Month: March 2015

Ultrasounds: Basque Motherhood Reexamined

La Crianza by Basque artist Aurelio Arteta, from Pinterest

Ultrasounds (2014), compiles different stories written by seventeen Basque female writers that create a stunning new portrait of the “mother” and the “motherhood” in the Basque Country.  Selected and introduced by Gema Lasarte, these stories delve deeply into the role of the mother in Basque culture. “The mother has always been a particularly potent symbol for the Basques” (Linda White & Elizabeth Macklin). In the last decades, not only the society but also literature has discussed about the perception of new identities. Identities that deviated from the dualities like mother/woman or male/female. The Basque literature is a clear example of that new era.  In fact, the concept of what the motherhood is has changed.  And the texts that appears in that book confirm the new direction that Basque society is taking.

The Basque feminist and anthropologist Elixabete Imaz argues that there is many different ways to be a mother. And this statement is reflected in the anthology. Actually, the main contribution that Basque female writers have made is to write about the figure of mother with all the nuances and complexities that surround it. Gemma Lasagabaster remarks that Motherhood is a key theme in contemporary feminist criticism, and, in particular, the difficulties that motherhood poses for writers. For this reason, the book is a real challenge to the status quo. Not only because they are rebuilding the concept of motherhood, but also because they are doing in English.

A book that is a turning point in the way that it shows the complexities of an archetypical image like the “mother” in the Basque culture.

Painting at top, La Crianza by Aurelio Arteta, taken from Pinterest.


The End of Arms Conflict in Basque Country: Seminar at the University of Liverpool


The speakers of the seminar: “The End of Arms Conflict in Basque Country.” The Center’s Dr. Xabier Irujo is pictured second from the left (from Berria).

The University of Liverpool collaborated with the Etxepare Basque Institute in hosting a seminar on the end of arms conflict in Basque Country.  The seminar focused on the peace progress in Basque Countries after ETA (Basque indigenous separatist movement) ended its arm struggle and decided to pursue peaceful strategies in achieving independence for Basque country. Some of the prominent experts invited in the seminar were Dr. Xabier Irujo of the University of Nevada in the United States, Dr. Inigo Urrutia of the University of Basque country, Dr. Kevin Bean of the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, Amaia Agirrek from the Agirre Center, and Juan Jose Ibarretxe, the former president of the Basque country. Read Berria’s coverage of the event here (in Basque)

The Bilbao Song: Bertsolariak

Maialen Lujanbio’s final song in the 2009 Bertso championshop after winning the txapela.

A section from Joseba Zulaika’s That Old Bilbao Moon, entitled “Maialen’s Bilbao Song,” was published in its Spanish version in Bertsolari (n.96:6-16) the journal of the association of bertsolariak. The text was based on the singing championship that took place at the Bilbao Exhibition Center on December 2009 in which Maialen Lujambio was declared “txapeldun” (winner). It emphasizes the role of the troubadorial singers in redefining Basque identity and in promoting euskera in Bilbao as a most decisive aspect of “the miracle in Bilbao.”

Interview with Visiting Professor and CBS Graduate Iker Arranz

Q:  What brought you back to UNR and what was your role within the conference?


Pictured above on far right, Dr. Arranz, along with presenters from the conference “Exploring Diversity and Equity in Education”


A: I was attending the conference on “Exploring Diversity and Equity in Education” organized by the Cultural Diversity Committee at UNR, which gave me the opportunity to share some thoughts on the actual panorama on education and the American Education System, and also give a brief but interesting perspective on my personal experience teaching Basque Language and Culture, as something directly related to the main topic of the conference. I explored the ideas of “difference” and “diversity” as complementing but sometimes contradictory terms, when it comes down to applying them with our students and their cultural backgrounds. For example, for me it’s very interesting how, if you find the right stimulus, American students with no previous knowledge on Basque stuff are hooked and even think about visiting the Basque Country to include it as a part of their educational programs/requirements. This proves that diversity, in this global era, is like fresh air when we are educating these kids.

And of course, I took the opportunity of being back in Reno to visit my beloved CBS, see old friends and meet the new students. I was delighted with the welcome this old folks offered and happily surprised with the new incorporations! (Nothing beats being surrounded by this crazy Basque people again!) I truly think that there is a very interesting group now of different ages and cultural backgrounds that will definitely help in the development of the dissertations. Sometimes, there is no better ground for cultural studies than diverse positions that will offer multiple perspectives on the same topic.

