Category Archives: Basque Fact of the Week

Basque Fact of the Week: Zugarramurdi, the Town of Witches

The year is 1609 in a small village at the very northern border of Nafarroa. The Inquisition has just descended on the quiet village, upending it as accusations of witchcraft fly about. Children describe strange rituals that involved Satan, cannibalism, and orgies. Primarily women, some in their eighties, but also men, including priests, are accused […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Jaun Zuria, the White Lord

Last week, I introduced the House of Haro and the first Lords of Bizkaia. The mythical first Lord of Bizkaia was Jaun Zuria, the White Lord. Jaun Zuria is a foreigner, of Scottish ancestry. I find it interesting that the Basque legends rely upon a foreign figure to establish the Lordship of Bizkaia. Why invoke […]

Basque Fact of the Week: The House of Haro and the Lords of Bizkaia

I have to admit that, whenever I look into the medieval history of the Basque Country, I quickly get lost. There are simply so many players, so many changing alliances, and so many intermarriages that it is hard for me to keep track – theoretical physics is easier! However, one thing is clear: the importance […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Basque Adventurer Marga d’Andurain

Adventurer. A spy, maybe for the British, maybe for the Nazis. Smuggler, black marketeer. Concubine? Marga d’Andurain was many things, though the details of her life have become too blurred between fact and fiction to know the whole truth. Men, including two husbands, died in her wake. She certainly was an adventurous soul that couldn’t […]

Basque Fact of the Week: The Agotes, Outcasts of the Western Pyrenees

All over the world, people have a tendency to demonize others, to view others as different, as inferior, as outcasts. In Japan, there are the Burakumin; in India, the Dalit. Sometimes there is an ethnic or religious component to this marginalization, but not always. In Europe, there is a group of people who have been […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Kattalin Agirre, Member of the French Resistance

Not long ago, we learned about Florentino Goikoetxea, a mugalari – a smuggler – who helped fugitives cross the French-Spanish border during World War II. Of course, he didn’t act alone. Those fugitives needed a place to stay, and sometimes heal, before they could make the crossing. That was the role of people like Kattalin […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Mutiloa

Blas Antonio Telleria Goya, my great-grandfather and my namesake, was from Mutiloa, Gipuzkoa. His story is a bit shrouded in mystery – family lore says he was a merchant marine that jumped ship in Argentina and made his way north, but he also appears in the manifests on Ellis Island. In any case, we really […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Sugaar, the Serpent-God Consort of Mari

Much of what the ancient Basques believed about the world around them has been lost to time. Without a written record, we don’t know what beings or deities they worshipped, certainly not to the same extent as the Greek or Norse pantheons. While it seems the Basques believed in a Mother-Earth goddess – Mari – […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Pelota Vasca

While the Basques aren’t the first and only people to play ball games, they have made their own unique imprint on this versatile sport. Pelota a mano, or handball, is the most popular version played today in the Basque Country – when my aunt and uncle ran the Herriko Taberna in Munitibar, it was always […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Charles de Salaberry, Hero of Canada

It’s often easy to forget the role that France, and along with them the Basques from Iparralde, had in the history of North America. From Louisiana to Canada, Iparraldetarrak had an enormous hand in shaping the history of the continent. One dramatic example comes from Quebec, in which the grandson of a Basque military officer […]