In Bilbao’s Ensanche, near the Sagrado Corazon Square and its controversial statue, you will find a bridge that might look familiar to you if you like gangster movies set in the Chicago of the thirties.
Let’s take it bit by bit. The Bridge of Deusto is a copy of the one on Michigan Avenue in the American City. And why?
Because, at the beginning of the 1930s, the town of Bilbao continued to grow and grow and needed to build bridges to minimise the frontier that the river that crosses the city meant. But it still depended on the ships that came in and out on the Nervión River loaded with merchandise, so the bridges in question had to allow the passage to those enormous merchants which did so much for the prosperity of the city.
Ricardo Bastida, who at that time was the local architect, had observed the drawbridges of Chicago in 1926, the year he had visited the city to attend a religious congress. And in fact, it seemed like a good solution for what they needed in their homeland, so, in agreement with the town Mayor Federico Moyúa, he started to work.
If you look at the control tower, you will be able to see the complicated machinery that raised the arms of the bridge, something that nowadays seems unreal. But at the time it was a sensation, and Bilbao ended up having two of them. This one in Deusto was inaugurated in 1936, not the best year to inaugurate anything… in a matter of months, it was blown up in the air to defend the city.
Its reconstruction would give back the flavour of a Lucky Luciano film, and today you can go through it and see from there the sober NeoClassical buildings of the University of Deusto. Because that’s what awaits you on the other side of the river: a university built in 1886, the oldest one in Bilbao.
The thing is that at the time, the city had already spread on both sides of the Nervión River, and its wealthy bourgeoisie found it was necessary to have an academic institution in which to prepare their successors. What was then called Deusto’s College of Advanced Studies would eventually become, in 1916, a university, and from it, the ones that would be called to direct their business and legal banking and administrative procedures would come out. Also, great lawyers, economists and entrepreneurs who, generation after generation graduate here.
In the same way as Eton or Cambridge, Deusto was in charge of training those who governed the course of business in Bilbao. So, as they say, everything kept changing while everything stayed the same.