This article about the ideas, and acts, of Zumalakarregi is the product of an article that was published on Buber’s Basque Page, an English-language website that is a true reference about everything Basque in the world, which we are huge fans and humble apprentices of. We cannot recommend following it highly enough.
The blog publishes a weekly article called “Basque Fact of the Week.” This week’s entry was dedicated to Tomas Zumalakarregi, the Carlist Basque general who invented the potato omelette. At one point in the article, it’s called the “Spanish potato omelette.” Regarding that description, Eneko Ennekõike, a Basque man living in the Baltic states, who is very active on social media and who carries an immense amount of cultural baggage regarding everything “Basque,” pointed out that it should not be called the “Spanish omelette,” but rather the “potato omelette,” as the former is cultural appropriation.
This also reminds us of an article we published in 2011 (that long ago?!) about websites that actually call it the “Basque Potato Tortilla.”
But thanks to this article, and to Eneko Ennekõike, we’ve found an article by José María Esparza Zabalegi that was published in the newspapers owned by Grupo Noticias, which we found very interesting but hadn’t had a chance to share with you yet.
But given its importance and interest, we believe it is necessary to blog about it and share it, to help spread its message. This is a very important part of our history, which clears up many myths and misconceptions.
In this article, titled “Zumalakarregi, fueros e independencia,” José María Esparza discusses some ideas about how our history is written, as well as by whom and with what goals. There are not many texts which describe, with so few words, the fundamental problems our country has with such clarity:
«Así, los españoles llevan cinco siglos adoctrinándonos, apoyados en una abundante intelectualidad cipaya, estabulada, para más inri, en nuestras propias universidades. Toda evidencia histórica que recuerda nuestra singularidad nacional, nuestras luchas pretéritas por la de libertad, ha sido contrarrestada por sesudos historiadores con un relato oficial y falsario, bien ornado, eso sí, con el celofán del academicismo.»
“Thus, the Spaniards have been indoctrinating us for five centuries, based on abundant lackey intellectualism, shared even in our universities, to add to the insult. All historical evidence that recalls our national uniqueness, our past struggles for freedom, have been counteracted against by brainy historians with an official tale that is falsified, albeit well decorated in the cellophane of academia.”
And to prove it, he offers us a button, or rather an elephant in the room that the “academic storytellers” who write about this history of the Carlist movement of the first half of the 19th century (the second Carlism, which supported Franco a century later, is another matter), pretend to not see it, or downplay it. They must think that, in the end, there is no elephant in the room. Or that we’re not going to let historical truth disprove our “tale.”
We’ve always been told that the Carlists were a bunch of radical backwards conservatives who defended the Inquisition, the anti-democratic absolute monarchy, and all kinds of imaginable evils. On the other hand, the Liberals were presented to us as defenders of freedom and democratic principles.
Of the latter, only needs only look at the legacy they left to the Kingdom of Spain, from their military victories to today, to understand that that façade of progressiveness that the Isabeline (and later) Liberals is nothing more than a lie designed to disguise the truth: that their ideas attacked liberty, progress, and the interests of the Basques.
Víctor Hugo, that great intellectual and utopian? socialist who created the idea of the “United States of Europe” was a great friend to the Basques, and understood this situation very well:
”At first thought, it would seem that such a people was admirably prepared to receive French novelties. Mistake. The ancient liberties fear the new liberty. The Basque nation has proved it satisfactorily. At the beginning of this century, the Cortes, which at every opportunity and often appropriately made translations from the Constituent Assembly, decreed Spanish unity. The Basque unity revolted against it. The Basque unity, taking its stand among its mountains, undertook the war of the North against the South. The day when the throne broke with the Cortes, royalty, tracked and panic-struck, took refuge in Guipuzcoa. The country of Rights, the nation of the fueros, cried, “¡Viva el Rey Neto!” — “Hurrah for the genuine king!”
The Idea of a Federal Basque Republic
Along these lines, José María Esparza has some words, but he also has some fundamental data to help us understand just how far the Basque Carlist movement of the 1830s was from anti-democratic absolutism and how close it was to the interests of the Basque people.
He tells us of a proclamation made by Zumalakarregi:
«en atención a la inadtitud y abandono con que mira la defensa de su causa Don Carlos, se declara el Reino de Navarra y provincias vascongadas en República Federal y para ello se convocarán a los estados, luego que las circunstancias de la guerra lo permitan.»
