Tag Archives: Nafarroa

Yes!

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“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark”

Victor Hugo (Les Misérables, 1862)

Against the backdrop of the secular Basque immigration history to the United States of America, a five-year-old girl, Maite Echeto, awaits the return of her father to the Old Country with her mother. In a visit to her cousins’ farm Maite meets a new-born goslin, by the name of “Oui Oui Oui,” that she ends up adopting. As one could imagine this is the beginning of their numerous and unexpected adventures throughout the colorful countryside of the Basque Country in France (Iparralde). Maite and the goslin are the main characters of the children’s book Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees.

Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees is the posthumous and first short story of Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton. As a well-known local artist she also illustrated the book with original drawings. Mary Jean was born in 1921 in Reno, Nevada, and passed away in 2008 in Verdi, Nevada. She lived in Iparralde for a number of years in the 1950s. According to her family, “Mary Jean had a vehicle and was popular with the family because the roads then were in bad shape. She lived most of the time in a little house named Bakea, in Laxia of Itxassou [Itsasu], Lapurdi.

Mary Jean’s parents were Jean Pierre Etcheberry and María Simona “Louisa” Larralde. Jean Pierre was born in 1891 in the small town of Saint-Just-Ibarre (Donaixti-Ibarre), in the Basque province of Lower Navarre, Nafarroa Beherea. He arrived in New York City at the age of 18. He worked as a sheepherder in Flagstaff, Arizona, and later on in the Winnemucca area. Jean Pierre arrived in Reno around 1914 and worked for the Jeroux family, a successful rancher at that time. María Simona “Louisa” was born in 1896 in Erratzu in the province of Nafarroa. She was the seventh of ten children, of whom six migrated to Nevada and California. Louisa arrived in New York City in 1914. Upon arrival in Reno, she worked as a maid in the mansion of the Jeroux family. “No doubt this is where she met her future husband Jean Pierre Etcheberry,” Paul Etxeberri, a nephew of Mary Jean, states. They married in 1917 in Reno and had three children: St. John, Paul John and Mary Jean. A decade later, Jean Pierre and Louisa bought a sheep ranch in southwest Reno and managed the Santa Fe Hotel, a successful Basque boardinghouse in downtown Reno, for over thirty years. Jean Pierre passed away in 1943, and Louisa in 1989 at the age of 93.

Mary Jean has now become part of Basque-America’s literary legacy, alongside Frank Bergon (Jesse’s Ghost), Martin Etchart (The Good Oak, The Last Shepherd), Robert Laxalt (Sweet Promised Land, The Basque Hotel…), Gregory Martin (Mountain City), and Monique Urza (The Deep Blue Memory), among others.

Before passing away Mary Jean entrusted her great-nieces, Marylou and Jennifer Etcheberry, with her precious manuscript, although it was just recently published.

Oui-Original-ManuscriptBook cover of Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees alongside the original type-written manuscript. Photo by Pedro J. Oiarzabal, July 2013, Reno Nevada.

Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees was published by the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2012, the second book of its Juvenile Literature collection. It follows Mark Kurlansky’s The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi, published in 2005 in English and Basque. With more than eighty titles ranging from diaspora and migration books to graphic novels it is by far the largest publishing house in the world on Basque topics for the English-speaking audience. Not shy to admit that academic presses should welcome other types of non-academic quality literary works, the Center for Basque Studies has issued a call for the first annual Basque Literary Writing Contest. (Please note: Entries closed on September 15, 2013.)

Marylou-EtcheberryMarylou Etcheberry, proud great-niece of Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton, poses with a copy of Oui Oui Oui. Photo by Pedro J. Oiarzabal, July 2013, Elko, Nevada.

Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees is a welcoming breath of fresh air for the English-speaking reader, and especially for its younger members, regardless of their ethnic and cultural background. I hope that many more titles would follow the adventures of Maite and her goslin.

My dearest darlings,” Jacque, Maite’s father, writes. “This is the letter I’ve dreamed of writing for four long years…Our future in America looks bright, and I can look forward to having my darlings with me…” This might well echo the wishes of many families that became strangled due to the physical separation upon leaving their homes and their loved ones behind. It very much resembles the family histories of our recent past. For Maite and her mother, it marks the beginning of a new quest.

Many thanks to Paul Etxeberri for gathering information on the Etcheberry family.

