Buber’s Basque Story: Part 44

If you have comments or questions, or have simply been enjoying the story and want to say hello, please drop me a note!

The next morning, earlier than any of them cared for, Edurne took Maite and Kepa to the airport. Before they left, Maite slipped a note under Amaia’s pillow, saying goodbye and hoping to see her soon in the Basque Country. It was still dark out when Edurne pulled up to the airport.

“Are you sure I can’t help you carry your bags in?” she asked for the fifteenth time. “I can park in the garage.”

“Ez, ez, lasai!” responded Maite. “We got it! We don’t have that many bags.”

“Ok,” said Edurne, still unsure. She followed the sign pointing to departures and parked the car. As Kepa grabbed their bags out of the trunk, Edurne gave Maite a big bear hug.

Buber’s Basque Story 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!

“It was so good to see you!” she said. “We can’t let it be so long until the next time.”

“Ados,” replied Maite. “You have to come visit soon!”

“Well, if you go to Berkeley, you won’t be there for me to visit,” said Edurne with a smile.

A look of doubt flashed in Maite’s eyes. “That’s still a big if,” she finally said. “They may not accept me.”

Edurne let out a good natured laugh. “They would be fools not to. You’ll be the best thing they’ve seen in a while, I’m sure.”

She then turned to Kepa. “You take good care of her out there.”

Kepa smiled. “Oh, I will. I’ll make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble, at least not until after her interview.”

Edurne gave Kepa a squeeze. “It was good to meet you.”

“Berdin,” replied Kepa.

Edurne gave Maite one last hug. “He’s a keeper, you know,” she whispered into her cousin’s ear.

Maite smiled as she whispered back. “I know.”

“Ikusi arte!” called Edurne as she climbed back into her car and drove away.

The flight to California was relatively uneventful. Maite claimed the window seat and put on her headphones, putting some final touches on the talk she was going to give as part of her interview. Kepa sat next to her in the middle seat. To his left, in the aisle seat, sat an older gentleman. Kepa had pulled out a book and had begun reading when the man interrupted him.

“Where are you from?”

“The Basque Country,” replied Kepa. 

“Where?” asked the man.

“The Basque Country,” repeated Kepa. “In Spain. Why do you ask?”

“I just noticed that your book wasn’t in English, so I was curious. So, you are Basque?” he said excitedly.

Kepa nodded.

“I’ve heard about you guys! Aren’t you the long-lost descendants of Atlantis?”

Kepa sighed as he tried to explain the history of the Basques and the Basque Country, but every time he debunked one theory, the man brought up another.

“What about Adam and Eve? Isn’t Basque the language that was spoken in the Garden of Eden?”

“Aren’t you all really aliens?”

“What about being Neandertals? That one has to be true, doesn’t it?”

By the end of the flight, Kepa was wishing he had pretended not to understand English at all.

Basque Fact of the Week: Saint Pierre and Miquelon

On the furthest reaches of Canada’s eastern coast lies Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a small group of islands just south of Newfoundland. A French Territorial Collectivity, the islands are the last remaining vestige of New France, at least in North America – the people are guaranteed French citizenship. However, perhaps more interestingly, if you look at their coat-of-arms, you’ll notice that the ikurriña is displayed prominently, a monument to the Basque history of the islands.

The coat-of-arms of St Pierre et Miquelon. Superbenjamin, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Humans have visited these islands for at least 8000 years, with the Beothuk and Paleo-Eskimo or Pre-Inuit peoples at least stepping foot on the islands, though it seems that, if they ever settled the islands, by the time Europeans arrived, there were no inhabitants. By at least 1517, Basque whalers, primarily from Donibane Lohizune (Saint Jean de Luz) and Ziburu, had found the islands and, alongside Normans and Bretons, began to settle the islands in the 17th century. Captain Juanes de Liçaurdi, commissioned by shipowner Adam de Chibau from Donibane Lohizune, established a fishing station in the south of the islands between 1602 and 1611.
  • The fishing industry, in decline throughout the nineteenth century, was revitalized by an influx of new Basques, who hailed primarily from Getaria (Ghétary-Bidart), Donibane Lohizune/Ziburu (Ciboure), Urruña (Urrugne), Hendaia (Hendaye) and Senpere (Saint-Pée).
  • The name Miquelon is thought to be of Basque origin, likely related to the name Mikel. Though, the true origin seems lost to time.
  • Even today, there are vestiges of the Basque history of the islands. Pelota is a popular sport, and the Basque cultural group on the islands – Zazpiak-bat – takes its name from the fronton on the island of Saint Pierre. Every year, the islands hold a Basque festival, featuring traditional dance and sporting events. There were even traces of the Basque language into the twentieth century.
  • As a final testament to that long Basque history, there are numerous Basque surnames associated with the inhabitants of the islands, names such as Amestoy, Bildosteguy, Doyharcabal, Errecart, Gastambide, Hiraburu, Iturbide, Jaureguiberry, Larranaga, Mendizabal, Oyarzabal, Puchulutéguy, Sabarotz, Telletchia, Uzandizaga, and Zagaramurdy.
  • During World War II, there was a bit of an international dust up when Free France, the French government-in-exile, under the orders of General Charles de Gaulle, took the islands from the Nazi-sympathizing Vichy government. The United States decried this use of military power in the Americas by a European force, contrary to the Monroe Doctrine, but the incident seems to have been just as suddenly forgotten.

