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Ongi Etorri! What started out as a personal homepage has grown to a site that contains nearly 1000 pages and receives over 16,000 hits per day. The popularity of this site is a testament to all of those who have contributed to this site. Eskerrik asko!

I am always looking to improve the site. If you would like to contribute, please contact me.

Enjoy your visit.

February 2nd, 2010

IMAG0234It is that time of year again!  Time to celebrate the fiesta of San Blas, or Saint Blaise!  In the Basque Country (and maybe elsewhere), Feb 3, the fiesta of San Blas, is celebrated with a special cake.  In towns like Abadiño, Bizkaia, where the day is one of the town’s festival days, you’ll find this cake everywhere. Txapitela, who sends out notices of Basque news and events, sent me a recipe for the cake which I’m sharing here. Enjoy!


For the dough:

  • 500 or 600 grams of flour
  • 4 whole eggs, minus one egg white
  • 50 or 75 grams of drawn butter
  • 9 tablespoons of sugar (200/250 grams)
  • 1 packet of baking powder (16 grams)
  • 9-12 drops of essence of anis

For the frosting:

  • 1 egg white
  • 125/175 grams of confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 or 4 drops of lemon juice

Beat the eggs like for making tortilla, add the sugar.

Melt the butter in a water bath, add and continue beating.

Add essence of anis, flour, and royal.

Kneed well the dough, making a ball.  Roll with a rolling pin and give the dough shape, making 1 or 2 cakes.

Put in the oven for 25/30 minutes at 190º Celsius (375 F).

While the cake is cooking:

Beat the egg white with the confectioner’s sugar and lemon.

Put it in a water bath so that it continues heating.

Pour on top of the hot cake and let it cool.

Note, I have to admit that I don’t like anis myself, so these cakes were never my favorite, but maybe with the recipe, I can tweak it to make it something else, like vanilla or something.

The image is from a photo on Picasaweb by victor at the Escuela Cocina Bilbao.

January 18th, 2010

basque-exhibit-menAs many of you might already know, the Boise Basque Museum and Cultural Center, with help from the Basque Government, has been working on a project to highlight the Basques’ contributions to the history and settlement of the United States.  I’ve received a number of recent messages updating me on the status of the project, which is that the exhibit is now on display at the Boise Basque Museum and will soon move to the Ellis Island National Monument Museum.

Entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight: the Basques“, the exhibit will be at Ellis Island from February to May.  It will return to Boise for Jaialdi and will become a feature exhibit at the Basque Museum in Boise.  In the words of the website, the exhibit explores the language, customs, traditions and values of the Basque people as well as the allure that America held for them. Hidden in Plain Sight will recount the compelling historical journey of the of Basque men, women and children who immigrated in the early 20th Century from the Basque regions of France and Spain to the United States.

The exhibit aims to both recognize and demonstrate the history of Basques throughout the United States.  The Basques have played a large role in many areas, but their actions have often been in the background, hidden if you will.  The exhibit hopes to show the greater populace the part the Basques have played in shaping the US.

If you are interested in contributing to the project, there is a form for doing so on the website.

January 9th, 2010

A couple of links I’ve been sent or found in wanderings of the web.

First, Louis Arriaga Jr has a fascinating story of misunderstandings and miscarriage of justice (even one of the sentencing judges felt this way, but couldn’t do anything about it).  Clearly, Arriaga is of Basque descent, though his connections to Spain are somewhat distant.  He has a site devoted to his story, but a summary of it can be found in this Phoenix New Times article.

Mugalari means “someone who crosses boarders”, a reference to the smugglers who work across the French-Spanish border.  Mugalari is also the name of a new blog, a blog devoted to showing you “other” aspects of the Basque Country, not necessarily those that would show up in a guide book.  Mugalari has traveled himself extensively and this blog is his attempt to do for the Basque Country what would have been nice for him in other parts of the world.