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The fourth man of California

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Comrades, the doors opened, and slavery ended, breaking the heavy chains that oppressed youth. Be rebellious and never daunt before the enemy oppressor”

(The 1938 Fort San Cristóbal escape anthem written by Rogelio Diz Fuentes, Prisoner #1104, and Daniel Robado, Prisoner #1133)

Next May 22 marks the 75th anniversary of the massive escape from Fort Alfonso XII, also known as Fort San Cristóbal, which became one of the largest and most tragic prison breaks, during wartime, in contemporary Europe. However, History has not been too keen on recording this episode compared with similar events. Paul Brickhill’s autobiographical book “The Great Escape” (1950) narrates the heroic prison break of 76 allied prisoners of war from the German Stalag Luft III camp (Żagán, Poland) in March 1944. Fifty escapees were caught and murdered by the Gestapo, and only 3 succeeded by reaching Sweden and Spain, which were neutral territories during World War II. The story was immortalized by the memorable film “The Great Escape” (1963). On the other hand, in the case of the escape from Fort San Cristóbal, 795 people broke free, 206 were murdered, and, coincidentally, only 3 succeeded by crossing the French border. Contrarily, only silence, fear, and brutal repression resulted from this prison break.

Fuerte San Cristóbal / EzkabaAerial view of Fort San Cristóbal-Ezkaba. Image source: Iñaki Sagredo ©.

Located at the top of San Cristóbal or Ezkaba Mountain, a few miles away from Iruña (Nafarroa), the fort was built as a military compound between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Obsolete for its original purpose, the fort was turned into an improvised political prison from the very beginning of the Spanish Civil War until 1945.

Although it is difficult to know the exact number of inmates at the time of the escape, it is estimated that there were approximately 2,487 prisoners from different areas of Spain. Many of them were affiliated to or sympathizers of leftist and nationalist political parties and trade unions as well as soldiers and militiamen, loyal to the Republic and the Basque government. The harsh living conditions within the fort walls, hunger, sickness and the sadistic behavior of some wardens fuelled the prison break with the clear political goal of continuing the fight against the rebel troops. A planned mutiny led by Leopoldo Picó Pérez (Prisoner #319) and Baltasar Rabanillo Rodríguez (Prisoner #1012)—communist militants from Bilbao and Valladolid, respectively—resulted in freeing one-third of the total prison population. Many were ill-prepared for the escape, without provisions and proper clothing.

During the following days, nearly 28% of the escapees were brutally murdered by Francisco Franco’s army in the nearby fields and mountains, while the rest of the men were soon captured enduring forty days of isolation and inhuman treatment. Thirteen so-called leaders, including Baltasar, were sentenced to death. Leopoldo was also intercepted and brought to prison. He was shot without trial. Another 46 captured fugitives died in the fort between 1938 and 1943 due to sickness and sordid cruelty.

Only 3 men—Valentín Lorenzo Bajo, José Marinero Sanz, and Jovino Fernández González—as it was documented later on, succeeded in getting to the French border, 30 miles away from the fort.

However, the story did not end here. In 1998, a man visiting from California had a series of casual encounters with six different people in an area from where he recalled escaping to France after fleeing away from Fort San Cristóbal sixty years earlier. The man told them that he was born in Azagra (Nafarroa) in 1918, being imprisoned in the Ezkaba fort from where he broke free in 1938. He finally managed to cross the border, finding refuge in Martin Urrels’ farmhouse in Banka. There, he learnt about Martin’s two brothers, Michel and Jean, who lived in the Cedarville area, California, working as sheepherders. Michel and Jean had immigrated into the United States in 1910 and in 1914, respectively. From France he left to Mexico, crossing the border to California, where he worked for the Urrels brothers for a few years. The man went to explained how he enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, being deployed to Europe as part of a tank battalion. After the war, he got involved in the trucking business that his sons inherited.

This was the story as remembered by some of the people who met the strange visitor. In his 80s the man from California decided to reencounter the past through revisiting his memories. Though his identity is still a mystery, the story should corroborate the existence of a fourth escapee. This could mean that the Ezkaba escape was the most successful prison break in contemporary Europe.

Back in 1938, Diario de Navarra, a local newspaper, published a distorting note on the tragic event, while describing the escapees as “murderers, robbers, and thieves who had abused the human regime of Franco’s Spain.” The escape was another clear example of the official amnesia imposed by Franco during his four-decade dictatorial regime. However, it became part of the collective memory of many who never forgot May 22, 1938. In 2000, the Association Txinparta was set up to recover the historical memory of the Fort of San Cristóbal prisoners between 1934 and 1945. Similarly, in November 2002, the Association of the Family Members of the Executed, Murdered and Missing People in Navarre in 1936 was also established to honor the memory of more than 3,300 people who were murdered in Nafarroa during the Spanish Civil War. In 2006, Iñaki Alforja directed the documentary “Ezkaba, the great escape from Franco’s jails”.

