The road to modern consumer society. Changes in everyday life in the rural Basque Country in the early twentieth century.
Abstract: The aim of this article is to show the process of transformation of everyday life in the rural Basque society of the beginning of the twentieth century. It is generally accepted the vision of the rural Basque Country situated in the past and contrary to the changes of modern society. However, a detailed research shows a different condition and the incipient change in different aspects of everyday life. The increase of literacy thanks to the development of the educational system, the improvement of the means of transport, the birth of an incipient consumer society and the appearance of modern leisure are examples of this change in a supposedly 'old fashioned' rural Basque Country. This process of transformation took place in the last decade of the nineteenth century hut most evidently in the beginning of the following century, which places the social development of the rural Basque Country sooner than it had been thought.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Consumer culture (Forecasts and trends)
Consumer culture (Demographic aspects)
Civilization, Modern (Forecasts and trends)
Civilization, Modern (Demographic aspects)
Sparsely populated areas (History)
Sparsely populated areas (Economic aspects)
Author: Delgado, Ander
Pub Date: 06/22/2010
Publication: Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529
Issue: Date: Summer, 2010 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Spain Geographic Name: Basque Country, Spain; Basque Country, Spain Geographic Code: 4EUSP Spain
Accession Number: 230778699
Full Text: One of the current debates surrounding Spain's transition to modernity at the turn of the twentieth century concerns whether the country should he regarded as 'backward' or relatively 'normal' as compared with other Western nations, especially her European neighbours. Divergent positions have been adopted as regards questions of economic development and the articulation of shared national experiences. Even so, all contributors to discussion have more or less agreed about the conditions of everyday life in Spain. They see the level of adoption of modern characteristics as directly related to the extent of urbanization and industrialization in a given geographical location. The greatest advances towards 'mass society' are identified with the major urban centres (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao ...). On a second level would be found the capitals of less developed provinces with smaller populations--the inward-looking 'frock-coated cities' identified by Antonio Rivera in which powerful traditional forces coexisted uneasily with innovations. (1) At the lowest level we encounter the whole of rural Spain, including the smallest towns, firmly anchored in the past and remote from any signs of change or development. Taking into account the importance of agriculture in Spanish society at this point--on one calculation two-thirds of Spanish workers were engaged in agricultural labour in 1900--we might assume from this that the extent of changes in the daily routine would be very restricted and limited for most Spanish people.

This article has two aims. In the first place, we focus on the study of daily life in early twentieth-century Spain. Our definition of this theme is based on the work of A. Ludtke, as mediated through the pioneering studies of Luis Castells, one of the first historians to study these issues in the Basque Country. According to Castells "the basic target of our research is the study of people's daily or habitual routine, the everyday behaviour of human beings and their life experiences." (2) Although the relevance and importance of such studies are generally recognized, actual research in the Spanish setting is still very limited. Secondly, we bring a regional dimension to this theme, offering new evidence and commentary on everyday life during the first third of the twentieth century in what is usually referred to as the 'rural' area of the Basque Country or as 'traditional Basque society', the area beyond the direct influence of the capitals of the three provinces (Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria). We shall focus particularly on the rural areas of Biscay province, beyond the immediate influence of Bilbao and its industrial surroundings. Adopting the approach indicated above (which is admittedly over-simplified) we would expect this area to occupy the lowest and most 'backward' level of development. Bur a detailed examination reveals a different situation, which may give rise to critical reflections about the supposed backwardness of daily life in rural Spain more generally.

On the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Basque Country of northern Spain was best known through its provincial capitals, especially Bilbao and San Sebastian. In the former case, iron ore mining and the iron and steel industry placed Bilbao among the most dynamic industrial centres of Europe. A numerous working class, with a high level of immigration from beyond the city and the Basque Country together with new middle classes and a prosperous group of wealthy industrialists, brought rapid population growth to Bilbao and the estuary of the Nervion. Among the many changes associated with these developments was the transformation of Bilbao itself, from a provincial commercial centre for many local trades into a densely-populated modern city sharing many characteristics with its peers across Europe. Meanwhile, San Sebastian's growing fame as a tourist centre for the whole of the Spanish ruling class extended far beyond Spain's own frontiers; and Vitoria was the least populated, developed and externally recognized of the three Basque provincial capitals. (3)


In contrast with these urban centres we find the part of the Basque Country usually labelled as 'rural' or 'traditional'. In spite of appearances, these generalizations hide a diverse socio-economic structure. In rural Biscay, alongside a mixed agricultural economy, there developed an impressive inshore fishing sector on the coast. In the small towns that studded the countryside were commercial enclaves that complemented local agriculture; and in some cases these was also a noticeable industrial presence, generally involving small and medium enterprises, which had affected the occupational and social structure. (4) For these reasons, Basque society outside the core influence of the provincial capitals was much mote heterogeneous than the customary labels of' rural' or 'traditional' might suggest, although we shall retain this terminology even as we complicate its readings.

Over and above the area's economic heterogeneity we must not neglect its population structure. Only a handful of its local government districts (Bermeo, Azpeitia, Azkoitia, Bergara ...) had more than 5000 inhabitants in 1900, and most had fewer than 2000. Twenty years later, and despite widespread modest population growth, the basic pattern remained the same, with most municipalities still housing fewer than 5000 people. This predominantly rural population was scattered through the countryside rather than being concentrated in the small urban nuclei, which was a characteristic of the rural Basque Country as a whole. (5)

The fuller current understanding of urban society in the Basque Country has generated stereotypes about the neglected rural areas, which are assumed to be firmly anchored in traditional ways, especially when compared with the provincial capitals. Different levels of development were so evident in economy and social structure that it was easy to assume that similar contrasts prevailed in politics and daily living. The importance of religious observance, the continuing vitality of traditions, the thinly-populated and dispersed nature of many localities, the dominance of conservative and traditionalist political forces, all seemed to confirm a general absence of significant change in outlook and ways of life.

But it seems that this dichotomous perception does not reflect the more complex reality of this 'traditional' society. The assumed backwardness was not as pronounced as has been assumed, (6) at least as regards important aspects of daily living. Whatever qualifications we might make, the innovations that were extending across Spanish society towards the end of the nineteenth century were far from alien to many rural localities. The changes were most pronounced in the larger urban centres of the district, but they were also felt in many smaller places. Improving transport links between localities made for easier access for villagers and rural dwellers to the enjoyment of innovations in neighbouring small towns. There is no doubt that the profound changes of the turn of the century made themselves felt in the rural Basque Country. (7)

We can make use of several studies of the range of transformations in the main Basque cities at this time; but there is ample scope for further investigation. (8) In this article we confine ourselves no presenting a synthetic introduction to certain indications of the development, sometimes preliminary, of changes in social comportment in the countryside, often coexisting with traditional practices. Four themes receive particular attention: the expansion of formal educational provision, the spread of transport improvements, the development of an incipient consumer society, and the growth of leisure activities.