Primary sources: Martínez Artola, Alberto. Saint-Pierre-Et-Miquelon. Enciclopedia Auñamendi, 2020. Available at: http://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/es/saint-pierre-et-miquelon/ar-153781/; Wikipedia; Wikipedia; The Basques of Saint Pierre and Miquelon by Marc Cormier

Buber’s Basque Story: Part 43

If you have comments or questions, or have simply been enjoying the story and want to say hello, please drop me a note!

The next couple of days were a blur as Edurne and Unai led Kepa and Maite through the sites and sounds of New York City. Edurne made sure they spent some time in Central Park — “It’s like an oasis of peace in the middle of the chaos” — while Unai dragged them all to a baseball game. 

“Why are they all just standing around?” asked Kepa.

“They are waiting for the batter to hit the ball, then they can run,” replied Unai.

“They sure don’t run very often,” interjected Maite as Edurne just smiled. Maite suspected she’d heard this argument play out many times before.

Buber’s Basque Story 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!

“It’s all about the strategy,” replied Unai with an exasperated sigh. “The duel between the pitcher and the batter, about who will out-think the other. It’s like a chess match, with each side trying to out maneuver the other.”

Edurne shrugged. “To me, it’s an excuse to indulge in overpriced beer and hotdogs.”

That evening, they all gathered again at Anton and Feliciana’s house for one last dinner before Maite and Kepa left for California. The spread was at least as abundant as last time, but this time, the food reminded Maite of home: platters of chorizo for appetizers, porrusalda, thick chunks of cod cooked in red peppers, and, to top it all off, rice pudding for dessert. 

“I thought you might like a taste of home before heading off for the big interview,” said Feliciana as Maite marveled at the feast laid out in front of them.

“Mil esker, Feliciana! This is so wonderful!” replied Maite as she engulfed Feliciana in a huge bear hug. 

“Bah!” said Feliciana with a beaming smile. “Ez horregatik.”

As they all sat down to eat, Anton passed the carafe of wine around the table. “Are you ready for the interview?” he asked Maite.

Maite shrugged. “I guess?” she replied tepidly. 

“She’s going to do great!” replied Kepa with enthusiasm. “She’s by far the smartest person I know.”

“Well,” interjected Feliciana, “if you do get the position, maybe it will be an excuse for your parents to come out and visit. They can stop by here on the way.”

“I think they would love that,” replied Maite as she scooped a ladleful of porrusalda into her bowl. “They’ve never really left the Basque Country, it would be nice for them to see something new.”

“As hard as they worked, I doubt they’ve seen any of the Basque Country either,” added Anton.

Maite smiled. “Egia da. Just the beach every once in a while.”

The night continued with lively conversation about all manner of topics. After dessert, Maite began helping clear the table. 

“Put those down!” exclaimed Feliciana, her voice stern. Then she smiled. “I’ll take care of those later. You have an early flight in the morning, you better get back and get some sleep.”

Maite smiled as she gave Feliciana another hug. “Mil esker, for everything. It was so good to see you.”

“Berdin,” replied Feliciana. 

They all said their goodbyes, which took another thirty minutes, before Edurne literally dragged them out of the door. “Seriously ama and aita! They have to get some sleep!”

A chorus of “Gabon!” filled the air as Edurne led them all to the car, Amaia fast asleep in George’s arms.

Basque Fact of the Week: A New Poem Written in Euskara Discovered

One of the challenges with studying and understanding the origins and evolution of the Basque language is simply that it is only until relatively recently that it has been written down. Thus, whenever a new fragment of Euskara is discovered, it is a big deal. While the oldest known phrases in Euskara data back to 950 or so, the oldest text is a letter written in 1537 by the then-bishop of Mexico. Or, it was the oldest, until now.

The poem discovered by Dr. Rosa Ayerbe, highlighted in the margins of the notary document. Image from the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Gipuzkoa.
  • Dr. Rosa Ayerbe discovered a new poem in Euskara while doing research on notary records in Gipuzkoa at the Provincial Historical Archive of Gipuzkoa. She found one document, in the records of one Miguel Ibañez de Insausti from Azkoitia, in which a poem written in the Gipuzkoan dialect of Basque is inscribed in the margins of the otherwise unremarkable legal document.
  • With the help of other researchers, including Ramon Martin, Iago Irijoa and Ander Ros, they were able to transcribe and translate the ancient text. It isn’t clear that this Miguel wrote the poem. More likely, it seems, one of his scribes wrote the Basque text, sometime around 1515. It’s a love poem, not particularly remarkable in and of itself, but now being the oldest poem we have written in Euskara, it becomes one of the most fascinating items written in the language.
  • Here is the poem, translated to English with the help of Google translate and thinkSpain.

