Bilintx

One of the most unknown, tragic and important artists in San Sebastian´s history was Guillermo Joaquín Indalecio Bizcarrondo Ureña, also known as Bilintx or Moko. During the 19th century, he was the most known “bertsolari” and “olerkari” (poet) in the liberal romantics circles in the Basque Country.

This local poet was born on April the 30th, 1831. Although from San Sebastian and “euskaldun”, his grandfather on his mother’s side was from Andalucía (hence his last name Ureña). Bad luck hit him early in his life, as when he was young his face got deformed while playing, which explains his nickname “Moko” (peak, in basque); and during a “sokamuturra” (roped bull), a bull impaled his two legs with his horns, leaving him with a limp.

He was a poet, bertsolari, woodworker, volunteer in the 4º liberal battalion during the Third Carlist War, and janitor of the old local theater, where he lived and where disfortune hit him twice: first, they stole 8.000 pesetas, all his savings, from him; and then, a carlist grenade entered through his window on January the 20th, 1876. He survived, but they had to amputate both of his legs,dying half a year later in horrible pain.

Eight years later, the town hall renamed after him the street that passes north of the Main Theater and connects Main Square with Lasala Plaza (or “Lion´s Square”, as kids in town know it). Actually, if you pass through the square you can see a beautiful stone plaque that honors his memory, looking very similar to the one in Portaletas made in honor of the basque “brave arrantzales” (fishermen).

Bilintx spoke the local basque spoken in San Sebastian in those years, but he was able to improve the language with his poetic, precise, beautiful and suggestive tongue, while also being sarcastic, ironic and cutting in his cultural and political analysis. His influence can still be felt today, specially in the writers and “bertsolaris” circles, as for many he is still the one that marked the path to follow.

Some of his most famous pieces are “Domingo kampaña”, a freestyle “bertsos” session in whic he introduced some novelties. Here it is in perfect basque:

Loriak udan ihintza bezela
maite det dama gazte bat,
hari hainbeste nahi diodanik
ez da munduan beste bat;
inoiz edo behin pasatzen badet
ikusi gabe aste bat,
bihotz guztira banatutzen zait
halako gauza triste bat.

Neskatxa gazte, paregabea,
apirileko arrosa,
izarra bezin dizdizaria,
txoria bezin airosa;
oraintxen baino gusto gehiago
nik ezin nezakeen goza;
zorionian ikusten zaitut,
nere bihotzak, hau poza!

Ez al didazu antzik ematen
nik zaitudala nahiago,
ai, marinelak gau ilunean
izarra baino gehiago?
Nere ondoan zauzkadalako
pozez zoraturik nago;
zu ikusteak alegratu nau,
triste nengoen lehenago.

Nere betiko pentsamendua
nere kontsolagarria,
zu gabetanik ezin bizi naiz,
esaten dizut egia;
zu bazinake arbola eta
ni baldin banintz txoria,
nik zu zinakeen arbola hartantxe
egingo nuke kabia.

Although we know that many of you are not experts in this beautiful language we are not going to translate it, as it would lose the magic that Bilintx created with his words. We would rather show you this video in which Kepa Junkera put music to the bertsolari’s words.

We hope you like it.

Nowadays, the ways in which we pay homage and remember this bertsolari have been modernized. There are not only contests honoring his style and legacy, but also TV programs that talk about him. And the Bilintx Award is a contest that rewards Bertsolaris, created in 1976 to commemorate the one hundred anniversary of his death.