The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 138

After Marina/Ainhoa left, Kepa went up to the bar to order some drinks. 

“Orain zer?” asked Kepa when he returned, handing a beer to Maite. “What now? What do we do if we can’t trust Marina’s manifestations in the bubbles?”

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

Maite shrugged as she took a sip of her beer. “I’m not sure. I suspect it all depends on how long the bubble exists when we get there. If we get there soon after the bubble was created and find the zatia quickly, I suspect that version of Marina is in pretty good shape. But the longer she lingers in the bubble…”

“The more corrupt she might become?” finished Kepa.

“Well, not necessarily corrupt,” replied Maite. “At least, I don’t think so. But certainly more independent. More separated from the core that is Marina. So, I think we need to be finding the zatia as fast as possible whenever we enter a new bubble.”

Kepa nodded as he picked up his gin and tonic.

It wasn’t long before they finished their drinks, paid their tab, and headed across the street to the next pub where they were going to meet Koldo and the rest of their cuadrilla. Koldo was already there, waiting for them, when they entered. He had more drinks waiting on the bar with their names on them. Kepa smiled as he took another gin and tonic. 

“Epa!” he cried. “Is everything ready?”

“Bai,” replied Koldo. “We have the place for the evening.” He looked over at Maite. “You ready for the best meal of your life?”

Maite laughed. “Remember, my parents used to run a restaurant. That’s a pretty high bar, you know.”

“Oh, badakit! I know,” replied Koldo. “But, I’ve been practicing. I think I’m turning into a pretty good chef.”

Koldo’s sister, Itxaso, and her boyfriend Xanti showed up a few moments later. Koldo downed his drink.

“Everyone ready?” he asked.

“Don’t you have a date?” asked Maite, making a show of looking around the bar.

“Ez, not tonight. Tonight, the food is my date. I plan to lavish all of my affections on the wonderful meal I’m preparing for you all.”

Maite looked quizzically at Itxaso, who smiled and nodded. “Yeah, he’s always like this now. Ever since he joined the txoko…”

“I’m just glad you invited us,” interjected Kepa. “I could use a great steak!”

Koldo laughed as he slapped Kepa on the back. “Ez, not a great steak. The best steak ever!”

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: The Rise of Basque Craft Beer

When I lived in the Basque Country, from the fall of 1991 to the summer of 1992, I spent more than my fair share of time in the ubiquitous bars and taverns. But, for all of those hours, I drank maybe three different beers: San Miguel, Fosters, and Heineken. Once in a while, we got a Guinness, but that was rare. And, to be honest, despite the strangeness of Australia’s version of Coors being everywhere, I didn’t mind. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I went to school in Seattle, that I developed a taste for hops. And the story might have ended there, if it weren’t for the sudden rise of craft beer in the Basque Country. I’m sure this list won’t do the Basque beer scene justice, but consider it a sampler to whet your thirst.

Some of Basqueland Brewery’s colorful and exotic offerings. Photo from Craft Beer Nomads.
  • Basqueland started in 2015 in Hernani, Gipuzkoa. Since that time, they have brewed over 300 different beers and have won the Barcelona Beer Challenge as best brewer of the year two years in a row. While the owners – Kevin Patricio and Ben Rozzi – are from the United States, Oscar Sáez, the brewmaster, is from Donostia. They also have a gastropub in Donostia. In addition to their core staples such as Imparable IPA and Santa Clara lager, they have a number of limited edition specialty beers such as Berry Cobbler, a fruity sour; Home Slice triple IPA; and several hazy IPAs like Cat Show, Zumo, and Wilson Coconut. You should have no problem getting your fill of hops here! They just need to get a version of their webpage in Euskara!
  • Mala Gissona is another brewery in Gipuzkoa, this time in Oiartzun. Founded in 2014 by Iban Zabala Rivero and Manuel Murillo Martínez, Mala Gissona started out in the Gros neighborhood of Donostia. Inspired by the often-troubled history between the Basque Country and Iceland, Mala Gissona – bad men – also makes a number of IPAs and double IPAs: Endurance, Sor Dana, Albaola, Arrebato, La Ostia, and many more. They also have a smoothie sour – Dembow – and a lager – Koi – amongst many other offerings. They also need a Basque version of their website.
  • Naparbier comes from Noain, Nafarroa. Their slogan is “Hil Arte” – “To Death.” Their core collection of beers includes Paradise?, ZZ, Aker, and Zukua, which are a pilsner, an amber, an IPA, and a hazy APA, respectively. Naparbier started in 2009. The name comes from Napar – for Nafarroa – and the German word for beer. They started with just a pilsner and a dunkel, but now have more exotic offerings such as a Pumpkin Tzar Russian Imperial Stout and a barley wine aged in whisky barrels.
  • Boga is inspired by the strong connection the Basques have to the sea. Started in 2014, Boga is based in Mungia, Bizkaia. They have a diverse offering, not quite so heavy on the IPAs. Argia is a pilsner, Tosta a brown ale, Betlza an extra stout, and Martzela a weissbier. They also have Libre, an alcohol-free beer. And, of course, there is an IPA, which Boga has dubbed Lorea. This is all in addition to their special edition beers.
  • This is only the tip of the iceberg. You can find a listing of some breweries in Iparralde here. Craft Beer Nomads has a writeup on some breweries in Hegoalde.

