Basque Fact of the Week: The Way of St James in Euskal Herria

The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, the burial place of Saint James the Great, is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in all of Christendom – during the Middle Ages, it was one of the three great Christian pilgrimages, along with Rome and Jerusalem. While pilgrims can take many paths to reach Santiago de Compostela, it is hard to avoid passing through the Basque Country. Indeed, two of the most important routes of the Way of St James – the Camino de Santiago, Donejakue Bidea in Euskara – pass through the heart of Euskal Herria.

The various routes of the Camino de Santiago that pass through the Basque Country. Image from Wikipedia.
  • There are two primary routes of the Camino de Santiago that pass through the Basque Country. (There are others, but they are smaller in significance.) The more popular route is the French Way. This one starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the border. It passes through Roncesvalles (Orreaga in Basque, the site of the battle that inspired the Song of Roland) before moving into Nafarroa. It passes through the Nafarroan capital Iruña/Pamplona and the smaller town of Estella, and then on to Logroño in La Rioja. The total length of this route is about 800 kilometers.
  • The Northern Way spends more time in the Basque Country. The route became more popular in the Middle Ages as the French Way became compromised by Muslim expansion. This route is also both slightly longer than the French Way (about 817 kilometers) and also more demanding as it follows the coast and has significant changes in elevation along the way.
  • The Northern Way, called Iparraldeko bidea in Euskara, starts in the Gipuzkoan town of Irún, near the French-Spanish border. It passes through the capitals of Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia, Donostia and Bilbo, but along the way it visits many other small Basque villages. From Donostia, it follows the coast, passing through the seaside villages of Zarautz, Getaria (home of Elcano), and Zumaia. From Zumaia, it breaks inland a bit before heading back to the coast to reach Deba. From there, the Camino again heads inland into the mountains, going through the towns of Mutriku and Markina-Xemein to the Collegiate of Zenarruza and on to Munitibar as it winds its way to Gernika-Lumo. It then heads to Bilbo, passing through Larrabetzu and Zamudio. Before leaving Bizkaia, the Camino visits Barakaldo and Portugalete as it heads back to the coast and on to Cantabria. Along the route there are many churches and hermitages that were important stopping places for the pilgrims.
  • Another important Basque town is Izura-Azme, or Ostabat-Asme. Four different Ways converged on this small town in Nafarroa Beherea.
  • The Way of St James was an important economic boost for the region. Drawing large numbers of pilgrims, it provided local businesses with customers. Because of this, some of the towns along the way grew in importance. In 1090, Sancho Ramírez gave special privileges to Estella, and the town reflects the high level of commerce that resulted in, for example, the development of Romanesque architecture. It was also a major vehicle through which ideas were exchanged, as pilgrims from all over Europe met and talked, spreading new ideas further than otherwise possible. The increased traffic also contributed to the rise of the merchant class.

Primary sources: Arozamena Ayala, Ainhoa [et al.]. Camino de Santiago. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Donejakue bidea Euskal Herrian, Wikipedia; Camino de Santiago, Wikipedia; French Way, Wikipedia; Full Camino del Norte from San Sebastian to Santiago,

The Story of Miguel Etulain

By John Etulain

Like many other Basques before and after him, my father, Miguel “Mike” Etulain, came to the United States and made a notable life for himself and his family.  In 1952, he arrived in the United States where he worked for his Uncle Juan Etulain in Sunnyside, Washington.  Juan was getting out of the sheep industry at the time, so Miguel eventually moved to the Columbia Basin where his Uncle Sebastian Etulain introduced him to Cal Courtright who worked in the cattle industry.  Miguel worked for Cal for the next 30 years managing the cattle feedlot.  In 1962, he went back to the Basque Country where he married Prudencia Iriarte from Amaiur and brought her to Warden, a small town in eastern Washington.  There they raised four children on the family farm.

