The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 124

Latxe jabbed and swiped at her tablet. A bridge started materializing across the gap between the balcony and the building across the way. It wasn’t very wide, and didn’t look very secure, just floating like that.

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!

“We can’t go,” protested Maite. “We have to get that zatia.”

“And we will,” replied Latxe. “This will just make him think we left.”

“Ah…” began Maite before Latxe interrupted her.

“We need a good hiding place, away from this room.”

“My room,” said Maite pointing to the door across the way. “Is that far enough?”

“It will have to be,” said Latxe as she ushered them all into the room Maite had been calling home the last few days. In the background, they continued to hear de Lancre’s rampage, as lightning crashed into walls from the floor below.

“Now what?” asked Maite.

“I’m going to bring the building down on him.” She swiped at her tablet. The door open, Maite and Kepa watched as a thin gap appeared around the edge of the room outside, starting at both ends and quickly marching across the perimeter. 

“The nanobots are eating away the entire support of the floor?” Kepa asked, barely containing his amazement.

Latex nodded. “The whole floor will fall in bat… bi…”

Before she could say “hiru” the floor suddenly fell. They could all hear screaming and shouting from below and then a loud thud as the floor smashed into the floor below them.

“Hopefully that takes care of…” began Latxe before lightning burst through the cavernous hole in front of them, arcing and spraying in all directions. The three of them huddled into the back of Maite’s room. 

“We’re trapped!” exclaimed Maite. 

Latxe jabbed at her tablet and in moments an opening appeared in the back of Maite’s room. 

“Let’s go,” said Latxe as she entered the darkness in front of her. “Even if we didn’t get him, he’ll think we escaped across the bridge and hopefully chase us there.”

“We need to get to his suite,” said Maite. “I’m sure that is where he’ll keep the zatia.”

Latxe nodded as she continued to swipe at the tablet. “Which way?”

Maite shrugged. “I’m not sure. I’ve never been there…”

“Hold on a moment,” said Latxe as she stared at her tablet, poking at the screen. “Here,” she said, holding it up and displaying a map of the floor. “I assume this large room here is his.”

“How?” began Maite.

“The nanobots. They can do more than build and destroy. I used them to map the floor.”

Kepa shook his head. “Like magic.”

Latxe laughed. “Except, it’s not.”

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

Fighting Basques: Alberto Arregui: From Chile to Normandy through Paris to the Heart of the Third Reich

This article originally appeared in Spanish at Euskalkultura.eus on May 27, 2022.

A young Alberto Arregui (left), just 17 years old, poses with his father, Gipuzkoan Francisco Arregui, and his brother Eduardo, around 1930, in Lima, Peru. (Photo courtesy of Marita Arregui).

As the Basque-Chilean musician Alberto Arregui contemplated the Statue of Liberty as he entered the Port of New York, the words of Carl Vincent Krogmann, the mayor of the German city of Hamburg, echoed in his head, “Why did you not join us in the salute? Do you not feel sympathy with our cause?” [1]. Alberto — who was fluent in French, German, English and Flemish, in addition to his native Spanish — was working for the Chilean Consulate in Hamburg, when he was forced to flee Germany to save his life [2] .

During a reception organized by the Consulate, Krogmann, who had been invited to the event, gave a speech about the superiority of German culture. The mayor concluded his talk with the usual Nazi salute of “Heil Hitler.” The attendees responded to the greeting by raising their arms. However, Alberto did not. The next morning, two Gestapo men delivered a notice to the Consulate ordering Alberto to leave the country within 24 hours [3]. His time in Nazi Europe had come to an end. On January 20, 1943, Chile broke off relations with the Axis.

From Antwerp to New York via Hamburg

Alberto’s European journey had begun in 1939. Being a tenor, he had come to Europe to continue his music studies. At the university in the Belgian city of Antwerp, he studied for a couple of years, until the invasion of Belgium by Germany — beginning on May 10, 1940 — and their subsequent occupation of the country interrupted his studies. Antwerp was targeted by both the German Luftwaffe from the start of the war as well as by the Allied air forces in their attempt to dissuade Nazi forces from taking control of the city’s strategic port.

Marita Arregui, Alberto’s daughter, told us about a painting she has in her house that was painted during the war by Emil Kammerer, “a Jewish man whose daughter my father got out of Belgium saying she was his wife. This man gave this to my father in recognition to taking his daughter to Irún.” This act speaks for itself of Alberto’s humanity and courage. Following the invasion, the persecution of Belgian Jews began very early, first by excluding them from economic and public life and then followed by their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. It is estimated that 25,000 of them were killed [4]. After Antwerp, Alberto had the opportunity to resume his studies, this time in Hamburg, being employed at the Chilean Consulate.

Portrait of Alberto Arregui in the uniform of a United States Army soldier painted by Emil Kammerer in 1945. Although the whereabouts of the Kammerers are unknown, Alberto certainly continued in contact with them during or at the end of the war which, apparently and fortunately, they survived (photo courtesy of Marita Arregui).

“Echoes of two wars, 1936-1945” aims to disseminate the stories of those Basques and Navarrese who participated in two of the warfare events that defined the future of much of the 20th century. With this blog, the intention of the Sancho de Beurko Association is to rescue from anonymity the thousands of people who constitute the backbone of the historical memory of the Basque and Navarre communities, on both sides of the Pyrenees, and their diasporas of emigrants and descendants, with a primary emphasis on the United States, during the period from 1936 to 1945.

THE AUTHORS
Guillermo Tabernilla
is a researcher and founder of the Sancho de Beurko Association, a non-profit organization that studies the history of the Basques and Navarrese from both sides of the Pyrenees in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II. He is currently their secretary and community manager. He is also editor of the digital magazine Saibigain. Between 2008 and 2016 he directed the catalog of the “Iron Belt” for the Heritage Directorate of the Basque Government and is, together with Pedro J. Oiarzabal, principal investigator of the Fighting Basques Project, a memory project on the Basques and Navarrese in the Second World War in collaboration with the federation of Basque Organizations of North America.