Primary sources: 7º aniversario de Basqueland, Noticias de Gipuzkoa

Inspired by a post by Eneko Ennekõike.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 137

“Zer?” exclaimed Maite, her eyes wide. “You are in all bubbles at the same time?”

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

“Bai,” replied Marina. She paused a moment before letting out a large sigh. “Even now, I exist in all of these bubbles, but my mind…” She took a deep breath. “I feared that I might be fracturing, that I might lose touch with my different selves.” She looked at Maite and Kepa. “It seems my psyche is starting to break.”

Kepa exchanged a nervous glance with Maite. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“My mind co-exists in all of these different bubbles. I thought I could handle it, experiencing all of these realities all at once, but clearly, I cannot. I think some of my… selves, for lack of a better word, are splitting off from me.” Marina paused again. “What bubble did you just come back from?”

“It was a future version of Bilbao,” replied Maite. “De Lancre was a high level government official. It was almost idyllic, except for his corrupting influence and the near omnipotent AI that controlled everything.”

Maite felt a rumble in the back of her mind but Garuna said nothing.

Marina nodded slightly. “I vaguely remember that bubble. It’s like when you wake up from a particularly vivid dream. You know you had a strong emotional response but you can’t quite remember the details. That’s usually how it is for me when a bubble pops. After a little while, I only have wisps left. But this one is even worse. I think my other self was growing even more independent from the rest of me.”

Maite shook her head. “There is so much I don’t understand. If you can’t remember the bubbles that pop, how do you know what de Lancre is doing?”

Marina frowned. “I don’t. I only have these vague impressions. I know he has done some horrible things, but I don’t know the details.”

“When a bubble pops,” began Kepa, “what does that do to you? To have that other self simply disappear?”

Marina nodded faintly. “It’s hard to explain. In some ways, I feel more whole, as my mind isn’t stretched as thin. But, at the same time, I do lose a whole part of me, a whole set of experiences that my brain was part of.”

“It seems like you could use an AI,” muttered Maite, shaking her head in disbelief. “Ok, so if you are in all of these bubbles at once,” she asked, “then why don’t you tell us what is going on in each before we go?”

“It’s complicated,” replied Marina. “First, I never know what zatia you will be chasing. That is almost random. It does depend on where you are, but there are so many out there, it is almost impossible to guess what bubble you might go to next. However, most importantly, I can’t really pull information out of each bubble. I know what is going on in each of them in some abstract way, but even when I can see what is going on, I can’t really pull it out. It’s confined to the bubble.”

“Sort of like the event horizon of a black hole,” mused Maite. “Information can never escape. It isn’t quite the same thing, but it has things in common. Information flow is only one way.”

“Sounds more like Las Vegas to me,” added Kepa. “What happens in the bubble, stays in the bubble.”

Maite gave Kepa a mock groan before turning to Marina. “But, what really matters is what is happening to you. You said your psyche is fracturing. What does that mean?”

“It means that I really don’t know who all of the other Marinas you find are. I just know they aren’t really me. You can’t trust them all.”

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: Pío Baroja y Nessi

No Basque has won the Nobel Prize for literature. If there was ever a strong candidate, it might have been Pío Baroja y Nessi. He was a prolific writer whose influence extended to Nobel Prize winners such as Ernest Hemingway. However, he simply didn’t have the desire for self-promotion. He just wanted to write. His writing was controversial, and many of his books were banned by the Franco regime.