His life in America was similar to many other Basques, but my dad had a different childhood which in many ways, shaped his life.  He was born 1930 in the town of Bera de Bidasoa, and lived in Hondarribia with his mother, Juanita, and two sisters, Asuncion and Carmen.  In September of 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Juanita took the family (and her sewing machine) and crossed over in a small boat from Irun to Hendaye.  They initially stayed with a friend in Hendaye then moved to Ciboure where my grandmother worked as a seamstress or any job she could find.  The family was taken in by two very kind sisters, Sabine Frisou Urrusmendi and Mayi Frisou Despax.  My aunt tells the story that when asked how much it would cost to rent a room, Mayi told Juanita to take care of the children first and they could figure rent out later.  The three of them lived in the single room for many years and were considered family.

A lady by the name of Pantxika Irastorza would deliver milk to Ciboure and took a liking to my father.  She asked him if he wanted to visit her farm and he said yes and soon would go to the farm whenever he could to work and help out.  My dad was very resourceful and clever.  He was given an old bicycle that he used to go back and forth to the farm, but had to be creative and use any old parts he could find to keep the bike going.  

The name of the farm was Tomaxenia and this is where another interesting part of my dad’s childhood began.  The farm was used by the network of local import/export men, also known as smugglers, and this how my dad got to know Florentino Goikoetxea.   During World War II, Florentino was one of the main individuals involved in the Comet Line.  The Comet Line was a resistance organization that guided Allied soldiers and downed pilots in occupied France and Belgium and smuggled them over the mountains to the British consulate in Bilbao where they would be transported back to Britain and the US.  Florentino worked on one of the farms and at night he guided many of the pilots over the mountains, across the Bidasoa river, and on to Bilbao.  He asked my dad if he would be willing to be a courier and my dad agreed but told no one.  My dad told me how he would carry documents from the Hotel Euskaldunak (located across from the train station in St. Jean de Luz) to the farm in Urrugne.  He would make the 6-kilometer trip either by foot or by bike. At times he not only carried documents, but also guided some of the downed pilots from St. Jean de Luz to the farm.  He would take off by foot or bike and the men would follow at a distance.  I am unsure how many trips he made, but the amazing part of the story is that my father would have been between 12 and 14 years old at the time, making him one of the youngest helpers of the Comet Line.

In 1952, my dad came to the US to build his life but did not speak much of what he did during the War.  In the late 70’s we had family from the Basque Country visiting us in Warden and a local paper had come out to run a story on the visitors from a foreign land.  My father mentioned some details about helping the Comet Line to the reporter and the reporter returned to write another story about Dad.  The story was picked up by the AP and soon he was receiving letters and clippings people had sent from other newspapers.  I was looking through some of dad’s papers and came across a folder containing some of these articles.  It also contained an article about the Comet line he had taken from Readers Digest and a photo of Kattaline Aguirre.  But the most important were three signed letters of accommodations he had received from Kattaline Aguirre (who worked at the Hotel Euskaldunak), Martin Hurtado and from Florentino Goikoetxea documenting his service. 

On trips back to the Basque Country, my dad did take me along the route and visited the farm.  I have since read up on the Comet line and have put together some of the pieces that he told me and items I read myself.  Dad would tell stories growing up during that time, the sacrifices that his mother made for the family, friends that he had, and the kindness of others.  He has been gone now for over three years but his example and the life lessons that he taught us are still with us today.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 144

“The British? The Portuguese?” exclaimed Kepa. “What the hell is going on?”

Maite heard what almost sounded like a sigh in the back of her head. “Do they teach you nothing at school?” mused Garuna almost dryly. “In 1813, the British and Portuguese besieged the city to expel the French occupiers.”

“Dammit!” cried Maite. “What are we supposed to do in the middle of a war zone?”

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!

“Begira!” exclaimed Kepa. “Look!”

Maite looked to where Kepa was pointing. A few smaller boats were leaving the larger ships and rowing to the island. Kepa couldn’t see for sure, but he imagined each was filled with soldiers.

“They’re coming this way!” he cried. 

“We can’t fight them,” said Maite. “We need to get off of the island.”

Kepa nodded as he grabbed Maite’s hand and dashed down the hill. The path they had taken up was gone, lost to time. Instead the way was covered with dense foliage. Kepa pushed branches aside, breaking them when he could to clear the way. He stumbled more than once on rocks that littered the ground.