If you have any information on the Fort San Cristóbal escape and, particularly, on the identity of the fourth man please contact us by sending a message. We would love to hear from you!

Many thanks to Fermín Ezkieta for sharing his excellent and extensive work on the history of the escapees from Ezkaba.

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Zazpiak Bat Dance Group de San Francisco: Paso a paso desde hace 50 años

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Fundado en Junio de 1960 en San Francisco, California, el Basque Club of California (Club Vasco de California) se convirtió rápidamente en un referente cultural tanto a nivel de las comunidades vascas del estado como a nivel nacional, contribuyendo, por ejemplo, a la creación de la federación de organizaciones vascas de Norte América (NABO) a principios de la década de 1970. En sus orígenes, el Club Vasco de San Francisco estuvo compuesto, en su gran mayoría, por vascos de Nafarroa Beherea y Nafarroa que habían emigrado a Estados Unidos en la década de 1940. Muchos de ellos tras la depresión económica de la Segunda Guerra Mundial decidieron trasladarse de las zonas rurales de California a San Francisco en busca de nuevas oportunidades, rejuveneciendo, de esta manera, a la comunidad vasca de la ciudad.

A día de hoy, varios clubes vascos continúan en activo en California. El decano de las asociaciones es el Kern County Basque Club, establecido en Bakersfield en 1944. A este le sigue el Southern California Basque Club, creado un año después en la localidad de Chino. Habrá que esperar a la década de 1960 para encontrarnos con una nueva hornada de asociaciones: El Club Vasco de California (San Francisco, 1960), Los Banos Basque Club (Los Banos, 1964), y Chino Basque Club (Chino, 1967).

Entre las actividades que tuvieron un mayor y temprano arraigo entre los socios del recién fundado club vasco de San Francisco se encuentra el grupo de danzas Zazpiak Bat Dance Group. Este primer fin de semana de Junio ha marcado el cincuenta aniversario de su primea actuación en público, siendo el grupo de danzas más antiguo de la Bahía de San Francisco. Al grupo de adultos se unió un grupo de danzas para niños llamado Gazteak, la primera banda de klika en el país, Zazpiak Bat Klika (1964), y el primer coro vasco del país, Elgarrekin (1979).

Zazpiak Bat Dance Group 1961

El grupo original de baile Zazpiak Bat en 1961. Sentados en primera fila (de izquierda a derecha): Mayie Camino y Bernadette Iribarren. Sentados segunda fila (de izquierda a derecha): Mayie Oçafrain, Anita Arduain, Christine Uharriet, Denise Ourtiague, Catherine Dunat y Louise Saparart. De pies (de izquierda a derecha): Juan Tellechea, Jeannot Laxague, Michel Duhalde, Michel Arduain, Michel Antoine, Michel Oyharçabal, Pierre Labat, Gratien Oçafrain, Frederic Fuldain y Paul Castech (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

Frederic Fuldain fue el creador tanto del grupo de danzas de adultos—junto al instructor Juan Tellechea, de Lesaka—como de la banda de klika, a la vez que el organizador de los primeros torneos de mus y de pelota del club vasco. Nacido en Bidarrai en 1929, Fuldain emigró a Bakersfield en 1951 donde trabajo como pastor de ovejas durante tres años. De ahí se trasladó a San Francisco donde abrió su propio negocio de jardinería. Fuldain fue el Presidente de Honor del club durante treinta años. Falleció en Belmont, California a la edad de setenta y seis años. La idea original de Fuldain era incluir bailes de las provincias de Bizkaia y Gipuzkoa como complemento a los bailes de la provincia de Nafarroa Beherea—origen de la mayoría de los socios de aquel entonces. Su mano derecha en esta labor fue Tellechea. En los inicios los dantzaris fueron acompañados por el acordeonista Jim Etchepare y los txistularis Juan José y Carmelo San Mames y Abel Bolumburu.

Frederic Fuldain

Ceremonia de homenaje a Frederic Fuldain en el Centro Cultural Vasco de San Francisco el 2 de Abril de 1995 (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

El grupo Gazteak fue creado por Michel Oyharçabal y Christine Maysonnave. En 1962, Pierre Etcharren, de Uharte-Garazi, se convirtió en el instructor del grupo de niños. Dos años después, tras el retorno de Tellechea a Euskal Herria, Etcharren se hizo también cargo del grupo de adultos. Cargo que ocupó durante veinticinco años. Desde entonces su hija, Valerie Etcharren, ha instruido a ambos grupos.