Pedro J. Oiarzabal is a Doctor in Political Science-Basque Studies, granted by the University of Nevada, Reno (USA). For two decades, his work has focused on research and consulting on public policies (citizenship abroad and return), diasporas and new technologies, and social and historical memory (oral history, migration and exile), with special emphasis on the Basque case. He is the author of more than twenty publications. He has authored the blog “Basque Identity 2.0” by EITB and “Diaspora Bizia” by EuskalKultura.eus. On Twitter @Oiarzabal.

Josu M. Aguirregabiria is a researcher and founder of the Sancho de Beurko Association and is currently its president. A specialist in the Civil War in Álava, he is the author of several publications related to this topic, among which “La batalla de Villarreal de Álava” (2015) y “Seis días de guerra en el frente de Álava. Comienza la ofensiva de Mola” (2018) stand out.

Stopping Hitler

Immediately after landing in New York in September 1943, Alberto headed to the nearest army recruiting center with the sole goal in mind of stopping Adolf Hitler. “A story that reads like that one of the Knights of King Arthur’s Court going to fight in the Crusades is that of Alberto H. Arregui, of Lima, Peru,” wrote Private David A. Bridewell in a November 1943 military newspaper about the man who would become his comrade in arms. “His experiences in Germany and his observation of conditions in Europe,” Bridewell explained, “convinced him that Nazism should be crushed, and he should help the allies by fighting with them” [5].

However, his hope of enlisting was momentarily dashed. The recruiting agent turned him down not only because he was a foreigner but because he was not registered with the Selective Service System, which required at the time that all men between the ages of 21 and 45 register for compulsory military service. “A letter written by the American Embassy in Peru cleared these hurdles for him” [6]. After the draft center, Alberto was sent to a local draft board in New York City. Skipping the times established by the protocols, Alberto even rejected the mandatory three-week leave granted to all recruits to be able to organize their civil affairs before joining military life. He just wanted to join the army. There was no time to lose. Alberto was admitted on September 25, 1943 in New York City. He was 30 years old.

From Gipuzkoa to Peru, passing through Chile

The son of Francisco Arregui Berasaluce and Adela Herrera Heredia, Alberto was born on March 15, 1913 in Santiago de Chile. Francisco, born in 1886 in the Belozaki farmhouse in Mendaro, Gipuzkoa, had emigrated to Chile around 1908, following in the footsteps of his cousins. He made his way via Mendoza, Argentina, crossing the Andes mountain range by the Puente del Inca. “He was very proud of his Basque heritage,” Marita confessed to us. It was a legacy that he faithfully passed on to his descendants.

His mother was born in 1890 in Santa Rosa de Los Andes, Valparaíso, Chile, to a Spanish family settled in Los Andes, San Felipe. It was in Adela’s hometown that Alberto’s parents married in 1910, subsequently establishing their domicile in the country’s capital. Alberto’s siblings were born there: Eduardo in 1911 and Inés in 1919. By that time, Santiago de Chile had become an important destination for Basque emigration. In fact, in 1912 the Basque community in the city had founded the Centro Vasco, which celebrated 110 years of uninterrupted existence this year. In 1915, part of the Basque community of Valparaíso organized the Chilean Basque Center for Mutual Aid [7].

Adela died in 1919 giving birth to Inés, a tragic event that marked Alberto for life. He was six years old at the time, while Eduardo was eight (his father died in 1976, in Lima; Eduardo had died a year earlier). Around 1920 the family moved to Peru, with Alberto and his brother staying in Santiago de Chile, where they were interned at the Colegio de San Ignacio for a few years. Summers were spent in Chillán, in the south of Chile, at the home of relatives. Around 1928, Alberto and his brother moved permanently to Lima, where their father had a felt hat factory, Industrial Sombrerera S.A., founded in 1928. In 1931 he opened another factory, also in Lima, under the name of Arregui y Cía S.A.

Liberating Europe

Once enlisted, Alberto was sent from New York to Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma, for training with the 29th Field Artillery Battalion. He would finally be assigned to Battery B of that battalion.

Alberto Arregui poses with a Thompson submachine gun, possibly during his training period (courtesy Marita Arregui).

The 29th Battalion was the main fire support for the 4th Division’s 8th Infantry Regiment since its deployment to the European Theater of Operations. According to the commander of the 29th, Joel T. Thomason, “The battalion with a 15% over strength to cover initial casualties, consisted of about 700 men including 45 officers. The unit was equipped with self-propelled 105 mm howitzers, M-7s” [8]. M105 howitzers were mounted on M7 tracked vehicles. In the words of Irving Smolens, Alberto’s partner in Battery B, “The normal crew for a gun consisted of 12 men. Six men were designated as the “active” crew, and six were designated as ‘reserve.’ Only 3 men were actually needed,” Smolens clarified, “to aim, load, and fire the gun once it was in position” [9].

During World War II, the 29th participated in five major campaigns — Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe — in four countries — France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany [10].

Normandy: Landing on D-Day at Utah Beach

“As the darkness gave way to early morning light, I could see a vast armada of boats and ships of all types; it was an awe-inspiring sight. They were so numerous that it appeared one could walk from England to France on them. The atmosphere was electric with excitement and that was my feeling- – one of great excitement. This was the day for which we had trained and awaited so long” [11]. This is how Thomason described the first wave of the H-Hour D-Day assault.

Alberto and his comrades from the 29th Artillery Battalion had arrived in Axminster, England, in January 1944, beginning intense amphibious training at Slapton Sands between February and May. They became the first artillery unit to land on Utah Beach, Normandy, on D-Day. “During the invasion,” Private Smolens explained, “the batteries would fire [high trajectory shells onto the invaded beaches in close support of our infantry] from the deck of the LCT’s [Landing Craft Tanks]. Our M7’s were loaded on the LCT’s two in front, and two in back, each with their ‘active’ crew. The ‘reserve’ crews were located on other boats” [12].