My sweet beautiful beloved
you pity me

Having me so “zulez”,
How did you make me fall in love
with that sword in hand?

You take me with your hands
from here to there

I will forgive you, squire,
I have not used it to kill a person
save the young man

Hurting me with love pains
the feathered hen
me sweating of love
in my tears
the horses appear to the fight

My love left me
I usually have the first one
inside my heart.

Going one day

Part II

I got up early in the morning, one day a week
one day a week, and Monday morning
my dear “belagai,” broke in front of me
in the “bia” that I did not want, next to where you were
the great blow shook me, in the middle of the heart.

I was going to church when I was hit
I got down on my knees, in front of the altar
[to] confess my sin, as I did
she gave me penance, as I should.

Meanwhile, here I am (you got me)

  • It is particularly amazing that Dr. Ayerbe discovered this document as it has been scanned and digitally available for some time, just waiting for someone to find it. How many other such treasures are buried in the archives?

Primary sources: ‘Ene Laztan Gozo Ederra…’, Primera Transcripción e Interpretación del Texto, Archivo Histórico Provincial de Gipuzkoa; ‘Ene Laztan Gozo Ederra…’, Sale a Luz un Antiguo Texto Escrito en Euskara (Circa 1515), Archivo Histórico Provincial de Gipuzkoa

Buber’s Basque Story: Part 42

If you have comments or questions, or have simply been enjoying the story and want to say hello, please drop me a note!

The show, a musical reenactment of Sherlock Holmes’ last adventure in which he fell from the waterfall, was remarkably well done. Maite was taken with the costumes and the stage sets and was thoroughly engaged by the dramatic story. Kepa, who struggled to follow the dialog and who had had his fill of adventure for the day, as predicted, fell asleep. Maite nudged him more than once as his snores threatened to drown out the actors.

“Would you be quiet?” she hissed in his ear, clearly exasperated, as she poked him in the ribs for the fourth time.

Kepa shrugged apologetically. “Barkatu, I can’t help it.” 

Buber’s Basque Story 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!

Just then the first act ended. The curtains fell and the lights came on for intermission. 

Kepa stood and stretched. “I may hang out in the lobby for the rest of it, so I don’t disturb the play,” he said.

“I’d hate for you to miss it,” said Edurne as she also stood.

“Lasai, Edurne,” replied Maite with a glare at Kepa. “He’s already missed the first act.”

Kepa gave her a sheepish look as he made his way down the row of seats and into the aisle. As they all headed to the restrooms, Kepa headed to the lobby. “See you when it’s done,” he said.

Maite pulled him close and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “Try not to snore too loud out there either,” she said and then queued for the restroom.

Kepa made his way to the lobby. Fortunately, the theater had a bar. He found a seat. The bartender eventually found his way to Kepa. “What will you have?” he asked.

“Gin kas, please,” replied Kepa in his heavily accented English.

“Gin and what?” asked the bartender.

Kepa shook his head, exasperated. He was too tired to figure this out. 

“Could he get a gin and tonic with an extra splash of lemon juice?” a voice next to him asked. “Make that two.”

The bartender nodded as Kepa turned to see Unai settling in on the stool next to him.

“Eskerrik asko,” said Kepa. 

“Ez da ezer,” replied Unai.

“What are you doing out here?” asked Kepa.

“Truth be told, I really don’t go for these plays. It’s not really my thing.”

“Isn’t Eric going to be upset?” 

“Nah, he knows that I only tolerate these things at best. And this time, I have an excuse for ducking out.” The bartender brought the two drinks, placing them down in front of Kepa and Unai. Unai held his glass up. “Mil esker,” he said with a smile.

“Ez da ezer,” replied Kepa, returning Unai’s smile as he took a sip of his drink.

Fighting Basques: “This is my war too!” Cecilia Corcuera and Carmen Arabia in the United States Army

This article originally appeared in its Spanish form in El Diario.

Cecilia Joyce Corcuera Berasategui poses with the uniform of the Ports of Embarkation service. She is one of the first two women from Spain identified as serving in the US Army, in which they enlisted during World War II. Courtesy of Polly Ann Corcuera-Clark and family.

In “Spaniards against Hitler. At the service of the United States Army,” we presented the results of a preliminary analysis on the weight of Spanish emigration in the United States Army (USA) in World War II (WWII). In that work, we identified 1,194 men and two women from Spain who were enlisted in the US Army during the aforementioned war. They were part of a contingent of more than 300,000 foreigners (US citizens and non-citizens) who fought under the American flag.

Since the publication of that research (which continues to this day), more than a few people, public institutions and associations from the so-called field of historical memory have turned to the Asociación Sancho de Beurko Elkartea to get to know firsthand the objectives of the project “Fighting Basques: Memory of World War II,” and of course to find out and disseminate the identity of the two women (so far) who are part of the group of almost 1,200 veterans born in Spain. To all of them, our sincere thanks for their interest. This article is dedicated to the memory of these two women, trusting that the future will reveal the names of many other comrades in arms who participated in WWII. They are the Basque Cecilia Corcuera Berasategui and the Catalan Carmen Arabia i Gironés.

