning the trust of the people, in the spring and summer of 1972 he managed to conduct seventy-four interviews with survivors of the bombing. The following fall and winter, primarily through the efforts of Maria Angeles Basabe, the number of interviews was increased to one hundred and twenty-four. They both risked much, for a person could be arrested and tortured for mentioning the bombing. All the interviews had to be conducted in absolute secrecy.

See a report (in Basque) and photo of Egurtxiki here in Berria.

 

Documentary about Gernika bombing posted online

In line with several other events taking place this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Gernika bombing, “Gernika: The Story,” a documentary on this crucial moment in Basque and even world history is available to watch via the Basque doc channel on YouTube.

Directed by Alberto Rojo, the documentary, according to its description on YouTube, “offers the most complete account to date of the local, national and international dimensions of the events of that fateful day” by using “dramatised reconstruction and virtual imaging of some key incidents” as well as interviews with experts on the event and first-hand accounts from survivors, including Luis Iriondo, Andone Bidaguren, Pedro Baliño, Juan Miguel Bombín, Itziar Arzanegi, and Francisco García San Román.

April 18, 1815: A Daring Basque Robbery

On April 18, 1815, a convoy including the Duke of Bourbon, the cousin of the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, was making its way over the Arlaban Pass that marks the border between Araba and Gipuzkoa. On the steep climb up the hill, the carriage containing the duke, which was being pulled by two oxen, became slightly separated from the convoy. Seizing the opportunity, five armed men appeared from out of the woods and proceeded to liberate the duke of all the equipment, treasures, and documents he was carrying.

Asalto al coche (Robbery of the coach), 1786-1787, by Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arlaban Pass had, it should be noted, gained an infamous reputation for such highway robbery. Indeed, many of the so-called highwaymen gained a kind of infamous notoriety, men like the guerrillas Espoz and Mina as well as Sebastián Fernández de Leceta or “Dos Pelos” (Two Hairs). 

Witnesses to the robbery said that the thieves were Basques, as could be discerned from their accents, which also led people to believe they came from an area between Tolosa and Hernani in Gipuzkoa. The main suspect was subsequently thought to be one N. de Lazkao, who was fairly identifiable because of his green eyes and red beard. But despite the dispatch of multiple search parties and an investigation that lasted ten years, no one was ever apprehended.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 167-68.

April 14, 1983: Basque national anthem established

By a Basque Parliament decree of April 14, 1983,  “Eusko Abendaren ereserkia” (The hymn of the Basque ethnic group) was adopted as the official anthem of the Basque Autonomous Community. The music itself is based on a popular Basque melody that was used typically at dances as a form of introducing the proceedings paying homage to a flag. Sabino Arana, the founder of Basque nationalism, then added words to the tune. The first Basque government, which came into being in 1936, had originally adopted the melody (but not the words) as the Basque national anthem before the triumph of General Franco’s rebel forces in the Spanish Civil War led to the abolition of Basque home rule.  With the Statute of Autonomy (1979) and the creation once more of the Basque government, the 1983 law was passed to provide the new autonomous community with its own anthem. Once again, as in 1936, the official anthem is the music without the lyrics Arana wrote. That said,  it is known popularly as “Gora ta Gora” (Up and Up) on the basis of its first line (“Gora ta gora Euskadi,” Onward and upward the Basque Country).

Important documents now available online from Navarre archive

The Archivo Real y General de Navarra (the Royal and General Archive of Navarre) recently added an important series of documents to its online collection via its Archivo Abierto section. The documents all concern various kinds of legal proceedings, with the result that this free database now offers online access to some 300,000 records concerning summons, lawsuits, and the like, but also, and importantly for historians, many other important aspects of life in Navarre between 1498 and 1836.

Because the documents contain all the relevant information concerning why and how lawsuits were issued, they offer invaluable information about how people went about their daily lives during this time, what customs prevailed, and what were the principal causes of such disputes; in sum, they offer a unique window onto early modern and modern life in Navarre. Of particular interest to the Basque-American community is all the information available pertaining to family history, given that one of the main reasons for such lawsuits being issued concerned inheritance questions. As a result, this is a mine of information for anyone interested in family history but broader issues are also involved such as communal disputes, crime, and even witchcraft.

Wentworth Webster: An Englishman in Lapurdi

Wentworth Webster (1828-1907), one of the forerunners of Basque Studies in English.