John C. Ausland, liaison officer with the 29th, arrived on the same landing craft as Colonel James Van Fleet, commander of the 8th Infantry Regiment, on the initial assault on Utah Beach. He wrote how “the sound of loud explosions from aircraft bombs and naval shells left no doubt that the beach was an inferno… When the landing craft hit the beach and the front ramp went down, I waded through some shallow water and ran to the shelter of the seawall that ran along the beach – barely glancing at several soldiers who were lying on the sand as though asleep. I could hear rifle and machine-gun fire beyond the dunes, and some mortar shells fell not too far away” [13]. Ausland’s mission on the ground was to guide the 29th’s three artillery batteries into firing positions. However, he soon learned from Thomason that one of the batteries had been destroyed.

In the image a group of landing craft LCT (5) in the Port of Falmouth, England, during May and June 1944, in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The LCT-209 is loaded with two M26 Armored Heavy Tank Transporter/Tank Recovery Tractors. (Photo from US National Archives; NavSource Naval History, http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/18/1018020902.jpg).

During the first hours of the invasion, the 29th lost an entire gun battery when the landing craft (LCT-5) carrying it collided with an enemy mine floating a mile offshore. This was the assault element of Battery B, which consisted of four howitzers. It sank almost immediately. This was reported by Peter N. Russo, a witness to that event, and at that time a member of Battery C; later when Battery B was reformed, Russo would be transferred to the new Battery B, as crew chief of the number one artillery piece.

“Daylight was now approaching and the volume of planes flying overhead was noticed. Bombs were landing on the beach, in hopes of destroying enemy guns emplacements. The Navy guns joined in pelting the same area. […] Our attention was diverted by a large boom to our left flank and not more than 50 feet to our center. The boom was followed by a huge puff of smoke. B Battery was leading the Battalion Artillery toward the landing site on Normandy. It struck a mine in the water and was gone. We could see very little debris and a few bodies as we rode by. All on our landing craft tanks were up and looking at what was left of B Battery personnel, the landing craft and the equipment. Sea sickness was replaced with horror and fear. We were introduced to our first combat exposure. We focused on the enemy artillery rippling along our landing zone and thought about the losses to be added to that of B Battery. […] Not a sound was to be heard on this craft until we landed. We became seasoned veterans before one round was fired in support of our Infantry” [14].

As described by John K. Lester, another member of Battery B and a Jeep driver for a forward observation party, “When I reached the beach on another landing craft and learned of the loss, I was devastated. How quickly I lost so many good friends and buddies. What a way to enter into conflict. The rest of that day draws a blank. I can’t recall much of anything. […] We didn’t know what was happening. Everything was very confused” [15].

A total of 59 officers and soldiers were wounded, with 39 killed. The remaining 20 were seriously injured to such an extent that only 3 or 4 were able to return to active duty and rejoin their comrades months later. The 29th “had lost one-third of its firepower before we even entered combat… That was a great tragedy,” Thomason stated [16]. The reason Alberto and the rest of his mates from Battery B, including Smolens, survived was that they were not ‘active’ personnel and were held in reserve on another ship. In the late afternoon, towards nightfall, Alberto and the remaining men of Battery B were transported to the beach. They had been very lucky. As Thomason noted, “Of the 28,000 men landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, the total casualties were remarkably light — just under 200. Unfortunately about one-third of that number came from one small artillery battalion — the 29th Field Artillery Battalion” [17]. The 29th was awarded the Presidential Citation for their part on D-Day in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

From the Liberation of Paris to Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945

As its main fire support unit, the 29th Artillery Battalion continued to support the 8th Infantry Regiment during 11 months of combat in continental Europe, taking part in the capture of Cherbourg, the drive towards St. Lo., the liberation of Paris and Belgium, at the entry into Germany in September 1944, at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, at the crossing of the Rhine River in March 1945, and at the end of the war in Bavaria in May 1945. Due to the fierce fight carried out in the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest by the 29th, they were baptized by the Wehrmacht as “The beasts of the Hürtgen Forest.” Right at the beginning of this battle, the Basque-New Yorker Julián Oleaga, a soldier from Company B of the 1st Battalion of the 18th Regiment of the mythical 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” was wounded in combat on the outskirts of the city Aachen on September 18, 1944, for which he received the Purple Heart. Almost a year after his desperate flight from Nazi Europe, Alberto returned to Belgium and Germany, this time as a liberator.

“Somewhere in Germany, April 1945” reads the title of the photograph in which Alberto Arregui poses in a relaxed attitude (Photo courtesy of Marita Arregui).

The 29th Battalion also contributed its support to the French 2nd Armored Division in the liberation of Paris. “I was with the first Americans in Paris on August 25, 1944,” enthused Lester, a soldier from Battery B. “That was a most exciting day” [18]. According to his companion Smolens, “We were then designated as the division to liberate Paris, along with the 2nd French Armored Division. Our forward units, according to infantrymen with whom I have spoken, could have entered the city before the French, but were told to wait for the French. We penetrated to the heart of the city, around Notre Dame, the Place de La Concorde, the Hotel de Ville, and the notorious Police Headquarters. We were denied the honor of parading down the Champs Elysee. Our job was chasing Germans across the Seine River and Belgium, and into Germany” [19].

Alberto Arregui riding a Jeep from the French 2nd Armored Division, presumably in Paris, after its liberation (photo courtesy Marita Arregui).

The 29th Artillery Battalion fired a total of 182,000 rounds of ammunition at the enemy in Europe. The 4th Division returned to the United States in July 1945 to prepare for the invasion of Japan. However, the war ended before the invasion could take place [20]. Alberto and his companions were repatriated and Battery B was deactivated on February 14, 1946 at Camp Butter, North Carolina.

