Category Archives: News

Basque News Roundup

Here are some recent stories I found particularly interesting.

elhuyarIn September, Elhuyar will publish the 300th issue of its science journal, Elhuyar Zientzia eta TeknologiaThe 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.


biarritz-pier_1809855cIf 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.

MARIA-NEWPORT-SHIPDendrochronology 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.

Big Basque News: Basque World Heritage Site and .eus Basque Internet Domain

Two big news items related to Basques this week.

redbay20nw1First, long time contributor David Cox, who also happens to be Canadian (we don’t hold that against him), sent this article about the possibility of the Red Bay National Historic Site in Labrador becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Canadian Officials are currently lobbying UNESCO to make that site, and another in Canada, World Heritage Sites. Red Bay is home to a 16th century Basque outpost on the eastern coast of Canada. Drawn initially by cod, it seems, the Basque sailors found whales as well and setup the site to process the whales. The site has been excavated and a cemetery, a number of ships both large and small, and processing stations. The article points out that the establishment of this processing center in Canada marked the beginning of commercial whaling and that establishing it as a World Heritage Site would indicate “that the story of the Basque Whaling in Red Bay is a story that should be protected and presented for all humanity.” To get a feel for what it might have been like for Basques living in Labrador in the 1500s, check out the Last Will and Testament of Juan Martinez de Larrume.

logo_enSecond, as some of you may now, there has been an effort for quite some time now to get a top-level domain (think .net, .com, .edu, .es) on the internet for things Basque. I’ve featured a link in the top right corner of my page to the group that is advancing this cause, The PuntuEus Foundation. A couple of weeks back, ICANN, the organization that decides these things, approved the creation of the .eus domain. Now, there is a corner of the web dedicated to things Basque. If a site ends in .eus, you will know it is Basque related. Having a domain like .eus will aid groups in promoting Basque culture and language. Thanks to Pedro Oiarzabal for pointing this out to me. Zorionak PuntuEus!

BOGA: Basque Studies Consortium Journal

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 8.23.13 PMThe now defunct Journal of Basque Studies in America was a journal published by Society of Basque Studies in America to promote Basque culture by publishing in English articles that would be of interest to a wider American audience. The goal was to essentially disseminate information about Basque culture that otherwise would not make it to an English speaking audience. That journal, which ended publication in 2011, was transferred to Boise State University and its Basque Studies Program.

Fast forward to today and the journal has been reincarnated as BOGA: Basque Studies Consortium Journal. BOGA has the same basic aims as the Journal of Basque Studies in America, but with a bit more rigorous peer review. Those aims are nicely summarized on the BOGA website:

This journal aims to be a part of the long-standing tradition of Basque higher education as symbolized by the Basque Country’s first university built in Oñati, Gipuzkoa in 1548 (incorporated into our website theme). The town of Oñati also holds additional significance for Boise State University’s Basque Studies Program because it served as the first location for the studies abroad program in the Basque Country in the 1970s. This journal is a multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed academic publication dedicated to the scholarly study of all aspects of Basque culture with the aspiration to foster a better understanding of Basque culture and heritage in its diverse aspects by disseminating original works of interest to an English speaking audience and to encourage interaction–learning links–among academics from various learning traditions; e.g., linguistic, philosophical, anthropological, ethnological, historic, literary, artistic, religious, economic, cultural, international relations, etc. The Basque sculptor Jorge Oteiza stated that to move forward, one had to look backward, and that is conceptualized by the rowboat image as the rowers make progress while looking behind. This journal hopes to contribute to the shared “rowing” effort among institutions and individuals to mutually support efforts in Basque Studies.

Many familiar names are associated with the journal, including: John Ysursa, William Douglass, Pedro Oiarzabal, Sam Zengotitabengoa, and Joseba Zulaika, among many more.

The inaugural issue is not online yet, but promises to have very interesting perspectives on a number of Basque topics, if the articles that appeared in the Journal of Basque Studies in America is any indication.

I’m personally very excited to see the launch of this new effort. There are a lot of aspects of Basque culture, history, and linguistics that simply are inaccessible to people who do not speak Basque or Spanish. This journal will provide a vehicle for at least some of those ideas and discoveries to reach an English audience.


To Say Goodbye, an update

Late last year, I posted about To Say Goodbye, a film by Izaskun Arandia detailing the evacuation of Basque children during the Spanish Civil War. Izaskun has interviewed a number of these children, now adults, as part of the documentary. The film is about half way finished and she hopes to premier it at the San Sebastian Film Festival this September.

Towards that end, the film needs further funding and Izaskun has started a second crowdfunding campaign. Here’s a link to the funding effort and a little teaser clip of the animation.


