A few (Spanish) Artistic Moments in History

Pablo Picasso painted (already mentioned and displayed on this blog) Guernica (1937). This painting was commissioned by the Spanish republican government and is considered to be a monumentally “potent and political totem” (Moffit 1999:213).

Pablo Picasso - Guernica (1937)

This painting measures in at just less than 4 by 8 meters and coveys what many believe to be a sincere outrage of the unprovoked slaughter of the Basque people. Guernica uses what are considered “standard Golden Age Vanitas motifs” (Moffit 1999:213); motifs such as candles, skulls helping to illustrate Spanish themes such as blood, life and death. Picasso at this time was known not for his political work but for “draughtsmanship, style and elegance” (Moffit 1999:212) and after this grainy, black-and-white iconography he moved away from “ethnic outrage” and back to “industrious … elegant disquisitions on the history of art” (Moffit 1999:213).

While this was on brief out cry of anger with the slaughter, it is interesting and compelling illustration of the bombing of Basque civilians by the German Condor. Given Picasso’s Spanish origins it is interesting that such monumental piece of art about the Basque region has in fact came from someone outside of it which is often a typical trait of the Spanish art during the Golden Age “Even at its most ethnically authentic (castizo) level, Spanish art could scarcely distance itself from current European influences [and] delayed reverberations from French Impressionism” (Moffit 1999:195).

What should be discussed on the subject of Spanish art is the ‘Franco Aesthetic’ lasting 40 years and still present within Spain this dictated government ‘sponsored’ it is said to be “weathered peasants and heroic troopers inhabiting bleak, Castilian-heartland … was favoured by the Franco government after the triumph of its ‘Crusade’ or ‘National Uprising’” (Moffit 1999:218).  This was an blatantly obvious attempt control their population, of course this was not the case and the maturing youth revolted against this oppressive regime. Small side note: given that “Architecture expresses the power and the mission of the State” (Moffit 1999:219) mapping and documenting what is left of both Franco’s regime in art and architecture as well as the counter discourse will be extremely interesting.

At the end of the Second World War, Spain was put under a blockade given that it was the only Fascist Nation to survive the war, which threatened their economy. Creating stagnation in the progression of their art. A group called “‘Dau al Set’ (‘Seven-Spot Die’ in Catalan)” (Moffit 1999:220) ended this stagnation and just as before was the received numerous other European sources for inspiration. Spain while still under Franco’s regime, did in fact allow their art to evolve and change in the face of an ever more powerful west. Avant-garde post-modernist art was encouraged, possibly in an attempt to disguise their fascist approach. However the construction of the Guggenheim in Bilbao: Basque Country’s capital city has been described as a “’cultural franchise’ [and] ‘McDonalization of the universe’” (Moffit 1999:231); Suggesting not fascism but a capitalist agenda over ruling a proud culture.



Moffit, F. J. (1999) The Arts in Spain. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

SRGF (2012) Bilbao – Guggenheim [online] available from <http://www.guggenheim.org/bilbao> [1/3 2012]


Basque and The Spanish Civil War

Roots of the Spanish Civil War


The Spanish Civil war has its roots based in the loss of territory and power in South America. This led to the emergence of Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela and Mexico as independent republics. To compound this, the 1898  Spanish-American War resulted in the loss of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam and Cuba.

At Home

Spain had also lost the second Moroccan war (1921). it is reported that On 1 July 1921, the Spanish army in north-eastern Morocco collapsed when defeated by the forces of Abd el-Krim, in what became known in Spain as the disaster of Annual, some 8,000 soldiers and officers reported killed or disappeared. This defeat was blamed on Alfonso XIII. , the  son of Alfonso XII and Maria Christina of Austria, who was born in Madrid, Spain, on 17th May 1886. His mother acted as regent until 1902 when he assumed full power. 

Blamed for the Spanish defeat in the Moroccan War (1921) Alfonso XIII was in constant conflict with Spanish politicians. His anti-democratic views encouraged Miguel Primo de Rivera to lead a military coup in 1923. Alfonso gave his support to Rivera’s military dictatorship.  initially,  he said would rule for only 90 days, however, he broke this promise and remained in power. Little social reform took place but he tried to reduce unemployment by spending money on public works. To pay for this Primo de Rivera introduced higher taxes on the rich. When they complained he changed his policies and attempted to raise money by public loans. This caused rapid inflation and after losing support of the army was forced to resign in January 1930.

Right vs Left

On 15th January 1936, Manuel Azaña helped to establish a coalition of parties on the political left to fight the national elections due to take place the following month. This included the Socialist Party (PSOE), Communist Party ( PCE), Esquerra Party and the Republican Union Party.

