Dr. Joseba Zulaika presented a lecture, “Trees as Living Symbols,” April 28th at the Keck Museum, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno.  The talk discussed the political  and existential symbolism of trees in Basque and other cultures, including the historical link between Picasso’s “Guernica” and the Tree of Gernika.


Sunday April 26th marked the 78th anniversary of the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika during the Spanish Civil War.  The town, located in Bizkaia, is known for it’s Gernikako Arbola (Tree of Gernika), which was a sacred oak tree under which assemblies were held and symbols of Basque freedom were represented.  The importance of the Tree of Gernika is demonstrated by Jose Mari Iparragirre’s song “Gernikako Arbola,” which transformed the tree into a symbol for all Basques.  He first sang the song in Madrid in 1853.  The first stanza below demonstrates the symbolism and love the Basque people have for the Tree of Gernika.

Original Gipuzkoan text Batua (Standard) Basque English translation
Guernicaco arbola
Da bedeincatuba
Euscaldunen artean
Guztiz maitatuba:
Eman ta zabaltzazu
Munduban frutuba,
Adoratzen zaitugu
Arbola santuba
Gernikako arbola
Da bedeinkatua
Euskaldunen artean
Guztiz maitatua:
Eman ta zabal zazu
Munduan frutua,
Adoratzen zaitugu
Arbola santua.
The Tree of Gernika
is blessed
among the Basques;
absolutely loved.
Give and deliver
the fruit unto the world.
We adore you,
holy tree.

(Taken from http://www.nabasque.org/old_nabo/Pages/gernika_tree.htm)


Pablo Picasso’s famous painting of the bombing of Gernika


The old trunk of the Tree of Gernika