Today we’re bringing you, our readers, one of those stories we just love sharing. The story of Florencio de Basaldúa is an example of those stories where just pulling a thread leads us to a sea of unbelievable surprises and tales. We discovered in on the ADNSUR website, in an article written by Lisandro Aguirregabiría, making this a story about Basques in Argentina written by someone who can not hide their origins.
A while back, we spoke of the Gabino Seijo Zarrandikoechea project, which set out to create a Basque colony in Colombia at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Given the name Guernicabarri (New Guernica), its aim was to house 250 Basque families who had had to flee their homeland after the fascists’ victory in a town on the banks of the Magdalena River.
This project, which never got off the ground due to internal problems that arose in Colombia is a mere “mock-up” when compared to the project drawn up by Florencio de Basaldúa, the secretary general of the Chubut Government, and proposed to Argentine president José Evaristo Uriburu (yet another Argentine who can’t hide his origins) in 1897.
He drew up plans to bring in 10,000 families from the Basque Country to an area along the San Jorge Gulf with a view to founding a colony that would be similar to the one that had been created with the Welsh.
The plan, called “Reservas Fiscales, Proyecto de Colonia Vasca en la Patagonia” (Fiscal Reserves, Plan for a Basque Colony in Patagonia), which never got off the drawing board, was included in the 1876 Law on Lands, Immigration, and Colonization.
Basaldúa, an engineer and surveyor, drew up a map of “Eskal-Berri” where he imagined Bilbao on the Argentine coast and Pamplona inland, among other Basque cities. He expected to make 26,640 land concessions of 625 ha (1500 acres) each, totaling 160,000 km² (62,000 mi²). That would be nine times larger than the whole of the Basque Country, whose seven territories total 20,000 km² (7700 mi²).
This territory would be full of towns with Basque names; one can even see an Andean mountain pass named Ibañeta.
And in one of life’s little coincidences, this part of Patagonia that Basaldúa chose for his Basque colony is also home to the “Estancia la Vizcaína” that we wrote about recently.
Basaldúa was a committed Basque Nationalist from the very beginning of the movement. He even got to meet Sabino Arana. He published many notes, scientific essays, and travelogues in the Argentine magazine La Baskonia.
Basaldúa is going to be a real find for many Basques here in the homeland. To better understand the sheer magnitude of his commitment to the Basques and the Cause of the Basque People, we can refer to a speech he gave in Montevideo in 1912, at the inauguration of the Eskal-Herria – Zazpi-rak-bat de Montevideo Society.
«¿Ha muerto aquel pueblo Eskadun cuyas brillantes tradiciones acabo de exponer? ¿Es tan cobarde que acepta la vil esclavitud que le han impuesto, dividiendo la Patria Eskalerría en dos mitades, sin más razón que la fuerza?»
Has that Basque people, whose brilliant traditions I just laid out, died? Is it so cowardly that it will accept the vile slavery imposed upon it, dividing the Basque Homeland into two halves, with no more reason than force?
At the end of the article, we include the complete speech he gave at the opening of the Zazpiak Bat center, along with the book “Florencio de Basaldua. Un vasco argentino” written by Horacio C. Reggini.
This project never took off, though it’s not quite known just why. But it is most certainly not because of the lack of analyses and planning that Basaldúa, an engineer and surveyor, as his work was thorough, with exact calculations of what families would need to succeed in Patagonia.
An amazing story, not to be missed.
ADNSUR – 19/6/2022 – Argentina
La historia del hombre que soñó, a finales del siglo XIX, con unir al pueblo vasco en Chubut
Florencio Basaldúa, secretario de la Gobernación del Chubut, imaginó un mapa de “Eskal Berri”, la tierra de los vascos, que abarcaba más de 160.000 kilómetros desde del Golfo San Jorge hasta la cordillera. Quería traer a 50.000 familias dispuestas a radicarse en estas tierras. Falleció en su estancia en Rawson, con el Himno Nacional Argentino sonando de fondo.
Speech by Florencio de Basaldua at the inauguration of the Eskal-Herria—Zazpi-rak-bat Society in Montevideo (PDF)
Florencio de Basaldua. An Argentine Basque (PDF)