Sabino Arana

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Sabino Arana
Arana in 1890
Born Sabino Arana Goiri
January 26, 1865
Abando, Biscay, Spain
Died November 25, 1903(1903-11-25) (aged 38)
Sukarrieta, Biscay, Spain
Pen name Arana ta Goiri'taŕ Sabin
Occupation Writer
Nationality Spanish

Sabino Arana Goiri, self-styled as Arana ta Goiri'taŕ Sabin, (January 26, 1865 – November 25, 1903), was a SpanishBasque writer. He was the founder of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and father of Basque nationalism.

He died in Sukarrieta at the age of 38 after falling ill with Addison's disease during time spent in prison. He had been charged with treason for attempting to send a telegram to President Theodore Roosevelt, in which he praised the United States for helping Cuba gain independence from Spain.


Statue in Abando, near Sabin-Etxea.

One of the consequences of the Second Carlist War was the substitution of the Ancien Régime system of Basque Fueros by a limited autonomy, due to the support in Navarre and part of the Basque country to the defeated Carlist cause. The Basque Country and Navarre were integrated into the Spanish customs system. Basque industrialists profited from the Spanish captive market with the iron ore and the Bessemer converter and Biscay became "the iron California". Workers from all of Spain were attracted to the area as labourers for the burgeoning industry.

Arana was born in a jauntxo ("petty noble") family from Abando, a neighbourhood that had been recently incorporated into the city of Bilbao as the new extension for the growth of the industrial era. He claimed that he had a quasi-religious revelation on Easter, 1882,[1] that he communicated to his brother Luis Arana. From then he devoted himself to the nationalist cause of Biscay, later extended to the Basque Country.


The ikurriña flag is a joint design of the Arana brothers.

He was an early defender of the use of the Basque language in all areas of society, to avoid its increasing marginalization in the face of the dominant Spanish.

He learned the language as a young man, but was ready to contest for a professor in Basque position at the Instituto de Bilbao, competing against Miguel de Unamuno and the winner, Resurrección María de Azkue who became an erudite scholar of the language.

He made a strong effort to establish a codified orthography[2] and grammar for the Basque language, and proposed several neologisms to replace words of Spanish origin. Some of these innovations, like the characters ĺ and ŕ, were ultimately not accepted in the standardization efforts for the Basque language undertaken since 1968 leading to the establishment of Standard Basque—the Euskara Batua.

His first published work was Bizkaya por su independencia ("Biscay for its independence"), composed of a mix of historical, pseudo-mythical stories and fabrications of earlier battles of the ancient people of Biscay.

In 1894, he founded the first center for the new nationalist party, (Partido Nacionalista Vasco), the second-oldest political party in Spain, to provide a place for gathering and proselytizing.

Sabino Arana, like many Europeans of his time, believed that the essence of a country was defined by its blood or ethnic composition. In Spain, the supremacy of the Spanish race and its "civilizing" pursuit over peoples held to be inferior was defended by the main political figures and parties, while a number of intellectuals Spanish and even Basque, including the Socialists, advocated for the extinction of the Basque language—ever more marginalized to family and informal environments. Sabino Arana, coming from a Carlist background, created a xenophobic ideology centered on the purity of the Basque race and its so-called moral supremacy over other Spaniards (a derivation of the system of limpieza de sangre of Modern-Age Spain), anti-Liberal Catholic integrism, and deep opposition to the migration of other Spaniards to the Spanish Basque Region. He was disturbed by the immigration into Biscay of many workers from western and central Spain during the industrial revolution, into a small territory with little political power, believing that their influence would result in the disappearance of the pure "Basque race".

He contrasted the Basque and the maketo (people from the rest of Spain)

Basque Race:

"It is necessary to isolate ourselves from the maketos. Otherwise, in this land we walk on, it is not possible to work toward the Glory of God."
Bizkaitarra, no. 19.
"We, the Basques, must avoid the mortal contagion, maintain firm our faith in our ancestors and the serious religiosity that distinguishes us, and purify our customs, before so healthy and exemplary, now so infected and at the point of corruption by the influence of those who have come from outside."
La Patria, no. 39.
"It terrifies them to hear that maketos should be driven out of towns with stones. Ah, those people who love peace! They are those who are worthy of the hate of patriots."
Bizkaitarra, no. 21
"Every Bizkaino should be anti-liberal and anti-Spanish."
Bizkaitarra, no. 1
Sabino Arana imprisoned in Larrinaga for supporting Cuba's independence

Another essential part of his ideology was devout Catholicism; he considered this to be an essential part of the Basque identity. However, his Basque nationalism kept him away from Carlism that was the dominant ultra-Catholic and conservative movement in the area and the ideology of his father. However, his early ideas differed considerably from the ones held at the end of his life.