The Popular Front, as the coalition became known, advocated the restoration of Catalan autonomy, The Anarchists refused to support the coalition and instead urged people not to vote. Right-wing groups in Spain formed the National Front. This included the CEDA and the Carlists. The Falange Española did not officially join but most of its members supported the aims of the National Front. 

It Starts 

The Spanish Civil War started in 1936 and finished in 1939.The forces on the right were lead by Generals Franco and Sanjurjo. They were known as Nationalists. The forces on the left were lead by Azana and were known as Republicans. At the start of the war, the cities of Cadiz, Saragossa, Seville and Burgos declared their support for the Nationalists.Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia declared for the Republicans. The Nationalists received help from Nazi Germany in the form of the Condor Legion from the Luftwaffe – Germany’s air force. 50,000 “volunteers” from Mussolini’s Italy also helped the Nationalists.The Republicans received help from RussiaStalin sent advisers and technicians. An International Brigade comprising of volunteers from all over the world also helped the Republicans.


The Battle of Bilbao was part of the War in the North, during the Spanish Civil War where the Nationalist Army captured the city of Bilbao and the remaining parts of the Basque Country still held by the Republic. Bilbao was the capital of the autonomous Basque area established by the Republic after the war began. This establishment was in payment for Basque Nationalist support of the Republic.


By June 11, 1937, The Basque forces had fallen back to the city of Bilbao, which was defended by a series of rushed fortifications called the “Iron Belt.” The Iron Belt was poorly designed for defense[3] and the designer of the Belt, engineer Alejandro Goicoechea, defected to the Nationalists and brought them the plans of the defenses, so that they could strike at the weakest point.[4] The ring was breached by an infantry assault supported by heavy artillery bombardment. On the night of June 13 the defenders evacuated most of the civilian population from the city. On June 18 General Ulibarri withdrew his remaining troops from Bilbao and the Nationalists occupied the city on the following day. The city’s bridges had been destroyed to hinder the attackers but the city remained mostly intact.


The town of Guernica is situated 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, in the Basque province of Vizcaya. Guernica was considered to be the spiritual capital of the Basque people. On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Guernica had a population of about 7,000 people. On 26th April 1937, Guernica was bombed by the German Condor Legion. As it was a market day the town was crowded. The town was first struck by explosive bombs and then by incendiaries. As people fled from their homes they were machine-gunned by fighter planes. The three hour raid completely destroyed the town. 

The German bombers appeared in the skies over Guernica in the late afternoon of April 26, 1937 and immediately transformed the sleepy Spanish market town into an everlasting symbol of the atrocity of war. Unbeknownst to the residents of Guernica, they had been slated by their attackers to become guinea pigs in an experiment designed to determine just what it would take to bomb a city into oblivion. It is estimated that 1,685 people were killed and 900 injured in the attack.

The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. The bombing shocked and inspired many artists: Guernica is also the name of one of the most violent of René Iché sculptures, one of the first electroacoustic music by Patrick Ascione, of a musical composition[5] by René-Louis Baron and a poem byPaul Eluard (Victory of Guernica). There is also a short film from 1950 byAlain Resnais entitled Guernica.

Guernica after the bombing









Trade & Economic History of Bilbao

Brief overview

Bilbao ,the capital of the province of Biscayin the Basque Country has a population of 353,187 (as of 2010). It is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain.

Since the 14th century, Bilbao was a commercial hub that focused mainly on it’s port activity exporting Iron from the Biscayan quarries. In the 19th and 20th Centuries. Bilbao experienced heavy industrialisation that made it the centre of the second industrialized region of Spain, behind Barcelona.

Now, in the 21st Century, Bilbao is a service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalization process. This process began with creation of the symbolic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum (1997) and has been continued by infrastructure investments, such as the airport terminal:
(The new airport terminal at Bilbao airport. Picture from Google images)

The rapid transit system, including the tram lines, or the Alhondiga: There is also investment occurring in the development of Abandoibarra and Zorrozaurre renewal projects.

(The transit system in Bilbao. Picture from Google images)

The Economic History in more detail

On 21 June 1511, queen Joanna of Castile ordered the creation of the Consulate of Bilbao.  Under the Consulate’s control, the port of Bilbao became one of the most important of Spain. This progress brought the first printing-press of the city in 1577, and was also here that in 1596, the first book in Basque was edited, entitled Doctrina Christiana en Romance y Bascuence by Dr. Betolaza.

The following centuries saw the city’s wealth increase, especially after the discovery of  iron resources in the surrounding mountains. At the end of the 17th century, Bilbao overcame the economical crises that affected Spain thanks to the iron ore and the commerce with England and the Netherlands. During the 18th century the city continued to grow and almost exhausted its small space.

