On July 9th at 7:00 pm in Euskadi (2:00 pm Buenos Aires, 10:00 am San Francisco), the Sabino Arana Foundation and the Laurak Bat Center are going to jointly celebrate an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first raising of the ikurriña at the Laurak Bat Center in Buenos Aires, which will be broadcast live on the Sabino Arana Fundazioa webpage.

This event, which took place on July 9, 1921, marked a turning point in the adoption of the ikurriña as a unifying symbol for all Basques.  That, and to highlight the contributions of the Basque Diaspora in Argentina and in the Basque Country throughout history, are why this even has been organized.

Ikurriña y bandera de Argentina portada del boletín de abril de 1921 del Laurak Bat de Buenos Aires
The Ikurriña and the flag of Argentina on the cover of the April 1921 Buenos Aires Laurak Bat Center bulletin

In Argentina, José Gabriel Anitua, the president of Laurak Bat, will speak to explain the creation and history of the Basque Center, and its importance, as well as that of the Basque Community as a whole in Argentina.

In Bilbao, Gorka Álvarez, head of the Directorate for the Basque Community Abroad at the Basque Government, and Óscar Álvarez-Gila, PhD in History at the University of the Basque Country and professor of New World History (and an old friend to the blog) will speak.

A few months ago, we brought you and article published by Dr. Óscar Álvarez-Gila telling us about how this Basque-Argentine institution featured the Basque and Argentine flags on the cover of its April 1921 bulletin.

When Sabino Arana proposed to his compatriots the idea that Euzkadi is the Land of the Basques, he did so with the fear that his generation, which had seen the Southern Basque fueros be taken away, might be the last generation of Basques.  We’re not sure that at that time he could imagine that his message would spread like wildfire across the whole lad.  Thanks to his work, that generation that ran the risk of being the last one turned out to instead be the first one that was aware that it belonged to a nation, to a Basque nation.

The man, so desperate upon seeing the abolition of the fueros under the threat of force, who wrote “My homeland, was I born to see you die?” could not have imagined that his message would spread so widely, deeply, and strongly, not only among his compatriots in hi homeland, but also with those in the New World.

The Basque Community there had always been very aware that it belonged to a different community.  This can be seen, for example, in the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Arantzazu of Lima, founded in 1612 by the members of the “Basque nation” living in that city; that is, by the people from Alava, Biscay, Gipuzkoa, and Navarre (and those Northern Basques who passed themselves off as southerners).

But in the change that began at the end of 19th century, which meant the rise of the idea that the Basques had the right to a nation, the Laurak Bat Center is a model of the expansion of that idea to defend the Basque Nation in the New World.

This Basque Center was founded on March 13, 1877, that is, just afer the end of the last Carlist War and the subsequent abolition of the fueros by the Government of the Kingdom of Spain.  It was founded as a reaction to that abolition.  You can read more about this in the article we dedicated to this Basque Center on the occasion of its 140th anniversary; a small taste:

“Given the difficult situation the Basque Country was going through, and facing the imminent danger in which its institutions, which since time immemorial had been making the Basque happy, found themselves, we needed to leave behind the old party quarrels, and closely join together all us Basques who from these distant shores looked on in apprehension and interest at what was happening in our idolized country, despite not hiding the fact that our passive support from here would undoubtedly not influence the result that destiny held for them, and even so they believed that they would make our brethren happy, that beyond the seas, they would defend, with all righteousness and dignity, the rights that together with our homeland our glorious ancestors had bequeathed to us, in the idea that the noble children of that privileged land have not devalued any part of the nobility of their sentiments and that they were as Basque here as there; we did not abandon them on that painful via crucis that they found themselves in.”

Five years after the birth of the Buenos Aires Laurak Bat, in Abando (now inside Bilbao), the Arana brothers had a conversation in which the youngest, Sabino, abandoned his Carlist ideals and began to draw up the ideological corpus of Basque Nationalism.

The ideas set forth by young Sabino would soon cross the Atlantic, and it’s clear they took solid root at Laurak Bat, which quite quickly showed a fondness for the ideas defended by Basque Nationalism.

Proof of this can be found at a grand event held to pay homage to Sabino Arana that was held in Sukarrieta on July 14, 1907 with the president of the Laurak Bat Center in attendance.  That date was chosen to commemorate the first time the Ikurriña was ever raised, on July 14, 1894, off the balcony of the Euskeldun Batzokija building at nº 22 Correo Street in Bilbao.

The presence of José M. de Larrea was no coincidence.  He came at the behest of the governing board of that Basque Center in order to “lay a crown at the tomb of the master.”  When we read the articles published in September 1907 issue of Irrintzi, the Basque magazine published in Argentina, we can see the profound sense of belonging they felt towards the Basque Nation, and how that committe was steeped in thatconcept, defined by Sabino Arana.

Fourteen years later, in July 1921, the Laurak Bat Center decided to raise the Ikurriña alongside the flag of Argentina.  The Ikurriña was raised to represent all Basque citizens, as a symbol of the Basque Nation.  And the flags were not alone: there was also a coat of arms, the Zazpiak Bat, which brings together all Basque brethren, free and equal, from both sides of the Pyrenees.

Entrada del Centro Vasco Laurak Bat de Buenos Aires (foto Gorka Berasain)
Entrance to the Buenos Aires Laurak Bat Center (photo Gorka Berasain)

Lest we forget, this coat of arms was created north of the Pyrenees, in the part under French administration, at the Congrès et Fêtes de la Tradition Basque held at Saint-Jean-de-Luz in 1897.  It was Jean de Jaurgain who designed a coat of arms to represent the seven territories, represented by six smaller coats of arms.  It can be no coincidence that this occurred not three years after the first political center of Basque Nationalism opened.

Throughout the Basque Country, wherever in the world Basques meet, the seed that “Euzkadi is the Homeland of the Basques” took root and grew strong: look no further than the fact that the second Euskeldun Batzokija ever was founded in the Philippines.  But that’s another story.

We’d like to finish with two recommendations:

First, take a look at the book by Mikel Ezkerro, Historia del Laurak Bat de Buenos Aires. It’s a part of the Urazandi Collection published by the Basque Government, meaning it’s available free of charge as a .pdf.

And don’t forget to tune in on July 9th!  You can stream it live at the website of the Sabino Arana Fundazioa. 7:00 pm in Bilbao, 2:00 pm in Buenos Aires, 1:00 pm in New York, 10:00 am in San Francisco

 


La Ikurriña en el Euskaldun Batzokija de Bilbao (14/7/1894) y en el Laurak Bat de Buenos Aires (9/7/1921)
The Ikurriña flying at the Euskeldun Batzokija in Bilbao (July 14, 1894) and at the Laurak Bat Center in Buenos Aires (July 9, 1921)