BUBER'S BASQUE PAGE
Ongi Etorri! What started out as a personal homepage has grown
to a site that contains nearly 1000 pages and receives over 16,000
hits per day. The popularity of this site is a testament to all of
those who have contributed to this site. Eskerrik asko!
I am always looking to improve the site. If you would like to
contribute, please contact me.
Enjoy your visit.
Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Sunday, October 13th, 2013
As many of you already know, Pete Cenarrusa, a long time politician in Idaho (the longest serving elected official in state history) died on September 29. It didn’t take long after his death for his life to be questioned in the Spanish press, particularly as it related to an incident in 2002 when the Idaho legislature, at the behest of Pete and then representative Dave Bieter, passed a non-binding resolution that supported the Basque right to self-determination.
In response, a number of Basque bloggers around the world wrote a joint defense of Pete Cenarrusa. With their permission and encouragement, I repost that blog here.
Since the time of the original post, journalist Dan Popkey has written an article published in the Idaho Statesman regarding both the initiative to defend Pete as well as providing some clarifying details: Cenarrusa still stirs pot in Spain.
In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)
Pete Cenarrusa died last week at age 95. To begin with, it’s strange to speak of “defending” Pete from anything. He was a wonderful person, somebody many of us admired and respected. His parents were immigrants who grew up in neighboring Basque towns but who met thousands of miles away in the middle of Idaho. Pete’s first language was Basque, and he kept speaking it for the rest of the life, sometimes throwing in English words along the way.
Pete went to the University of Idaho, where he was on the boxing team and completed degrees in agriculture and animal husbandry (at age 92, he blogged that his favorite courses were nutrition, organic chemistry, and bacteriology—“I would recommend these courses to everyone in college.”) He joined the Marines in 1942 and became an aviation instructor. He flew for 59 years, more than 15,000 hours of flight time without an accident.
Pete was elected as a Republican to the Idaho House of Representatives in 1950 and served nine terms, including three as House Speaker. In 1967, when Idaho’s secretary of state died, the governor appointed him to fill the position, where he served until 2003. He wasn’t a politician from central casting. As his friend and successor said at his funeral, Pete wasn’t a good public speaker; but unlike most politicians, Pete knew it. Still, it’s hard to argue with success: Pete never lost an election, and he was in public office for 52 years, the longest-serving elected official in Idaho history.
Then the Spanish national newspaper ABC published an “obituary” by Javier Ruperez, the former Spanish ambassador to the United States. Ruperez calls Pete a “Basque separatist,” a man filled with “blind obstinacy” against Spain “until the very day of his death.” It was a piece written with venom saved up from an event that happened more than a decade ago, spewed out just a couple days after Pete died. Pete can’t stand up for himself now. That’s why we feel a strong obligation to do so.
PETE CENARRUSA (1917-2013)
IDAHO RANCHER, BASQUE SEPARATIST
Deceased at 96, Cenarrusa – which was the way he had shortened his paternal surname Zenarruzabeita – had the leading role in Idaho’s political and social scene for almost six decades, being elected several times to the local legislature and carrying out for years the role of Secretary of State in the rustic territory. His parents emigrated from the Basque Country to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, as many of their compatriots did in those days, in response to the call for sheepherders to run the significant number of livestock in the American West.
From early on, conscious of his Basque origins, he tried to promote individual and collective memories in the environment of his countrymen, an activity that took a noticeable nationalist tone in the 1960s. He wasn’t awarded the prize “Sabino Arana” to the “universal Basque” by the Basque Nationalist Party for nothing.
It was in 2002 when these nationalist inclinations took shape in the attempt to make the Idaho legislature adopt a memorial that ignored ETA’s terrorist activities, demanded a favorable disposition from Spain and France to negotiate “the end of the conflict,” and asked for the self-determination of the Basque Country. Cenarrusa was the inspirer and visible leader of the attempt, for which he had the support of Ibarreche’s Basque government and Batasuna’s contacts incarnated in journalists for “Gara” and “Egunkaria”, regular visitors of the land where they received the hospitality of then local legislator and now mayor of Boise, Idaho’s capital, David Bieter.