Pío Baroja y Nessi at his desk. Photo from Universo Lorca.
  • Baroja was born in Donostia on December 28, 1872. His father, Serafin Baroja, was a mining engineer who also had an artistic soul, writing operas and penning books of Basque songs. Pío started down a technical path, even receiving his doctorate in medicine in 1893, but soon shifted to letters and books. As a practicing doctor in Zestoa, he realized he had no interest in or aptitude for medicine. Further, his return to the Basque Country (he had studied medicine in Madrid and Valencia) rekindled a love of his homeland.
  • After a stint as a baker in Madrid, he decided to dedicate himself to literature, even though there was little prospect of making a decent life as a writer. “I already understood that trying out literature would give little pecuniary result, but in the meantime I could live poorly, but with enthusiasm. And I decided to do so.” With little taste for the public relations that was becoming ever more necessary for success, he purchased a home in secluded Bera from which he worked and hosted his nephew Julio Caro Baroja.
  • After the Spanish Civil War erupted, Baroja escaped to France. He tried unsuccessfully to make his way to the United States. Instead, he ultimately returned to Spain, where he continued to write. At the time of his death, on October 30, 1956, he had written over 100 literary works. Franco banned nearly all of his books.
  • Baroja’s first novel was La casa de Aizgorri. The first in his La Tierra Vasca trilogy, La casa de Aizgorri is about a petty bourgeois who struggles to keep his family business going. Perhaps his most famous work is El árbol de la ciencia (The Tree of Knowledge). The main character, Andrés Hurtado, is a doctor much like Baroja was who struggles to live in a world that he finds disgusting. Baroja’s books are often characterized as not having much plot, but having interesting characters. He captures the random events of life without trying to put his characters into some bigger plot. He also captured the pessimistic tone of a world that changed greatly during his lifetime, including two world wars and the Spanish Civil War.
  • Baroja was an anarchist. In one of his books, he stated “In the first place, I am an enemy of the Church; in the second place, I am an enemy of the State.”
  • Many other authors were influenced by Baroja, including Ernest Hemingway, who once told Baroja that Baroja deserved a Nobel Prize more than he did. While he was nominated for one, Baroja died before ever being selected.

Primary sources: Pelay Orozco, Miguel [et al.]. Baroja y Nessi, Pío. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Pío Baroja, Wikipedia.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 136

Kepa’s phone buzzed almost simultaneously with the chime on Maite’s phone. He picked his up off the table as Maite glanced at hers.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

“Ainhoa,” they both said, simultaneously.

Kepa read Ainhoa’s text. Looking up at Maite, he said “She wants to meet us.”

Maite shrugged. “Ok.”

Kepa texted that they were in the plaza. Ainhoa replied that she would be there in twenty minutes.

“What do you think she wants?” asked Kepa as he put his phone down.

“I’m sure it isn’t Ainhoa, it has to be Marina.”

Maite heard Garuna’s voice rumble in the back of her brain. “Who is Marina?” She chose to ignore the AI for the time being.

“Do you think she knows we just returned from one of our excursions?” asked Kepa.

Maite shrugged again and then sighed. “I don’t know what she knows. I feel she knows much more than she tells us.”

It wasn’t long before Ainhoa appeared in the plaza, walking up to their table. Her black hair was highlighted with yellow streaks this time. Even though it was reasonably warm, she wore a black leather jacket that almost seemed to engulf her. Black boots with bright red laces rose up to her calfs. One of her bare legs was covered in a tattoo of a woman with her hands crossed and fingers out in strange directions. Smoke poured from her finger tips and wrapped around Ainhoa’s leg. 

Ainhoa pulled up a chair from a neighboring empty table. “Kaixo, Kepa. Maite,” she said as she sat down.

“Kaixo, Marina,” replied Maite.

Ainhoa/Marina sighed. “Bai, it’s me. I can’t hide anything from you,” she added with a wry smile.

“Oh,” replied Maite. “I think you hide plenty from us.”

“What is that supposed to mean…?” began Marina before Kepa cut her off. 

“What’s up? What did you want to see us about?” he asked.

“Somehow,” answered Marina, ignoring Maite’s barb for the moment, “you broke the rules.”

“What do you mean?” asked Kepa.

Looking first Kepa and then Maite in the eye, she replied “You brought something back with you. The last time you went out.”

“How do you know that?” asked Kepa, trying to divert Marina’s attention away from Maite.