Wentworth Webster was one of the discrete forerunners of our very own discipline here at the Center: Basque Studies in English. Born in 1828, Webster studied at Oxford University and, after a spell of ill health, was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1861. Following his ordination, and posts that took him to both Egypt and Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Banhèras de Bigòrra) in Occitania, France, he accepted a post as chaplain of the newly established Anglican church of Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz), where he would serve between 1869 and 1882. During this time he and his wife had five children, who all grew up speaking Basque among their languages, and he took a keen interest in Basque culture. He was especially interested in the Basque language and traditional stories and folk tales, which he enthusiastically gathered with the help of fellow scholar Jules Vinson. The result of this initial research was the publication of Basque Legends (London: Griffith and Farran, 1877).

He later resigned his post and moved to Sara, from where he continued to research and write on many Basque-related topics, frequently publishing his findings in British journals of the period, as well as reprinting Pierre d’Urte’s 1712 Basque grammar (1900) and publishing a memoir, Les Loisirs d’un étranger au Pays basque (Châlons-sur-Saöne: Imprimerie française et orientale E. Bertrand, 1901).  In March 1907, the visiting King of England, Edward VII, attended a game of pelota in Sara in Webster’s honor, but the elderly clergyman was too weak to attend the game, eventually dying a month later.

March 27, 1937: Singer Lourdes Iriondo born

Lourdes Iriondo (1937-2005).

Lourdes Iriondo Mujika was born in Donostia on March 27, 1937. She rose to prominence in the 1960s as part of the New Basque Folk movement and was widely considered the principal female voice of Basque popular music in the 1960s and 1970s.

The second of eleven sisters and brothers, at age seven she moved with her family from Donostia to nearby Urnieta, Gipuzkoa. She went to Catholic school, first in Urnieta and later in Donostia, where she was taught by French nuns and schooled in French. From an early age she had a calling to help the poor and consequently enrolled in a secular missionary school in Vitoria-Gasteiz. She could not complete her studies, however, because barely a year later she was diagnosed with a heart defect that would require her to be especially vigilant about her health. She was ordered to undertale a lengthy period of rest at home, and she made the most of this time by studying another of her passions: music.

She had grown up in a family environment in which music played an important role, with family gatherings invariably involving singing traditional Basque songs. She was a member of the Urnieta txistulari (Basque pipe and tabor player) group and had studied singing and opera at a Donostia music school. In 1964 she took up the guitar, by which time she had already started to compose songs, many of them infused with religious themes. That same year, 1964, she performed for the first time in public in a fundraising concert for the ikastola or Basque-language school of nearby Andoain. Her performance was a hit with the audience and she was invited to perform again at several concerts through 1964 and 1965. Word spread of her talent and an important local radio station, Herri Irratia, recorded her performing and began broadcasting the recordings. She was a new voice in many ways, not just because she was a woman but because she sang in Basque with the single accompaniment of a classical guitar. This was completely unheard of in the Basque Country at the time and people responded enthusiastically.

It was in 1965, too, that the artistic collective Ez Dok Amairu was established. This was intended as an all-embracing group of artists in different fields, with a special emphasis on music. It was a vanguard collective that sought to reinvigorate the Basque language and culture particularly through the medium of song, and followed in many ways the folk revival in the United States and elsewhere linked to themes of protest at the state of society at the time (in the Basque context, this obviously meant protest, where possible, against the Franco dictatorship). Iriondo was one of the founding members of Ez Dok Amairu yet unlike most of the others–which included Mikel Laboa, Benito Lertxundi, and her future husband Xabier Lete–she was already widely known in the Basque cultural world at that time. Within this context, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, her songwriting became more overtly political in nature with titles like   “Askatasuna zertarako” (Why freedom?), “Nire erria” (My homeland), and, most popular of all, “Ez gaude konforme” (We don’t agree).

Basque musicians in the show “Zazpiribai” (1972). Standing (L to R): Iñaki Urtizberea , Xabier Lete, Patxika Erramuzpe, Peio Ospital, Pantxoa Carrere, and Manex Pagola. Seated (L to R): Ugutz Robles-Aranguiz, Lourdes Iriondo, and Benito Lertxundi. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

She married Xabier Lete in 1968 and the couple released several mini LPs together in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, Iriondo took up writing children’s literature, publishing several Basque-language books for children through the 1970s and early 1980s.  She also recorded traditional Basque songs and children’s songs but performed for the last time in 1978. She was physically and mentally exhausted by the demands of performing live, with her health suffering, and increasingly preoccupied by politically charged internal divisions within the Basque cultural world.  Thereafter, she dedicated herself to working for the ikastola movement and parish duties in Urnieta, including organizing children’s theater groups.