The government of Jose Maria Aznar warned George W. Bush’s White House about the maneuver, and made Idaho legislators realize the inconvenience of adopting texts which were offensive to a friend and allied country such as Spain. The spokesman for the Department of State made a strong statement during those days that said, among other things: “The Spanish people suffer the violence carried out by a terrorist organization called ETA on a regular basis.” Exactly what the memo Cenarrusa/Bieter/Ibarreche/ Gara/Egunkaria did not want to gather. And that to the dismay of its sponsors ended up written in the amended text, which was eventually approved by the Idaho legislature.
It was in January 2003 when Idaho’s Senate president had the opportunity to communicate to the representatives of the Spanish government his regret for what happened, blaming it on the extreme ignorance by local representatives about Spanish affairs and the generalized willingness to please Cenarrusa in the last initiative he took on before retiring from his role as Secretary of State. Robert L. Geddes had begged the veteran rancher and politician of Basque origins that “the next time he wanted to declare war on Spain he give him prior notice to avoid misunderstandings.” On that same occasion Idaho’s Senate made the Spanish ambassador in Washington honorary citizen of the State. And Spain officially named Adelia Garro Simplot, another Basque descendant, honorary consul in the area. Garro is the abbreviation of Garroguerricoechevarria. Cenarrusa, who had not thrown in the towel in his blind obstinacy against constitutional and democratic Spain until the very day of his death, wasn’t able to make himself the only representative of Idaho’s Basque community.
As Mark Twain would say, not all deaths are received in the same way.
And an important bit of background: Ruperez , the author, was kidnapped by the Basque terrorist group ETA in 1979. He was held for a month. After he was released, 26 Basque prisoners were freed from prison, and the Spanish parliament agreed to create a special commission to investigate charges of torture of Basque prisoners. We can’t imagine what Rupérez went through, and we wish it would never have happened. It would certainly shape one’s world view. But Pete had nothing to do with that horrible event, and we know he would have condemned it. And that’s where Rupérez is horribly wrong about Pete and about Basques generally.
Toward the end of his career, Pete announced the introduction of a declaration in the Idaho legislature that addressed a critical series of events in the Basque Country and Spain. The declaration, officially known as a “memorial,” called on leaders in the United States and Spain to undertake a peace process. In 2002, Ruperez caught wind of the memorial and immediately flew out to Idaho, alerted the Spanish prime minister, the State Department, and the White House. Suddenly, a declaration by the legislature of a small Western state blew up and became international news.
As the memorial got close to a vote, there was a lot of back and forth among the many parties that had suddenly become involved. But Pete’s reaction was pitch perfect—paraphrasing him: Since when did the United States start running its foreign policy by foreign governments? In the end, the Idaho legislature unanimously approved this memorial. It described the history of Basques in Idaho, the earlier actions by the Idaho legislature to condemn the repression of Franco’s dictatorship, the efforts of Basques to maintain their culture, and all “but a marginalized fraction” of Basques’ condemnation of violence.
Perfect or not, it was a unanimous statement by a democratically elected, autonomous state legislature. But it seems to have haunted Ruperez all these years. Barely 72 hours after Pete had died, Rupérez condemned Pete as “the inspirer and visible leader” of an effort that turned a blind eye at violence, an effort that an Idaho Senate leader later purportedly told him was the result of the “extreme ignorance by local representatives” about Spanish affairs and “the generalized willingness to please Cenarrusa in the last initiative he took on before retiring.” Rupérez suggests that Pete was not typical of Idaho’s Basque community, that there were others who are worthier representatives.
Ruperez closes with a quote he says comes from Mark Twain: “Not all deaths are received in the same way.” Maybe that’s true. Either way, we can assure Mr. Ruperez that Pete’s death was received with a great deal of sadness and with the respect worthy of somebody who had done great things with his life. We would like to conclude by using another quote from Mark Twain that clearly suits perfectly for people like Javier Rupérez: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
Agur eta ohore, Pete.
- A Basque in Boise, in English, In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)
- About Basque Country, in Spanish, En defensa de Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (declaración conjunta a la que te puedes unir)
- Basque Identity 2.0, in Basque, Pete Cenarrusaren defentsan. In Memorian (1917-2013)
- 8 Probintziak, in Frech, Pour la défense de Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)
- Bieter Blog, in English, In defense of Pete Cenarrusa
- Blog do Tsavkko – The Angry Brazilian, in Portuguese, Em defesa de Peter Cenarrusa. In Memorian (1917-2013)
- Nafar Herria, in Spanish, En defensa de Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)
- EuskoSare, in English, In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)
- Buber’s Basque Page, in English, In Defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memorian (1917-2013)
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
Here are some recent stories I found particularly interesting.