And speaking of visiting the Basque Country, the region of Debagoiena, which includes the famous University of Onati as well as the shrine Arantzazu, has a website devoted to tourism in the area. This includes guides, photos, and information about hotels and more to help you in your visit to the heart of Gipuzkoa.

I ran into this next site just searching for Basque images on Google.  It is amazing what you find sometimes.  I’ve often been asked, especially by adherents of the Society for Creative Anachronism, what the Basque dress of the Middle Ages was.  It’s hard to find much about that in English, though I guess I would think there is quite a bit in Spanish and Basque.  In any case, this site has quite a few images devoted to the dress of Basques from that era.  Some very interesting images.

Finally, the Basque Country, like the UK and other parts of Europe, was recently hit by some winter weather, and this blog of EiTB captures some of the resulting spectacular scenery, including this image of a snow-covered La Concha.  The Basque Country looks very different in white than it does in the typical green we are more familiar with, though just as striking and beautiful.

January 9th, 2010

I was sent a link to this site,, which has a number of videos of the ocean and more in the Basque Country.  It is in French, so I don’t understand much of what is written, but I thought people might enjoy it.

January 7th, 2010

Joe Guerricabeitia originally posted this on the Seattle Euskal Etxea website.  I really enjoyed it and, with his permission, repost it here.

America is a nation of democracy. The Founding Fathers designed it so; Alexis de Tocqueville praised it. During the last half century America solidified this democracy such that every American man, woman and child was given the right to affect their lives through an equal right to vote. Still, for a nation which often touts its democratic roots as one if its hallmark characteristics, the idea of direct worker involvement in US corporate affairs is often branded as leftist, socialist and sometimes even categorically painted with the wide, red-brush of McCarthy’s communism.

Here in Washington state, where commercial aeronautics was born under the Boeing banner, some have argued that worker unions and their collective bargaining recently drove the big “B” to establish its second 787 Dreamliner production line in South Carolina, where amongst other things workers are not unionized.

This makes the increasing popularity of worker driven cooperative business  models within the US, all the more interesting.  Most notable has been the decision by the United Steel Workers Union to court and co-opt the Basque, worker-owned cooperative model of Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC). The United Steel Workers Union, is after all, North America’s largest industrial trade union.

Following an age of corporate outsourcing and off-shore manufacturing plants US workers have looked to the world to find a sustainable model for future US growth and have landed right in our Aitxitxe (grandfather) and Amuma’s (grandmother’s) backyard.  The US Steel workers have looked at the example set by the Basques of Mondragon and decided that the very same could be done here,  and why not?

As Americans we are a nation of do-it-yourselfers (DIY’ers). We live by, “if you want something done right, do-it-yourself.” We are a proud nation of entrepreneurs, so well known for our creativity and that which is often described as the American Spirit, that every year foreign nationals  inundate us with applications for work, and study visas. This spirit, is ingrained in us and has driven the proliferation of big-box DIY chains like Lowe’s and Home Depot. As Americans we  swap home and automotive repair tips like baking recipes with our friends.

As Basques we are hard-working, family-centric people. We know our neighbors. In Euskadi and throughout the diaspora we have earned a reputation of ingenuity, pioneering spirit and hard work, all traits that carried us into new worlds either by boat or by plane, wherever there was work and opportunity available.  Always with us we  brought our traditions, our language and often times our families.

Mondragon’s cooperative work model is simply one of the oldest traditions, repackaged: the baserria.  Like the ever-disappearing baserritarra (traditional farmer from a baserria [farmhouse]) could tell you the baserria was and in some cases still is a modern day worker-owned cooperative. Often centralized around families this microcosm of sustainability, traditionally revolved around farming and ranching but newer generations have hybridized this tradition by allowing the older generations to continue to farm and ranch as their forefathers had done, while the youth have pursued greater educational opportunities and a chance to join Euskal Herria’s burgeoning manufacturing and business sectors.

The “baserriak” cooperative model is not “new” to the US, only new to US workers. The cooperative model has always been with Basques even in the diaspora in the form our Euskal Etxeak or Basque Centers, where the economy of currency has been swapped for heritage and tradition, sport and dance, language and culinary delights.