Education And Culture

An important aspect of changes in daily life in these rural settlements is the development of the educational system after the Restoration of 1876, when its expansion began in earnest. This theme is almost always pursued through a 'history of education' lens, but it should also he taken into account as part of the 'history of everyday life' and popular culture. Obviously, the analysis of education during the Spanish Restoration needs to attend to several aspects like official educational policies, the influence of Church and Catholicism, reaching materials and content, etc. But in this article we analyze the consequences of education rather than the systems and processes. Trends in literacy and cultural attainment are directly related to the nature of the education system, and constitute an important element in daily living, as education opened doors, promoted social mobility and made available higher levels of information and understanding.

The educational network of the Restoration was quite diverse. It embraced public and private elementary schools, many of which received municipal financial support for their establishment and continuance. The private schools were run mainly by the various religious orders established in Spain since the mid-nineteenth century, and with growing intensity during the Restoration years. There were also establishments that prepared pupils for particular trades, the 'Arts and Crafts' schools. This was an educational route for everyone who could not afford university studies, and who found here a good way of mastering a skill which would provide relatively well-paid employment. This non-university educational network, especially the vocational schools, fulfilled two important functions: it supplied skilled employees for businesses at a time of economic growth, and promoted social mobility for those who could not secure it otherwise. (9)

This is not the place for an exhaustive study of all the different types and gradations of educational provision in this environment, nor to conduct a full review of all the establishments (primary, secondary, adult, vocational or specialized, such as the nautical schools). We need to know that in all the settlements examined here there were publicly-funded schools conducted by a master or mistress to provide basic educational necessities, as compulsory primary education spread through the region. In the more populous places there were also private schools run by religious orders, and vocational schools. There was an education network of sufficient scale and scope to be considered as a relatively full set of services for the population at large, better in the more populated urban centres and less satisfactory in rural areas with dispersed populations. The system was sufficient to bring falling illiteracy levels to the Basque Country between the 1870s and the 1920s, as Table 1 demonstrates.

The growth in literacy that is apparent from this table is put in perspective if we consider that in 1860 the overall percentage of illiteracy in Biscay stood at 67.6 per cent of the population. (10) We can therefore argue for a significant improvement in the cultural level of the population studied here, by the second decade of the twentieth century.

This growth in literacy will have permitted, at least in theory, wider access to a greater range of information through the written and printed word. It is significant that growing numbers of people could read a newspaper unaided, especially as the modern popular press became more widely available. Evidence of a positive relationship between literacy and consumption comes from the development of a publishing industry in these communities, in the form of printers and booksellers. (11) The impact of the printing and binding of religious texts, municipal edicts, regulations and so on can be added to the printing and sale of books on various topics, teaching materials, serial novels, leaflets, comics (12) and other popular reading material, such as political leaflets, posters, pamphlets and manifestos, was cumulatively enormous. The contending political parties soon understood that, in a context of cultural development, written propaganda became a valuable means to political socialization.

Transport Innovation

The last years of the nineteenth century were also marked by improvement in the means of transport. The railway was the strongest influence between the 1870s and the 1920s, although from the beginning of the new century automobiles, lorries and buses were growing in visibility. (13) The role of the railway, as engine of economic growth and fundamental influence (along with other factors) on industrialization, is well known. But the railways had another role to play, which will be highlighted here.

Our understanding of the Basque railway network is very full, thanks to several studies on this theme, from which we see clearly the extent of the system, its connections with the most important Spanish cities, and its links across the Basque Country from west to east, connecting at Irun with the French network. (14) Where the railways did not reach directly, a system of mail coaches, carriages, diligences and subsequently motor buses connected the remoter places with the railway. (15)

Studies of railway history in Spain have paid more heed to the economic role of freight traffic than to the social significance of the accelerated movement of people and ideas, and the articulation and interconnection of spaces that they brought with them. The railways enabled people to arrive in Madrid in less than a day, and to take a day return trip to Bilbao from anywhere on the system. The railway could be used to visit/fiestas in more distant places, and to visit beaches and rural villages. People did not only use the railway in case of necessity, hut also for leisure and entertainment, which shows how social arrangements adjusted to these new opportunities.

The new means of transport created interconnections across the whole province, bringing together the different districts, linking distant places more closely together, and extending people's spheres of activity. Previously long journeys had the character of an unusual adventure, but now horizons were expanding. As journeys beyond the locality became easy, normal and economically accessible, spatial universes were amplified, even if this only took, the form of excursions, pilgrimages or visits to relatives.

The statistics on rail travellers confirm that the impact of railways went far beyond a restricted social group. They show the continuing growth of rail travel from the opening of the lines that served the settlements investigated here. The evidence presented in Graph 2 is reinforced by the fact that most of the tickets sold on these routes were for the cheapest seats, those in third class, and that it was at this level that growth in journeys was most apparent.


Transport improvements not only permitted greater personal mobility: they also speeded up the movement of ideas and information. Here the telegraph and the telephone were also important, (16) but the railway provided rapid transport for an important medium of communication, the newspaper. (17) We lack information on the volume of newspaper traffic on the railways, but everything seems to indicate the widespread use of trains for newspaper distribution. Thus, in 1917 we find evidence of the place of the press in the daily life of the community:

The regular arrival of the newspaper in (at least) the best-connected and most populous settlements is a factor that must not be underrated, the more so at a time when newspapers were becoming cheaper, more accessible, popular and widely read, and of transition from a press based on subscription and opinion to one aimed at mass reading publics. As the above quotation indicates, these modern newspapers gradually became a central element of daily life from the beginning of the twentieth century.

An Emergent Consumer Society

The first place to look for evidence of the gradual extension of bourgeois habits through society is in the emergence of an embryonic consumer society. Modern consumption takes many different forms, from changes in systems of production, resources and demand, through differing practices according to class, age and gender, to the politics of consumption. (19) Constraints of space necessitate more limited ambitions: showing how a more diversified commercial sector made its presence felt in rural Biscay, reflecting changes in supply and consumption which demonstrate the accessibility of new products and practices to ever-widening sectors of society, adding up to a transition to a more modern consumer society.

The historiography of Spanish consumer society is not very extensive, and if is not easy to find works about this issue. The most general approaches represent the progress of mass consumer society in. Spain as being delayed, even though some recent research has stressed the growth of consumer markets for textile, furniture and food supplies even in rural Spanish families between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (20) But this pre-industrial precedent, even if we accept the most optimistic interpretations, did not continue into the last third of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the next. Connecting with the idea of the Spanish industrial 'failure', some authors have highlighted the difficulties of Spanish society in making the transition to mass consumer society. In opinion of these authors, the real transition to a consumer society in Spain happened in the 1960s. They also argue that development in the first third of the twentieth century amounted to no more than a restricted model of 'elitist' consumption, where the majority of the population did not have the capacity to consume. (21) Another work has given more emphasis to the character of consumer society in Spain during the 1920s and 1930s, and connects with some research done in economic history. The author argues that from the eve of First World War the first signs of a consumer society appeared, helped by the process of urbanization, increasing proportions of the population working in non-agricultural activities, etc. In any case, this process was reduced to the bigger Spanish cities. (22)

The aim of this section is to add a contribution to the debate about the beginning of a consumer society in Spain in two ways. First, it draws attention to the earlier presence of some of its characteristics in Basque society. From the last years of the nineteenth century consumption was extended to broader social classes, the kind of products available for consumers increased, and the volume consumed by families increased significantly in this period. Secondly, it presents evidence that this process also happened in some rural areas, weaker in its presence although noticeable in its social effects. The next paragraphs present evidence of change in the retail system, in the supply of products and in the social extension of consumption.