“Ow!” He heard Maite cry out. Turning back, he saw her on the ground. His eyes widened when he saw blood staining the white sleeve of her dress.

“A branch ripped up my arm,” she said, teeth gritted, as Kepa helped her up. 

“We’re almost there,” replied Kepa. “Just a little further.”

Maite nodded as they continued their dash down the side of the island. They heard gunshots in the distance.

“They must have reached the island,” panted Maite.

A moment later they burst through the tree line. In front of them was the water. A small dock with a small boat lay invitingly in front of them. It was only then that Kepa noticed the French soldiers standing guard.

He quickly pulled Maite back into the trees. He counted three soldiers between them and the boat.

“What now?” he asked.

Maite looked down at her hands. They began to glow from the inside, such that she could see the veins and bones in her hand. She looked up at Kepa. “We have the power of the zatia.”

Kepa nodded. “I’ve only used it to blind people. I don’t know what else we can do.”

“We’ll figure it out. We don’t have any choice. Let me go first. They are less likely to shoot a woman.”

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 Garat Brothers, the Last Representatives of Lapurdi

The French Revolution and the subsequent reign of Napoleon was a tumultuous time that led to significant changes in and to the Basque Country. Before, the three provinces of Iparralde – Lapurdi, Zubero, and Nafarroa Beherea – had enjoyed some level of self-governance. For example, Lapurdi had the Biltzar, which was effectively a local parliament. The Garat brothers tried to maintain that unique position through the changes rocking France, and even proposed a unified Basque Country at one point.

The Garat brothers (younger left, older right). Photos from Wikipedia (younger and older).
  • Dominique (1735) and Dominique-Joseph (1749) Garat Hiriart were from Ustaritz, a small town near Baiona, in Lapurdi to Pierre Garat and Marie Hiriart. Pierre was a doctor. Dominique, some 14 years older than his brother, was called “the Old.”
  • Dominique the Old settled in Bordeaux, where he had studied law. As a speaker in the Bordeaux Parliament, he spoke passionately against the slave trade. His house became a prominent meeting place for local writers and artists, and it was during one of these gatherings that he met his future wife Françoise Gouteyron.
  • Dominique-Joseph, after also completing his law studies in Bordeaux, moved on to Paris where he was a journalist and an editor for Mercure de France. He also began to teach philosophy and literature.
  • Both brothers were elected to represent Lapurdi as part of the Third Estate in the Estates-General convened in 1789 in Versailles. Their primary goal was to maintain the political status quo of Lapurdi, as embodied by their General Meetings or Biltzar. Both brothers were swept away by the changes proposed by the assembly to get rid of all privileges, including the special foral customs of the Basques, which led to some criticism back home. Dominique the Old argued against incorporating the Basque provinces into a greater territory with Bearn, but his arguments fell on deaf ears.
  • Dominique-Joesph was appointed Minister of Justice in 1792 by Georges Danton. He was told to deliver to King Louis XVI his sentence of execution by guillotine. A year later, he became Minister of the Interior, a disastrous tenure that saw him unable to curb rampant corruption. He resigned in August of 1793.
  • Dominique the Old retired to Ustaritz, where he died in 1799. Before that, in 1795, he became president of the municipality, where he advocated, amongst other things, that a local teacher must know Basque so that the children don’t forget their language.
  • Dominique-Joseph continued in politics, even trying to convince Napoleon to create a united Basque region. He went so far as to propose that the river Ebro be rerouted to separate the southern Basque provinces from Spain. He wanted to call this new entity New Phoenicia. However, political and military realities caused the plan to be abandoned and forgotten. He eventually retired to Urdains, near Uztaritze, and died in 1833.