To our American brothers and sisters we say, “Ongi etorri!” or Welcome! May the cooperative model work as well in for Americans as it has done for so long with the Basques.

Garaipena, neke askoren ondorena “Success is the result of a lot of hard work.”


In Cleveland, Worker Coops Look to a Spanish Model By Judith D. Schwartz from; 12/22/09; Accessed 12/28/09

US Seeks Inspirtaion in Basque Cooperative Model By I. H. – E. S. from,; Published 12/28/09; Accessed 12/28/09

‘One Worker, One Vote:’ US Steelworkers to Experiment with Factory Ownership, Mondragon Style By Carl Davidson from,; Published 10/27/09; Accessed 11/25/09

January 5th, 2010

obabakoak-atxagaObabakoak by Bernardo Atxaga is one of my favorite books.  Certainly I have a little bias because it is by a Basque author, but it is simply a marvelous book, regardless of any personally leanings.  I read it for the second time this summer as part of the New Mexico Euskal Etxea’s book club and rediscovered all of the charm and wonder that I first encountered over a decade ago when I first read it.

Using the fictitious Basque town of Obaba as a framing device, Atxaga tells a series of tales that are essentially independent short stories, but all with some connection to Obaba.  Some take place in Obaba itself, others focus on people originally from Obaba.  The town of Obaba serves to bring some cohesiveness to the collection.

I had forgotten some of the stories that really are great.  Whether dealing with one man’s exploration of an old forgotten Spanish town, or the dreams of a man trying to escape his life through an elaborate crime, or even just the story of a man revisiting the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disability of an old grade-school friend, each story has a different style and different approach that individually explore the human condition in such a wonderful way, but collectively demonstrate the great skills of their author.

While the English version is a result of both Atxaga’s skill as a writer in Euskara as well as the translator’s ability to reword that Euskara into English, such that the line between author and text is a little blurred, the way words are used is just delightful.  Take, for instance, this description from the chapter entitled “Nine Words in Honour of the Village of Villamediana”:

Imagine, for example, that you have a cockroach living in your house and one day it occurs to you to christen that cockroach Jose Maria, and then it’s Jose Maria this or Jose Maria that, and very soon the creature becomes a sort of small, black person, who may turn out to be timid or irritable or even a little conceited.  And obviously in that situation you wouldn’t dream of putting poison down around the house.  Well, you might consider it as an option but no more often than you would for any other friend.

That last line just completely changes the entire feeling of the paragraph.  Or this one, from the same chapter:

What else was solitude if not a situation in which even the ticking of a clock can be companionable?

Overall, the stories, it seems to me, belong to that class of fiction that Borges contributed so much to, magic realism.  These stories surprise the reader with their plot, but also explore those corners of the human experience, both the dark and light corners, that make life so rich, that make being human so, well, human.  His characters all have their shortcomings, all have their foibles, and are the richer for it.  There are no happy endings.  There are endings that are happy, but just because that happens in real life at times.  Just like real life, there are sad endings, and tragic endings, and Atxaga has all of those.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is simply interested in a collection of great stories.

January 3rd, 2010

The lauburu is such a Basque symbol that most of the tattoos that I’ve received prominently feature it in some way or another.  The two most recent tattoos are no exception.

metcheberry-tattooMegan Etcheberry is a second generation but 100% Basque who lives in Portland, Oregon.  Her tattoo features an encircled lauburu on her back.  Simple, but, as always, elegant.

cfarrell-tattooColin Farrell isn’t Basque, but spent time in the Basque Country as part of the pro surfing tour and fell in love with the place.  He recently added a lauburu to what I assume was an exisiting tattoo featuring a surf scene.  He writes: “I spent some time in Mundaka and Bilbao in 2007 when I was studying abroad and absolutely fell in love with Euskadi.  Since then I’ve actually written my senior thesis on the influences of Sabino Policarpo de Arana y Giori and have begun to make plans to move there permanently.  I just got the lauburu tattoo about 2 weeks ago at Tattoo Paradise in Washington DC.  The artist, Nikki, is part Basque herself!