In September, Elhuyar will publish the 300th issue of its science journal, Elhuyar Zientzia eta Teknologia. The journal was created in 1974 to promote the use of Basque in technical and scientific fields. More info here.
Elhuyar is an organization named after the Basque Elhuyar brothers, who in 1783 isolated the element tungsten for the first time.
The Basque cycling team, Euskadi-Euskaltel, was in danger of loosing its sponsor, Euskaltel, the Basque telecommunications company. You might recognize the bright orange jersey the Euskaltel riders wear. Fernando Alonso, a formula one race car driver (who is currently second in the F1 world championship race), has agreed to take over the team. Alonso is also a past winner of the F1 championships. His involvement provides some assurance that the Basque riding team will continue on. More info here.
If you are planning a trip to the Basque Country any time soon, these two articles might give some inspiration. First, Alice Short writes in the LA Times about her adventure in the food of the Basque Country, from the now famous Arzak to a few random and pleasant discoveries. Then, Fiona Duncan describes her discovery of Biarritz, now a thriving surfing city, and the rest of the Côte Basque.
Dendrochronology is the study of the age of wood and is used to both identify the age and origin of wood, for example used to make boats. Dendrochronology has been used to identify the origins of a ship found in the bay of Newport, in the United Kingdom and it has been determined that the ship, indeed, had origins in the Basque Country. More info here.
Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
Gontzal Aranguren is an old friend and roommate from my days in Seattle (old in the sense that we’ve known each other a while, not saying he is an old man (baina, gizon zaharra bada…)) Since he returned to the Basque Country, he has gotten involved in a number of very interesting and very different projects. His latest takes him onboard the Brokoa, a replica of a XIX century boat that was used to move iron along the Basque coast. They are recreating one of these voyages, from Portugalete to Hondarribi. Gontzal’s uncle is coordinating the event and asked Gontzal to be involved (that is Gontzal striking a pose in the foreground of the photo).
Recently, a XV century Basque ship was found in the harbor of Newport, Wales, and so a city councilor and a journalist from Newport were invited to join the crew on this adventure. They have written about their experience in the South Wales Argus, including a diversion down the river Oka to Gernika and the Gernika Peace Museum, a memorial to the horrors experienced by the townfolk of Gernika, and neighboring towns (I’ve heard that my dad’s hometown of Gerrikaitz was also bombed, though, visiting there, I can’t imagine what lead it to be a target beyond it being a crossroads between several other cities), during the Spanish Civil War.
Gontzal is preparing his own write-up of the adventure and when he posts it online, I’ll add a link to it here.
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
The Basques have been an integral part of the history of much of the world, from their role in Magellan’s voyage around the globe to their participation in the Spanish conquests of America. The Basques also touched a lot of the American West, and, while I should by now be accustomed to the pervasiveness of the Basques in the West, I’m still surprised when I hear about the story of places like Shoshone, Idaho.
Shoshone is a small town, just east of Gooding (another center of Basque-American culture). It’s a town I’ve certainly heard of, but have never visited. It turns out that Shoshone was one of the important stops for Basques making their way west after their voyage across the Atlantic and their landing on the east coast. Shoshone, at one time, boasted 7 Basque boarding houses (today Shoshone has a population of about 1400, so that would be about one boarding house per 200 inhabitants, probably the highest density in the country). Today, only 4 survive. But, the pride of that Basque heritage lives on.
Tomorrow, Shoshone will celebrate the 1st Annual Lincoln County Basque Heritage Day. Sponsored by the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and the Ben Oneida family, the event will showcase the Basque heritage of Shoshone, featuring a lecture by Prof. Dave Lachiondo of the Center for Basque Studies at Boise State University and a screening of the film Basques in the West. In addition, there will be sheep camps, photo displays, and history displays. The event is free and all are welcome.
Sounds like a wonderful event! It is inspired by the Basque immigrants who helped shaped the history of Shoshone. I’m curious what those boarding houses look like today, and what secrets they might still hold!
