With the passing of months and the normalization of the situation after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the return to normality we used to live before it, old and new cultural events that at the time, and for responsibility, disappeared temporarily, are back again. One of these was the Pasaia Itsas Festibala, which after its first edition in May of 2018 and the cancellation of its celebration in 2020, is back in 2022. More specifically between the 26th and the 29th of May.
A festival that looks out to sea
This festival is focused on the sea, that’s the reason for its name, as “itsas” in Basque means “sea”, and the vessels, being a meeting and discovery point of boats from all Europe. According to Xabier Agote, Director of the Pasaia Itsas Festibala and President of Albaola, this is “a festival that embraces from our roots the maritime cultures of the world”. Boats from all over the world have been invited to come to the nearby bay of Pasaia to take part in the festival, as the Shtandart, replica of a Russian frigate of the 18th century with a length of 34,5 metres that already visited Pasaia in the past, and the Dutch Oosterschelde, a three mast schooner with a length of 50 metres that was assembled in 1918. Although, in this edition the Portuguese Villa de Moita will be the guest of honour.
There will also be ships from Basque shipowners. Like the Ozentziyo, the last wooden tuna boat to fish in the Basque Country and that was made in Lekeitio’s Mendieta shipyard in 1990. Or the Mater ship museum, a tuna boat that used living bait built in Asturias. And in the Faktoria Albaola will also be the replica of the Nao San Juan, the only replica building project that counts with the sponsor of UNESCO. Maritime culture on fire.
In total, more than 150 traditional vessels from all Europe will be coming to Pasaia, with more than 800 crew members.
A town that becomes a festival
This new edition will celebrate Pasaia’s different districts: Pasai Donibane, Pasai San Pedro, Pasai Antxo and Trintxerpe. The whole program is still pending to be published, but it’s already been warned that Elkano will have a presence in the festival, given that is the 500th anniversary of the world’s circunnavegation that this sailor ended in the 16th century. In addition, it has also been said that visitors will be able to take part in activities, cultural and gastronomic events. And also enjoy a singular and quality cultural program: workshops, traditional and local music, dance and theatre, traditional markets, proximity product offerts…
There will also be solidarity kitchens whose benefits will go to help the refugees in Lesbos island thanks to the NGO Zapore Solidarios. Also will be joining as a guest the NGO Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, also known as Aita Mari-Maydayterraneo, that takes the name from the boat Aita Mari, the rebaptised tuna boat that SMH turned into a rescue vessel in this very bay of Pasaia. The Aita Mari will not be present in the festival because of its rescue work in the Mediterranean, but there will be a “patera” (flat-bottomed boat) that will dock in Trintxerpe to make public an awareness campaign.
The location couldn’t be more extraordinary for all this given the great cultural legacy of Pasaia. Pasaia was considered for centuries the best natural port in all the gulf of Biscay, as from it left the whaleships towards Newfoundland, warships as the mighty galleons and the merchant ships that made the Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas and the Real Compañía de FIlipinas earn so much money. Their shipowners were a great naval industry that allowed them to sustain the merchant, war and exploratory activities of the time.
So if you’re around Donosti in May, or you have the chance to go to Pasaia during the days between the 26th and the 29th come to enjoy this singular festival, as it will be a unique opportunity to enjoy a cultural heritage in danger of extinction in an extraordinary location.