Alberto was discharged with honors with the rank of technical sergeant. Like all veterans of the US Armed Forces honorably discharged in World War II, Alberto also received a letter of recognition signed by President Harry S Truman [21].

“My father,” confessed Alberto’s daughter to us, “was very reserved specially when it came to the war and what happened during those years.” The testimonies of his comrades from Battery B that we have collected here speak for the silences that drowned Alberto’s voice for much of his life and faithfully convey to us the sensations of the first moments of the invasion of Normandy and the liberation of Paris.

Alberto received the American Defense Medal, the American Theater Medal, the European Theater of Operations ribbon with bronze arrowhead and five campaign stars, the German Army of Occupation Medal with clasp, the Presidential Citation, the Belgian War Cross, and the World War II Victory Medal. Despite his service to the country, he never obtained US citizenship.

He more than fulfilled the mission that prompted him to travel to New York for the first time. It was time to go home. Hamburg mayor Krogmann was arrested and interned in Bielefeld, Germany; he was fined 10,000 marks in August 1948 for belonging to a criminal organization. He was subsequently released. He passed away in 1978, at the age of 89.

From the United States to Lima, Peru

Upon his return to Lima, Alberto joined the family business. Unfortunately, his musical career was over. He became a Peruvian citizen after the war when he started working in the factory. In 1946 he met his future wife, La Vern Betty De Ny (born 1920 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, died 1995, in Lima) while she was visiting an uncle of hers who worked for City Bank in Lima.

They married in 1949 in La Vern’s hometown, establishing their residence in Lima. They had two children during their marriage: Francisco (Lima, 1951-2007) and Marita. Alberto directed the two family factories until his retirement.

Photo of the Arregui-De Ny family in 1960. From left to right: Marita, La Vern, Francisco, and Alberto. (Photo courtesy of Marita Arregui)

Alberto died in 1980 at the Clinica Anglo Americana in Lima, at the age of 67. In 2016, his sister Inés passed away, the last person of the first generation of the Arregui family born in Chile.

“Unfortunately, many things went unsaid and now more than ever I wish they would have been answered,” concludes Marita. “My father was a very extraordinary person, but two events marked his life. His mother’s premature death and the war. It’s not only fighting during the war but living a life after having taken part in it and live along side with the burdens and nightmares of a war. I always felt there were two Alberto Arregui, one covering up the other,” she asserts.

Just after the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, in a context marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we want to remember all those men and women whose sacrifice made it possible to liberate Europe from the clutches of Nazi totalitarianism, and very particularly of those of Basque origin like Alberto, who, from different countries of the Basque diaspora, whether they were Argentina, Chile, Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico or Uruguay, joined the allied forces.

References

[1, 3, 5, 6] Bridewell, David Alexander. “Modern ‘Knight’ trains for his crusade after arguing way into Army”. (November 5, 1943). Bridewell (Forrest City, Arkansas, 1909-1999, Winnetka, Illinois) served in Battery B of the 29th Field Artillery Battalion and as a captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

[2] In 1940, Miguel Cruchaga Ossa was appointed Consul General of Hamburg. He was replaced by Eugenio Palacios Bate on November 18, 1940. (Archivo General Histórico del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores del Gobierno de Chile (https://www.minrel.gob.cl/ministerio/archivo-general-historico); (https://www.archives.gov/iwg/research-papers/breitman-chilean-diplomats.html).

[4] “Antwerp commemorates World War II

[7] Oiarzabal, Pedro J. (2012). “En nuestro propio mundo”. Basque Identity 2.0., EITB

[8, 11, 16, 17, 20] Thomason, Joel T. (April 30, 1994). “The 29th Field Artillery”. Thomason was appointed commander of the 29th Battalion on September 1, 1942, at the age of 24. On June 12, 1944, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

[9, 12] Smolens, Irving. “Reflections of a crew member

[10] “29th Field Artillery Regimental History”; and Smolens, Irving. “29th Artillery Battalion played big role in Fourth Div. actions.” USTS Hermitage Newspaper. (July 1945)

[13] Ausland, John C. “A soldier remembers Utah Beach.” The International Herald Tribune. (June 6, 1984). He is the author of “Letters home: A war memoir” (1993).

[14] Russo, Peter N. “The Great Pinochle Game!

[15, 18] Lester, John K. “I served with the 4th Infantry Division during World War II

[19] Smolens, Irving. “B Bty, 29th FA Battalion. D-Day and Beyond…!

[21] Harry S Truman had also been trained in the Field Artillery at Fort Sill, commanding Company D of the 129th Field Artillery during the World War I.

Collaborate with ‘Echoes of two wars, 1936-1945.’

If you want to collaborate with “Echoes of two wars” send us an original article on any aspect of WWII or the Civil War and Basque or Navarre participation to the following email: sanchobeurko@gmail.com

Articles selected for publication will receive a signed copy of “Combatientes Vascos en la Segunda Guerra Mundial.”

Basque Fact of the Week: The Great Basque Anthropologist, Ethnologist, and Historian Julio Caro Baroja

It hasn’t been all that long that Basque studies started delving into Basque prehistory and the myths and legends that shaped the Basque world view. José Miguel de Barandiaran Ayerbe was a pioneer in these efforts, but he didn’t work alone and his student, Julio Caro Baroja – the nephew of one of the greatest writers of the early 1900s – followed in his footsteps and beyond, scouring the Basque countryside for any tidbit he could find, expanding our own view of what it means to be Basque.