Friday, July 12th, 2013
This year marks the 40th anniversary of NABO — the North American Basque Organizations. NABO’s goal is to bring together the Basque clubs of North America (NABO has member clubs in Canada and the United States) to help those clubs in their efforts to preserve and promote Basque culture. NABO is thus a collection of organizations and is able to provide opportunities that individual clubs would not be able to, such as the national Mus tournament and the Udaleku summer camp.
I first encountered NABO about 14 years ago, via my involvement with the Seattle Euskal Etxea. At the time, Bob Echeverria was president. Grace Mainvil, who has been a constant presence within NABO, was treasurer. I remember being overwhelmed by all of the experience that was represented in that room and all of the great ideas that were being tossed around. As with any such organization, NABO had more ideas than it could realistically realize, but it was great simply seeing the energy of the people involved. I remember that there were ideas for a directory of Basques in the diaspora (a very ambitious idea that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere, partially because they tapped me to be involved and I, well, sort of dropped the ball…). I don’t remember many more specifics, but I simply remember being part of something big and grand.
More recently, I’ve been to a NABO meeting a few years back, in Salt Lake City, as president of the New Mexico Euskal Etxea. While some faces have changed (the current president is Valerie Arrechea), others are familiar (Grace is still treasurer), the energy and ideas were as vibrant as ever. One simply cannot forget the energy that John Ysursa brought with him, and the grand visions regarding Basque identity and building the desire for embracing that identity among young Basques in the diaspora.
Last week, NABO celebrated their 40th anniversary in Elko as part of the 50th anniversary of the Elko Basque festival. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, but it sounds like, by all accounts, it was a grand weekend.
NABO offers a valuable presence in the Basque community by pooling together the resources and expertise of all of the individual clubs and providing a common voice that can help promote projects that are simply too big for any one club. It also offers a network for Basque clubs and their members that helps develop a national and international Basque identity, where Basques are exposed to other Basques from other parts of North America. Basques in California get to interact with those in Washington DC, Quebec, and Florida. This expands the concept of “Basqueness” in the diaspora, as each of these communities has a different history, from the sheepherder experience, to the jai alai players, to more distant roles in exploring and settling North America. By providing this umbrella, NABO expands and redefines what it means to be Basque.
Zorionak NABO! And here’s to another 40 great years!
Friday, July 12th, 2013
I’m not a geneticist, but I am fascinated by what modern genetics can tell us about the history and prehistory of humans. The Basques are particularly interesting because of the pre-Indo-European origins of the population. As more and more genetic studies are done, I think we will ultimately recreate a detailed map — both spatial and temporal — of the movements of not just the Basques but all human populations.
In a recent paper in PLOS One, a group of scientists from the Basque Country, Santander, and Florida examined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from a group of people in “Franco-Cantabria” (which I assume is located in essentially modern day Euskal Herria). mtDNA is passed through females and tracing it provides data on the maternal ancestry of the people. The authors find that there is an unbroken genetic lineage back about 10,000 years to the local area. They conclude that their findings “provide robust evidence of a partial genetic continuity between contemporary autochthonous populations from the Franco-Cantabrian region, specifically the Basques, and Paleolithic/Mesolithic hunter-gatherer groups” and “these results give further support to the notion that the autochthonous populations currently inhabiting this region show perceptible signals of genetic continuity with Mesolithic hunter-gatherer groups that took refuge in the Franco-Cantabrian fringe during the last glacial and postglacial periods of Europe.” That is, as far as I understand, the current Basque population is directly connected to the people who inhabited the region at the end of the last ice age.
There still seems to be a lot that is unknown and it is hard to parse all of this data if you aren’t a specialist. But, these genetic studies and what they say about human populations and migration are very intriguing. I’d welcome more informed discussion on this, both what these kinds of studies say about the origins of the Basque population as well as their interactions with the rest of Europe.
Follow Buber's Basque Page
- Morris Student Plus, a great online Basque-English dictionary. There is a print version too.
- EITB24 is the best source for news
from the Basque Country in English.
- Astero is NABO's free Basque news & information service, brought to you by John Ysursa.
- Enciclopedia Auñamendi, the Basque online encyclopedia with entries on every Basque topic imaginable.
Gaurko Esaera Zaharra
Proverb of the Day
Besteen faltak aurreko aldean, geureak bizkarrean
Other people carry their faults up front. We carry our own behind our backs.