From the late nineteenth century new kinds of shop began to appear in the villages and small towns. The traditional traders with their limited choice of products (grocery, hardware, textile goods), and the craftsmen who sold their own products, gradually converted themselves into 'shopkeepers' or dealers in product manufactured as part of an industrial system of production. Here consumers looked for a wider range of higher-quality or more fashionable, but affordable, products, as their disposable incomes increased and even the poorer classes he-came able to afford cheap mass-produced consumer goods.

This process was most evident in the big cities, where even basic foodstuffs and other necessities had to be bought from shops in the absence of other resources. In the kinds of place investigated here, however, it was not always necessary to buy every necessity from a shop, especially foodstuffs. Gardens and smallholdings, even close to the centre of small town settlements, together with the proximity of inshore fishing communities, enabled food to be sold directly from producer to consumer. This was reflected in the lively weekly markets which were, and are, traditional points of sale for basic local food products and some manufactured goods.

At he beginning of the twentieth century, however, new kinds of shops began to appear in the towns examined here, responding to the spread of a basic consumer society. Although mote traditional kinds of commercial activity did not disappear, a glance at the trade directories and commercial annuals of the period, such as those put together by Valentin Reparaz. (23) Shops selling gifts, new fashions and cleaning materials, ironmongers, bookshops, stationers, furniture shops (displacing carpenters and chair makers), photographers, jewellers, glassware and crockery shops, all became commonplace. Later on the list might be extended to include shops selling toys, jewellery, electrical goods, hats and sewing machines. These new developments began in the late nineteenth century, and by the second decade of the twentieth century they had spread through the majority of the most populous of the urban centres under investigation. These were new establishments with better supply chains, more variety, better internal organization (with window and counter displays), promoting consumption through special offers and discounts, and trying to meet the new 'necessities' of modern life.

The development and subsequent consolidation of this kind of retail sector reflected both a change in the lifestyles and preferences of the local inhabitants, and a rise in disposable income. The better-off were obviously in the best position to consume the new products, but it is particularly interesting that these changes in taste and social necessity spread through the rest of the population. Everyone enjoyed some sort of opportunity to consume, and every group photograph from the first two decades of the twentieth century shows the spread of new forms of dress and expenditure. Ties, hats and American style suits are clear examples of this. The existence of some of the kinds of shop mentioned above is indicative of the emergence of consumer demand for articles based on their elegance or attractiveness, although their only use was ornamental.

We can also present another indication of the consolidation of consumerism in this part of the province. In Basque historiography the study of consumer cooperatives has been linked with the development of the labour movement and working-class culture, due to the important part played by trade unions in the movement's growth. (24) But studies of co-operation and consumer societies in other countries have shown that this movement was also associated with the development of consumer consciousness, as co-operation became a form of political action in defence of consumer interests and in resistance to price increases. (25) This theme requires fuller and better-documented consideration than can be provided here, but in the area examined we find the creation of consumer co-operatives promoted by various working-class organizations. Their presence stands out as an indication of the spread of a consumer identity--which does not entail any contradiction with enduringly relevant attachments to class, nation or religion--in these urban centres. Despite their trade union origins, in the cases studied they were open to people who were not manual workers, indeed to consumers in general. This indicates that the idea of the citizen as consumer had become an important facet of popular culture.

In 1919 the Basque nationalist trade union Solidaridad de Obreros Vascos founded the Cooperativa Vase a de Consumes in Durango, with a hundred original members. It was open to those who were not manual workers. (26) A similar cooperative society was established in the fishing centre of Bermeo in 1920. The founding members here came from differing economic backgrounds, and some of them were comfortably off, so it was decided to create a co-operative drawn from 'the best members of each class, and with goods of all qualities on offer', to take account of the range of preferences. (27)' Both organizations soon encountered problems and closed in 1924, during a period of general crisis for the nationalist trade union in the context of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. (28) In Gernika-Lumo the Cooperativa Popular Guerniquesa was founded in 1931, during the Second Republic, by socialists and republicans. (29) Similar societies were also created in rural settings, in this case to supply necessary items for farmers. In Mungia a section of the Catholic Sindicato Agricola was established in 1914, and two years later it had 270 members and a co-operative society for trade in fertiliser, seeds and machinery, as well as a branch of the Caja Rural savings bank. (30) All these initiatives suggest that issues connected with consumption were becoming important nor only among manual workers in cities, hut also in this rural location.

New tastes and social needs also affected the organization of urban space. For the new middle and upper classes, dwellings enclosed within crowded and ill-ventilated old central districts were no longer comfortable according to current ideas about hygiene and convenience. These were places whose medieval origins not only resulted in deficient urban planning and services (lack of running water and sanitation, problems of refuse storage and disposal, etc.) but also in a lack of social differentiation. The 'palace' of a noble family could share a party wall with the dwelling of a craftsman or manual worker. The difficulty of reconstructing the old town centres to meet new middle-class expectations provoked the departure of the wealthiest groups, separating themselves from the ordinary residents at the stroke of a pen. Some of the tendencies in this direction that were observed with greater intensity in the Basque provincial capitals, (31) for example the 'ensanches' or new planned middle-class districts, had their counterparts in some of the places studied here.

From the late nineteenth century the urban centres of this rural society began to grow beyond their old limits, responding not only to these new social pressures hut also to simple population growth. For example, in Gernika-Lumo existing land between the old centre and the new railway station was used for urban expansion, and in Bermeo advantage was taken of land reclaimed from the sea near the Lamera Park. In Durango new building proceeded in the peripheral areas of Pinondo and Kurutziaga, but above all on the opposite side of the river, near Ezkurdi Park, and as far as the railway station. All the existing centres grew--at differing rates--beyond the limits that had hitherto constrained them. These were planned extensions with all the necessary services for a modern dwelling, including parks and broader streets, permitting better living standards in these districts.

The wider streets enabled another form of social stratification to develop. The wealthiest of the upper and upper middle classes sought to set themselves apart from the rest by investing in a new kind of residential building: the chalet. Some of them went further, emulating the upper classes of earlier generations by constructing their own 'palaces'. From the most impressive examples which followed French architectural models (such as the present Durango municipal library, which was the home of Jose Uribasterra, or the former chalet of the Abaroa family in Lekeitio), to the buildings that displayed a neo-Basque taste, there was a great variety of types in some of the localities studied, which would require a thorough architectural study to bring out the richness of this heritage. In Gernika-Lumo and Durango, examples of the most dynamic of the local municipalities, this process was most in evidence, reflected in the long list of proprietors of this kind of building. As well as older 'palaces' that predated the Restoration of 1876, by 1924 these small towns contained 15 and 24 chalets, respectively. There are further examples in other localities, though fewer in number. This evidence, together with the creation of 'ensanches', demonstrates that here, as well as in the bigger and more developed cities (though on a smaller scale), similar processes of spatial segregation by wealth were operating.

