Patxi Lopez

The president of the Basque region of Spain came to UC Berkeley on Tuesday to preside over two formal agreements between the university and the region, take some photos, and browse through the diary kept by Juan Batista De Anza, a Basque descendant, who led an overland trip from Mexico to San Francisco in 1776.

Patxi Lopez, 50, his wife, and a delegation of 34 Basque officials and journalists, only spent three hours on campus, but got a glimpse into both the past and the future in that brief time.

Lopez came to attend the signing ceremony of a contract between the School of Information* and Orkestra, the Basque Institute of Competitiveness, as well as another agreement between the physics and chemistry departments and the University of the Basque Country.

Lopez arrived at Cal around 9 and went to the Chancellor’s Office in California Hall, where he was greeted by Vice Chancellor Graham Fleming, Carlos Bustamante, a professor of molecular and cell biology, and AnnaLee Saxenian the dean of the school of information, and others.

Lopez then met with Charles Faulhaber, the director of the Bancroft Library, who showed him the diary De Anza kept in 1776 when he traveled from Mexico to Monterey and then up to San Francisco. They also looked at a manuscript of sermons in Spanish and Basque written by a Basque priest in one of the California missions around 1800, pictures and rubbings of aspen tree carvings by Basque sheepherders in Nevada and a set of pamphlets on the Spanish Civil War, focused on the bombing of the town of Guernica by the German Condor Legion.

After lunch at the faculty club, Lopez departed.

Lopez, who was elected president or lehendakari of the Autonomous Region of the Basque Country of Spain in May 2009, is a member of the Spanish Socialist Party. He does not believe in a Basque state separate from Spain.

The visit to UC Berkeley was part of an extended trip to the Bay Area. Lopez also visited San Francisco, Stanford University, and Silicon Valley, where he stopped by Google and Twitter. (see the Flicker photos of his visit).

Photo of Cal snapped by Lopez

Lopez wasn’t the only dignitary in Berkeley this week. Queen Noor of Jordan, aka Lisa Halaby, spent a few days at the Claremont Resort this week. The staff was ordered to keep mum about her visit, but few could miss the enormous white bus belonging to her entourage parked at the hotel.

* UPDATE 5:25 pm: AnnaLee Saxeninn. dean of the School of Information, had this to say about her school’s agreement: “Our agreement was with an Institute at Deusto University (which is based in the Basque region) called Orkestra; they call themselves the Basque Institute of Competitiveness. Our agreement says that we would like to pursue joint research on issues related to information and regional economic development, but has no specific projects or funding attached to it.”

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...