Primary sources: Dominique Joseph Garat, Wikipedia; End of Basque home rule in France, Wikipedia; Dominique Garat, Wikipedia; Dominique Joseph Garat, Wikipedia; Martínez Artola, Alberto. Garat, Dominique Joseph (1749-1833). Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Martínez Artola, Alberto; Batua Itzultzaile automatikoa; Arostegi, Agustín. Garat, Dominique (1735-1799). Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 143

Maite and Kepa slowly hiked up to the peak of Santa Klara. They were in no hurry. Neither relished the idea of hurtling into another bubble, another unknown time filled with new dangers. It felt like they had just gotten back from their excursion to future Bilbo and here they were, being asked to enter another bubble. While, physically, they were unaffected, as if they hadn’t gone, mentally these trips were a bit taxing.

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!

Once they got to the peak, they stopped to look back at the city. Their future home. 

“Do you ever wonder if we’ll make it back, if we’ll get stuck in one of these bubbles?” asked Kepa. 

Maite reached out and took his hand. “To be honest, as long as I’m with you, it doesn’t matter to me where we are. What time or place.”

Kepa sniffled back a tear. “Maite zaitut. I love you.”

Maite smiled. “Maite zaitut ere bai.”

They turned away from the water. In front of them flashed the white light that would take them to the next bubble. As it flashed, dark shadows bloomed in and out of the rocks and trees around them.

Kepa sighed. “Prest?”

Maite nodded. “Bai, prest nago.”

She heard a rumbling in the back of her mind. “Are you not going to ask me if I’m ready?” Garuna’s voice echoed through her skull.

Maite grimaced before mentally replying. “Ez. No, I’m not.”

Kepa, still holding Maite’s hand, reached out, his finger extended, toward the center of the light.

There was a bright flash, familiar and disconcerting, that temporarily blinded them. They heard before they could see explosions, seemingly coming from all sides. As their eyes adjusted, they saw a fleet of ships in the bay, canons pointing to the old part of the city. Explosions burst into flames. Maite and Kepa could hear screams from the distant walls.

“What the hell is going on?” yelled Kepa.

“The city is under attack!” exclaimed Maite.

“By who?” asked Kepa.

Maite vigorously shook her head. “Ez dakit!”

Garuna’s voice popped into her head again, eerily calm against the chaos that was erupting around them. “The flags on the ships….”

Maite looked at Kepa. “It’s the British and Portuguese!” 

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.

Review of Sons of the Dawn by Hank Nuwer

A long while back, I posted an announcement about Hank Nuwer’s novel Sons of the Dawn. He sent me a review of his novel by the writer David Allspaw which, much to my embarrassment, I never got to sharing. My apologies Hank. And I really, really need to read your book!

Sons of the Dawn Review

By David Allspaw

            I have never traveled to Idaho.  My familiarity of the state extends only to its rolling foothills and famous potatoes, which I hear are delicious.  I do not doubt that it is a gem of the American West (as the nickname implies), but I know no more about its defining characteristics than I do about a distant country such as Luxembourg.  For Midwestern folks like me, Idaho might as well reside in that Mountie-controlled territory to the North.

            Nor am I any more aware of the nuances of Spain and its native language.  I learned German in high school, which is about as far apart from Spanish as the entire span of the Pyrenees.  The people of Spain were never anything more to me than foreigners residing in an unfamiliar region.  The Spaniards’ idea of a national sporting event, I determined, is running from bulls in absurd outfits.  They cannot be trusted.

            With these thoughts in mind, I began reading Sons of the Dawn with the expectation that it would be a tedious and unsatisfying experience.  I would not even want to attempt to herd sheep myself in the rugged terrain and climate of Idaho, and I definitely did not want to read about some fictional character doing it.  My embarrassingly-limited knowledge of outdoors survival is a subject of frequent teasing by some of my friends, and it seemed that this story was about as relevant for me as a cookbook.  I was clenching my teeth and preparing for the expansive boredom to come.

            But it never arrived.  In fact, I can honestly say that this book was one of the most rewarding and illuminating reads that I have ever stumbled upon.  It was superb.

            The novel begins with an origin story that seems to have come straight out of Harry Potter.  A Spanish priest and his brother are hiking in the Pyrenees when an avalanche strikes below them, taking down a family caught in its path.  When the men arrive, they discover that two young boys, Anton and Nicky Ibarra, have survived in the air pockets created by their mother’s coat.  They are now orphans, and the priest assumes his seemingly God-granted duty of serving as the boys’ new guardian.  You can probably guess that these brothers are destined for something great, considering that they have only faint memories of their dead parents, inexplicably lived through a deadly event, and were raised by an unassuming, caring elder.  The story is not exactly original, but it serves to foreshadow the brothers’ ascent to hero-like status.