The spread of these new tastes and social aspirations was probably assisted by tourism. Although the small towns examined here were not important tourist centres like San Sebastian, (32) they did have attractive spa resorts. When 'taking the waters' became fashionable in the nineteenth century the wealthy classes began to frequent the bathing establishments. In these places, over and above their therapeutic functions, visitors were able to socialise with people of similar status and sustain an opulent lifestyle in surroundings that encouraged this. In the Basque Country there are many examples of this kind of development, some of which were situated very close to the places studied here. (33) The spa visitors had to be comfortably off to afford the cost of a visit. As a result, the summer visitors who filled the spas were effective transmitters of middle-class customs and expectations to these small Biscayan settlements, along with the transport improvements that made the provincial capitals mote accessible. They were reinforced by people with local connections who lived in other places but returned to spend the summer in their place of origin. The 'society' columns in the local press were full of references to the arrival and departure of such families, most of whom lived in nearby provincial capitals or in Madrid. Such people, along with the tourists, brought with them the middle-class tastes, assumptions and social practices of the most advanced cities of Spain and, in some cases, of other countries.

Leisure Time

Another sector in which transformations and innovations were very much in evidence was the arrival of modern leisure in the rural Basque world. The expansion of cultural and sporting activities in various guises reflected the extension of new kinds of activity and ways of organizing rime, giving rise to a sharp demarcation between work, rest and leisure time.

The process of defining 'free time' for the worker became more clear-cut in industrial societies. The existence of predetermined allocations of time to work and rest enabled the marking out of free time at the worker's disposal. Although working days were very long in the early industrial period, combined with a six-day working week, these requirements were gradually reduced, though not without struggles and setbacks. (34) This process helped to extend the period of work-free time available to industrial workers, although, this was not the same as leisure. The difference was that leisure entailed the free choice of activities, whether for education, diversion, or the pursuit of personal fulfilment; and in some cases payment was demanded for such enjoyments. (35)

This explanation for the emergence of free time may be valid for industrial Biscay, but not for traditional Basque society, nor in those settlements where industrial development arrived after the changes in leisure activities were established. The clear division of time discussed above was not the norm in societies that were dominated by farming, traditional crafts and commerce. Here, theoretically, the head of the household as working unit determined working hours and the intensity of labour to suit his own convenience. But despite these characteristics, which seem incompatible with the emergence of modern' leisure, a detailed analysis reveals the presence in the early twentieth century of organized leisure activities and sufficient commercialization of leisure to create new economic opportunities in this sector.

Wherever Roman Catholicism predominated and industrialization was absent or late in appearing, some free time was provided by the obligation to abstain from work at religious festivals. The Catholic Church was the driving force behind the emergence of a minimum rest period for the worker, not for entertainment, but to be present at Sunday services and festivals of obligation. But working arrangements in the worlds of agriculture, commerce and small workshops meant that Sunday observance and attendance at services were often neglected, and religious festivals were often used by rural people to visit the nearest population centre, not only to attend Mass but also to make purchases or for social eating and drinking. In the late nineteenth century the Church began a campaign for the closure of shops and other businesses on Sundays and feast days. Reasonably full documentation on this survives only for Gernika-Lumo in 1885, showing the intensity of the campaign by local clergy, supported by Catholic women, to impose religious obligations on that part of the population that evaded them. (36)

The Church's intervention stimulated the clearer division of time between work and 'not-work', but it was the changes of the early twentieth century that spread and established the idea of leisure time. Although the Catholics aimed at reinforcing the religious spirit of the people against the perceived perils of modern life, they could not prevent the development, with the new century, of new attitudes to free time. Although religious duties were still observed, the people also wanted entertainment, amusement and sociability, and they were prepared to pay for the commercial provision of such services. Despite all the Church's efforts to keep Sundays and feast days for religious observance, they were also converted into opportunities for enjoyment.

Leaving aside important aspects like the spaces of sociability provided by taverns and cafes, popular leisure activities in rural Biscay took several forms. (37) We shall concentrate on the most significant of these, divided into two large groups. First, we bring together theatre and cinema, which became one of the most popular cultural activities and a key element in the enjoyment of leisure in this setting. Theatre and variety shows were the first commercial leisure activities to make their presence felt here, at the end of the nineteenth century. Drama became so firmly established in the routines of daily life that in the early twentieth century people passed beyond being mere spectators of the plays put on by visiting theatre companies, and also formed amateur dramatic groups which put on shows for their neighbours. This was especially, but not exclusively, the case among supporters of the most organized of the political parties, the Basque Nationalists and the Carlists.

But the most relevant development was the creation of private theatre and entertainment businesses to serve the localities. At the beginning of the twentieth century such activities were being supplemented by the first cinema shows, although at first these were sporadic or itinerant. Some cafes showed films from time to time, and local people enjoyed opportunities to see films at the fiestas of the local patron saint, or presented by touring companies, or through performances of 'suitable' material organised by religious bodies. (38)

From the second decade of the twentieth century, the number of entertainment enterprises grew as they spread through most of the largest urban settlements. Almost all had new, spacious premises, modern and purpose-built for the shows they presented.(39) Their most important identifying feature was their primary focus on films, although they also presented theatrical and other entertainments. The first firmly-established private cinemas--which did not do away with the presentations in the cafes--developed during the First World War. Companies like the Teatro Cine Tavira of Durango (1916) and the Teatro Liceo Guerniques (1917), or the cinema established by the Batzoki (local headquarters of the Basque Nationalist Party) in Lekeitio (1922) are clear illustrations of the growing importance of cinema in the lives of local people and the associated business opportunities.

The second group of popular leisure activities focuses on organized sport, which also became a key element in the use of leisure time, and also formed the basis for important business enterprises. This was not just a matter of the new imported sports of the late nineteenth century onwards, but also the traditional Basque sports, especially 'pelota a mano'. In fact, it was the traditional sports, together with bullfighting, that led the way to commercialization for the enjoyment of paying spectators. (40)

The great interest in all traditional forms of pelota across the Basque Country made possible the creation, after the end of the last Carlist War in 1876, of companies that invested in the management of courts or 'frontones' with seating for paying spectators at which regular programmes of matches were held. Betting, between participants and among the spectators, was an important aspect of these occasions, and newspaper reports suggest that substantial sums were involved, of which the organizers took a percentage in commission. The conversion of pelota into a business proceeded very rapidly after 1876, as is evident in the case of Durango, where there is particularly strong evidence from the 1880s. (41)

The increases in popular spending power, the spread of the railway network which made it easier to attend matches outside one's home area, and a growing willingness to spend money on leisure activities, all contributed to this transformation. The companies that ran the 'frontones' were able to invest with confidence in modern facilities for the new forms of pelota. To begin with, judging by the ticket prices for the closest seats to the court, the spectators were drawn mainly from the wealthy or comfortably off By the early twentieth century, however, a more popular paying audience was developing. This opening out towards a mass market for pelota, enabled the businesses to increase their investment and construct covered courts, removing the threat of bad weather. (42)