“I just know,” replied Marina curtly. “Did you or did you not bring something back?”

“We did,” said Maite. “We brought back an AI.”

“A what?” asked Marina.

“An artificial intelligence.”

“Where is it?” demanded Marina. “I need it back now.”

Maite pointed to her head. “It’s in here.”

“How…?” began Marina.

“It wouldn’t let us come back unless it could come too,” interjected Kepa. “We had no choice.”

“What do you mean you had no choice?” said Marina, her voice rising. “You could always get the zatia.”

Maite shook her head. “Ez. It had control of the zatia. It wouldn’t give it to us unless it came back with us.”

“You shouldn’t have brought it back.” Marina was almost in a state of panic. “We don’t know what will happen next!”

“What would you have had us do?” barked back Maite. “Stay in that bubble until we died? You weren’t helping us.”

Marina gasped, taken aback. “Zer?”

“You were there,” replied Kepa, his voice steady, trying to defuse the situation. “You were leading an underground revolt. But when Maite was taken by de Lancre, you were no where to be found.”

“I…” stuttered Marina. Her head fell, her eyes staring at the table in front of them. “I can’t believe I would do that.”

“Well, you did,” replied Maite, her voice cold.

Marina looked up. “Let me explain something, something I should have told you before. When you jump around, looking for the zatia, time is still linear for you. You jump through time, but you experience each event in sequence. It isn’t like that for me. I don’t jump from one bubble to another. I exist in all of them simultaneously.”

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: The Basque Derby

Rivalries in sports transcend the games themselves. The Yankees and Red Socks. Real Madrid and Barcelona. The Celtics and Lakers. The Huskies and Cougars. They become part of the local identity, and beating your rival is almost more important than winning the championship. In the Basque Country, one of the biggest rivalries is between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad, a rivalry called the Basque Derby, or Euskal Derbia. They met again yesterday, January 14. Real won the match 3-1.

A match in 1976 where both teams paraded on the field holding the ikurrina. Photo from Wikipedia.
  • Athletic Bilbao and a soccer team from Donostia – not yet christened Real Sociedad – first met in in 1909. At the time, the team from Donostia was the San Sebastián Foot-Ball Club but was actually attached to a cycling club for administrative reasons. That first meeting was won by Donostia, 4-2. They were supposed to play in 1905, but Bilbao backed out of a so-called dead rubber meaningless runner-up match.
  • Since that time, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have met a total of 171 times in major competitions (as of February 2022), 150 times in La Liga (Tier 1) and another 21 times during the Copa del Rey tournament. Bilbao has the edge, winning 69 of those games to Real’s 57. There have been 45 draws. The two clubs have met another 16 times in smaller or now-defunct events.
  • In 2020, for the first time in their 100+ year history, the two clubs qualified for the Copa del Rey finals. COVID threw things in disarray and the final was delayed by about a year. In the end, Real won the final 1-0 on a goal by Mikel Oyarzabal.
  • The phrase Basque derby is also used when other teams in Hegoalde play, including CA OsasunaDeportivo Alavés, and SD Eibar. However, given that these other teams haven’t been staples of Tier 1 in La Liga, these derbies don’t hold quite the same gravitas. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been memorable matches involving these teams, such as in 2008 when Alavés scored 2 late goals to beat Real, both keeping Real from being promoted to Tier 1 and Alavés from being demoted to Tier 3.
  • Since 2006, the women’s teams of both Athletic and Real have played in the first division of Liga F. They have met 50 times, including in Liga F, the Copa del Reina, and the Basque Country Cup, with Bilbao winning the series 32 and Real winning 9, with 9 draws.
  • Since 2016, inspired by a similar event held for the women’s clubs, the men’s soccer teams have competed in the Euskal Herriko Futbol Txapelketa, a friendly (it doesn’t count toward standings) match to crown the best team in the Basque Country. The two Basque teams with the best record in the previous year against other Basque teams meet in this match. There have been six such matches played, with Athletic Bilbao winning twice, Eibar, Real and Osasuna winning once each, and the other, between Athletic and Alavés, ending in a draw (when the referee walked off the field due to fighting between players).
  • While of course the Basque Derby is a rivalry, the teams have used the occasion to show solidarity with larger issues in the Basque Country. For example, in 1976 just after Franco died, the two teams came on the pitch, led by their captains carrying together the ikurrina. They have also showed joint support for an official Basque Country national team.