            Soon enough, Anton and Nicky are shipped off to their uncle’s ranch in Idaho to pursue lives as sheepherders.  While they chase the salary promised to them at the end of their herding obligation and the opportunity for owning land, they must contend with the brutal Idaho elements and the rancher thugs that attempt to kick them out of the territory.  After all, a war is on with the brothers’ native country of Spain, and these “black Bascos” are viewed as threats to the unbridled power of Uncle Sam.

            While Anton and Nicky’s adventures are entertaining, it is the deeply-authentic historical setting in which they take place that makes them believable.  The author’s penchant for integrating historical nuggets and events into the storyline is similar to how Spielberg set the Indiana Jones movies amidst the emergence of World War II, but Sons of the Dawn contains more substance and realism than a film ever could.  The history lessons here are much more intimate than the ones provided by a generic textbook, and I like them that way.  When you read about the Spanish soldiers scouring Guernica for young fighters and capturing two of the brothers’ best friends, you gain a profound perspective of what it was like to fight conscription in a war-consumed country.  Nuwer does not simply teach you the history of that time; he lets you live it through these characters.  And that approach could only have been so effective through the immense amount of firsthand experience and on-site research that the author brought to the story.

            In addition to the appeal to history buffs like me, the trials of sheepherding in a bygone era make this a memorable and absorbing read throughout.  Anton and Nicky may only be young boys, but they are tasked with the challenge of herding sheep through the rugged terrain and climate of Idaho without much initial training in the craft.  The brothers essentially arrive at the ranch, choose an eager young pup to serve as their aide, and head off into the unknown.  They receive food every few weeks from Tubal, the head ranch assistant, and are otherwise solely responsible for their own survival and the health of the sheep.  I cannot remember exactly what I was doing as a teenager, but I know that it was not even one-twentieth as arduous as the obstacles that these brothers have to overcome.  The boys make some costly mistakes along the way, and it is fascinating to read how Tubal dissects their errors and teaches them the proper techniques of herding.  Nicky and Anton’s maturation from young boys in their housekeeper and foster father’s care to seasoned ranchers is a crucial piece of the novel, and we as readers are able to take the journey with them.

            Of course, life alone in the Idaho wilderness would be unbearable without some humor mixed in.  The teasing and jokes from the brothers and Tubal are to be expected, but I think Nuwer overuses them throughout the book.  At some points, it seems as if the characters are rodeo clowns rather than serious sheepherders.  The capacity for the brothers to remain jovial after enduring so many hardships seems exaggerated, and it undermines the gritty realism that defines the story throughout.

Sons of the Dawn is precisely the kind of creative, historical fiction that my collection of literature has been lacking.  The story serves as a refreshing alternative to the Game of Thrones and Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired novels that litter the shelves of libraries and bookstores, as it is not dumbed-down or profane.  This is epic literature at its finest, and Nuwer’s cinematic style of writing brings to mind some of the great Western movies of the past.  The book could make a great film, but I am afraid that Hollywood’s commercial-driven mindset would cause it to be less like Shane and more like Blazing Saddles.  That kind of treatment would be unjust for a story so masterfully written.

            Ultimately, the novel serves as an entertaining insight into the histories of the U.S., Idaho, and Spain.  It provides an intimate look into the Basque identity, a group who is proud of its ancient tongue (according to the text, the Basque language is one of the oldest in the world and is thought to have existed since the Stone Age) and who desires independence from its Spanish counterparts.  The novel’s depiction of the discrimination faced by Chinese and Basque immigrants is striking, and it teaches us that blacks were not the only group who faced social resistance in the U.S.  If anything else, the frequent imagery of Idaho’s gorgeous scenery makes me want to travel there and see it for myself.

            And maybe eat a few potatoes too.

