Where do I come from?

I was born in Bilbao, the center of industrial activities in the Basque Country, and one of the most important industrial towns in Spain. I lived in Bilbao for 20 years, until I started a two year course on Astronomy in Madrid, still as an undergraduate student. I graduated in Physics from Univ. Complutense de Madrid, changed universities to do a MSc and a PhD in Astronomy at the Dept. of Theoretical Physics of Univ. Autónoma de Madrid. That made for 7 years of living in Madrid. I spent 5 years in post-doc positions, first in Cambridge (UK) working at the Royal Greenwich Observatory and then in Garching, near Munich (Germany), working at the Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik. I arrived at the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica Óptica y Electrónica in Tonantzintla near Puebla (Mexico) in September 1998.

Where does my name come from?

Itziar is a Basque female name. There is a village named Itziar, after the name given to virgin Mary in the chapel of that village. All names in Basque have some kind of ethimological meaning, but I don't have the slightest idea of what mine means. According to Itziar Zubillaga, who read these lines, it means 'Sight from the top of the peak', which would refer to the location of the chapel. A different version was given to me by Itziar Uribarri, who traces down the origin of the name to 'aitz zahar' literally 'old stone' - curiously, that's exactly how English speakers tend to mispronounce my name! The name would refer to an old stone that laid on top of the cliffs on which Andramari used to be seen, and around which the spouses of local fishermen used to gather to wait and pray for the arrival of the fishing boats back to the harbours. The chapel was built later and converted the pagan name into a christian name.

Aretxaga is a Basque surname. It means 'oak forest'. Oaks are emblematic trees in the Basque Country. My branch of Aretxaga comes from Okendo (Araba).

My second surname (that's my mother's surname) is Méndez, which is Spanish. It means 'Mendo's son'. I normally don't use it, but it appears on all my legal documents.

Further questions and comments:

Gracias por toda la información. Eskerrik asko orriaren helbideagatik, nire bookmark-en artean dago jadanik.

Do I speak Basque?

Yes I do. I am not a native speaker though. I learned Basque when I was 16-17 years old, but I am fluent in it.

Where does Basque come from? What is it like?

I am not a linguist, but if you are really interested, I recommend you to have a look at what a real expert says about it.

What does my project say?

When you finger me, the following lines appear after my account status:

Project: Gizonen lana jakintza dugu, ezagutuz aldatzea, naturarekin bat izan eta, harremanetan sartzea. - Xabier Lete.

Which more or less means: The task of human beings is knowledge, to change by knowing, to integrate themselves into nature and to establish relationships with others. Xabier Lete is the poet who wrote those verses.

The full poem and the song that Mikel Laboa made of it can be found here.