“This is my war too!” exclaimed the recruitment poster for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. The inclusion of women in the American war machine, both civil and military, was exceptional but decisive in the future of the war.

Corcuera and Arabia were two of the nearly 350,000 women who served in the various US military branches during WWII. With the aim of freeing soldiers from all work not related to combat itself, several military bodies (auxiliaries) were created at the beginning of the war, joining the already classic Navy and Army nursing units. Corcuera and Arabia voluntarily enlisted in the Women’s Army (Auxiliary) Corps (WAAC/WAC), created in May 1942. The WAC grew to 150,000 women, many of whom were destined for the different theaters of military operations. Never before had women, with the exception of nurses, served in the ranks of the US Army, becoming in turn the only auxiliary corps to serve overseas.

“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.

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.

Cecilia Joyce Corcuera Berasategui

Of the 117 Basques born in the current Autonomous Community of Euskadi (10% of the total enlisted from Spain), 108 were from Bizkaia. Five came from Gipuzkoa and only four from Araba. Among the latter we find Cecilia Joyce Corcuera Berasategui. Although most of them made the American West their second home, 38% stayed in New York, as was the case with Cecilia’s family.

Cecilia was born in 1916 in the Alava town of Arraia (today Arraia-Maeztu). Her father, Pedro “Peter” Corcuera Beltrán — born in 1887 in Subijana de Álava/Subillana-Gasteiz — and her mother, Serapia “Sophia” Berasategui Ormazabal — born in Arraia (other sources indicate Zalduendo) in 1886 — emigrated to Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, in 1910. He was a sailor. The first of their children, Felipe Tomás or “Philip Thomas” (1914-1998), was born in Vancouver. After five years in Canada, they returned to Europe. Pedro emigrated again in 1916, this time going to the United States. He settled in the city of Amsterdam in New York State, where he found a job as a night watchman in one of the many local carpet factories, work that he would carry out for the rest of his life. Cecilia along with her mother and her brother Felipe joined her father in 1920 after four long years of absence. She was barely four years old and it was the first time she had seen her father. The rest of the siblings would be born in Amsterdam: Margaret Julia (1922-1996), Joseph Martin (1924-2006), Elizabeth (1927-2015) and Richard (1931-2016).

In the 1930s, both her father and Cecilia achieved American citizenship. After studying at the Wilbur H. Lynch Institute in Amsterdam, Cecilia was working as a weaver in a carpet factory when she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps on March 8, 1943, in Albany, the capital of New York State, only a month after her brother Joseph had enlisted. Cecilia was 26 years old. Two months later her father passed away. (Her mother would follow him in 1968.) Although we do not know many details of Cecilia’s military service, we believe that she performed her duties in the United States. On her uniform, she wore a patch of the Ports of Embarkation, a branch of the Army Transportation Corps with jurisdiction over the shipment of troops, weapons and supplies to port facilities, normally within US territory. To give us an idea of ​​the enormity of this task, at the end of the war the Transportation Corps had moved more than 30 million soldiers within the continental United States and seven million soldiers plus 126 million tons of supplies abroad. She was honorably discharged with the rank of Private First Class at the end of the war. (Joseph was discharged with the rank of Sergeant.)

Photograph of the children of the Corcuera Berasategui marriage. Seated, from left to right: Elizabeth, Margaret and Cecilia. Standing from left to right: Richard, Joseph and Philip

After the war, in 1950, Cecilia married a WWII veteran, James Louis Murphy. Cecilia passed away in 1984, at the age of 67, in the city where she grew up. Cecilia’s little brother Richard was a veteran of the 1st Marine Division in the Korean War. He passed away at the age of 85, being the last generation of his family born in the USA.

Carmen Arabia i Gironés

Of the 57 Catalans identified in our study (4% of all those enlisted who were from Spain), 45 were from the province of Barcelona. Only five came from Girona, the province of birth of Carmen Arabia i Gironés, another five from Tarragona, and two from Lleida. About 50% of them chose New York as the final destination of their migratory journey. This was also the destination chosen by Carmen’s family.

Carmen was born in 1905 in Sant Feliu de Guixols. Her parents were José Emilio Camilo Arabia i Bruguera — born in 1862 in Arenys de Mar, in the province of Barcelona — and Magdalena Ramona María Gironés i Comas — born in 1872 in Sant Feliu de Guixols. Carmen and her family emigrated to the United States in 1914, a month after the start of the Great War. She was 8 years old. She was accompanied by her sisters: Teresa “Theresa” (1894-1987), María (1908-1995), and Concepción “Conchita” (1912). The family settled in Brooklyn, New York City, where her father worked as an accountant for the International Cork Company, one of the largest cork factories in the country. After the death of her father in 1928, the family moved to Forest Hills, in the New York borough of Queens.