Despite his religious integrism and racist views, he is considered by many Basques to be a gadfly that sparked the movement for the cultural revival of the Basques, and for the freedom of his people. The PNV, the party in power in the Basque Autonomous Community from the end of Francoism until 2009, developed along more nuanced and pragmatic lines, moving away from his most controversial ideas but not from his figure.

He was a prolific writer, with over 600 journalism articles, most of them with a propaganda purpose. He liked to shock and provoke, in order to get attention from a society that he deemed unaware of its fate.

There are three key aspects of Sabino Arana's political figure:

  • He was an innovator, being the first to proclaim that the Basques are a separate race.
  • He was not a conventional conservative; he strongly opposed slavery (legal in Spanish-held Cuba until ten years before its independence) and defended the right of South African Zulus to their land.
  • He was an indefatigable worker, taking action in many areas; he learned the Basque language as an adult, undertook a number of activities to promote the Basque language and culture, created a political movement, and inventing the symbols (flag, anthem, country name) used to this day not only by Basque nationalists, but other political parties and representatives also, especially in the Basque Autonomous Community.

During his time in prison he proposed the foundation of a "League of pro-Spain Basques", which would have been in favor of Basque autonomy within Spain. It is still unclear whether he had sincerely changed his views or he was trying to improve the conditions of his imprisonment. His death left the question unanswered and neither his brother Luis nor the party followed through with his proposal.

These articles were made in his first ideology as latter he joined several non-Basque politicians as Ramon de la Sota, who became a former member of his party.

The mixed influence of Sabino Arana in the Basque society[edit]

Sabino Arana's ideas are considered to have spawned the Basque nationalist movement. Today, he is viewed by some as a controversial figure, due to his xenophobia and ethnocentrism and his ideas of a pure race.

The Partido Nacionalista Vasco has kept only the more moderate part of his message. On the other hand, some Basques still revere him as the father of the Basque nationalist movement, who managed to start the turnaround of the decay of the Basque language and culture. Many Basque cities have streets named after him.

Sabin-Etxea in 2007.

The estate of his Abando home is now Sabin-Etxea ("Sabino-House"), the EAJ-PNV headquarters.

Jon Juaristi has remarked that perhaps the most influential part of his heritage is the neologistic list of Basque versions of names in his Deun-Ixendegi Euzkotarra ("Basque saint-name collection", published in 1910). Instead of the traditional adaptations of Romance names, he proposed others he made up and that in his opinion were truer to the originals and adapted to the Basque phonology.

For example, his brother Luis became Koldobika, from Frankish Hlodwig. The traditional Peru, Pello or Piarres ("Peter") became Kepa from Aramaic כיפא (Kepha). He believed that the suffix -[n]e was inherently feminine, and new names like Nekane ("pain"+ne,"Dolores") or Garbine ("clean"+ne, "Immaculate [Conception]") are frequent among Basque females. Even the name of the brother-in-law of the king of Spain is Iñaki Urdangarin, Iñaki being Arana's alternative for Ignatius instead of the Basque traditional Inazio.


  1. ^ It was the origin of the Basque Fatherland Day. José Luis de la Granja Sáinz however claims that the revelation was dated on Easter in 1932 after Arana's death, when the EAJ-PNV established the commemoration. José Luis de la Granja Sáinz, Historia y política: Ideas, procesos y movimientos sociales, ISSN 1575-0361, Nº 15, 2006 , pags. 65–116
  2. ^ Lecciones de ortografía del euskera bizkaino, Arana eta Goiri'tar Sabin, Bilbao, Bizkaya'ren Edestija ta Izkerea Pizkundia, 1896 (Sebastián de Amorrortu).

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