Primary source: Basque derby, Wikipedia

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 135

“So…” began Maite, her cortado in hand as she looked across the small table at Kepa. They had met at the Herriko Taberna and found a spot outside on the plaza, far enough from the rest of the patrons so that they wouldn’t be overheard. “What now?”

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

Kepa looked nervously into his own cup, the swirls of brown espresso mixing with the creamy milk. For a moment, he hoped that if he stared hard enough at his coffee, he might find answers. But, nothing came. He sighed.

“All I know for sure,” he said, looking across at Maite, sweat upon his brow, “is that I want to be with you. Beyond that, I have no idea.”

Maite smiled at him. “That’s enough for me.”

“Do you know where you will go to school?” asked Kepa.

“I’m thinking Donostia. They have a good physics program there. What do you say? Do you want to move to Donostia with me?”

Surprisingly, given how close the city was, Kepa had only visited a handful of times in his life. He remembered the beaches, and the multitude of people in their swimsuits. He remembered the Parte Vieja and the rows upon rows of bars with the most wonderful pintxos. He wasn’t used to such a big city, but what he remembered was overall positive.

“I think I could do that,” he said. “I’d need to visit ama often…”

“As would I, visit my parents I mean,” interjected Maite.

Kepa smiled. “Ok then. Let’s do it.”

“What about the zatiak?” asked Maite.

“What do you mean?” asked Kepa.

“I mean, do we try to search them out, or do we just let things happen haphazardly like we’ve been doing?”

“You want a more systematic approach, I assume?”

“Well,” began Maite, “if we are going to make any real progress, I just think we need some kind of plan.”

“How are we supposed to do that? We don’t know anything about where, or when, the zatiak ended up.”

“No,” said Maite with a mischievous grin, “but I know have this supercomputer in my head to help us figure it out, to look for any patterns.”

As she spoke, Maite felt a grumbling in the back of her head. She almost thought that Garuna snorted mockingly at her. But then it settled down.

“Can you control it like that?” asked Kepa. “Will it do what you want it to?”

Maite shrugged. “I don’t know, but there is only one way to know.” For no real reason, she sat up a little straighter. Her voice became a little more formal. “Garuna,” she said in a somewhat demanding tone, “will you help us find the zatiak?”

“Is that how you talk to it?” asked Kepa. “Out loud like that?”

Maite giggled as she shook her head. “No, I can talk to it in my head, but I wanted you to hear at least one side of the conversation.”

Maite felt Garuna rumble again. “Why?” was all it asked.

Looking at Kepa with her shoulders hunched a bit and in her regular voice, almost a whisper, Maite said “It asked why.” Again sitting up, she replied “Because, we need to prevent de Lancre from collecting them.”

“Why?” came the reply in her mind.

Maite sighed. “It asked why again. I swear, it’s like talking to a toddler. Ahem,” began Maite, again reverting to her formal mode before Kepa interrupted.

“Can it hear me, if I’m speaking?” 

“Yes,” replied Garuna in Maite’s head. 

“Yes,” Maite whispered back to Kepa.

“Well, then,” continued Kepa, “if de Lancre recovers the majority of the zatiak, he will gain untold power and reshape the world into his own twisted vision. You came from the future, you know our history. Does it ever turn out well when any one person can shape things at that scale, much less one who has bad intentions like de Lancre?”

There was silence. Eventually, Maite heard an “Ez” echo in her head.

Maite, looking at Kepa, shook her head.

“Exactly,” replied Kepa. “We can’t allow a madman like de Lancre have free reign over the rest of humanity. Who knows what he will do, but I would guess he reshapes his own time to reflect his deepest desires, and that will ripple throughout the timeline.”

“But,” repeated Maite as Garuna spoke in her head, “it would simply be a bubble, which could eventually be burst.”

Kepa shrugged. “Maybe, but if he has that much power…” Kepa looked deep into Maite’s eyes, trying to find Garuna in there somewhere, “maybe he could make the bubble permanent, and pop the rest of the timeline.”

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: Robert Laxalt, the Voice of the American Basques

“My father was a sheepherder, and his home was the hills.” The opening to Robert Laxalt’s Sweet Promised Land resonates with so many of us, capturing not only the sheepherder life of his own father, but the experience of many Basque immigrants who made new homes in the American West. I discovered Laxalt’s books when I was in college and they spoke to me; they gave voice to some of the cultural context I didn’t quite realize I was missing.