By then, Carmen’s older sister, Teresa, had married Joan “John” Agell Castells [1], born in Barcelona in 1891, who after a period in Cuba — in 1913 he was appointed secretary of the Catalan Center of Santiago — arrived at the Port of New York in 1916. At the beginning of the 1930s, Joan was elected secretary of the Catalan Nationalist Center of New York, founded in 1920. This group adopted the “Estelada” and proposed to adopt American nationality and renounce Spanish nationality during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, similar to what Jon Bilbao (subdelegate of the Basque Government in exile) would propose years later in the context of WWII. Carmen and her sisters resided with Teresa and her husband for a time in the early 1940s.

Carmen studied at Hunter College in New York (an academic institution dedicated exclusively to women) and at Columbia University. In 1932 she obtained American citizenship. “I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” so she recited as part of her oath of allegiance to the country of her adoption. Little would would have imagined, back then, that those words would become reality a few years later.

American nationalization document of Carmen Arabia i Gironés which includes her “loyalty oath,” signed in 1932 in New York.

Carmen was working as a secretary and office clerk when she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in New York City three weeks after Cecilia Corcuera joined in March 1943. She was 37 years old. In June 1944, she was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations. It is estimated that a total of 5,500 WAC women were sent to this military front in mid-1944, serving in both Papua New Guinea and the Philippines (since November 1944). Without appropriate uniforms to combat the tropical climate (they were equipped with winter clothing), they were haunted by the diseases typical of the region (for example, malaria) as well as the physical and social isolation they suffered to avoid harassment from their male colleagues (they were locked in their own facilities protected by barbed wire after finishing their work shifts). Such factors greatly hindered the execution of their duties and led to increasing sick leave [2]. Even so, their work was essential to ensure success on the various military fronts.

Given the prison-like conditions of women in New Guinea, it is not surprising that Carmen might have become acquainted with the woman that would become Colonel María Rementería Llona, born in 1917 in Hagerman, Idaho, to Bizkaian parents. Rementería enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps in 1943, serving as a lieutenant in the New Guinea campaign until the end of the war. As of today, she is the woman of Basque origin with the highest military rank that we have identified in our work.

Three soldiers from the US Women’s Army Corps check military mail in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in 1944. This was the work that Carmen Arabia will carry out during her military service.

Carmen was in charge of the foreign languages section of the Censorship Detachment in New Guinea and the Philippines, where she remained until the end of the war. A large number of the officers like Carmen were employed as censors of the troops’ mail. The objective was to review and, where appropriate, censor the epistolary communications between the soldiers and their families and friends, to protect confidential information related to the war. Carmen achieved the rank of First Lieutenant in December 1944. She was married twice in her lifetime. She passed away in 1996, at the age of 90, in the city of Rising Sun, in the State of Maryland.

The biographies of Corcuera and Arabia and their journey during WWII have been made with the tools of family history and following the methodology of our “Fighting Basques” project. Both constitute an excellent example of the commitment that many women voluntarily assumed in the defense of their country — in this case, adopted — and even more, their vital journeys allow the prosopography of part of the Spanish emigration to the United States. But all this would not be more than an anecdotal footnote in the immense activities of the US Army if it were not for what really gives this study value: that their achievements — and those of all of those who fought in the Great War — went beyond those of their parents, since in their own right they became part of the so-called “generation of sacrifice,” which emerged victorious from WWII after defeating totalitarianism. It is this special juncture that takes us from the studies of emigration or diaspora to memory, a memory that was until now unknown to us.

[1] Alcolea, Fernando. (2014). “Joan Agell Castells.”

[2] Treadwell, Mattie E. (1954). The Women’s Army Corps. Washington D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army.

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: Lucas Eguibar Bretón, Snowboard Cross World Champion

When you think of the Basque Country and sports, images of pelota, rowing, or stone lifting come to mind. And of course soccer, no matter who you root for. However, while the Basque Country certainly gets snow, it isn’t known for winter sports. However, that might start changing with the incredible performances of Lucas “Luki” Eguibar.

Lucas “Luki” Eguibar (right) in his photo finish win. Photo from The Times Hub.
  • Eguibar, known as Luki, is the reigning snowboard cross champion, beating the Austrian Alessandro Haemmerle in a photo finish at the world championships held on February 11 in Idre Fjäll, Sweden. While Haemmerle had the better start, Eguibar caught him on the lower part of the mountain. In an interview afterwards, though elated, he said that in the semifinals he could barely feel his legs due to the punishment of the landings.
  • Luki was born on February 9, 1994 in Donostia, Gipuzkoa. He took to the snow early, at the age of 2 and first competing as a skier at the age of 5. However, when he turned 16, he decided that skiing wasn’t for him and turned to snowboarding. Soon, he competed in the Spanish Championship of snowboard cross and finished third.
  • Since then, Luki has competed in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympic Games, finishing 7th and 33rd, respectively. In the 2014 games, he had won all of his races until the semi-final, where he fell and was later disqualified. In 2017, he won silver in both the individual and team snowboard cross World Championship held in Sierra Nevada, Spain. He won gold in the Junior World Championship in 2013. He also has four World Cup victories.
  • Because of the lack of appropriate training facilities within the Basque Country and Spain more broadly, he travels to countries like Austria and Switzerland to train.
  • Luki also has a passion for tattoos. He estimates he has more than 30, including ones dedicated to his grandparents, who died shortly after the 2018 Olympic Games in Korea. He has even tattooed himself. He go-to place is Tattoo Chaman in Irun.
  • Luki has two siblings. His brother, Nico, was in a car accident just months before the 2014 Olympic Games. Doctors said he wouldn’t live through the day, but after 45 days in a coma, he survived. Now they inspire each other to do their best as one competes and the other rebuilds his life. Sara, Luki’s sister, was also a competitive skier and snowboarder.