Football is another paradigmatic example of these developments. It arrived in Bilbao at the end of the nineteenth century and subsequently spread throughout the Basque Country, and soon passed from being a sport for enthusiasts to a form of mass entertainment based on paying spectators. (43) The area under review had nothing to match the rapid development of Athletic de Bilbao or Real Sociedad of San Sebastian, but in Gernika-Lumo and Durango football clubs also emerged, attracting growing numbers of spectators. In Gernika-Lumo various groups of people established the first football teams before the First World War, and by 1923 they had combined to form the Sociedad Deportiva Guernica Club. In Durango, the original football team, Ederrori, was founded in 1912, followed by Club Deportivo Durangues in 1914 and Sociedad Deportiva Cultural de Durango in 1919. In Lekeitio there was a club named Zirimiri in 1915, and in Bermeo a religious association was behind the early growth of the sport. (44)

The evidence, presented so far in synthetic form, indicates the changes in the use of free time. We still need to highlight a second theme, the spread of rising purchasing power which enabled people to pay for commercial leisure activities. This reflects the broad expansion of basic spending power and opportunities beyond the wealthy classes. The ability to pay for leisure pursuits also reflects a general, social propensity for the enjoyment of leisure time which became a very important facet of people's lives. The desire to enjoy football, cinema or pelota, and have a good time there, became sufficiently strong to encourage people to pay to satisfy it. These developments grew in importance through the twentieth century, and as time passed leisure and sporting activities extended to ever-broadening sectors of the population as an integral and highly visible aspect of daily living.(45)

The practice of paying for a ticket to attend these events (and others, such as circuses and rural sports) enables us to go to tax records to assess the evolution and importance of commercial entertainments in everyday life. Commercial entertainments were taxed by the Diputacion (provincial government:) of Biscay at 15 per cent of the total receipts, 10 per cent going to the provincial budget and the rest to the provincial committee for the protection of infants. The evidence for the annual receipts of a representative sample of municipalities, and taking account of all the entertainments that were taxed, produces Graph 3. Here, in spite of all the evasions that might have occurred, we can clearly demonstrate the growth of commercial leisure in the rural districts of Biscay province.


This graph is useful in several ways. From its inception in 1911, there were shows and sporting events that charged for entry. The receipts were quite small, but we can still note the early date at which these activities were visible in these communities. We are still dealing with occasional events organised by cafes or connected with the annual fiestas or with agricultural fairs, at which it was already normal to charge admission for pelota matches or rural sports. Moreover, from the First World War we see a change in tendency in the level of receipts, as it begins to move steadily upwards, especially after the end of the war and above all at the beginning of the 1920s. At this point we can speak of a real boom in commercial leisure in rural Biscay, at a relatively early point. Cinema and pelota were the leading contributors, although from early in the second decade of the twentieth century football also began to grow, for example in Durango and Gernika-Lumo. The figures presented here provide clear evidence of a steadily growing public presence at commercial leisure activities, including the years of post-war crisis. (46)

Finally, the leisure industries were central to a process of spatial reorganization in the places where they were most, fully developed. The local urban centres put together more, better and continuous leisure programmes. The improved buildings and installations mentioned above played their part in this. Cinema was important to this growth, but pelota and other 'traditional' or rural sports led the way. This was the case in Gernika-Lumo, the most developed urban centre, especially due to its pelota 'fronton', which together with its cinema and two cafes combined to increase the tax receipts considerably.

Concluding Thoughts

The preceding pages have shown that the rural Basque Country, as represented by eastern Biscay, did not remain anchored in the past nor unchanging in the face of the innovations of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, as has often been believed. Although the region reacted in its own specific ways and to its own rhythms, social innovation was making its presence felt in various ways. The stability of the social and occupational structure, except where industries had developed (as at Durango and Gernika-Lumo), did nor prevent changes in the patterns of everyday life and social behaviour across a spectrum of localities, from the urban centres to the truly rural.

We should also highlight that the processes presented here were not far behind the general Spanish pattern. It is usual (though we must, not over-simplify) to locate the modernization of urban Spain in the first, third of the twentieth century as regards consumption, leisure and other issues. It is also usually argued that it was the First World War that precipitated an acceleration and deepening of the evolution of this process towards 'mass society'. Thus, in studies of the development of consumer society the European war is presented as sufficient context for the beginning of its slow development in Spain. (47) The same applies to the rise of the most popular and socially significant types of shows and entertainments. (48) It seems, then, that the development of a consumer society and of commercialized leisure in rural Basque society was not far behind that, of other locations usually deemed to be more 'advanced'. As we have seen, it was at the end of the second decade of the twentieth century that leisure and consumption began to grow more powerfully, and by the 1920s the innovations were already quite firmly rooted. If we add the important increases in literacy before the coming of Primo de Rivera's dictatorship in 1923, and the high levels of popular mobility by rail (we lack evidence on the growth of motor-bus traffic) in those years, it is clear that the rural environment studied here was more advanced than is sometimes assumed and that, albeit with its own distinctive characteristics, its transformation occurred at the same time as in other Spanish settings.

But we need to qualify these assertions to avoid falling into misleading emphases. If we take the characteristics of the great cities of Europe or the United States, or even the most populous and developed cities of Spain, as our yardsticks of modernity, it is obvious that the changes presented in our rural communities lack the scale and depth to quality for membership of the select group chosen to represent full-blown modernity. But we should not go to the other extreme and deny the significance of the changes that did occur in rural Biscay. Our aim here is to consider the changes taking place in these less developed societies, assess their extent and intensity, and calibrate their significance. To analyse life in 'traditional' Basque society we need a palette of different shades of grey as well as black and white. This was not-a society anchored in the past, but one that accepted innovations readily without losing all of its previous characteristics.

The themes discussed--to which others could certainly be added--show that daily life and social behaviour were changing. But if modes of behaviour changed, did this also apply to the people themselves? Did people continue with their attachment to tradition and the past in spite of displaying new habits and social behaviour? It seems evident that, changes in patterns of daily living had an impact on personalities. The changes favoured a widening of the mental horizons of people who had hitherto been focused on the locality and the district. This transformation was visible in their terms of reference--especially in politics--and in the frameworks of assumptions in which they placed and explained daily happenings. They passed from a local environment to a broader one in which the regional, national and even international acquired greater relevance in understanding and analysing the events they lived through or knew about through the media. The local, which is usually considered the defining element of Restoration Spanish culture, (49) ceased to be fundamental to the culture of these communities and, however slowly, the action space of the inhabitants continued to extend its imagined frontiers. (50)

If it is difficult to verify the presence of qualitative factors like those studied here, it is even harder to determine the point at which a society passes from one state to another in the evolution of these points of reference. After all, this transformation was a gradual process which unfolded between 1890 and 1923, and there is no identifiable point of transition or irreversible change. Even so, we can suggest a point at which this process accelerated and consolidated, after the initial impetus of the loss of the American colonies in 1898. The First World War was this key point. The proximity of this conflict and the local suffering caused by it (high prices and scarcity of necessary goods, or the impact of the naval blockade on shipping, for example) ensured that the citizenry, including those in rural settlements, would have clear evidence of the impact of a wider world. The war demonstrated the direct influence of the international situation on the inhabitants of any Basque locality, and many current problems had their roots in the conflict. This required that the explanatory frameworks of local life should broaden their terms of reference to provide convincing responses to the situations they experienced or suffered.