Desde Junio de 1961 hasta hoy, el Zazpiak Bat Dance Group ha actuado por todo el Oeste Americano y se ha consolidado como uno de los grupos de danza vasca más interesantes del país. En 1993 participaron en el Baztandarren Biltzarra de Elizondo bajo la atenta mirada del que fuera su primer instructor Juan Tellechea. Habían transcurrido veintinueve años.

“Euskaldunak Californian”

Dantzaris del Zazpiak Bat en Elizondo, Nafarroa en 1993. Primera fila (de izquierda a derecha): Martin Lasa, Xavier Oçafrain y Xavier Salaburu. Segunda fila (de izquierda a derecha): Idoya Salaburu, Isabelle Oillarburu, Maitexa Cuburu, Jeanette Etchamendy, Evelyne Etcharren, Elise Martinon, Rose Marie Etchamendy y Valerie Etcharren. Fila del fondo (de izquierda a derecha): Elisa Lasa, Isabelle Oçafrain, Valerie Gorostiague, Nicole Oçafrain y Stephanie Duhart (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

Para conmemorar el quincuagésimo aniversario del Zazpiak Bat diferentes generaciones de bailarines van a actuar en el Centro Cultural Vasco de San Francisco durante el fin de semana del 27 y 28 de Agosto de este año. Emigrantes vascos llevaron consigo experiencias, valores, prácticas y tradiciones culturales, religiosas y lingüísticas a Estados Unidos, produciendo su propia interpretación de cultura e identidad vascas. Recrearon una cultura en un nuevo país contra todo pronóstico, siendo capaces de trasmitirla exitosamente a las nuevas generaciones de vascos nacidos en tierra americana. Hoy como hace cincuenta años, la comunidad vasca de San Francisco sigue demostrando la vitalidad y la capacidad de soñar y amar que les llevo a construir una nueva Euskal Herria a miles de kilómetros de distancia de Europa.

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The Basque Global Time

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Time present and time past

are both perhaps present in time future,

and time future contained in time past”

(T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets, 1945)

Some Basque diaspora communities and some groups in the Basque Country share, depending on the type of celebrations, some highly symbolic temporal commemorations. According to Michel Laguerre, “diasporic new years, holy days, and holidays incubate the memory of the homeland, heighten the temporal dissimilarity between the mainstream and the ethnic enclave, intensify transnational relations, maximize revenues in the diasporic economy…raise the public consciousness about the presence of the group in their midst, induce changes of the diasporic community, and help the group reproduce itself as a transglobal entity” (In Urban Multiculturalism and Globalization in New York City, 2003: 5). That is to say, different temporal commemorations such as religious, cultural, political, and hybrid are currently celebrated by Basques worldwide. However, the boundaries between religious, political, or cultural temporalities are not so clear-cut. For example, religious celebrations, such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola can be understood as strong Basque nationalist events while nationalist events, such as the Aberri Eguna are imbued with religious symbolism; and cultural events such as Korrika, the bi-annual pro-Basque language race are seen as highly political.

Following the Roman Catholic calendar Basque diaspora communities celebrate different religious festivities, such as Christmas, Easter Week, and Basque Patron Saints days (e.g., Saint Sebastian, January 20th—e.g., Madrid—Saint Fermín, July 7th, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, July 31st—e.g., Miami—Our Lady of Arantzazu, September 9th, or Saint Francis Xavier, December 3rd). Despite the obvious religious content of those festivities, for example, Saint Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Nafarroa, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Patron Saint of the provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, were not only considered religious symbols but also political symbols, particularly during the time of the Basque government-in-exile.

Similarly, Aberri Eguna (the Day of the Homeland) coincides, intentionally, with the Catholic festivity of Easter Sunday, as a metaphor for the resurrection of the Basque nation. It has been, and still is, commemorated in the Basque diaspora (e.g., London and Havana) since the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV in its Spanish acronym) established it in 1932. From 1936 to 1976, the Spanish Workers Socialist Party also commemorated the date, which was legalized in Spain in 1978. Since then, only the Basque nationalist parties, separately, celebrate it. However, since 2005 the annual Aberri Eguna celebration in Argentina were jointly celebrated by representatives from the nationalist youth group JO TA KE of Rosario, the extraterritorial assembly of the PNV in Argentina, and Eusko Alkartasuna-Argentina. In addition, the aerial bombardment of Gernika by Nazi Germany on April 26, 1937, is another highly commemorated date by Basque diaspora institutions and communities (e.g., Argentina and San Francisco, United States).