Robert Laxalt. Photo from the Reno Gazette Journal.
  • Laxalt was born on September 25, 1923, in Alturas, California. His parents, Dominique Laxalt and Theresa Laxalt (nee Alpetche), were both from the Basque Country. Dominique was from Zuberoa and Theresa from Nafarroa Beherea. Dominique had immigrated in 1904 to the United States, becoming a sheepherder while Theresa, arriving in 1920, ultimately managed the French Hotel in Carson City, Nevada.
  • After high school, Laxalt attended Santa Clara University. He left school to enroll in the military, serving in the Belgian Congo, where he contracted multiple illnesses that almost led to his death. Upon his return to the United States, he enrolled in the University of Nevada, Reno, where he began his pursuit of literature. When he graduated, he began working for the United Press International. He married Joyce Nielsen in 1949 and together they had three children.
  • In 1951, he accompanied his father Dominique on a visit to his home in Zuberoa, the first time Dominique had returned since immigrating. It was a life-changing experience for Robert, leading to his 1957 novel Sweet Promised Land which told the story of his dad and, in some way, every Basque-American sheepherder. It is by far his most famous work of the more than dozen books he wrote. Many of his novels are semi-biographical, based on his family and documenting the life of the Basque sheepherder in the American west.
  • Perhaps my favorite of Laxalt’s novels is A Man in the Wheatfield, which, as described by David Rio, explores the nature of evil and how the perception of evil often arises from our own fears. In all, Laxalt wrote seventeen books. I’ve been lucky enough to find a few signed editions in used books stores.
  • Robert’s impact on Basque-American culture extended beyond his books. In 1961 he founded the University of Nevada Press, which still publishes many books related to Basque culture. In 1966, along with William Douglass and Jon Bilbao, he founded the Basque Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • Laxalt was honored for his work numerous times over his career, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, Nevada Distinguished Author Chair at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the State of Nevada Art Commission of the Decade Award. In 1986, he received the Golden Drum from the city of Donostia.
  • Robert was the second of six children and he wasn’t the only Laxalt sibling to find success. His brother, Paul, became first Governor of Nevada and then a United States Senator, and was a good friend of Ronald Reagan.
  • Robert died on March 23, 2001, at the age of 77 in Reno.

Primary sources: Estornés Lasa, Mariano [et al.]. Laxalt Alpetche, Robert. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Robert Laxalt, Wikipedia

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 134

Maite awoke with a bit more of a resaca than she had hoped for. 

“When we were kids,” she thought to herself, “a gau pasa wouldn’t affect us at all.” She groaned as she sat up in bed. “But now…”

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

“I will never understand the human desire to flood their delicate circuitry with chemicals that disrupt their connections,” Garuna said in the back of her head.

“Great,” Maite thought. “Now I have critical commentary in my head.”

She shook it off and went to the bathroom. She could hear some puttering in the kitchen and looked forward to seeing her parents. While for them it had only been a couple of weeks, for her it seemed like an eternity.

Sure enough, she found her aita in the kitchen, ready with a cup of coffee which he handed to her. 

“Egun on!” he said cheerfully.

“Egun on,” groaned Maite, giving her aita a kiss on the cheek. She glanced around, scanning the living room. “Where is ama?”

“She went out to buy groceries. She should be back any moment.”

Almost as if on cue, Maite heard the front door click open. A moment later, her ama appeared in the living room, clutching a few bags in each hand.

“Egun on!” Rosario always had a cheerful disposition and, as opposed to her daughter, never looked like she had just gotten up. She always seemed put together and freshly awake. Her aita had a similar demeanor. Sometimes, Maite wondered if she must have been adopted, or swapped at birth.

“Egun on, ama,” replied Maite, giving her ama her own kiss on the cheek before sitting at the small table in the kitchen.

“So?” asked Rosario as she handed a bag to Fulgencio and they started unpacking. “How did the interview go?”

Maite stared down at her coffee. “Fine, I guess.”

“Zer?” asked Fulgencio. “Did you not get the position?”

Maite looked up. She could see the expectation in both of her parents’ faces. She was sure if they were excited for her or terrified by the prospect of her leaving. She imagined both. 

“I mean, the interview went well. I think I did well. Baina…”

Fulgencio and Rosario paused putting away the groceries and sat next to Maite at the small table. “What is it?” asked Rosario.