We can conclude that rural districts should not be considered, by their very nature, to be less advanced. Although they might not industrialize or undergo social transformations according to the orthodox capitalist templates that do not mean that: the population remained at anchor in the past. The more 'backward' societies followed their own routes to development. There are two ways of explaining this. On the one hand, modern society stretched out invisible tentacles, influencing and changing the very areas that seemed alien to it because they had not taken on all the characteristics associated with development. This influence was evident in the daily life of the population, a key element in the life of each person and central to establishing the presence or absence of change. On the other hand, perhaps the local people were themselves open to the innovations that they knew were developing in the most 'advanced' sectors of Western society, and passing from the biggest Spanish cities to the more accessible ones. There is no doubt that these two interpretations are the opposite sides of the same coin.


This article has been written within the investigation group of Ministerio de Cieneia e Innovacion HAR2008/3245/HIST I am grateful for opinions and commentaries provided by, especially, John K. Walton, Luis Castella, Felix Luengo, Juan Gracia and the referees of Journal of Social History who have helped to improve the present text. The author takes responsibility for any remaining errors.

(1.) Rivera, La Ciudad Levitica. Continuidad y cambio en una ciudad del interior (Vitoria, 1876-1936) (Vitoria, 1992).

(2.) Castells, "Historia de la vida cotidiana," in E. Hernandez Sandoica and A. Langa (eds), Sobre la historia actual. Entre politica y cultura (Madrid, 2005), PP. 17-62, 45.

(3.) For an introduction to these capitals see M. Gonzalez Portilla (ed.), Los origenes de una metropoli industrial: la Ria de Bilbao, 2 vols (Bilbao, 2001); L. Castells, "La Bella Easo: 1864-1936," in M. Artola (ed.), Historia de San Sebastian (San Sebastian, 2001), pp. 283-386; Rivera, Ciudad Levitica.

(4.) For more socioeconomic information about this part of the province see, A. Delgado, Trabajoy vida cotidiana en 'otra Bizkaia, 1876-1923 (Madrid, 2009).

(5.) Census de la poblacion de Espaha en 1900 y 1920, available at

(6.) For example, as regards the political situation, recent work has pulled together this interpretation: A. Delgado, La otra Bizkaia. Politico en un medio rural durante la Restauracion (1890-1923) (Bilbao, 2008).

(7.) This study is based on a comparison of the localities of Gernika-Lumo, Mungia, Durarngo, Bermeo, Lekeitio, Markina, Munitibar and Durango, settlements in the eastern, rural part of the province of Biscay. The evidence presented here refers to these examples. Although we lack similar studies elsewhere in the Basque Provinces, it is argued that the processes examined here were also operating in other place-in so-called 'traditional Basque society'.

(8.) L. Castells and A. Rivera, "Vida cotidiana y nuevos comportamientos sociales (EI Pats Vasco, 1876-1923)," Ayer 19 (1995): 135-163; A. Rivera, "Del pasado al presence. Las transformaciones de la vida cotidiana en Vitoria desde el siglo XIX a nuestros dias," in J.M. Imizcoz (ed.), La vida cotidiana de Vitoria en la Edad Moderna y Contemporanea (San Sebastian, 1995), pp. 407-431; Idem. "De la cultura tradicional a la cultura de masas en el Pais Vasco," in I. Arana (ed.), Victor Chavarri: un hombre, una epoca. Actas de la III Semana de Estudios Historicos "Noble Villa de Portugalete" (Bilbao, "2004), pp. 173-192; F Luengo, San Sebastian. La vida coadiana de una ciudad. De su destruccion a la ciudad contemporanea (San Sebastian, 2003). On the 1930s, S. de Pablo, Trabajo, diversion y vida cotidiana. EI Pais Vasco en los anos treinta (Vitoria, 1995).

(9.) M. Ostolaza, Entre religion y modernidad. Los colegios de la Congregaciones Religiosas en la construccion de la sociedad guipuzcoana contemporanea, 1876-1931 (Bilbao, 2000); P. Davila, Las escuelas de Artes y Oficios y el proceso de modernization en el Pais Vasco, 1879-1929 (Bilbao, 1997).

(10.) P. Davila, La politica educativa y la enserianza publica en el Pais vasco (1860-1930) (San Sebastian, 1995), Appendix, Table 27.

(11.) For local printing businesses see J.A. Orobio-Urrutia, Inprenta Durangon 1832-1936 La Imprenta en Durango (Durango. 1996), and A. Delgado, Gernika-Lumo entre dos guerras. De la capital foral al bombardeo (1876-1937) (San Sebastian, 2005), p. 106. There are interesting comments on readers and reading practices in turn-of-the-century Spain in J.A. Martinez Martin, "La lectura en Espana contemporanea: lectores, discursos y practicas de lectura," Ayer 58 (2005): 15-34.

(12.) One article commented chat the young people, of Gernika-Lumo took pleasure "in reading T.B.O., which has made itself popular among the poorer people, or some inferior sort or novel or magazine" (Euzkadi, 4 November 1922).

(13.) In 1896 a journalist conveyed the surprise caused among the population of Durango by the rapid passage of an automobile: "On "Tuesday at 6.30 p.m an automobile passed through Durango, arriving at Bilbao at 7.30 Bilbao, and attracting the attention of the locals by the speed of its passage and the ease with which it stopped, and the face that it was powered by gasoline. Three gentlemen travelled in it, and according to their story they left lrun that same morning, had lunch in San Sebastian, visited Azpeitia, Loyola and the factories at Elgoibar and Eibar, and had a snack in Durango at. Miota's inn." [El Vasco, 21 August 1896). From this time onwards the presence of automobiles on Basque roads became normal. Even under the Second Republic it remained the preserve of elites and a symbol of social distinction, in contrast with Great Britain whereby the 1930s car ownership had become widely diffused through and beyond the middle classes: Pablo, Trabajo, diversion, p. 27; S. O'Connell, The car in British society. Class, gender and motoring, 1896-1939 (Manchester, 1998).

(14.)For example, A.M. Ormaetxea, Ferrocarriles en Euskadi, 1855-1936 (Bilbao, 1988); O. Macias, Ferrocarriles y desarrollo economico en el Pais Vasco (1914-1936) (Bilbao, 1994); M. Gonzalez Portilla et al, Ferrocarriles y desarrollo. Red y mercados en el Pais Vasco, 1856-1914 (Bilbao, 1995).

(15.) The study by O. Macias, "Caminos, ferrocarriles y carreteras en Vizcaya (1845-1936)," en R. Mieza y J. Gracia (eds), Haciendo historia. Homenaje a M" Angeles Larrea (Bilbao, 2004), pp. 361-378, on the tracks, railways and roads of Biscay, shows how a dense network of small transport businesses connected the remotest places with the railway. In 1899, from the outskirts of Durango (actually in Olakueta, Berriz) it was possible to take a coach to Markina, the spa resort, of Urberuaga, and Ondarroa. These settlements could also be reached from the stations at Elgoibar and Deba. Gernika-Lumo was also a focus for transport across the whole district as well as being connected with localities such as Lekeitio. A mail coach ("coche-correo") left Munitibar every day for Gernika-Lumo. (Reparaz, Vizcaya en la mano, 1899). A similar situation applied in Mungia, the terminal station of the railway from Luchana. As time passed the horse-drawn conveyances gave way to motor-buses. The first motor-bus service in the area under review ran from Lekeitio in 1907: I. Goiogana, "La epoca contemporanea," Lekeitio (Bilbao, 1992), pp. 95-112, 105. The town's distance from the nearest station and the desire to encourage tourism prompted this investment (La Gaceta del None, 20 February 1907). In Bermeo, a few years later in 1920, an attempt was made to reduce the inconvenience of the railway line stopping several kilometres short at Sukarrieta by setting up a motor-bus service to Bilbao: A. Delgado, Bermeo en el siglo XX. Poliuca y conflicto en un municipio pesquero vizcaino (1912-1955) (Bilbao, 1998), p. 213.

