Pasaia (Basque Country)

Matthew Levin, the new ambassador for Canada in Spain, visited Pasaia and Albaola


After accepting an invitation from Pasaia Town Hall, the ambassador for Canada was in the Basque Country today and visited Pasaia, as did the two previous ambassadors in his position.

In the morning Izaskun Gómez, mayor of Pasaia, with the presence of councillors, welcomed Mr. Ambassador and his wife, his political advisor and his trade advisor.

To follow, they crossed the bay to get to the Albaola Sea Factory of the Basques where president Xabier Agote welcomed them and the ambassador had the chance to explore the content of the museum that is so closely linked to the history of Canada.

The San Juan whaleship sank in Red Bay (Labrador, Canada) in the 16th century and, since its discovery in 1978, Canadian authorities have carried out an extensive research job. Thanks to the relationship between the governmental agency Parcs Canada and Albaola, the information gathered throughout that research is in the hands of Albaola and is the scientific basis for the building of the replica of the San Juan. The UNESCO chose the image of the remains of the San Juan whaleship as a symbol for their logo for Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Furthermore, in 2013, the UNESCO named Red Bay a World Heritage site and, in 2015, they became a sponsor for the project of building the replica of the San Juan whaleship.

The press conference took place before the San Juan whaleship. Izaskun Gómez, mayor of Pasaia, Denis Itxaso, culture councillor for the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council, Marian Elorza, secretary general of foreign affairs of the Basque Country, Matthew Levin, ambassador for Canada, and Xabier Agote, president of Albaola, were present.

Xabier Agote, president of Albaola, spoke first and said, “This visit is very important for Albaola, because of the support it offers. This project could not be carried out now if the Canadian authorities hadn´t carried out their previous research. I want to thank the institutions for their support, as well as our sponsors, volunteers and visitors.”

Izaskun Gómez continued, “I want to emphasize the strategic importance of this project, the importance of the Albaola Sea Factory, this historical resource that works so well, with its ability to create such valuable wealth in the fields of culture and heritage. It´s the wish of this Town Hall to continue to support and collaborate with this extraordinary project. I hope we can manage to work from our shared past and history to recognise each other in a future of collaboration.”

In the words of Marian Elorza, “Canada and the Basque Country have been companions for a long time. We have a longstanding shared history and many ties (economic, historical and cultural). This visit to Albaola and the replica of the San Juan whaleship, helps us get in touch with this shared Basque-Canadian heritage.” She also added, “Looking to the future, Canada is amongst our priorities. We want to commit to strengthening the relationship between the two lands and to developing further collaboration in different areas.”

Denis Itxaso emphasized that, “The presence here of Marisol Garmendia, deputy for mobility and land use planning, and Iker Goiria, director general for foreign affairs of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, shows the absolute support offered to this project by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa. The Albaola project is a cultural answer to the need for renewal in the bay. Furthermore, this ship will be a mobile ambassador of our land through the world and that´s very important, because it will make our culture and land known around the world.”

To finish, Mathew Levin ambassador for Canada said, “I´m very grateful for this invitation. I congratulate you all for this project of Albaola and for the vision you have had of building the future from the past. You need everyone´s involvement to make this work, Xabier Agote´s passion and ability, as well as the help of institutions. I have found the project of Albaola and the building of the San Juan whaleship truly amazing and moving. It´s not known enough around the world, but I now declare my commitment to help making it known. This project captures many of the virtues of the Basque Country and is one of the best and most complete symbols of the relationship between Canada and Europe.”

Also present at the event were Karen Kennedy, trade advisor to the Canadian embassy; Simon Cridland, advisor to the Canadian embassy; Marisol Garmendia, deputy for mobility and land use planning; Iker Goiria, director general for foreign affairs of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa; and members of the Albaola association.

To round off the event, Xabier Agote, president of Albaola, presented a copy of the book “Maritime Basque Country, from the San Juan Whaleship” to the ambassador. Albaola, in collaboration with the publisher Elkar, has just published this book.

At the end of the day, they all went to the Petritegi cider house, invited by the owners. There they tasted the drink that had close ties to the Basque whalers, sampled a traditional Basque cider house menu and they were introduced to the Basque Txotx!