The city prospered during the 19th and 20th Centuries, when it rose as the economical centre of the Basque Country. During this time, the first railway was built (in 1857), and the Bank of Bilbao was founded (which later would become the BBVA):

(The BBVA bank. Picture from Google images)

After the War, Bilbao returned to its industrial development, accompanied by a steady population grow. The city was rebuilt and the Iron industry was reborn which led to the rise of slums in the hillsides.

In the 1980s, several factors such as terrorism, labor demands, and the arrival of cheap labor force from the abroad, led to a devastating industrial crisis. After the dramatic industrial crisis of the 1980s, Bilbao was forced to rethink its very economic foundations. That is how it transformed into a successful service city in the 1990’s following a process of de-industrialastion.

So what are Bilbao’s main forms of making money?

Mining and ironworks

Iron is the main and most abundant raw material found in Biscay. Mining was the main primary activityin Bilbao and the minerals, of great quality, were exported to all over Europe.


The Guggenheim has shown increasing tourist arrivals since it opened in 1997, reaching over 615,000 visitors in the year 2009. A significant leap, considering that during 1995, Bilbao only received 25,000 tourists. Bilbao also hosts 31% of the total Basque Countryvisitors, being the top destination of this autonomous community. Tourism generates about 300 million euros for the Biscayan Gross Domestic Product GDP.

Stock exchange

The Bilbao Stock Exchange is considered a secondary market.


The iron, steel, and shipbuilding of Asturias and the Basque Country experienced downsizing in the 1980s. However, the sector has been recovering strongly since 1996, thanks to increased production in shipbuilding, data-processing equipment, and transportation equipment.


The largest Spanish bank is the BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), and the second largest is the BSCH (Banco Santander Central Hispano), both the fruit of mergers in 1999. BBVA is the product of the merger of the Banco de Bilbao (founded in 1857), Banco de Vizcaya (1901), and Argentaria (1983); the BSCH comes from the merger of Banco de Santander (1857), Banco Hispano-Americano (1900), and Banco Central (1919).







Basque Football and ETA at First Glance

“Basque Homeland and Freedom”

ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna)

bietan jarrari - "keep up on both"

ETA has been around since the early 1960’s. It began as a student resistance to the countries leader at the time, General Franco and his dictatorship.

General Franco attempted to remove any trace of the Basque independent culture by banning their unique language, imprisoning and torturing its intellectuals because of their beliefs.

Over the 40 years the ETA has been in effect, over 820 people have been killed in ETA related violence. These attacks have often been aimed at those who are opposed to an independent Basque country and the Guardia civil.

Their biggest “successes” was in 1975. ETA was successful in killing General Franco and in turn enabled democracy to arrive and grant Basque country “home rule”.

Currently Basque country holds great deal of autonomy and yet ETA has continued to function violently, through numerous cease fires. Most recent of which was in October 2011.

Well for the most part, this all come from BBC articles and was very informative for me. How does this relate to football in Bilbao?

In modern times, both clubs remain symbols for Basques. Unfortunately, this has at times manifested itself as support of radical Basque separatists ETA, more prominently among Athletic Club support.” (BootsnAll Travel Network:2010)

Athletic Club Basque and Real Socieded can be counted for symbols of a free Basque however does this necessarily means they support ETA and their violent path to freedom?

Both football teams have impressive and influential youth systems, it should also be noted that both teams hire only players from the greater Basque area however Athletic Basque enforce the rule far more than Real Socieded.

Further more, only days after General Franco’s death at the hands of ETA (1975) both team captains  from Athletic and Real walked out on the football pitch holding between them the Basque flag (although General Franco was dead it was still illegal). In fact during General Franco’s rule it has been said that both teams were just as much symbols of Basque and Franco’s regime as their language or flag.

Athletic and Real have both become symbols of Basque unity, culture, nationalism, and overall identity.” (BootsnAll Travel Network: 2010)

 What proof is there that these football clubs support acts of violence in the name of freedom? And what could the relation between national identity? Well there’s definitely something there … obviously, just give me a day or so and I’ll get back on it.



BBC (2011) BBC News – what is Eta? [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11183574> [10/17 2011]

BBC (2011) BBC News – Eta Cease Fire Scoop: How the BBC Got the Story [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11195595> [10/17 2011]

BBC (2011) BBC News – Eta Announces ‘Definitive Ceasation of Armed Activity’ [online] available from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15396691> [10/17 2011]

BootsnAll Travel Network (2011) The Forgotten Derby Returns: Real Sociedad Vs. Athletic Club [online] available from <http://bilbao.theoffside.com/team-news/the-forgotten-derby-returns-real-sociedad-vs-athletic-club.html> [17/10 2011]

FootballDerbies.com (2011) Athletic Bilbao Vs. Real Sociedad [online] available from <http://www.footballderbies.com/honours/index.php?id=71> [17/10 2011]