Julio Caro Baroja. Photo found on Laicacota.
  • Caro Baroja was born in Madrid on November 13, 1914, to Rafael Caro Raggio and Carmen Baroja. Rafael was the founder of the publishing house Editorial Caro Raggio while Carmen was an accomplished ethnographer and writer. His uncles were Pio and Ricardo. Though born in Madrid, Julio spent much of his childhood in the Nafarroan town of Bera with his uncle Pio. He published his first essay, on the nature and importance of the house in the town of Lesaka, when he was 15.
  • Even before starting his doctorate, he was working with Basque ethnographers José Miguel Barandiarán and Telesforo de Aranzadi. He got his doctorate in 1940 in ancient history and published his first book shortly after in 1941. He obtained a position with the Museo del Pueblo Español and spent time in the United State and the United Kingdom studying both anthropology and ethnology.
  • In his work, Caro Baroja chased every aspect of life, of the people, to derive the most complete picture of humans and their cultural world. He examined every scrap of information he could find, from “the testimony of a witch, the letter of a conqueror, the anecdote told by the old Basque sea dog, everything is an expression of a humanity that tries to live its finite and fragile little life in a complicated and difficult world.” In his work, he railed against speculation, striving to document and base his interpretations and arguments on evidence.
  • He had a particular interest in witchcraft, which grew from a childhood where the people around him believed in the supernatural. This eventually led to his book The World of the Witches, which looks beyond the Basque Country to the history of witchcraft in Europe more broadly, though with an emphasis on Basque witches.
  • Caro Baroja published some 30 books and many more monographs, articles, and essays, many dealing with the Basque Country. A collection of his essays, translated into English and downloadable for free, was published by the Center for Basque Studies Press. His life’s work, Los Vascos (The Basques), also downloadable, touches on all aspects of Basque culture, from the nature of Basque towns and their economies to the social life of the Basques.
  • In addition to his interests in the Basques, Caro Baroja also researched and published on minority communities, including the crypto-Jews and the Moors of Granada. In fact, when he was inducted into the Real Academia de la Historia, his speech dealt with the topic of the crypto-Jews.
  • Caro Baroja died on August 18, 1995, in Bera. By that time, he had received numerous accolades for his work, including being named to multiple academies such as Euskaltzaindia (the Royal Academy of the Basque Language). He received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Social Sciences and a square in Donostia is named for him.

Primary sources: Izaga Garmendia, Carmen [et al.]. Caro Baroja, Julio. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at: https://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/en/caro-baroja-julio/ar-26703/; Julio Caro Baroja, Wikipedia (English); Julio Caro Baroja, Wikipedia (Spanish). The blog Laicacota collected a number of remembrances of Caro Baroja after his death in 1995.

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 123

Not sure if anyone missed this since I didn’t get a chance to post last week, but just in case, here is an extra long installment… 🙂

De Lancre stood in the shattered door frame, his face glowing in a sickly pale blue light as shadows danced across his features. His hands, held up and by his side, crackled with the same lightning that Maite remembered from their first encounter, the same lightning that de Lancre had used to literally fry Blas Telleria to death. She repressed a gag as the smell of burning flesh suddenly came back to her.

“I’m starting to get tired of this magic bullshit,” said Latxe as she stared at the snarling man at the end of the hall. 

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 can fix that!” barked de Lancre as he thrust his hand forward and a lightning bolt burst from his open palm. 

Latxe jabbed at her tablet and suddenly a metal wall appeared between them and de Lancre, intercepting the lightning bolt before it could reach them. She jabbed a few more times and an opening appeared in the floor behind them.

“Come on,” yelled Kepa as he grabbed Maite’s hand. “Goazen! Let’s go.”

Maite shook her head. “Ez, that’s where he’ll think we went.” She pointed over at the balcony. “That way.”

Kepa nodded as Maite led him and Latxe away from the hole in the floor and to the balcony, where they hid behind the wall. They could feel the heat on the metal wall Latxe had conjured intensify, until it suddenly melted into a pool of slag. Maite dared a peak around the wall and was stunned to watch de Lancre walk through the molten metal seemingly without harm. He reached the hole in the floor and, without hesitation, jumped into it.

Latxe was looking over the balcony’s railing. “I think I can have the nanobots build us a bridge over to the neighboring building.”

Maite shook her head again, turning to Kepa. “He has the zatia. It’s here, in his suite.”

“You saw it?” asked Kepa incredulously.

Maite nodded. “He’s had it for a while. He’s keeping it so he can relish his life in this bubble.”

Latxe looked at Kepa. “What is she talking about? What bubble?”

Kepa looked at Latxe, sadness in his eyes.

“This world…” he began, but he couldn’t bring himself to finish.

Maite turned to Latxe, taking her hand in hers. “This world isn’t real,” she said. “It’s a parallel timeline created by a magical fragment.”

Latxe laughed. “Not real?” she asked, laughing. “What do you mean it’s not real?” She punched Maite in the shoulder. “Didn’t that feel real?”

“It is real,” interjected Kepa, “but it isn’t supposed to exist.”

“This world isn’t meant to exist?” repeated Latxe, shaking her head. The laughter had left her voice, replaced by a rising tide of panic. “Are you saying I’m not meant to exist?”

“You are meant to exist,” answered Maite in a quiet voice that she hoped was soothing. If they were going to get out of this, they needed Latxe’s help. “Just not in this timeline.”

“I don’t understand. What do you mean ‘this timeline’?”

“Magical fragments have been cast across time and space,” replied Maite. “Every where they end up splits into a bubble of time, separate from the main timeline. Whenever these fragments, these zatia, are recovered, that bubble pops.”

“So, this reality will end,” added Kepa, “but you still live in the main timeline.”

Latxe slumped to the ground. In the background, she heard various explosions as de Lancre rampaged in the lower floors, looking for them. She looked up at Maite, and then Kepa, tears in her eyes. “How far back does this bubble go?”

Maite shook her head as she knelt down next to Latxe. “We don’t know. Whenever the zatia arrived, but we don’t know when that happened.”

Latxe looked out over the city. “All of this will just disappear once you get the zatia thing?”

Maite nodded. “Yes, but you’re still alive in the main timeline.”