She died, aged 68, in December 2005. There is a park and a sculpture in her honor in her home town of Urnieta.

 

Benita Asas Manterola: The Basque Suffragette

Benita Asas Manterola (1873-1968). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout March we’ve been celebrating Women’s History Month with a series of posts about sometimes overlooked but nonetheless remarkable women in history with specific Basque connections. Today we continue with the story of Benita Asas Manterola, who we think can rightly stake a claim to being known as the Basque suffragette.

Born in Donostia in 1873, she studied education in Valladolid, graduating cum laude in 1897. Thereafter, she took up her first teaching post in Bilbao until 1902, when she moved to another position in Madrid. In 1910 she authored a teaching manual, Dios y el Universo. Libro de lectura instructiva para niños y niñas (God and the Universe: Book of instructive reading for boys and girls), which in essay form urged children to reflect on major themes like religion as well as to question conventionality. Subsequently, she began to take part in a series of impassioned debates on women’s suffrage in Madrid. She was a co-founder in 1913 of the daily newspaper El Pensamiento Femenino (Feminist Thought), the aim of  which was to improve the social, legal, and economic position of women by encouraging hem to question their subservience and fight for their rights, and  which she edited to 1916. After it folded, she continued to write articles for another publication, La Voz de la Mujer (The Woman’s Voice). She was president of the main feminist association in Spain, the ANME (Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Españolas, National Association of Spanish Women), between 1924 and 1932; and in 1929 she was a delegate, representing the Spanish Women’s League, at a League of Nations Assembly at its headquarters in Geneva, at which she proposed holding a Women’s World Congress as an instrument to help avoid any repetition of the bellicose international situation that had led to the carnage of the Great War.

A group of women from the Plazandreok political party pay homage to Benita Asas by symbolically renaming a street in her honor in Donostia.

With the coming of the Second Republic in Spain in 1931, as part the process to draw up a constitution, Asas was appointed to present a report to the Spanish parliament on women’s suffrage, with the right to vote eventually being extended to women in 1933. In the 1930s she joined Izquierda Radical Socialista (Radical Socialist Left Party, IRS), but all the while continued to teach. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, she remained in Madrid and a supporter of the Second Republic against the armed uprising of the military rebels and their supporters. Following the defeat of the Republic, however, in 1939, she reapplied to take up a position in the public education system. However, the newly established Franco regime–through the vehicle of the so-called National Movement (the one-party state)–sought actively to keep out any unwelcome elements from the system; the same system that greatly restricted women’s legal and voting rights, making them subject to the authority of the “heads of the household” (fathers or the husbands). Consequently, in 1940 the Ruling High Commission for Purging Measures declared her unfit to resume her teaching duties on the basis that, “she continues to take an interest in the women’s suffrage movement” and that “a long time ago she believed in Catholic doctrines but prior to the Movement she was a leftist.” She was, moreover, ordered to be removed from Madrid at a distance of more than 30 km (just under 20 miles) of the city.

Asas was 66 years old at the time and thereafter all records of her life appear to have disappeared. She died in Bilbao in 1968 at the age of 95. In the Egia neighborhood of Donostia there is a square named after her; and in the San Inazio neighborhood of Bilbao there is street named in her honor. A new neighborhood constructed in Gudalajara, Spain, in the 1990s named all its streets after women, one of them being Benita Asas.

Information taken from Wikipedia and the Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia.

March 19, 1624: Representatives of several Basque towns expelled from provincial assembly for not knowing Spanish

Men in stocks in Bramhall, England, 1900. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On March 19, 1624, the council representatives of Líbano de Arrieta (today Arrieta), Castillo y Elejabeitia (today Artea),  Ispaster, Sondika, Leioa, Berango, Lemoiz, Laukiz, Ubidea, and Bakio were expelled from the Bizkaian provincial assembly meeting because “they were not found to possess the necessary proficiency in reading and writing in Castilian [Spanish].” This followed a decree, passed some ten years previously by the provincial assembly on December 10, 1614, which stated that, “henceforth, whoever does not know how to read or write in Romance [a synonym used for Spanish] cannot be admitted to said assembly.” As a postscript to the story, the same assembly member for Laukiz turned up once more at a later meeting of the assembly, and was rewarded for his audacity by being “placed in stocks and a severe judicial process begun against him.”

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), p. 113.

Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and viola Miglio, is a collection of articles by different authors that explore several cases of smaller languages and how they survive within the legal and administrative frameworks of larger, more dominant languages.

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