BOOKS - The Center for Basque Studies Reader's Club

Two Basque Stories

About the Author:
Bernardo Atxaga Bernardo Atxaga (pseudonym of Jose Irazu), is a Basque writer who began his career publishing in the Basque language, Euskera. Atxaga graduated in Economics from the Bilbao University and later studied Philosophy at the University of Barcelona. Atxaga is the most widely translated writer in the Basque language and has been awarded the most literary prizes. National and international recognition arrived with his 1988 book, Obabakoak. Atxaga recieved the National Literature Prize for Obabakoak and saw his book translated into more than twenty languages. In Two Basque Stories Atxaga tells of the complex lives lived in the “rustic” Basque village of Obaba and explores the creative process of identity.

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Meet Catalina de Erauso, the Lieutenant Nun!

Catalina de Erauso, also known as “La Monja Alférez” (The Lieutenant Nun) was born in 1592 in Donostia-San Sebastián to a noble family. Catalina was destined to become a nun and was raised in the San Sebastián el Antiguo convent from the age of four. At the age of fifteen, just before she was to take her vows, Catalina escaped from the nunnery after being beat by a superior nun. She dressed as a man and called herself “Francisco de Loyola.” Catalina then visited Valladolid and Bilbao where Catalina became a cabin boy on a ship bound for the Indies. Upon reaching Panama, Catalina jumped ship and enlisted as a soldier under the name “Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán.”

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Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo Wyoming

Edited by David Romtvedt

“What I love in this photo is seeing my father-in-law’s father pretending to direct. And looking young and happy in his life in Wyoming. Many of the herders had musical instruments with them both in the summer mountain pastures and in winter out on the plains—often button accordions. They played for themselves, for their dogs and sheep. For the wind and the trees. Then once or twice each summer they’d have a big blast of a party and play for each other and for people from town who came to the party.”

—David Romtvedt, when asked to comment on what he thought of this photo graciously lent to us by the Johnson County Museum and included in Buffalotarrak. See some other photos from the museums collection of this beautiful little town that played such a disproportionately large role in the history of the Basques in the American West.

The Selected Essays of Julio Caro Baroja

Julio Caro Baroja, as he saw himself, with a bust of his beloved uncle, Pío Baroja, in the background.

Julio Caro Baroja was one of the defining figures of Basque anthropology and ethnography. In his view, Basque material culture and the spiritual and social world of Basque culture and society were intertwined. He eschewed simple or simplistic notions of cultural identity, as can be seen in his discussion in chapter 13, “The Feeling of Belonging in the Basque Diaspora,” on the sense of kinships that Basques in the diaspora (in this case in the seventeenth century):

The Bizkaians, Gipuzkoans, and Arabans set out for the Indies—these great soldiers and sailors . . . great merchants and everything else one can imagine, and they don’t come back home because their lands are so very wretched.

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Living on the Border in the Basque Country

In Living Boundaries: Frontiers and Identity in the Basque Country, Dr. Zoe Bray gives a fascinating anthropological account of three Basque towns: Hondarribia and Irun on the southern, Spanish side of the international frontier, and Hendaia to the north.

These quintessential border towns bring together the Pyrenees, the ocean, the Bidasoa River, the ancient sand, and a very interesting variety of cultures. Twin lifestyles that approach and separate like reflections of concave and convex mirrors.

The Txingudi was the main area of Dr. Bray’s research, which involved living, working, and making observations in the town. Dr. Bray’s research follows in a rich tradition of social anthropological research, laced with ethnographic accounts tied to contemporary sociopolitical issues including: work and play, language issues, cross border organizations, and events like the Alarde and the Korrika. Through her extensive ethnographic work, Bray unravels the complex web of multiple identities—some traditional and some mutant—that have developed in the French–Spanish–Basque context.

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Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times

The experience of ordinary people in the exceptional circumstances that predominated from the start of the Spanish Civil War to the liberation of Europe and end of World War II is the subject of War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936–1946, edited by Sandra Ott. Here are just a few of the stories taken from the book:

Nazario Sarasola from Lekeitio, Bizkaia, a priest who supported the Basque nationalists against Franco’s uprising and who was, upon Franco’s troops conquering Bizkaia, denounced to Falangist (fascist) authorities by three of his neighbors: a baker, a carpenter, and a businessman as being a “fervent nationalist” and “an enemy of the New Spain.” Arrested in 1937, he was held in prison until 1940, when he was released but banished to internal exile in Almería. His case demonstrates the particular ferocity that the Franco regime held for priests—the supposed defenders of the traditional and conservative Spain—who declared themselves for the republic and who defended Basque autonomy. See chapter 2 by Peter Anderson, “From the Pulpit to the Dock”

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