Basque Fact of the Week: Spectacular Waterfalls of the Basque Country

Waterfalls capture our imagination. Somehow, watching water crash hundreds of feet down the side of a cliff fills us with wonder. Indeed, last summer when we visited Costa Rica, waterfalls were one of the main attractions. The Basque County has its own share. I might have thought there would be even more grandiose waterfalls in Euskal Herria, given the mountainous terrain and the copious rain, but these still look breathtaking.

Some waterfalls of the Basque Country. Top left: Salto del Nervión (photo from Top right: Cascadas de la Tobería (photo from Bottom right: La Verna cave (photo from Cueva La Verna). Bottom left: Nacedero del Urederra (photo from El Diaro).
  • The Salto del Nervión is the highest single-drop waterfall in all of Spain. Falling 222 meters, or about 730 feet, this waterfall lies near the border between Araba and Burgos. The Mirador del Salto del Nervión, a view point to see the waterfall, is about 1.5 hours from Bilbao, and the closest city is Amurrio. The ruins of a monastery lie nearby. The waterfall sits where the Delika River is cut by the Delika Canyon. Fed by seasonal streams, water only falls a couple of months a year.
  • The Gujuli (or Goiuri) waterfall lies close by, also in the province of Araba near the town of Urcabustaiz. During the summer, there is little water flow, but during the rainy season, the Oiardo stream falls some 100 meters/328 feet.
  • The Tobería waterfalls are also in the province of Araba, near the town of Andoin, on the slopes of the Sierra de Entzia. Rather than a high drop, the Tobería falls is characterized by a fluvial flow over rather porous rock, leading to a cascading set of streams that flow over the rocks.
  • In the heart of the Parque Natural de Gorbeia in Bizkaia, near the town of Orozko, lies the Belaustegi waterfall. Though not very tall – only 30 meters/98 feet – this waterfall is situated in the middle of a beech forest, adding to the beauty of the area.
  • The tallest waterfall in Gipuzkoa is Aitzondo, in the natural park Peñas de Aia, near the town of Oiartzun, about 30 minutes from Donostia. This waterfall falls from a height of 140 meters/459 feet. The area is also known for its mining history, with the Irugurutzeta Furnaces nearby.
  • One of the most popular sites in Nafarroa is the Natural Reserve of Nacedero del Urederra. A series of waterfalls punctuated by pools of turquoise blue water, Urederra means beautiful water in Basque. Because of the delicate ecosystem, only 500 visitors are permitted each day. The Reserve is close to the historic city of Estella-Lizarra, so there is much to see.
  • In Iparralde, you can find the Gargantas de Kakueta. Situated in the Irati forest near the small town of Urdatx-Santa-Grazi in Zuberoa, it falls into a gorge carved by the Uhaitza River. Nearby is La Verna cave, a large underground room that was once considered for a hydroelectric project but which is now considered an exceptional geological site. It is the largest “show cave” – a cave open to the public – in the world.

Primary sources: Las 15 cascadas más espectaculares del País Vasco, Noradao; Ur-jauzi, Wikipedia

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 142

Kepa and Maite waited in line to board the ferry to Santa Klara island. The whole time they kept seeing flashes of light coming from the peak of the hill that formed the island.

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 shook his head. “It is so weird seeing something no one else can see. I almost feel like we are chasing ghosts.”

Maite nodded in agreement. “Quantum ghosts. I still can’t quite wrap my head around this whole mixing of magic and science. It doesn’t make much sense to me.”

“How does the saying go?” asked Kepa. “Any science advanced enough will seem like magic to those who don’t understand it?”

Maite laughed. “Something like that.” She paused a moment as they climbed onto the ferry. “You have a point. I just don’t understand this science, at least not yet.”

She felt a rumbling in the back of her head. Garuna was stirring. She wondered how much the AI understood about the science of these quantum bubbles. It was new to it too. In its home bubble, it might have been able to expend a huge amount of energy to process what it knew, but here, with only Maite’s body as an energy source, she doubted it could do much analysis at all. But, then again, she never would have thought that she would be hopping from time to time, popping quantum bubbles, and having an artificial intelligence taking up space in her mind.