“In response to the inability and abandonment with which Don Carlos views the defense of their cause, the Kingdom of Navarre and the Basque provinces are declared a Federal Republic and for this the states will be summoned, after the circumstances of the war allow it.”
This requires a moment to “digest” it. Did the Chief General of the Basque Carlist forces, at the moment of greatest success in his campaign against the so-called Liberal Isabelines, propose the creation of a Basque federal republic in the Southern Basque Country? “This cannot be,” it must be an invention of the “bad Basques.”
But it would seem that no, this is not an invention of the “separatists” to bolster their arguments. As Esparza explains:
«el general Harispe, héroe de Francia y Comandante General de los Bajos Pirineos, escribió el 6 de mayo (de 1834) una carta al ministro de la Guerra francés diciéndole que le había llegado “desde vías diferentes y bastante seguras, una noticia muy particular: la Junta de Navarra al ver que Don Carlos abandona el juego, estaría de acuerdo con Zumalacarregui en proclamar la independencia de Navarra y las tres provincias para formar una república federal. (…) No se puede negar que la separación fuera algo muy fácil e incluso muy popular en estas provincias, que están unidas a España tan solo por vínculos muy débiles”.»
“General Harispe, the hero of France and Commanding General of the Lower Pyrenees, wrote a letter on May 6, 1834 to the French Minister of War telling him that he had received “from several sources which are quite sure, a piece of peculiar news: the Council of Navarre, upon seeing that Don Carlos is giving up, would agree with Zumalacarregui to proclaim the independence of Navarre and the three provinces in order to create a federal republic … It cannot be denied that the separation would be rather easy and indeed quite popular in these provinces, which are joined to Spain only by very weak bonds.”
And he goes on to cite several more references from the time that make it impossible to classify this as “fiction.” Why is this key piece of information for understanding the modern history of our nation not better known? Why do we have to continue seeing the Basque Carlists from that time defined as anti-democratic reactionaries who are enemies to the interests and freedoms of the people?
Someone ought to explain that. Though Esparza has already given us some clues.
A Bonus: the Kingdom of New France
We might think that the Southern Basques of 1834 were rather lost and they came up with this fleeting idea out of nothing. That would also be quite far from the truth. Zumalakarregi was only restating ideas that already existed.
Perhaps the idea of a Basque federal republic was not the most common idea being discussed to solve the “Basque problem” in the first half of the 19th century, after its forced integration into Spain and France (because we mustn’t forget that the “Basque problem” is over two centuries old). But the idea of creating a Basque state, in the modern sense of the word, was not an idea limited to just Zumalakarregi, or to Sabino Arana sixty years later.
We cannot forget to reference Joseph Dominique Garat in this entry. He was a man from Labourd who came up with the idea of a Basque Nation-State on both sides of the Pyrenees, made up of the departments of New Tyre and New Sidon, to be called New Phoenicia as a whole. The Auñamendi Encyclopedia describes his project in deatil.
As that article explains, the course of history left these ideas behind, almost forgotten. We had to wait until the end of the 19th century for the idea of a confederal Basque republic to resurface in political debate. That would be Sabino Arana y Goiri and his idea of a Basque Country that would be a union of the six (or seven) confederated Basque territories, working as brothers, equal and free. And that was the beginning of another stage in our history.
We’ll leave you with the José María Esparza Zabalegi article in Noticias de Navarra, and an article by Rosa Maria Agudo Huici about Joseph Dominique Garat, which was published in the Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del País newsletter.
How important it is to know our own history.
Diario de Noticias – 15/5/2011 – Euskadi
Zumalakarregi, fueros e independencia
Maquiavelo lo dejó bien sentado: a una conquista militar le sigue una usurpación política y seguidamente una invasión cultural. Coetáneo de la conquista de Navarra, parece que el autor de El Príncipe se inspiró en ella. Así, los españoles llevan cinco siglos adoctrinándonos, apoyados en una abundante intelectualidad cipaya, estabulada, para más inri, en nuestras propias universidades. Toda evidencia histórica que recuerda nuestra singularidad nacional, nuestras luchas pretéritas por la de libertad, ha sido contrarrestada por sesudos historiadores con un relato oficial y falsario, bien ornado, eso sí, con el celofán del academicismo.
Boletín de la RSBAP -1983 – Euskadi
Joseph Dominique Garat y su deuda con el Pueblo Vasco
Last Updated on Jun 30, 2023 by About Basque Country