The main common cultural celebrations refer to the Basque language or Euskara. Euskararen Eguna, the International Basque Language Day, was instituted by Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Society of Basque Studies, in 1948, and it is celebrated on December 3rd, the day of St. Francis Xavier. It has been, and still is, celebrated in the diaspora. The bi-annual and very popular pro-Basque language event Korrika—a run and walk-a-thon to raise money for Basque language schools—is also celebrated abroad (e.g., Barcelona and Shanghai).

In the 2003 World Congress of Basque Collectivities, the institutional representatives of the Basque diaspora recommended the establishment of a “Day of the Diaspora” to be celebrated in both the Basque Country and the diaspora as a way to achieve an official social recognition in the homeland. (Unfortunately, as of April 2011, the “Day of the Diaspora” has not been established yet). Despite the fact that Basque migrants are physically removed from their home country, they are able to be united with their co-nationals by sharing cyclical common events throughout time. The aforementioned celebrations unite Basques from all provinces, including diaspora Basques. These specific temporalities for communal gathering, fraternity, and for renewing pledges of identity, help diaspora and homeland Basques to imagine themselves as a Basque united global community regardless of their geographical location.

Are we ready to build a Basque global community?

For a version of the post in Spanish please visit: http://www.euskonews.com/0578zbk/kosmo57801es.html

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El Aberri Eguna de Félix Bilbao Dañobeitia (1917-2010)

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Félix Bilbao Dañobeitia, nacido en Zamudio (Bizkaia) en 1917, compartió su vida con Begoña Laita durante más de seis décadas y fueron padres de María Amada, Luis Mari, José Félix, y David, habiendo llegado a disfrutar no sólo de nietos sino también de biznietos.

Félix, gudari en los batallones “Guernica”, “Leandro Carro” y “Amayur” durante la Guerra Civil Española fue hecho prisionero en 1937 y condenado a realizar trabajos forzados durante dos años. Una vez terminada su sentencia regresó a su pueblo natal, pero su particular infierno no había hecho más que comenzar. Félix fue obligado a hacer el servicio militar durante tres años en La Legión del recién instaurado régimen del Generalísimo Francisco Franco, y fue destinado al Norte de África y al sur de la península. En 1944, tras ocho largos años pudo volver definitivamente a Zamudio. Félix continuó apoyando la resistencia nacionalista contra la dictadura franquista hasta 1948, fecha en que toda posibilidad de victoria se desvaneció.

En 1950 la Guerra de Corea había comenzado lo que provocó una demanda creciente de carne para abastecer a la tropa estadounidense que se había involucrado en la defensa de Corea del Sur. Consecuentemente se facilitó la entrada de vascos en Estados Unidos, hasta la fecha muy limitada, para cubrir las necesidades de la industria ovina. Las reformas migratorias impulsadas por el Senador por Nevada Patrick McCarran permitieron un límite de 250 pastores al año, entre ellos la mayoría eran de Bizkaia y Nafarroa. En 1951 Félix decidió emprender una nueva vida y emigró como pastor a Estados Unidos. En 1952, la cuota oficial de inmigrantes se incremento a 750. Pasados cinco años la familia pudo reunirse con Félix en California. Regentaron la famosa pensión vasca Hotel Du Midi durante una década y el restaurante Bilbao’s Basque Corner durante cinco años, ambos situados en el corazón de San Francisco.

Félix Bilbao en el Basque Cultural Center, Marzo 2007 (Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

Félix Bilbao en el Basque Cultural Center, Marzo 2007 (Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

Félix nos dejaba el pasado Sábado Santo, un día de reflexión y oración que prepara a los creyentes cristianos para la celebración de la Vigilia Pascual. La inesperada noticia de su trágico fallecimiento en un accidente de coche me llevó a recordar la última vez que nos vimos en el Basque Cultural Center de la californiana ciudad de South San Francisco unos días antes de mi regreso definitivo a casa. Muy consciente de que en tres años se cumpliría el 80 aniversario del primer Aberri Eguna se encontraba ilusionado por la posibilidad de que tan señalada fecha pudiese ser de nuevo celebrada por todos conjuntamente, nacionalistas y no nacionalistas, dentro y fuera de Euskal Herria. “Nos vemos pronto. Recuerda que el 2012 va a ser una fecha especial y cumpliré 95 años. Hay que celebrarlo”, me dijo. “Aquí hay Republicanos y Demócratas, pero el 4 de Julio, ante todo, son americanos. En Euskadi, debemos anteponer nuestro país a nuestras siglas partidistas, particularmente los nacionalistas. Somos vascos, esto es lo que nos une, aquí y allí. Hay que seguir trabajando…Gora Euskadi Askatuta”.

Félix, Goian Bego!

[Artículos sobre Félix Bilbao en Español y Euskera]

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