Eskerrik asko Megan and Colin!

December 17th, 2009

egunkaria-libreAbout 6 years ago, Egunkaria, then the only daily newspaper published fully in Basque, was shut down on suspicions of ties to terrorists.  Between then and now, no trials had occurred and it was thought that essentially the matter had been dropped.  However, now, 6 years later, those who worked at Egunkaria are indeed being tried, including Martxelo Otamendi, the editor of the newspaper.

EgunkariaLibre is a site that has two purposes: to support those being put on trial as well as disseminate news about the happenings surrounding Egunkaria, it’s shut down, and the people who worked there.

These events have reached even those Basques living in the United States.  This article in the Idaho Statesman describes how Otamendi previously visited the US to report on, other things, the Idaho legislature’s non-binding memorial supporting the Basque Country’s right for self-determination.  He stayed with Dave Bieter, now the mayor of Boise.

This was the second such newspaper shut down by Spain.  Before, Egin was also shut down.  As was said by Paddy Woodworth in that article, author of The Basque Country: A Cultural History:

“I believe that if there are serious charges against a medium of communication, sufficient to justify the precautionary measure of closing it down, they should be heard within weeks, not years,” he said. “Otherwise the state is very open to charges of suppressing press freedom.”

December 17th, 2009

pontvieux-etaDelphine Pontvieux, a member of the forum, has just released her novel ETA: Estimated Time of Arrest


After participating in a pro-separatist march that turned violent in January of 1992, 21-year-old Lorenzo Lartaun Izcoa is wrongly charged with the fatal bombing of a police station in his home town. Irun is a small city located in the heart of the Basque country, trapped between France and Spain, and struggling for independence. Lartaun finds himself on the Spanish Secret Service’s “most wanted” list, branded an active member of the Basque terrorist group ETA.

He has no choice but to flee his country.

Two years later, Lartaun’s childhood friend bursts back into his life. In exchange for a “small favor,” he offers him a passport and the chance to return to Europe under a new identity. Lartaun seizes the opportunity.


Back in Europe, hiding away in a commune in the French Pyrenees Mountains, Lartaun meets Faustine, a young French environmentalist. As their relationship renews his belief in a future worth fighting for, Lartaun realizes, albeit too late, that the favor he owes his friend is not so “small” after all.


Fermin Muguruza, well-known Basque musician and film maker, writes about Estimated Time of Arrest: “A beloved homeland, mountainous landscapes, devotion, action, love, celebration, friendship, music, commitment, vengeance, dignity, and desire for freedom and independence all turn out to be explosive ingredients when mixed together and left to simmer in the pressure cooker known as the Basque Country. Also called Euskal Herria, it is a place that spans the south of France and the north of Spain. It is the country of the Basque people, those who speak Euskara, the Basque language.

Delphine Pontvieux is a connoisseur of the essential ingredients that comprised the Basque Country in the ‘80s and ‘90s. If we add her to the mix as “etxekoandre,” or Executive Chef, the recipe becomes perfect, stewing over her creative flame. She brings Estimated Time of Arrest to a mouthwatering emotional flavor, serving a complex dish of literary mastery.”

Interior art is by Guillermo Zubiaga, who was interviewed on this site back in 2007.

More information can be found on Delphine’s site

December 14th, 2009

argazki200Jose Antonio Alcayaga III just posted this link on Facebook and it seemed like a great one to share.  Badok has a relatively large selection of Basque music available for online listening and I understand that songs can be downloaded in mp3 format.

This seems like a great way to explore Basque music.  It looks like there is a large range of styles, from folk like Oskorri to metal bands such as Su Ta Gar.  And the artists seem to span a range of time, including classics from Kortatu.  Not everything is on here, as I don’t see any Negu Gorriak for example, but there is still a large number of groups to explore.

Thanks for sharing Jose!

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