To Say Goodbye

Izaskun Arandia is an award-winning Scriptwriter, Script-consultant and Producer. With an MA in Screenwriting from the prestigious Bournemouth Screen Academy she has extensive experience and her scripts have been made into short films produced by the BBC amongst others.

She wrote and produced “If I Wish Really Hard” which has recently won Best European Film With Social Content” at the 2011 Eurofilm Festival and she is a full member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Basque Scriptwriters’ Association.

Izaskun is producing the animated film To Say Goodbye.”

“To Say Goodbye” is a compelling, emotional and dramatic feature-length animated documentary set against the brutal backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.

It blends frank and heartbreaking interviews from the last survivors of one of Europe’s most tragic yet neglected stories with vivid classical and 3D animation to tell the little-known story of the 4,000 Basque children evacuated from the port of Bilbao to England in 1937.

Originally these children were told they were only going away for three months.

But as we approach the 75th Anniversary of the evacuation, some remain in England, forever separated from their families and their homelands and, often, deprived of the chance to ever see their parents again.

It is through interviews with these children, now all in their 80s and 90s, that the story of the evacuation of the Basque children following the bombing of Guernica in 1937 will be told.

We never see these interviewees, it is simply their words that form the story; first-hand memories that remain fresh and emotional as they recall the on-set of the Spanish Civil War, how it affected their lives in the Basque Country, the disappearances of friends and family, the agonising decision made by their parents to send them away, and the despair shown on the quayside in Bilbao as they had to bid farewell to their parents for the final time.

They describe the horrendous boat crossing to England and then life in the camps in the south of England, all the while hoping and expecting to return home to their parents. They reveal how weeks turned into months and then into years and describe how false hopes, deceit and deception ensured 250 of them would never return and never see their parents again, destined to remain in England for the rest of their lives.

And throughout, their stories are illustrated with memorable and striking animation depicting in stylised imagery their emotions, their journey, and their memories, to form an animated feature-length documentary unlike any seen before.

“To Say Goodbye” is a documentary that presents the final opportunity for those who lived through this harrowing and tragic event to tell their story and to to remind us of a period in history that should never be forgotten.

To help support “To Say Goodbye,” visit their Kickstarter website.

Basqueing in the Glow of Two Basque Cities

(I couldn’t resist the pun.)

Some big news for the Basque Country’s biggest cities.

First, Donostia has been chosen, along with Wroclaw, Poland, as one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2016.  EiTB has the news here. This means that for the year of 2016, Donostia will host events that highlight Europe’s cultural heritage, presumably from a Basque perspective. Each year, two cities are chosen from two candidate countries, so Donostia beat out other Spanish cities, including Burgos and Cordoba.

Not to be outdone, Bilbao became the first city ever to be chosen as Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, otherwise dubbed the Nobel prize for cities (this was announced in May… guess I’ve been a bit out-of-touch).  Again, EiTB has the news. Bilbao was chosen, at least in part, for its efforts to regenerate and renew the city from its industrial past.  Specifically, from the Prize’s website, “Bilbao has shown that strong leadership and a commitment to a systematic and long-term plan, based on solid processes and supporting infrastructure, are key factors to the success of a city’s transformation.”

Here is a video highlighting Bilbao.

I first visited Donostia in 1991, when I began a year (well, closer to 10 month) studies abroad in the Gipuzkoan capital.  While it seemingly rained the entire first 6 months I was there, I still fell in love with the city, the life style of the Basques, and the Basque people.  I spent more than my share of evenings in the Parte Vieja and walked along La Concha to class, which has to be one of the best strolls in the world.  I returned some years later with my wife and was amazed at how much had changed.  Near the Cathedral, they had expanded the pedestrian-only zone and filled it with outdoor cafes.  They had also built the cube, which I understand is a bit of a controversy for such an elegant city.  But, they also cleaned up Gros beach, which when I was there was only used by the surfers.  Donostia keeps getting more beautiful with time.

During that first visit to the Basque Country, while I spent a lot of time in Bizkaia visiting family, I only made it to Bilbao once or twice, and that was centered on El Corte Ingles more than anything to do some shopping.  It wasn’t until a few years later, visiting a friend who took me to the Running of the Bulls, that I got to know the city a bit more.  Bilbao is certainly transforming itself, cleaning up the river, building signature architecture, and positioning itself as a true equal of Donostia in terms of a wonderful city to visit.  The Siete Calles in the Casco Viejo is simply a great place to wander, to explore the twists and turns, discovering new shops and bars.

I certainly look forward to seeing what these two awards will do for these two cities.  And I look forward to many more days of exploring two of the most interesting cities I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, though I might have some small bias.