Primary sources: El milagro de Lucas Eguibar, Mundo Deportivo; Lucas Eguibar, Wikipidea; La pasión secreta de Lucas Eguibar por los tatuajes, Mundo Deportivo; Lucas Eguibar, Basqueteam.eus; Lucas Eguibar, el vasco que vuela en la nieve, ElPais; Lucas Eguibar, a champion in the name of his brother, Digis Mak.

Buber’s Basque Story: Part 41

If you have comments or questions, or have simply been enjoying the story and want to say hello, please drop me a note!

George returned to the table with a couple of pitchers of beer in hand. “I didn’t know what kind of beer you like, so I got a lager and an IPA.”

Kepa laughed. “Where we live, you often don’t get much of a choice.” He scrutinized the two pitchers before holding out his glass. “I’ll try the IPA.”

“It might be a bit strong for your tastes,” said George as he filled Kepa’s glass. He then turned to Maite, who held up her hand, signalling George to wait a moment. She watched as Kepa took a sip of his beer. His eyes started watering and his lips puckered up. 

Buber’s Basque Story 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!

“You call this beer?” he barely squeaked as he put his pint glass back on the table and guzzled some water. 

Maite promptly took the IPA from Kepa as she smiled at George. “I’ll be fine with this,” she said as she handed him her empty glass. “But, if you can fill this with the lager for Kepa…”

Unai laughed. “It does take some getting used to,” he said. “And, some just don’t like it. Eric has never gotten the taste for it.” 

Eric shook his head. “Nasty stuff. And it’s everywhere. It’s sometimes hard to get anything else. Anyways,” he continued, “how was your trip to the Statue of Liberty?”

Kepa glanced sideways over the top of his new pint at Maite as she began to speak. “It was… interesting,” she said. “Definitely different than what I think either of us expected.”

“How do you mean?” asked Unai.

“It was just much more… immersive,” replied Kepa. “Much more realistic than I expected. I really felt I was there with the crowds.”

“I know what you mean,” said Edurne wistfully. “I get caught up in the stories and almost feel I’m walking beside those new immigrants.”

Maite nodded. “Bai, that’s what we meant. It’s just so easy to feel like you are one of them.”

“Huh,” replied Unai. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, maybe I’ll have to take another visit. I don’t remember it being so interesting.”

“Well,” laughed Edurne, “you were something like twelve when you went last time. There wasn’t much that kept your attention back then.”

Unai returned her laugh as he raised his pint. “Fair enough,” he said with a smile as he mock-toasted and took a big gulp of his beer.

It wasn’t long before they had neared the end of their beers. Eric looked at his watch. He was the only one of them that actually wore one, the rest of them relying on their phones to check the time. “It’s about time to head to the theater,” he said as he downed the rest of his beer. “Is everyone ready to go?”

“Let me run to the restroom first, and then I’m ready,” replied Edurne, who also swallowed the last of her beer. 

“Good idea, me too,” said Maite. Soon, they were all heading to the back and the restrooms. Moments later, they all reconvened outside of the pub.

“This way,” said Eric as he led them down the street.

Building Bridges: An Interview with Benoît Etcheverry

Benoît Etcheverry Macazaga seems omnipresent across the Webscape of the Basque diaspora. Whether through websites, radio, or now webcasts, he uses the thousands of connections he has made over the years to examine the relationship between the diaspora and the home country Euskal Herria. Why? Simply put, his goal is to build stronger bridges between Euskal Herria and the rest of the world through the diaspora to enhance the cultural strength and economic opportunities of all Basques. In this interview, Benoît discusses the origins of his passion for the diaspora, why this work is so important to him, and what future possibilities he sees in relationships between the diaspora and the Basque Country.

Benoît Etcheverry is probably the person in Iparralde who knows the international Basque community the best, as he has been mapping it since 2001.

As such, he has been working for several years for the government of Euskadi, which recognized him as an expert on the diaspora in June 2014. He has notably forged many relationships with the Eskual Etxeak network which were created in order to maintain Basque culture alive far from the Basque Country. Today, there are nearly 200 of these house-embassies in 24 countries around the world and they have more than 45,000 members.

He has also been collaborating since 2015 with the Corsica Diaspora association, particularly in managing the structuring of their network.

Creator and manager of networks by profession, Benoît Etcheverry Macazaga has also hosted the Basque diaspora radio program live and in four languages ​​since 2004 on the Euskal Irratiak radio station and has also collaborated with France Bleu Pays Basque and Euskadi Irratia.

This father, a fan of traveling and cultures of the world, practices Basque pilota — Joko Garbi and Paleta Gomme — and collaborates in numerous associations, such as 8 Probintziak which he founded in 2004. He is also co-founder and President of honor of the euskal etxea of Marseille and Lyon.