“I don’t think I want to go,” replied Maite, almost in a whisper.

“I know it is a big change…” began Fulgencio.

Maite shook her head, interrupting him. “It isn’t that. I know I will do well. And it is a great opportunity. I’m not worried about there.” She looked first at her aita and then her ama. A tear fell down her cheek. “I don’t want to leave you.”

Rosario reached over and pulled her daughter close. “Oh Maite,” she said, giving Maite a hug. “And we don’t want you to go.”

Fulgencio nodded before adding. “But, this is an amazing opportunity. Are you sure? What will you do instead?”

“There is an amazing group in Donostia,” replied Maite. “Maybe not with the reputation of Berkeley, but still world class. I can do my work there.”

“Will it be the same kind of work?” asked Rosario.

Maite shrugged. “Close enough. And the people there are excellent. Most importantly, it isn’t so far from you.”

She could see the tears welling in her normally stoic aita’s eyes. “It will be good to have you close,” he said.

If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write if you want to get in touch with me.

Basque Fact of the Week: Maialen Lujanbio, Bertsolari Champion

Bertsolaritza is the art of Basque improvisational poetry. Every four years, the best bertsolaris come together to crown a champion. (It has been five years since the last competition because of, you know, COVID.) The latest edition of the championship, called the Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia, just wrapped up, with the final taking place on December 18, 2022, in Iruñea/Pamplona, Nafarroa, in front of some 13,000 spectators. At the end of the day, Maialen Lujanbio had won her third txapela. Only Andoni Egaña Makazaga has won more titles.

Maialen Lujanbio receives the applause of the finalists after winning the Bertsolaris Absolute Championship. EFE/Villar Lopez. Photo from
  • Maialen Lujanbio Zugazti was born on November 26, 1976 in Hernani. She was part of the first generation of school children who were exposed to and taught improvisational poetry as part of their curriculum. Even as a student, she was recognized as an outstanding bertsolari, winning numerous accolades at the local and provincial level, both individually and as part of teams.
  • She became part of the bertsolari school of Jose Mari Gabiria. She later moved to Bilbo, attending the University of the Basque Country and obtaining a degree in Fine Arts. Her career as a bertsolari took off soon after. In 2003, she became champion of Gipuzkoa. She was a finalist for the national competition in 1997 and 2005, and the runner-up in 2001 and 2013.
  • Her participation in the 1997 event was the first time a woman had competed. In 2022, for the first time two other women also joined her in the finals – Alaia Martin and Nerea Ibarzabal. When Alaia and Maialen performed together in a joint verse, it was also the first time two women competed onstage together in the history of the championship.
  • In 2009, Maialen became the first woman to win the Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia of the Basque Country, held that year in Barakaldo. She followed with wins in 2017 and, most recently, 2022, making her a three-time champion. She has appeared in 7 finals, tying Andoni Egaña Makazaga for the most.
  • In the bertsolaritza championship, each poet is given themes they must compose their poem against. Many of the themes in the 2022 finals touched on social issues, including sexual abuse, low-paying jobs, emigration, and transgender issues. Some of Maialen’s verses had these themes:
    • With Alaia: you have a shop together on the seafront. The effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent. Alaia, you want to change the location of the store; Maialen wants to stay there.
    • With Beñat Gaztelumendi: You are two friends who have gone to lunch together. Beñat has a habit of taking pictures of all the dishes before he starts to eat. Maialen, Beñat takes charge of you because you started eating before he took his picture.
    • With Sustrai Colina: You are two service managers of a hospital. You do not agree with the management of your political authorities. Sustrai suggests that you both submit your resignation together.
    • You gave each other a complicit smile.
  • Maialen has brought a new perspective to the art of bertsolaritza, with references to film and the creation of stories in her verse. In addition to her improvised verse, she has written lyrics for numerous Basque musical groups. She has also become a specialist in the transmission of Basque culture, completing a post-graduate degree on the topic in 2008.

Primary sources: Ibarluzea Santisteban, Miren. Lujanbio Zugasti, Maialen. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Maialen Lujanbio, la ‘bertsolaritza’ o el arte de improvisar reivindicaciones ante 14.000 personas, Maialen Ferreira, El Diario; Maialen Lujanbio, Wikipedia; 2022ko Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusiko finala, Wikipedia

%d bloggers like this: