This article was translated by John R. Bopp
The relationship between Ernest Hemingway and the Basques, their culture, and their way of life is long and deep in time and intensity. For many of us, this has been, and still is, a discovery, specifically because for us it was a secret that has been slowly revealed as we found the clues left behind these numerous encounters between the writer and Basques of all walks of life.
It’s true that everyone is familiar with his time in Pamplona, or his visits to San Sebastian. But, at least for most Basques, the intense network of these visits, encounters, relationships, stays, and contacts that the American writer had with our country and its peoples were not clearly defined, on either side of the Atlantic.
We use the past tense because in the past few days, a project has been set in motion to define and uncover the routes Hemingway took through the Land of the Basques. John Hemingway, the author’s grandson, is travelling throughout the peninsular Basque Country, following his grandfather’s steps through these lands.
It’s a project that was put in motion by institutions of the Basque Autonomous Community, which has had the great idea to show the world the relationship this author had with the Basques. The text, published in Irekia to explain the project, is able to clearly define this vital route through the Basque Country, and also Hemingway’s encounters with Basques in Mundaka, Bermeo, San Sebastian, Vitoria, Pamplona, Bayonne, or even such faraway places as Havana.
We have to recognize that we weren’t able to find a version of this article in English, since it’s a wonderful tool to tell, in a concise, easy-to-ready way, the deep connection between the American and the Basque Country.
In this article, we find references to Basques that regular readers of our blog will have heard about here. They’re oftentimes the same people that we’ve talked about here, people, and their accomplishments, that we were unaware of before we started this blog five years ago. As far as we can tell, they make up a part of the “hidden history of the Basques”.
Today, for example, we’ve learned about Alava-born Cuban Paco Garay, one of those interesting Basque characters with impressive lives. He was a direct participant in the revolutionary movements that fought against the dictator Gerardo Machado Morales (making up part of the Heroes of the Landing at Gibara); he then also fought against the Batista dictatorship. In 1937, he was the customs chief at the Port of Havana, which allowed him to help a Baque captain, from Bilbao, to arrive at the Cuban capital on a broken ship with very special cargo.
This captain was Juan Duñabeitia, alias Sinbad the Pirate (a nickname he earned during his time in the Bilbao Sports Club Circus). During the Spanish Civil War, he was an Attaché to the Basque Navy and was ordered to take a boat with a load of gold to Havana, to hid it from the Francoists. That’s where he met Paco Garay.
Both were friends of Hemingway’s, just as many others were who were mentioned in the article published by Irekia; we’ve spoken of them before:
People as extraordinary as Andrés Unzain, a priest, chaplain for the Basque Army (Ejército de Euzkadi), who, during his exile in Cuba, counseled Basque ball players, exiled Basques, and the American author himself.
We have also learned the story of the Basque ball players in Cuba, friends of Hemingway’s, and of the adventures they had together (the ball players and the author) in the days of the Second World War, trying to “hunt” German submarines off the Cuban coast.
We are also hoping to find, in the text that Irekia has yet to publish still, mention of the relationship between Hemingway in his last years and a Basque family in Idaho at the end of the 19th century. In the 1950s, Pilar Arriaga had the famous author over for dinner several times at her house in Sun Valley, Idaho.
These are all, as we say so often, part of the history of the Basques, hidden in plain sight, even for us Basques ourselves. One more example of the sad and disastrous consequences of having other people write the history of our country. We’ll leave you with Irekia’s magnificent article about the project for creating a Hemingway Route through the Land of the Basques, which we hope, or rather are sure, will also find participants in the tourism institutions of the Basque Autonomous Community, the Community of Navarre, and the provinces north of the Pyrenees.
We’d also like to encourage you to “take a stroll” through the many articles we’ve dedicated over the years to this American author and his relationship will all things Basque. You won’t regret it: the stories are amazing.
Irekia – 13/5/2016 – Euskadi
Tras las huellas de Hemingway
Euskadi promocionará el destino Basque Country siguiendo los pasos de Ernest Hemingway que, además de en Pamplona, estuvo en varios sitios del País Vasco durante sus estancias a principios del siglo XX. Algo que el Gobierno Vasco y otras instituciones locales del país ya conocían por lo que se pusieron a trabajar para dar a conocer nuestro destino utilizando como excusa y gancho las visitas del escritor americano. Paralelamente, un grupo de periodistas chinos de National Geographic Traveller interesados en realizar un viaje para dar a conocer las andaduras de Hemingway por todo el Estado y también por Euskadi, se puso en contacto con Basquetour-Agencia Vasca de Turismo, a través de la Oficina Española de Turismo de Pekin.