(16.) The press provides information on the spread of telephone lines throughout the province during the .second decade of the twentieth century: Euzkadi, 2 July 1916.

(17.) Some years later automobiles would be used to transport newspapers throughout the Basque Country. For example, Euzkadi (28 June 1923) provided a map showing the routes used by its vans to distribute the newspaper from Bilbao, leaving at 3.30 in the morning, arriving (for example) at Lekeitio at 6:20, at Markina at 6:40, at Vitoria at 10:00 and at Pamplona at 10:40.

(18.) La Gaceta del Norte, 23 September 1917.

(19.) The heterogeneous nature of research on consumption becomes apparent when reading, for example, R, Bocock, Consumption (London, 1 993); J. Benson, The rise of consumer society in Britain, 1880-1980 (Londres, 1994); J.K. Walton, "Towns and consumerism," in M. Daunton (ed.), Cambridge urban history of Britain. 3 vols (Cambridge, 2000) III, pp. 715-744; of M. Hilton and M. Daunton, "Material politics: an introduction," in M. Daunton and M. Hilton (eds), Politics of consumption. Material culture and citizenship in Europe and America (Oxford, 2001), pp. 1-32.

(20.) See, J. Torras and B. Yun (dirs.), Consumo, condiciones de vide y comercializacion. Cataluna y Castilla siglos XVII-XIX, (Avila, 1999); E. Llopis, J. Torras and B. Yun (eds.), EI consume, en la Esparto preindustrial, in Revista de Historia Economica year XXI (2003), especial issue.

(21.) L.E. Alonso and F. Conde, Historia del consume en Espana: una aproximacion a sus origenes y primer desarrollo (Madrid, 1994), pp. 17 and 65-66.

(22.) J.M. Arribas, "Antecedentes de la sociedad dc consumo en Espana: de la dictadura de Prime de Rivera a la II Republica," Politico: y Sociedad 16 (1994): 149-168, 153-154. Work in economic history has shown that the Spanish economy of this period was embroiled in a second industrial revolution which, with ail its limitations, extended and diversified the pattern of industry in Spain. In that new-phase of growth the production of consumer goods assumed increasing significance: J.L. Garcia Delgado, La modernizacion economica en la Espana de Alfonso XIII (Madrid, 2002): and J. Nadal and J. Catalan (eds), La cara oculta de la industrializacion espanola. La modernizacion de los sectors no lideres (siglos XIX y XX) (Madrid, 1994).

(23.) V. Reparaz, Vizcaya en la mano. Completo y verdadero anuario-guia de toda la provincia (Bilbao, 1899, 1911 and 1922).

(24.) I. Olabarri, "Tradiciones cooperativas vascas," in J. Intxausti (dir.), Euskal Herria. Historia y sociedad, 2 vols. (San Sebastian, 1985), I, pp. 298-307; L. Arrieta et al., EI movimiento cooperativo en Euskadi (1884-1936) (Bilbao, 1998); N. Ibanez Ortega, "EI cooperativismo en Vizcaya (1923-36): unmarco teorico y practico de sociabilidad," Vasconia 29 (1999): 67-90.

(25.) P. Gurney, Co-operative culture and the politics of consumption in England, 1870-1930 (Manchester, 1996); M. Purvis. "Societies of consumers and consumer societies: co-operation, consumption and politics in Britain and continental Europe c. 1850-1920," Journal of Historical Geography 24: 2 (1998): 147-169.

(26.) Euzkadi, 20 and 28 November 1919.

(27.) EI Obrero Vasco, 7 August 1920.

(28.) S. de Pablo, L. Mees and J.A. Rodriguez Ranz, El Pendulo Patriotico. Historia del Partido Naciona-lista Vasco, I: 1895-1936, (Barcelona, 1999), p. 191.

(29.) El Liberal, 1 5 October 1931.

(30.) La Gaceta del None, 21 July 1914 and 5 January 1916.

(31.) A theme investigated by, for example, A. Rivera, "La formacion del ensanche vitoriano: ?un ejemplo paradigmatico?," in M. Tunon de Lara (dir.), Las ciudades en la modernizacion de Espana. Los siglos interseculares (Madrid, 1992), pp. 129-145; Castells and Rivera, Vida cotidiana; and Luengo, San Sebastian, for the Basque provincial capitals.

(32.) R. Aguirre, El turismo en el Pais Vasco. Vida e historia (San Sebastian, 1995); J. Gomez Prieto, Origenes del turismo en Vizcaya (Bilbao, 1989).

(33.) For example, near Marking was the well-known spa of Urberuaga de Ubilla, near Durango those of Zaldibar and Elorrio, that of Larrauri a few kilometres from Mungia and that of Kortezubi adjoining Gernika-Lumo. On spas see E. Weber, Francia, fin de siglo (Madrid, 1989); M. Sarrionandia, Balnearies de Bizkaia, Su historia media (Bilbao, 1993); Aguirre, Turismo Pais Vasco, pp. 62-66.

(34.) A .study of this process in France and Great Britain is G. Cross, A quest for time. The reduction of work in Britain and France, 1840-1940 (Berkeley, 1989). Jorge Uria, "La cultura popular en la Restauracion. El declive de un mundo tradicional y el desarrollo de una sociedad de masas," in M. Suarez Cortina (ed.), La culura espanola en la Restauracion (Santander, 1999), pp. 103-144 analyses the relationship between working day and free time in Spain. Key legislation in Spain includes the law of 1904 imposing Sunday as a rest day and that of 1919 which established the 8-hour working day.

(35.) See especially Jorge Uria, Historia social pp. 10-12.

(36.) El Vasco, 18 November 1885. The Cofradia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus was created to assist the clergy in this task, mobilising 550 ladies out of a total population of 2,837 people in this small town in 1887. In the case of Asturias, Jorge Uria ["Cultura popular tradicional y disciplines de trabajo industrial. Asturias 1880-1914", Historia Social 23 (1995): 41-62, 50] also mentions the Bishop's interest in establishing Sunday as a day of rest. Gary Cross, Quest for time, pp. 79 ff., shows that it was religious and conservative sectors, together with the labour movement., that fought most strongly in Britain and France for the worker's Sunday rest to secure, by this route, the more effective preservation of religious and family values.