Benoît Etcheverry Macazaga’s views the Basque diaspora with respect, tenderness and humor, and his knowledge of the personalities who animate it is a precious asset to strengthen the influence of this “Bascora,” if we want to one day equal the level of political and economic influence of the Breton, Auvergne, Alsatian or Corsican diasporas in France, or all things considered, the community influence of large diasporas such as the Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Armenian, Irish, Greek, and Russian diasporas in the world.

The Basque diaspora, well established in North and South America and officially present in 24 countries and unofficially in a hundred, can be a powerful lever of smart and soft-power for the future. Because if we do unite, we can exert influence like the other diasporas, which do so in a very active and very professional way, explaining their influence in many professional fields and sectors of activity around the world.

There has always been strength in unity, and those who thought that globalization would smooth out the influence of communities were radically wrong; the best organized diasporas see their power of influence increasing for the benefit of their members while the others are forced to disappear.

The choice is before us, for us and our descendants, and if we make the path of revitalization, Benoît Etcheverry can be a valuable ally in strengthening the ties of the entire international Basque community in the future.

Buber’s Basque Page: Benoît, let’s begin with a little introduction. Who is Benoit Etcheverry?

Benoît Etcheverry: I’m a Basque from Iparralde and I live in Bayonne. I’ve got 5 lovely children and I’m 48 years old. I love my culture and its story. I’m a very curious person, opened to the world and all other cultures.

BBP: You’ve made it your life’s work to connect with the Basque diaspora, to bring the diaspora to the Basque Country. Why is this such an important topic for you?

Benoît Etcheverry: My goal is to help the new generation using the Basque global community, through the Euskal Etxeak but not only those. I’m also interested in a Basque business network (to be created). As I mentioned before, my motivation came from the fact that I’m a father, and I remember, when I was a kid, I didn’t have any information about the Basque diaspora community.

When I started my work, it was in 2001. At this time, I was president of the association Uda Leku here in Iparralde; I was also passionate about new technologies… Building a bridge between the new technologies and my culture carries me where I’m today.

So my most important motivation is just…  open your eyes and try to understand.

BBP: Why is it so important for the Basque Country to connect with the diaspora?

Benoît Etcheverry: A country that doesn’t have connections with its diaspora… is not a “real” country. I mean this country doesn’t know its story, and when thinking about business, the diaspora is the best way to introduce an activity at the international level.

BBP: The Basque Country is a modern, vibrant society, heavily invested in science and technology. However, many in the diaspora have a more folkloric view of the Basque Country. How can we reconcile these two aspects of the Basque world? Particularly as a center of innovation, how do we get the diaspora to embrace the modern Basque Country?

Benoît Etcheverry: Well, there are already some examples where it exists.  One of them is a company in Switzerland, SOPHiA GENETICS, created by a friend of mine from the ikastola, Jurgi Camblong. What is SOPHiA GENETICS? “SOPHiA GENETICS combines deep expertise in life sciences and medical disciplines with mathematical capabilities in data computing. Our mission is to bring data analytics solutions to market, to support healthcare professionals by maximizing the power of Data-Driven Medicine. We achieve this mission through the global adoption of SOPHiA artificial intelligence.” And, last year, they created one of their services here, in Iparralde.

Another example involves our language, Euskara. A group of youngsters created, some years ago, Euskarabentura, which proposed to 120 teenagers between 15 and 17 years old to walk all across the Basque Country (both Iparralde and Hegoalde), and doing so only using Euskara. Over the past 2 years, some of the Basque diaspora have also taken part… While new technologies are important, the culture, language, and History with a big H are also important.

BBP: You’ve used various media — television, radio, the internet — to tell the stories of the diaspora. What is your favorite? What platform do you prefer to tell these stories?

Benoît Etcheverry: Clearly my favorite was EuskoSare, it was a big machine with a team really motivated to work with the Basque diaspora and, of course, the Basque Country.

After that experience, for 14 years, using the radio of Gure Irratia here in Ustaritz, I tried to create a radio program for all of the Basques in the world.  For those 14 years, it was the only radio program on air and in 4 languages. Today, I follow, in Euskara only, France Bleu Pays Basque.

BBP: Why do you think that the connections between the diaspora and the home country aren’t stronger than they are?

Benoît Etcheverry: If we compare with the Jewish diaspora, the Irish diaspora, or the Chinese diaspora, we are just beginning, we have so much to do… from the beginning, we should start explaining what the Basque diaspora is in the schools in Euskal Herria.

BBP: As you said, you are passionate about new technologies and you clearly take advantage of them in your work. Do you think those technologies are being used to their fullest? What opportunities do you see in the future? 

Benoît Etcheverry: Sure, we have to create a lot of new things.  For example, like the Corsicans have done, a cellphone application with job offers (in the Basque Country AND in the diaspora). Another example, social networks — of course Facebook, but also others — just to try to find people who have my own name. In 2007, I found a list of all the existing Basque names, more than 10,000…  I simply made a search on Skype of 630 names. In this way, I was in connection via Skype with 4800 people. It was a strategy to inform people about the EuskoSare network.

