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Repositioning Resistance: Basque Separatism, Religion and Cultural Security in Regional Queensland, 1945–1970

  • Robert Mason (a1)


On 26 April 1937, German bombers attacked the civilian population in the Basque market town of Guernica. The event has become synonymous with the brutality of the Spanish Civil War, but its impact on the Basque diaspora has not been the subject of detailed investigation. Large numbers of Basques emigrated to live in north Queensland, and the overwhelming majority can be traced to the hills surrounding Guernica. Those living in Australia only became aware of the atrocity over time, but the symbolic importance of Guernica increased over the subsequent decades as hundreds more Basques arrived in Queensland's north. The bombing itself was traumatic, but it was understood in the context of an emigration and historical injustice wrought by Spain's Nationalist dictatorship.



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1 While recognising the very significant population of Basques in France, this article focuses solely on the larger population in Spain. It is concerned with the three provinces currently administered as the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, and excludes the Community of Navarre.

2 Douglass, W. A., Echalar and Murelaga: opportunity and rural exodus in two Spanish Basque villages (London: C. Hurst & Co. 1975), p. 124.

3 Douglass, W. A., Azúcar Amargo: vida y fortuna de los Cortadores de Caña Italianos y Vascos en la Australia tropical (Bilbao: Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 1996), p. 272; Matas, C. Poyotas, ‘The Basques’, in Brändle, M. (ed.), Multicultural Queensland 2001 (Brisbane: Queensland Government, 2001).

4 R. Mason, ‘Agitators and patriots: cultural and political identity in Queensland's Spanish communities, 1900–1975’, PhD thesis, University of Queensland (2009), pp. 98–9.

5 Mason, ‘Agitators and patriots’, p. 95.

6 Balanzategui, B. V., ‘Basking in a different sun: the story of Conchi Mendiolea’, in White, L. and Watson, C. (eds), Amatxi, amuna, amona: Writings in honor of Basque women (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 2003), p. 39.

7 ‘José’, interview with author, 4 August 2007, Brisbane, Robert Mason Collection (hereafter RMC).

8 ‘Dolores’, interview with author, 21 June 2007, Townville, RMC.

9 Egurrola, Gloria Totoricagüena, Australia, Vasconia and the Lucky Country (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Gobierno Vasco, 2008), p. 88.

10 Balanzategui, ‘Basking in a different sun’, p. 34.

11 Martin, J., Refugee settlers: a study of refugee persons in Australia (Canberra: ANU Press 1966), p. 48.

12 Damousi, J., ‘Legacies of war and migration: memories of war trauma, dislocation and second generation Greek-Australians’, in Steiner, N., Mason, R. and Hayes, A. (eds), Migration and insecurity: citizenship and social inclusion in a transnational era (Oxford: Routledge, 2012), p. 32.

13 For an exception see, Gill, A., Interrupted journeys: young refugees from Hitler's Reich (Sydney: Simon and Schuster, 2004).

14 Hage, G., ‘The differential intensities of social reality: migration, participation and guilt’, in Frykman, J. and Gilje, N. (eds), Being there: new perspectives on the phenomenology and the analysis of culture (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2003), p. 90. On emotions, see S. Wills, ‘Negotiating migration, sentiment, and insecurity: encounters with sadness and shame in Australia’, in Steiner, Mason and Hayes, Migration and Insecurity, p. 64.

15 For further detail, see MacDermott, D., ‘Rosendo Salvado and the Spanish contribution to Western Australia’, in Jurak, M. and Kardelj, E. (eds), Australian papers: Yugoslavia, Europe and Australia (Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana, 1983), pp. 101–7; Staples, A. C., ‘Spanish colonial influence on Sir James Stirling’, Early Days: Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society 10, 6 (1994), 593604; Rodríguez, C., ‘Oral history, autobiography and An intra-history of New Norcia’, Oral History Association of Australia Journal 25 (2003), 31–6.