(37.) Beyond the activities mentioned here, there was another set of traditional recreational practices which sustained their importance and their place in the rural festival calendar. Carnivals, fairs, religious rambles and other religious celebrations, shared communal tasks, and other customs remained important occasions for recreation and amusement during the period studied here: J.C. Enriquez, Costumbres festivas y diversiones populares burlescas. Vizcaya, 1700-1833 (Bilbao, 1996); P Saavedra, "Ocio y vida cotidiana en la Espana rural del siglo XVIII," in L.A. Ribot and L. Rosa (eds), Trabajo y ocio en la epoca moderna (Madrid, 2001), pp. 111-137.

(38.) Although surviving evidence is sparse, we have been able to document several examples of this kind of show. In Durango, the first film was shown in 1902 in the Town Hall meeting room, and in subsequent years it was usual to show films in the town during the fiesias of the patron saint: J.M. Uriarte Astarloa, La fotografia en Durango (siglo XIX) (Durango, 1992), p. 23. In Bermeo the premises of the Sociedad Bermeana club were used, at least, from 1906 onwards (El Liberal, 16 December 1906). Markina was visited by itinerant companies of plavers who included cinema shows among their repertoire: Ahem, 31 July 1908. The Catholic world used this medium to propagate the faith. Thus the Centro Catolico of Markina, in its Christmas social gathering of 1914, projected images of the Holy Places of Jerusalem with a commentary by the parish priest: Euzkadi, 8 January 1914. In Durango the Jesuits also used cinema .shows in their residence: P. Apella y V. Zavala, Cien anos del Orfeon Durances (Bilbao, 1992) 2 vols, I, p. 131. For an overview of cinema history in the Basque Country see S. Zunzunegui, El cine en el Pais Vasea (Bilbao, 1985); S. de Pablo, Cien anos de cine en d Pais Vasco (1896-1995) (Vitoria, 1996); or T. Ansola, Del taller a la fabrica de suenos. El cine en una ciudad industrial: Baracaldo (1904-1937) (Bilbao, 2002).

(39.) For example, the cinema in Gernika-Lumo contained 342 sears, arranged at two levels: La Gaceta del Norte, 30 November 1917.

(40.) A. Shubert, A las cinco de la tarde. Una historia social del toreo (Madrid, 2002) shows a similar evolution, although earlier, to that of pelota. The localities studied here also supported bullfights but the festivities were confined to the local fiestas. Some settlemets had permanent wooden bull-rings which were constructed in the 1890s (Bermeo, Gernika-Lumo o Lekeitio) and others had portable installations, as in Durango: Plazas de toros en Bizkaia (Bilbao, 1991), pp. 56-60.

(41.) F.J. Sagastizabal, Apuntes durangueses sobre el nuevo juego de pelota (Bilbao, 1996); and Nosotros los vascos. Juegos y deportes (Bilbao, 1990), 5 vols, I.

(42.) The first steps in this evolutionary process began early. In 1881 a remodelled open-air 'fronton' opened in Durango. In Markma the 'fronton' was also reformed in 1883 and 1892 to adapt it to the innovations introduced in how the sport was played. The decision to roof the 'fronton' was taken in 1928: Sagastizabal, Apuntes durangueses, and F.A. Lorenzo Villamor, Markina-Xemein (Bilbao, 1996), p. 237. In Gernika-Lumo a similar sequence of changes occurred. Until well into the twentieth century the town had only an open municipal 'fronton', whose management was leased out by render for specified periods. When the municipality was left without a 'fronton' after the site had been allocated to a new school, a series of investors undertook to construct and manage a covered court. Thus was developed the Sociedad Anonima Fronton de Guernica in 192.3, which opened to the public in 1925. The characteristics of this new installation give some idea of its dimensions and the scale of the necessary investment, and the range of leisure activities of which it formed part in a place like Gernika-Lumo. It had a capacity of 1500 people and was multifunctional. As well as pelota, it offered space for 'pruebas de bueves', a Basque rural sport involving using bullocks to pull heavy stones along a prescribed course, while part of the back wall was painted white to serve as a cinema screen, and behind the opposite wall was a bar with a billiard table. The events organized in these leisure complex also included dances, cafe-theatre performances, bingo and circus performances in Delgado, Gernika-Lumo.

(43.) J.K. Walton, "Reconstructing crowds: the rise of association football as a spectator sport in San Sebastian, 1915-1932," The International Journal of the History of Sport 15: 1 (1998): 27-53.

(44.) S. Oar-Artea and C. Artola, Historia del Gernika Club, (922-1997 (Gernika-Lumo, 1997); V. Zavala, Sociedad Deportiva Cultural de Durango (1919-1949) (Bilbao, 1990); El Pueblo Vasco, 28 April 1914; Euzkadi, 26 May 1914 and 7 June 1915.

(45.) J.K. Walton, Lancashire. A social history, 1550-1939 (Manchester, 1987), Chapter 13 points to a similar (but much earlier) process among the working classes of the cotton manufacturing towns of north-west England.

(46.) This surprised a contributor to the Basque Nationalist newspaper Fuzkadi (14 January 1919) on observing that the cinemas of Gernika-Lumo were full of people in spire of the crisis.

(47.) Arribas, Antecedentes socieded de consumo, p. 153 locates the beginning of this process in the First World War, although it was during the dictatorship of Prima de Rivera that it became firmly established.

(48.) J. Uria, "El camino hacia el ocio de masas. Las industrias culturales en Espana antes de 1914," in L.A. Ribot y L. Rosa (eds), Trabajo y ocin en la epoca moderna (Madrid, 2001), pp. 139-179, 145; J. Uria, "El nacimiento del ocio contemporaneo. Algunas reflexiones sobre el caso espanol," in V. Verdu et al., Fiesta, juego y ocio en la historia (Salamanca, 2003), pp. 347-382, .377; and A. Aguado y M.D. Ramos, La modernizacion de Espana (1917-1939). Cultura y vida cotidiana (Madrid, 2002), p. 97.

(49.) J. Alvarez Junco, "Redes locales, lealtades tradicionales y nuevas identidades colectivas en la Espana del siglo XIX," in A. Robles Egea (Comp.), Politica en penumbra (Madrid, 1996), pp. 71-94.

(50.) There were further influences on the processes analysed here. We can mention the high level of rural emigration to the Americas to work as shepherds, intending to return home after accumulating savings. Nor should we discount the influence of widespread service in the merchant marine, which brought, rural Basques into all the great seaports of the world. All these travellers would inform others about their experiences on their return home.

By Ander Delgado

University of the Basque Country

Deparmento Historia Contemporanea

Barrio Sarriena s/n

48.940 Leioa (Bizkaia)


Literacy percentages by area, 1887 and 1920

SOURCE: Calculated from Davila, Politica educativa, p. 55.

                    Men           Women
               1887    1920    1887    1920
Durango       58'2 %    74 %  45'8 %    71 %
Markina       43'5 %  67'2 %    32 %  66'7 %
Gernika-Lumo    60 %  72'5 %  44'5 %  68'3 %
Bermeo          36 %  56'4 %  43'6 %    51 %

Today it is easy to agitate and mobilize the villages and hamlets
  using the printed word; for many people today [here is no Gospel
  nor Bible beyond the daily newspaper; on a train or in a public
  place you will rarely see anyone without their newspaper; and the
  rich, the learned and the rustic all respond to its influence. No-one
  can gainsay the decisive importance of the daily newspaper. (18)
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