“But this life will be gone,” Latxe stated more than asked.

Maite nodded again. “I’m afraid so.”

“And he let this timeline go on for his own entertainment?” asked Latxe, rage growing inside of her. “He could have ended this, but chose not too? Force us to live these false lives, knowing at some point he would end them all? He let all of us suffer for his own amusement?”

Maite looked at Kepa, who looked down at Latxe. All he could do was nod.

Latxe stood, anger etched into her face. “Then let’s destroy that bastard.”

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

Basque Fact of the Week: José Miguel de Barandiaran Ayerbe, the Great Patriarch of Basque Culture

The Basques converted to Christianity relatively late compared to many of their neighbors, and before that they had a complex and fascinating mythology that involved a myriad of creatures and powerful beings that impacted the daily life of the people dotting the Basque coast. Much of what we know about that mythology – and Basque prehistory more generally – can be traced to the efforts of one man, a priest who grew up in the most modest of conditions: José Miguel de Barandiaran Ayerbe.

Barandiaran at his desk. Photo from The Jose Miguel de Barandiaran Foundation.
  • Barandiaran was born in the Gipuzkoan village of Ataun on December 31, 1889 to Francisco Antonio Barandiaran and María Antonia Ayerbe. He was the youngest of nine children. He grew up in a world where Euskara was the language of the home and the street and Spanish was for rich and learned people. Remnants of mythological beings sprinkled the countryside. The children believed that lamia, basajaun, and tartalo used to roam the region. At the village school, the children were forbidden to speak Euskara. Whoever did, was given a ring. The ring passed to the next student to speak Euskara. At the end of the day, the child holding the ring would be punished.
  • At the urging of his mother, he began studies to be a priest when he was 14, being ordained in 1914 at the age of 24. He joined the seminary of Vitoria-Gasteiz two years later as a science teacher, where he taught, amongst other subjects, physics and chemistry.
  • Not long after becoming a priest, Barandarian began his ethnographic studies of the Basques and their culture. Barandiaran was extremely prolific, publishing a large number of articles and books over his career – nearly 250 in total. Of particular note is the large collection of Basque folk tales that he collected, often directly from the tellers, capturing their individual idiosyncrasies in each story. He also documented the daily life and the important dates in many towns of the Basque Country, providing an invaluable snapshot of Basque life.
  • He worked closely with other prominent ethnologists, including Julio Caro Baroja, whom he mentored, his own mentor Telesforo de Aranzadi, and Enrique Eguren Bengoa. Together, Barandiaran, Aranzadi, and Eguren formed a particularly successful research team – sometimes called “the three sad cavemen” – that lead many of the prehistoric excavations in the early 1900s, beginning with the excavation of dolmens in the Aralar mountains. This discovery was inspired by local legends of the jentilak that were buried there.
  • At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, in September 1936, Barandiaran went into exile. His work on Basque prehistory and ethnography was viewed suspiciously by those on the right, who connected it to separatist movements. He escaped to Iparralde, living first in Biarritz and then in Sara, Lapurdi, where he would remain until 1953, when he finally returned to Spain and took a position at the University of Salamanca. The three sad cavemen, separated at the beginning of the war, never saw one another again as Eguren died in 1942 and Aranzadi in 1945. During his exile, he received many offers to join other institutions, including Columbia University in New York, but he turned these down, expecting to return some day to Vitoria.
  • Over his career, he enjoyed many recognitions for his work, including being a member of Euskaltzaindia (the Royal Academy of the Basque Language), serving as president of Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society for Basque Studies), and receiving an honorary doctorate from Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (the University of the Basque Country).
  • Barandiaran died on December 21, 1991, just 10 days shy of his 102nd birthday. He worked until the end, publishing Myths of the Basque Country in 1989 when he was 100.

Thanks to Jabier Aldekozea who inspired the title of this post.

Primary sources: The Jose Miguel de Barandiaran Foundation; José Miguel de Barandiarán, Wikipedia (Spanish); Jose Migel Barandiaran, Wikipedia (English); Estornés Lasa, Bernardo [et al.]. Barandiaran Ayerbe, José Miguel de. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at: https://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/en/barandiaran-ayerbe-jose-miguel-de/ar-11007/

Basque Fact of the Week: Lamiak, the Basque Mermaids and Nymphs

Mythical creatures abound in Basque folklore, decorating the Basque countryside, from powerful god-like beings like Mari and Sugaar to more “common” creatures like Tartalo and Basajaun, creatures people might encounter as they go about their daily business. The lamiak are another such being. Living in the streams and ponds of Euskal Herria, their beauty – their feet not withstanding – often beguiles passing men.