16 Shnukal, A., ‘They don't know what went on underneath: three little-known Filipino/Malay communities of Torres Strait’, in Shnukal, A., Ramsay, G. and Nagata, Y. (eds), Navigating boundaries: the Asian diaspora in the Torres Strait (Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2004), p. 82.

17 BP4-3 Spanish De La Calle Hurtado C., Alien Registration Form, National Archives Collection, Brisbane (hereafter NAA B); BP4-3 Spanish de la Iglesia N, Alien Registration Form, NAA B.

18 Arneil, S., Out where the dead men lie: the Augustinians in Australia, 1838–1992 (Sydney: Augustinian Historical Commission, 1992), p. 365.

19 E. Vandeleur, correspondence with author detailing Innisfail Parish Records, 30 March 2007, Tully, RMC; BP9-3 Spanish Melecio P. R., Personal statement by Alien Passenger, NAA B.

20 Mason, R., ‘“No arms other than paper”: Salvador Torrents and the formation of migrant identity in northern Australia, 1916–50’, Australian Historical Studies 41, 2 (2010), 166–80.

21 Payne, S. G., Basque nationalism (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1975), p. 90.

22 Cortazar, F. G. and Azcona, J. M., El Nacionalismo Vasco (Madrid: Historia 16, 1991), p. 61.

23 Woolard, K., ‘The problem of linguistic prestige: evidence from Catalonia’, Penn Review of Linguistics 6 (1982), 28.

24 Mason, R., ‘Spain, sectarianism and social memory in Cold War Queensland’, JILAR — Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research 13, 2 (2007), 928.

25 Garcia, Ignacio, Operación Canguro: the Spanish Migration Scheme, 1958–1963 (Canberra: Spanish Heritage Foundation, 2002).

26 Rico, C., ‘A veteran of “Operation Marta”’, in Castelo, C. (ed.), The Spanish experience in Australia (Canberra: Spanish Heritage Foundation, 2000), p. 77.

27 Boland, T. P., James Duhig (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1986), p. 349.

28 For example, see BP25-1 Garcia Casimiro, Alien Registration Form, NAA B; for further detail, see Gallego, J. A., Pazos, A. M. and Llera, L., Los Españoles entre la religión y la política: el Franquismo y la democracia (Madrid: Union Editoria, 1996), p. 64.

29 For example, see BP25-1 Casado D., Alien Registration Form, NAA B.

30 For example, see BP25-1 Fuertes A., Alien Registration Form, NAA B.

31 For example, see BP25-1 Pertejo J., Alien Registration Form, NAA B.

32 BP25-1 Casado L, Alien Registration Form, NAA B.

33 Arneil, Out where the dead men lie, p. 365.

34 BP289-1 1004179, Re-Entry Visa, NAA B.

35 ‘Nuestros emigrantes y los medios de difusión’, July 1966, Emigrantes trasplante de Catolicismo, 1; ‘Santiago y España’, 12 July 1965, El Pilar, 1.

36 ‘Spanish Basque migrants regarded as outstanding’, Herbert River Express, 29 November 1958, 1; ‘Spanish Basque workers: sought for Ingham’, Cairns Post, 15 August 1958, 9; ‘Spanish migrants show greater interest in Australia’, Herbert River Express, 25 February 1960, 1.

37 Mr Downer, ‘Questions’, 10 March 1959, Hansard, House of Representatives.

38 Vandeleur, E., Steps along the way: St Clare's Parish and School 75th Anniversary (Tully: St Clare's, 2003), p. 114.

39 ‘Dolores’, 21 June 2007, RMC.

40 ‘Dolores’, 21 June 2007, RMC.

41 Vandeleur, Steps along the way, p. 115.

42 Group interview number 4, interview with author, 29 November 2004, Mareeba, RMC; ‘Emilio’, interview with author, 27 November 2004, Cairns, RMC; ‘Dolores’, 21 June 2007, RMC.

43 Group interview number 4, 29 November 2004, RMC.

44 Father O'Connor, correspondence with author, Tully Heads, 20 January 2005, RMC.

45 Alberto Urberuaga, correspondence with Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui, 5 October 1999, Durango, Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui Personal Collection (hereafter BVBC). The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by Ms Vidonja Balanzategui in making her research available.