In the end, the language is the biggest problem; there are not a lot of people speaking 4 languages (the Basque diaspora’s languages)… It’s the reason why I created a group on Facebook in 2008, to organize the translation of Facebook in Euskara…. And we did it !

BBP: Through your career, you’ve had the opportunity to interact with a large number of Basques and travel to many places in the diaspora. What are some of your favorite memories?

Benoît Etcheverry: Well one of my best memories involves one specific person, from Bidarray but living now in Biarritz. I met him for the first time in 2001, when I started my work with the Basque diaspora. At that time, everybody around me was laughing about what I was trying to do, and he was the only one who told me “Benoît, you are right to follow your work, it’s really necessary for us, but they don’t know it yet.” After that he became my mentor: Mister Noel Elorga.

After that, my best memories are my trips in 2005… Argentina and Jaialdi in Boise.

Another interesting memory: it was on December 3, 2012, for the International Day of Euskara. I was on air for the radio program 8 Herrialdeak Zuzenean, and the Hollywood actor Tomas Arana (Body Guard, Gladiator, Limitless, etc.) called us from Hollywood, talking with us for 15 minutes.

BBP: How can others, particularly those in the diaspora, help in building stronger connections between us and the home country? What would you recommend?

Benoît Etcheverry: Well, today there are about 200 Euskal Etxeak in the world with a total of about 45,000 members. First, I think all Euskal Etxeak should ask their members what they need? After that, we can create a new platform dedicated to making a compilation of the answers. And after that, a commission including institutions (from Iparralde and Hegoalde), but also businessmen, and a lot of citizens, working together to find a solution to all those needs. In this way, it’s the global Basque community that answers the call, and not just one institution, association or person.

BBP: Do you have any parting thoughts before we conclude?

Benoît Etcheverry: I remember I discovered your website about 20 years ago. The address was a long number and it ended in “.edu”  And I used your website to make some searches, to understand how a Basque in the diaspora looks in the Basque Country. I think the most important thing is understanding how the people we want to touch see things, politically, culturally, etc. Never say, look my friend, I’m Basque, I’m going to show you what the Basque Country is. As I say to a lot of Basques here… Never forget, Google, Internet, Facebook were created in the diaspora, and they know how to use these tools, certainly better than us. So open your eyes, and your brain. And learn!

BBP: Mil esker Benoit!

Benoit Etcheverry: Milesker zuri Blas

Basque Fact of the Week: The Collegiate of Zenarruza

Just outside of Munitibar, not far from the baserri that my dad grew up in (only 3/4 of a mile as the crow, or crowned eagle, flies), lies the Monastery of Zenarruza, also known as the Collegiate of Zenarruza or Collegiate of Ziortza. It’s a beautiful spot on the edge of Lea-Artibai, a great place to take a break from all of the family lunches and dinners… I mean, all of the sight seeing.

The courtyard in the Monastery of Zenarruza. Image from Wikimedia.
The coat-of-arms of the Monastery, featuring the eagle and skull. Image from Museo de Arte Sacro.
  • The precise origin of the name Zenarruza is not clear. One theory says it is related to the Basque word zihaurri, meaning dwarf elder, and the suffix –tza, which indicates an abundance. However, another theory relates it to tzear otza, meaning cold hillside or slope. The Collegiate is also known as Ziortza, which is thought to be another evolution of the same original name.
  • The Monastery was founded in the 900s. The story goes that, at the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, 968, the people of Gerrikaitz were celebrating mass when an eagle swooped in to the ossuary of the cemetery and seized a skull in its claws. The people followed it as it flew until it reached the slope of Zenarruza, in the foothills of Mount Oiz, where it dropped the skull. The skull fell into a thick patch of dwarf elder. The people took this as a sign that they should build a hermitage to the Virgin on that slope. The coat-of-arms of the Monastery features the eagle and skull.
  • At the end of the 14th century, as the importance of the Camino de Santiago grew, so too did that of Zenarruza. In fact, the church hosted a hospital for pilgrims. The local families pooled resources and hired a group of clergymen to administer to the people and give worship to God and the Virgin. This elevated the church from a Parish to a Collegiate Church, which, while not overseen by a bishop, was still able to offer some of the same services as a cathedral. This happened in 1379. It was the first Collegiate Church of Bizkaia.
  • After its heydays, the Collegiate began to slowly deteriorate and it lost its status as a Collegiate Church in 1851. In 1948, the church at the heart of the Collegiate, renown for its beauty, was named a national monument of Euskadi. In 1988, a group of Cistercian monks, from the abbey of Santa María de la Oliva, in Navarra, moved in, turning the former Collegiate into a monastery.
  • Today, the Monastery pertains to the town of Ziortza-Bolibar. Bolibar, of course, gives its name to Simón Bolívar, the Liberator. And, the name Zenarruza is familiar to Idahoans, giving its name to the Idaho politician Pete Cenarrusa.

Primary sources: Monasterio de Zenarruza; Wikipedia

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