A drawing of a lamia with her golden comb. Found on Pinterest, but I couldn’t find the artist’s name. If anyone knows, please let me know! They have a series of drawings about Basque mythological figures.
  • Lamiak – also called lamin, lamiña, amilamia, eilalamia, basandere, or saindimaindi depending on the location – have the appearance of a beautiful woman and spend much of their time sitting on a large rock next to a river, brushing their long, luxurious hair with a golden comb. However, their most striking feature is their feet. While typically depicted as having the feet of a duck, some describe them as having a hen’s or even a goat’s feet. And, in some stories, they have a tail like a fish.
  • The golden comb is central to the myth of the lamia. It is their greatest treasure. If someone stole it, the lamia would find them, yelling at them from outside their window, and threatening to curse all of their descendants if the comb was not returned.
  • Lamiak tend to live in caverns or in the backwaters of streams or springs. They are said to be builders, credited with constructing dolmens, bridges, churches, and castles. Like Mari, they live off of the “no,” the goods that people denied they had. They also fed themselves with the offerings from their devotees.
  • While the origin of the word lamia comes from Latin, the Basque mythological figure has nothing to do with the sirens and mermaids of Roman lore. Rather, they are much more akin to nymphs than mermaids.
  • Sometimes they are described as little people that live underground, or covered in long hair, with beards like monkeys. And in others they have no hair at all, except for a small patch on the back of their neck in the shape of a coin. Sometimes they appear lit up in their mouths.
  • Lamiak require certain services, such as midwifery, from humans. If a human helped a lamiak, they were given ample gifts. However, they were not allowed to take anything without permission and, if they tried, were unable to leave the lamia’s dwelling. And they were forbidden to look back once they left. In one story, as a human reached home and crossed the threshold of their house, they looked back and immediately half of the gifts disappeared. Further, lamiak could not die without a human seeing them, even if they were in great agony. They needed the human to see them and recite a prayer before they could die.
  • Lamiak have other interactions with humans as well. Sometimes, they fall in love. In one case, a lamia would only marry her suitor if he could guess her age, which a neighbor tricked her into revealing (105 years!). Sometimes they kidnap people, particularly those that don’t heed warnings to not return to their caves. And people sometimes kidnap the lamia, dredging ponds on the day of San Juan.
  • There are many places in Euskal Herria named after the lamia. The oldest reference is back to 945, where “lamiturri” – or lamia’s fountain – is mentioned. Lamiategui – literally the place of the lamia – is mentioned as far back as 1221 and is a name that occurs in several places across the country. Lamindania is a mill in Lacarry that is said to have been built by the maide, the husbands of the lamiak. Lamiozingoerreka – stream of the lamias’ well – appears near Vera. There are many more such examples all over Euskal Herria.
  • Today, there aren’t so many lamia, which is attributed to the church bells and the hermitages and shrines that, in some case, were said to be built specifically to drive the lamia away. Sometimes, more directly, their disappearance is traced to the spread of the Gospel.

Primary source: Hartsuaga Uranga, Juan Inazio. Lamia. Auñamendi Encyclopedia]. Available at: https://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/en/lamia/ar-84676/

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 122

De Lancre stood at the end of the hall. His fingers started crackling with small bolts of lightning that illuminated his face from below, giving him an eerie glow. 

“Oh sh!t!” said Kepa. “I’ve seen this movie…”

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!

Lightning flew from De Lancre’s fingertips and across the walls and ceiling as it marched down the hallway to where Kepa and Latxe stood.

“What is that?” Latxe barely whispered, paralyzed as she watched the lightning dance in front of her.

“Magic!” bellowed Kepa as he pulled Latxe and ducked into a side room. He grabbed her shoulders, looking into her eyes. “That was magic. He’s a powerful… magic user. That sounds so lame when I say it outloud…” he mumbled to himself. Shaking his head, he continued. “He’s going to fry us if we don’t find a way out of here!”

Latxe nodded numbly, but then swiped furiously across her tablet as light flashed through the open doorway with increasing frequency and brightness. Suddenly, the door disappeared and a new staircase appeared in the room before them, vanishing into the ceiling. 

“Goazen!” barked Latxe as she rushed up the stairs, Kepa on her heels.

As soon as they got to the next floor, Latxe swiped at her tablet and the opening faded as if it were never there. They found themselves in the dining area of de Lancre’s suite. Kepa quickly looked around, seeing the balcony that overlooked the city on one side and several closed doors on the other.

“Maite!” he yelled.

“Hemen!” he heard in reply from behind one of the closed doors.

He rushed to the door, fumbling for some kind of door knob or control panel that would let him open it, but finding nothing. He pounded on the door in frustration. “Maite!” he bellowed again.

Latxe nudged him gently aside as she again focused on her tablet. The door disappeared.

Maite burst from the room and threw her arms around Kepa. “I knew you’d find me!”

“I would never leave you!” exclaimed Kepa. After a moment, he broke free. “I couldn’t have done it without Latxe here.”

Latxe smiled at Maite, and then quickly looked away, pretending to focus on her tablet. 

“We won’t have much time…” she began when the doors at the end of the dining room burst off of their frame and flew across the room.

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

Basque Fact of the Week: Winnemucca, Nevada, the Most Basque Town in the United States

The United States has a thriving Basque community, driven primarily, though not exclusively, by many years of immigration to the US West. California is the state that the most Basques call home while Boise, Idaho, is the city with the largest number of Basques. However, it is tiny Winnemucca in northern Nevada – with only about 8000 people – that has the highest percentage of residents – 4.2% – that call themselves Basque.

The beginning Irrintzi Dancers performing in front of the Winnemucca Convention Center. Photo from Nevada News Group.
  • As with much of the US west, Basque originally arrived in Nevada as part of the gold rush, but quickly established themselves in livestock to help feed the growing population. Winnemucca, on the train line between Salt Lake City and San Francisco, was a natural stop with ample lands and opportunity.
  • Winnemucca has the most Basque restaurants per capita in the country. One of the oldest is the Martin Hotel. The building that would eventually house the Martin Hotel was built in 1878 and first hosted a brothel. It wasn’t until 1913 that the building was purchased by Augustine A. Martin and Elisee Henri Martin, who turned it into a Basque restaurant and boarding house, with 25 rooms. The Winnemucca Hotel, perhaps the oldest building in the town having been built in 1863, was another staple of Basque life in Winnemucca. It was demolished a few years ago.
  • Some of the first Basques to apply for US citizenship were in Winnemucca. In 1873, José Erquiaga, Juan Aldamiz, and Diego Ferraro, all residents of Winnemucca, applied for citizenship. Some of these were also among the first sheep ranchers.
  • In 1911, three Basque ranchers – Pierre ‘Pete’ Erramouspe, Jean Baptiste Laxague, and Bertrand Indianowere – were found killed at Little High Rock Canyon, just outside of Winnemucca. The murders were attributed to Shoshone Mike and his band, though the details of what occurred and the follow-up retaliation against Shoshone Mike’s family are vague at best.
  • Antonio Ascuenaga and Jose Navarro, who brought sheep to Jordan Valley, Oregon, had started in Winnemucca, heading north in 1889. In 1891, Jose Uberuaga took his outfit to Idaho. Thus, Winnemucca served as a gateway for the Basque settlement of eastern Oregon and western Idaho.
  • The Winnemucca Basque Club – Euskaldunak Danak Bat – was established in 1947. The first president was Julio Laucirica. In 1978, the club hosted their first annual picnic, a tradition which has been going strong ever since – the club just hosted their 42nd annual picnic in June. In the 1950s, the Irrintzi Dancers dance group was formed and continues to perform at Basque events across the state and beyond.

