Today in Basque History: King of Nafarroa, Aberri Eguna, Bombing of Iparralde, Basque Music, Basque Guerrilla in Philipines

1225: William, viscount of Bearn, Gabarret, and Brulhois and lord of Moncada and Castelvieil, signs an agreement with the future Theobald I of Nafarroa, Count of Champagne, to ensure him the throne of Nafarroa on the death of his uncle, Sancho the Strong.

1932: The first Aberri Eguna, or Basque National Day, is celebrated in Bilbao, in conjunction with the gold anniversary of the PNV — Partido Nacionalista Vasco. It consists of various commemorative acts, of both folkloric and political character. There is no rally at this first Aberri Eguna, though a banquet was held in the Artxanda casino.

1944: The US Air Force, in Liberator aircraft, bomb Biarritz and Anglet, targeting the airport of Parma and the railway station. However, most of the victims are civilians: 90 dead in Biarritz and 41 in Anglet. This is the most tragic event of World War II in Iparralde.

1976: The iniciative 24 ordu euskeraz is celebrated in the Anoeta velodrome in San Sebastian. More than 10,000 people attend. It is organized by Herri Irratia with participation by the Artze brothers, Bedaxagar, Lete, Knörr, Laboa, Lertxundi, Lupe, Mendibil, Oskarbi or Peio and Pantxoa and the trikitixa of Sakabi and Egañazpi, among other activities.

1981-03-271981: Higinio Uriarte Zamacona, guerrilla captain of World War II and hero of the Philipine resistance against Japanese occupation, dies. His parents were from Bizkaia. The Japanese placed a bounty on him for 100,000 pesos, dead or alive. He fought with guerrillas in the mountains until he saw an American tank with the sign “Fighting Basques”, commanded by a soldier from Idaho, originally from Leiketio.

Today in Basque History: Bank of Vizcaya, Bolivar vs Nature

1901: The Bank of Vizcaya is founded, with a capital of 15,000,000 pesetas.

1812-03-261812: A devastating earthquake hits Caracas. Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, gives relief to victims and organizes a hospital. The indomitable genius of Bolivar is revealed against fatalism. An ecclesiastical harangues the people: the earthquake is a punishment from God, we must submit to the king. Bolivar draws his sword, passes through the crowd, pushes the speaker away, stands on a pile of rubble, and addresses the people: “Nature is allied with despotism, she wants to stop us. Worse for her, we will know how to force her to obey us!”

Today in Basque History: Treaty between Nafarroa and France

1371: The Treaty of Vernon, between Charles II of Nafarroa and Charles V of France, confirms the Treaty of Normandy of 1370, whereby the King of Nafarroa should pay homage to the King of France in exchange for the barony of Montpellier. Seven years later, in 1378, hostilities renewed when two Navarrese agents were captured with plans to poison the King of France.

Today in Basque History: Basque Poet Jailed, Boise Basque Icon

1943-03-241943: Pierre d’ Arcangues, Basque poet of Arrangoitze, is jailed by the German Gestapo.

1932: Mari Carmen Totoricaguena Egurrola Albizu, founder of Anaiak Danok and Biotzetik in Idaho, is born in Gernika. She also directed a chorus of Basque children for 20 years and organized the Aberri Eguna celebrations in Boise, Idaho. She immigrated to the United States in 1951.

Today in Basque History: Prince of Peru, Fashion

1561-03-231561: Lope de Aguirre, born in Onate, Gipuzkoa, and his men proclaim “Don Fernando, by the grace of God, prince of Peru, Tierra Firma and Chile,” intending to crown him king once they arrive in Peru. Fernando de Guzman is made general of the expedition — searching for Omagua and El Dorado — after Aguirre disposes of Pedro de Ursua, the original leader of the expedition.  The document in which this is proclaimed is referred to as the First Act of Independence of America.

According to Aunamendi, it was Fernando de Guzman who was proclaimed Prince of Peru, but a number of English language sites, including Wikipedia, state it was Aguirre himself who was proclaimed Prince.

1972-03-231972: Cristobal Balenciaga Eizagurrie, fashion designer born in Getaria, dies.  Balenciaga became world-reknowned after he is forced by the Spanish Civil War to move to Paris, where among other achievements, he totally transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist.

Books: Estimated Time of Arrest by Delphine Pontvieux and The Lone Man by Bernardo Atxaga

Two men, both with connections to militants in their past.  Both trying to start new lives.  Both pulled back into their past, altering their futures forever.

That is about where the similarities between Delphine Pontvieux’s ETA — Estimated Time of Arrest and Bernardo Atxaga’s The Lone Man end.  While The Lone Man is a psychologically thriller, ETA is an action-packed adventure ride.  Both take you on a roller coaster of suspense and end up leaving you satisfied and hungry for more.

atxaga-lone-manCarlos of The Lone Man is an ex-member of ETA, having been sent to jail for his role in the death of an industrialist he had kidnapped.  After the death of Franco, he had been given amnesty and, along with other ex-militants, created a new life near Barcelona where they own a hotel.  He is drawn back into the militant world when he is asked to hide two fugitive members of ETA.