Maite made her way to the rail, Kepa following in her wake. As the boat pulled from the dock, she just leaned against the rail, watching the beach in front of her. It was a nice warm day and La Concha was filled with people, young and old, just relaxing with seemingly no care in the world. Some were just lying there, others, particularly the younger kids, were dashing into the waves. She could almost hear them giggle. There were a few kayakers in the deeper waters. She made a mental note to try it whenever life settled down.

She sighed as Kepa snuggled up against her, his arm around her hip.

“It’s pretty,” he said.

“Bai.” Maite looked Kepa in the eyes. “Do you think we’ll ever get to enjoy peaceful moments like that again?”

Kepa’s eyes flashed surprise for a moment, struck by the sudden gravity of Maite’s question. He then turned back to look at the beach. After a moment he nodded.

“I do,” he replied. “I think we will find our own peace some day. It might take a while, but I think we’ll have our happily ever after.”

“How can you be so sure?” she asked in earnest, a slight panic in her voice. “What if we are chasing bubbles for the rest of our lives? What if this never ends?”

“I guess I can’t promise it will end,” said Kepa as he turned back to look at Maite. “But, I have a feeling it will. The zatia can’t be infinite – I don’t think it is either hydrogen or stupidity.”

Maite laughed as she let the sun warm her face.

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: Fashion Designer Paco Rabanne

Despite its relatively small size, the Basque Country seems to produce a disproportionate number of leaders and innovators. A prime example is the world of fashion, where two world-renowned designers – Cristóbal Balenciaga and Paco Rabanne – got their start. Rabanne, who’s mother worked for Balenciaga, viewed himself as a disciple of the more senior designer. However, Rabanne pushed even further beyond the boundaries of fashion – a revolutionary who brought new materials to his designs.

Paco Rabanne with two models. Photo from Architectural Digest.
  • Paco Rabanne, as he was known professionally, was born Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo on February 18, 1934 in Pasaia, Gipuzkoa. Pasaia is a small town just outside of Donostia. Rabanne’s father, Francisco Rabaneda Postigo, was a military officer from Andalusia while his mother, María Luisa Cuervo Fernandez, was a seamstress from Santander. Both were involved in the Communist party. His father became commander of the Communist battalion, Larrañaga, in the Basque army, fighting against Franco’s forces. He was captured and executed on July 15, 1937.
  • Rabanne’s mother became chief seamstress at the House of Balenciaga in Donostia. When Bilbo fell, Cuervo took her family to Barcelona, and when that city fell in 1939, she fled, with hundreds of thousands of others, to France. After years of hardship, in 1952 the family made their way to Paris. There, Rabanne entered l’École Nationale des Beaux-Arts to study architecture.
  • While studying, he designed accessories for some of the biggest fashion names of the time: Balenciaga, Courrèges, Pierre Cardin, and Givenchy. Under Balenciaga and inspired by his architect colleagues, Rabanne began experimenting with using metal and plastic in fashion.  He “went from architecture to fashion, making a synthesis of the two.”
  • In 1965, he launched his own brand and presented his first collection a year later. In his fashion designs, he pushed far beyond the conventional. Indeed, he want to go “as far as is reasonable for one’s time and not indulge in the morbid pleasure of the known things, which I view as decay… To be fixed in a concept is to become a living corpse.”
  • Amongst other notable achievements, Rabanne designed several of the costumes in the movie Barbarella. In addition to fashion, he had a line of fragrances, exhibited drawings, and wrote a book.
  • Rabanne was also known for his eccentricities. He claimed he was 75,000 years old and had lived many previous lives. He made several predictions based on visions, including that the space station Mir would crash into Paris.
  • Rabanne died on February 3, 2023, at the age of 88.

Primary sources: “Basque Fashion in Exile: Creativity and Innovation, from Balenciaga to Rabanne” by Miren Arzalluz, in The International Legacy of Lehendakari Jose A. Aguirre’s Government, edited by Xabier Irujo and Mari Jose Olaziregi; Paco Rabanne, Wikipedia.

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