Primary sources: How a Remote Nevada Town Became a Bastion of Basque Culture, Smithsonian Magazine; Basque Culture; Winnemucca.com; Totoricagüena Egurrola, Gloria Pilar. Estados Unidos de América. Nevada. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at: https://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/en/estados-unidos-de-america-nevada/ar-26810/; Home Away From Home, Jeronima Echeverria

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 121

De Lancre’s suite was at the top of the tower and it took Kepa and Latxe a long time make their way up. The nanobots were efficient at making stairs and openings for them where none had existed before, but the two would-be rescuers were extra cautious after their encounter with the security guard and make sure to check every opening and hallway for others. 

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!

“For such a large building, it is remarkably empty,” noted Kepa as they climbed what felt like the hundredth set of stairs.

Latxe nodded. “I sometimes wonder if these big towers exist only to give those in power a high perch from which to scan their realm.”

“Like the kings and queens of old, eh?”

Latxe nodded again. “Precisely. For all of our technological advances, we still can’t root out the desire for power. Or how power corrupts.”

Latxe sighed. “How is it during your time? What is life like back then?”

Kepa chuckled. “Not too much different, at least in terms of people wanting power. We of course don’t have all of the marvels you do, and we are in a bit of an existential crisis, with climate change and the impact on our environment.” 

He paused a moment as he poked his head out from the opening at the top of the stairs. He scanned left and then right. The hallway, like so many before, was dark. He climbed the rest of the way out and reached out a hand to Latxe. She smiled as she took it and pulled herself up.

“But, it is good to know that some of those problems have been solved,” he continued.

“I remember reading about the climate problem in school,” said Latxe. “For someone today, it is inconceivable that we let things get so bad that it threatened the very existence of the planet.”

Kepa shrugged. “As a species, we can be pretty short-sighted.”

Latxe laughed, and the melodic tone of her laughter made Kepa smile. And then blush. He turned away, pretending to examine the darkness down the hall. He felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t fret so much,” said Latxe. “I like you, and maybe in another world you and I could, you know, be together. But I know that, in this one, your heart belongs to Maite.”

“In another world,” Kepa mused. He hadn’t told Latxe about the zatiak and the bubble. He couldn’t bear to think about how he might be extinguishing her life, her history, when they pop the bubble. He kept telling himself that this bubble wasn’t real, it wasn’t the real time line, and that she had another life that maybe was better than this one. Maybe.

Latxe smiled, thinking Kepa was considering that what if scenario. She looked at her tablet.

“We are very near Salazar’s floor,” she said. “Only one or two more to go before we reach them.”

Suddenly, the lights burst to life, nearly blinding them in their intensity.

“Oh,” said a voice at the end of the hall. “Don’t worry, you’ve already found me.”

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

Basque Fact of the Week: The Mondragón Corporation

I have hesitated to do a Fact on the Mondragón Corporation, the world-renowned cooperative in the heart of Gipuzkoa, simply because I didn’t think I could do it justice. It’s just felt too big and important that, I admit, I was a bit intimidated. However, The New Yorker recently did a nice piece on what is probably the most famous cooperative in the world. I direct you there to get a true appreciation of what Mondragón is – the culture, the impact it has had on its employees and the region. Here, I’ll just give brief synopsis of the corporation – just the facts, if you will.

Mondragon, from their website.
  • Mondragón (Arrasate in Euskara) is a city in the middle of Gipuzkoa where about 22,000 people live. José María Arizmendiarrieta, a priest from Markina-Xemein in Bizkaia, arrived 1941. Seeing the lingering poverty in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, he established a technical college, training and educating students and selecting the most promising to pursue degrees in engineering.
  • The first company of the cooperative, founded in 1955, was Talleres ULGOR, a name derived from the surnames of the five men who founded it: Usatorre, Larrañaga, Gorroñogoitia, Ormaechea, and Ortubay. Today, the company is known as today as Fagor Electrodomésticos.
  • From there, the cooperative expanded greatly, filling needs of its members. In 1958, the Spanish government determined that the workers of the cooperative were not eligible to participate in the Spanish social security system. In response, Arizmendiarrieta created by a pension and a healthcare system, both as new coops. He also organized a bank to serve the members’ financial needs.
  • The system works with the philosophy that each co-op is owned by the workers. All worker-owners vote to elect a governing council which then picks a managing director. (Note every worker is an owner, a reality that has grown with time.) Further, the largest salary can only be about six times as great as the lowest (it varies from coop to coop, but the largest difference is nine-to-one). This differential has increased over the original three-to-one ratio, as the Corporation tries to compete in a global economy.
  • The Corporation has production plants in other countries, the first in Mexico. Today, they have more than 140 such plants operating in 37 different countries.
  • Today, the Mondragón Corporation is the tenth largest company in Spain. It employs some 80,000 people in 95 individual cooperatives and 14 research and development centers. Its products are sold in more than 150 countries. They have activities across four broad categories: Finance, Industry, Retail, and Knowledge. In 1997, they founded the Mondragon Unibertsitatea which now has 5000 students in a wide range of fields including engineering, education, communications, business management, entrepreneurship and food science.

Primary sources: Mondragon Corporation, Wikipedia; Mondragon Corporation; How Mondragon Became the World’s Largest Co-Op, The New Yorker

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