The protaganist of Estimated Time of Arrest, on the other hand, was never a member of ETA.  Lartaun was involved in the kale barroka, or the street fight, but was wrongfully accused of a bombing that killed a police officer.  He fled to Mexico where he was in exile for two years, before being offered a chance to return to Europe with a new identity, in exchange for a favor for his boyhood friend, Patxi, who is deeply involved in ETA.  That favor, however, proves to be more than he can handle, especially when he falls for Faustine, a woman who lives in the commune where he takes cover.

The Lone Man opens slowly, and the entire novel is from Carlos’ perspective, delving deep into his thoughts and his psyche.  He has done things in his past that he is not proud of and those things haunt him.  At the same time, he is somewhat paranoid, given the circumstances of his hiding the two ETA members, though, it turns out, with good reason.  He tries to find a way to extracate himself from the situation before everything he and his friends have worked for in building their new life.  The ending is almost surreal, with it being very unclear what actually happens and what is just happening in Carlos’ mind.  It makes for an odd, but very emotional, ending to the novel.

pontvieux-etaEstimated Time of Arrest is essentially the opposite.  While Lartaun is the primary protaganist, the plot follows a number of characters that are involved.  It is high-octane action, pitting Lartaun and his girlfriend Faustine against the police against Patxi and his crew as they all race against all odds to the final confrontation with Patxi and his plans for a big event to shake Spanish politics.  While the motivations of the characters are explored to some extent, the real drivers here are the plot and the setting — the fact that this takes place in and near Euskadi is always central to the novel.  Pontvieux uses every chance to explore the Basques and their homeland and present them to the reader.

In some sense, then, these two novels are opposite sides of the same coin.  The Lone Man really focuses on the man, the ex-ETA member, what goes on his head and how he tries to live with the things he has done.  Estimated Time of Arrest, on the other hand, delves into the actions of militants like Carlos used to be and how someone like Lartaun can get caught up into things beyond his control and, to some sense, against his wishes.  In that sense, they are a nice compliment to one another and, taken together, they present an interesting perspective of the militant struggles occurring in the Basque Country.

It should be noted that neither novel tries to justify the violence that occurs and has occurred in Euskal Herria.  Rather, they try to delve into why that violence occurs, what pushes people to that extreme, without condoning it.  The terrorists are not portrayed sympathetically, but neither are they black and white evil characters.  They are people who have found themselves in a position where they saw no other recourse.  Again, the point isn’t to justify or condone, but to understand.

Both novels where highly enjoyable, though Estimated Time of Arrest, being an action thriller, is a certainly lighter reading than The Lone Man.  The later novel is more a psychological thriller and as such gets a bit surreal at times.  However, both are highly recommended.

Estimated Time of Arrest and The Lone Man can be purchased on Amazon.  More information about Estimated Time of Arrest can be found on Miss Nyet Publishing’s website.  You can learn more about Bernardo Atxaga and his work at his official website.

Census-Let them know you are Basque!

From Joe Guerricabeitia of Seattle Euskal Etxea — I thought it worth sharing:

Kaixo danori (Hello everyone),

This email is being sent to you to serve as reminder to remember your heritage as you sit down to fill out your 2010 US Census. As in censuses past, this year’s census asks both about 1) Ethnicity and 2) Race. As has been the case in the past the US government convolutes “Spaniards” with “Hispanics” even though any History, Chicano Studies, or Spanish student (like myself) would tell you is technically incorrect. That being the case the ethnicity question specifically asks if one considers themself Hispanic but then allows for a selection of “Hispanic, other” which is a broad category that includes “Spaniards” and allows for a fill-in-the-blank where “Basque” can be written. Even for our brothers and sisters from across the border in France this seems like the best way to articulate being Basque (certainly not a perfect system). In fact this seems to be the only way. Race then refers to ones “social and cultural characteristics” which by the US census definition describes Basque ancestry as “White” (see below).

It is important to fill out the Census accurately and completely because it is the most database of information for demographics of age, sex, ethnicity, race etc that is drawn from every time in the next year that any US federal, state or local agency requires such data as well as many non-governmental agencies. As one Professor put it, “…an accurate count of the U.S. population forms the basis for many important but often overlooked political, economic, and social decisions that are made that end up affecting our daily lives.” — C.N. Le, Professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst-from Accessed 03/18/10

For more information on the 2010 Census check out:

The US Census Bureau

and for more information on definitions and the Census in general check out the Wiki page at:

  • White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as “White” or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.”[9]

Eskerrik asko,


Interview with Mikel Morris, part II: Overcoming millennia of fudging along

Mikel Morris, an American with dual US/Spanish nationality living in Zarautz, Spain, has written the definitive Basque-English dictionary and is currently working on the Morris Magnum which promises to be the largest bilingual Basque dictionary in existence.

In the first part of this interview, Mikel shared his thoughts and hard-hitting observations on
the status of the Basque language, the efforts the Basque government is making to promote Euskara, and his own tribulations in getting his dictionary published.

In this part 2, Mikel describes how difficult it has been for him to work within the Basque system, his views of the future of the Basque language and the bright spots in the current efforts to promote the Basque language, and gives an update on the status of the second edition of his Magnum dictionary.

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