This weekend, in a series at Deia named “Basque Stories” published an article by historian Óscar Álvarez-Gila (well known to our regular readers).  In it, we can find out all about a “story of the Basques” which once again goes to prove just how good this country is at getting its people to every corner of the world.

This story is all about Basque blacksmiths, from “Biscay and Navarre,” who, in the 18th century, were hired by the Kingdom of Portugal to go to Luanda, the capital of the current Republic of Angola, which was a Portuguese colony at the time, to build a foundry.  This story is tinged with tragedy because of the fevers common to that area and time, but even more so because of the passion of those Basque smiths to eat and drink plentifully, even against medical advice.

The importance of this foundry can be seen in the tiles of the São Miguel Fortress of Luanda, which show events and highlights of the history, flora, and fauna of Angola between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Representación en los azulejos de la Fortaleza de São Miguel de Luanda de la «fabrica de fundição de ferro de Nova Oeiras» en los márgenes del rio Luinha
Represtation of the “”fabrica de fundição de ferro de Nova Oeiras” on the banks of the Luinha river as seen in the tiles at São Miguel Fortress

It’s interesting to see the relationships between the Portuguese and Basques, which were intense enough for us to have found several stories including them over the years.  We have the story of José de Anchieta, the “Apostle of Brazil”; St. Francis Xavier himself; or, in a story similar to that of the smiths, but with Basque whalers hired by Portugal to set up a whaling industry, which the Basques were the best at, in Brazil.

Speaking with the author about the amazing story in his article, he reminded us of something: that the limits of the Basque diaspora go much further, in time and space, that the collective imagination of the Basques usually allows for.

«Cuando hablamos de la diáspora vasca, nos imaginamos sobre todo a esas euskal etxeak repartidas por América, de norte a sur, donde se concentraron históricamente las grandes corrientes migratorias vascas. También nos puede venir a la mente la imagen de la nueva diáspora vasca, esa movilidad que lleva actualmente a muchos vascos a estudiar y trabajar a otros países de Europa, o a sitios tan remotos como China o Japón. Habrá incluso quien recuerde otras emigraciones históricas más reducidas en número, aunque no menos importantes, como las que se dirigieron a Filipinas o a Australia.

Pero en realidad, hubo presencia vasca en casi todas las partes del mundo, y todavía hay muchos aspectos de esa historia de la diáspora vasca que están esperando que se los rescate del olvido.

En este artículo, por ejemplo, se nos presenta uno de esos casos olvidados: unos vascos que en el siglo XVIII marcharon, ni más ni menos, que al corazón del Africa colonial portuguesa. A Angola, donde pusieron en marcha una ferrería “al estilo vasco”.»

(«When we speak of the Basque diaspora, we mostly think about the euskal etxeak spread throughout the Americas, from north to south, where the great migration routes of the Basques usually went.  What may also come to mind is the image of the new Basque diaspora, that mobility that is currently taking many Basques away to study and work in other countries in Europe, or even in places as far away as China and Japan.  There may eve be those who remember other emigrations, smaller in number, though no less important, to places such as the Philippines or Australia.

But actually, there was a Basque presence in almost every part of the world, and there are still many aspects of that history of the Basque diaspora that are still waiting to be rescued from oblivion.

This article, for example, shows us one of those forgotten cases: some Basques in the 18th century who went off all the way to the heart of Portugal’s African colonies, to Angola, where they set up a “Basque style” foundry.»)

The history of the diaspora is a key part of the history of our nation.  And stories like this one, and many others still waiting to be told, or even known, prove to us that this history, our history, is far wider and richer than even we can imagine.  We need to thank those who uncover them for us, thus building and completing the History of the Basques.

Deia – 22/5/2021- Euskadi

La Real Fábrica de Ferro de Nova Oeiras (1768) Una ferrería vasca en el corazón de Angola

A fama del hierro vasco, y por lo tanto de sus ferrones, se extendió como bien es sabido durante varios siglos a lo largo y ancho de Europa. Ya el propio Shakespeare se refería en dos de sus obras a las espadas denominadas Bilbo, que tomarían ese nombre por ser hechas de acero de gran calidad que se exportaba desde el puerto de Bilbao. La siderurgia vasca llevó incluso su producto al otro lado del Atlántico, al conseguir beneficiarse de un monopolio para la venta de hierro vasco en los territorios americanos de la corona de Castilla, monopolio del que gozó durante los tres siglos de dominio colonial.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)