46 Group interview number 4, 29 November 2004, RMC.

47 ‘Ramon’, interview with author, 27 November 2004, Mossman, RMC.

48 Totoricagüena Egurrola, Australia, Vasconia and the Lucky Country, p. 252.

49 Orensanz, A. L., Religiosidad popular española, 1940–1965 (Madrid: Editora Nacional 1974), p. 23.

50 ‘Visit of Father Ormazabal’, Townsville Catholic News, 1 February 1959, 15.

51 Menghetti, D., The red north: the popular front in North Queensland, Studies in North Queensland History, No. 3 (Townsville: History Department, James Cook University, 1981). For further discussion of local Spaniards, see Catalan footprint in Australia, accessed 18 December 2012, available from

52 Mason, ‘Spain, sectarianism and social memory’, 9–28.

53 Totoricagüena Egurrola, Australia, Vasconia and the Lucky Country, p. 29.

54 Totoricagüena Egurrola, Australia, Vasconia and the Lucky Country, p. 61.

55 Garcia, J. A., ‘The Spanish Democratic Centre: a personal experience’, in Garcia, I. and Maraver, A. (eds), Memories of Migration: seminar proceedings, University of Western Sydney Macarthur, 4 & 5 September 1998 (Canberra: Spanish Heritage Foundation 1999), p. 157.

56 Mujcinovic, F., ‘Multiple articulations of exile in US Latina literature: confronting exilic absence and trauma’, MELUS 28, 4 (2003), 167–86; Hage, ‘The differential intensities of social reality’, 90.

57 ‘Stan’, interview with author, 26 November 2004, Mena Creek, RMC.

58 Pérez-Agote, A., ‘The role of religion in the definition of a symbolic conflict: religion and the Basque problem’, Social Compass, 33 (1986), 428.

59 Smith, J. R., ‘A different view of flight: understanding Basque women's immigration to the United States through oral history’, Journal of the Society of Basque Studies in America 15 (1995): 4055; Totoricagüena, G. P., ‘Basques around the world: generic immigrants or diaspora?’, Euskonews and Media 72 (2000): 2431.

60 ‘Juan’, interview with Bionka Vidonja Balanzategui, 30 May 1999, Ingham, BVBC.

61 Group interview number 4, 29 November 2004, RMC.

62 Balanzategui, B. V., ‘The fronton: a Basque legacy in tropical north Queensland’, Journal of the Society of Basque Studies in America 21 (2001): 1728.

63 ‘Amaya’, correspondence with Bionka Vidonja Balanzategui, 20 June 2001, Townsville, BVBC.

64 ‘Dolores’, 21 June 2007, RMC.

65 Agustin Adarraga, correspondence with Bionka Vidonja Balanzategui, 10 June 1999, n. b., BVBC.

66 William Douglass, correspondence with Bionka Vidonja Balanzategui, 5 August 1996, Reno, BVBC.

67 ‘Trebonne has probably only Spanish handball court in Australia’, Herbert River Express, 5 December 1959, 1.

68 Balanzategui, ‘The fronton’, 17–28.

69 ‘Felix’, interview with Bionka Vidonja Balanzategui, 4 June 1999, Trebonne, BVBC.

70 ‘Spanish in North Queensland’, Courier-Mail, 27 November 1980.

71 ‘The Basques: strongmen of the canefields’, People, 18 October 1967, 13.

72 Ott, S., The circle of mountains: a Basque shepherding community (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 87.

73 Valle, T., Korrika: Basque ritual for ethnic identity, trans. White, L. (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1994), p. 171.

74 ‘The Basques: strongmen of the canefields’, 13.

75 Lopez, M., The origins of multiculturalism in Australian politics, 1945–1975 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2000), p. 48.

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Repositioning Resistance: Basque Separatism, Religion and Cultural Security in Regional Queensland, 1945–1970

  • Robert Mason (a1)


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