Q:  What is your current position at the University of Santa Barbara and what classes are you looking forward to teaching?  How are your students?  What do you enjoy about your position?

A: I currently hold the Basque Lecturer position in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, at UCSB, this position is sponsored by Etxepare Institute. I have been teaching Basque Language (101, 102), Basque Culture and Basque Cinema so far. I will be teaching first time ever a course on Culinary Arts and Identity this coming quarter, with some visiting Scholars and a Chef we will bring from the Basque Country, so the students will have the opportunity to taste all the knowledge we will be bringing to them during the quarter. This is something nobody has tried to do yet, so it is a kind of exciting experiment, full of risks and uncertainties, but I willing to take the challenge!

I am really happy with my students! They show lots of implication (one course on Culture ended up having a popular potluck!), although the topic is completely new for almost all of them, they discover literally a new universe and they really enjoy our tradition, history and specially how all this can be related to strong debates on identity and culture. They see that every single tradition can be thought within theoretical frames that help to understand how deep and complex these topics can be.

And about teaching, definitely, the best part of this job is when I finish the class, pack everything and while I walk through the corridor I have the feeling of having done something good for these kids. It’s a very simple feeling and it’s a feeling that only lasts probably few seconds, but it’s a great feeling indeed!

Q: Can you tell us about the conference in Portugal and what you presented on?

A: I was attending this conference on Political Violence in the XX Century, organized by Universidad Nova de Lisboa. The conference was interesting enough to revisit some of the well-known topics on violence, dictatorship, repression, and so on. I tried to push the boundaries a little bit, and prepared a communication on how Fernando Pessoa is inaugurating a new era in terms of Western´s thought tradition, literally placing these debates on political violence somewhere further than the actual perspectives, and somehow linking it to the concept of change (a topic that I worked on my dissertation). It was funny to go to Lisbon to talk about Pessoa, since he is one of the most famous and studied figures they have- I enjoyed doing it! This is a research I need to work on yet, but there are definitely some connections in the thought of Pessoa and Joseba Sarrionandia. This is an idea for possible upcoming research.

Old and New World Basques in the News


Handball players in the Basque Country. Photo from Basque Library archive.


Two recent media articles examine Basque culture in both the Basque Country and the United States.

First, on March 22 the UK edition of Esquire magazine published a travel guide to the Basque Country. In “Another Country: The Basque Region,” author Tim Lewis takes us on a cultural, historical, gastronomic, sporting, and architectural tour of the Basque Country, inviting us to “discover the secrets of the original Europeans.”

If you’ve read the artice, or if you are interested exploring the topics yourself, on Basque culture in general, see Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, by William A. Douglass and Joseba Zulaika, a comprehensive introduction to the topic, with chapters on a wide variety of subjects from Euskara and Prehistoric art to the contemporary literature, music, and art of the Basque Country, and including the personal experiences of both authors’ field research.

In Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic, meanwhile, Olatz González Abrisketa explains the social and symbolic importance of this most Basque of traditional sports, a sibling of jai alai (the “happy fiesta” in Basque) or cesta-punta, as it also known. González Abrisketa asks: “But why is it precisely this game that conquered the centers of urban spaces in the Basque Country and the neighboring provinces? Why do Basques play this game and not another? What is its specificity? What does it tell us about the Basques? Why do they consider it their ‘national sport’?”

Sports of a more modern variety are explored in Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion, edited by Mariann Vaczi. These conference papers address a wide variety of themes crisscrossing several sports and countries. General topics covered here include gender, social connections, the logic of games, and the affective dimensions of sports, Of specific Basque interest, individual chapters discuss pelota, Basque soccer, the Udaleku Basque summer camp, and the famous 1931 boxing match held in Reno, Nevada,  between Max Bauer and “the Basque woodchopper,” Paulino Uzcudun.

Finally, for anyone interested in reading more about the significance and impact of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao for both the Basque Country and beyond, see Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika and available for free download here.

Crossing over to the New World, “‘Ni Boisekoa naiz’, Keeping Basque alive in Idaho,” was also published on March 22, by Ryan Schuessler for  Al jazeera America. Idaho has the highest percentage of Basque speakers in the U.S. and this article reports on the numerous initiatives to maintain the language there.

If you’d like to read more about Basques and the Basque language in Idaho, check out Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture,  by Estibaliz Amorrortu, which includes chapters on Basque language maintenance in the United States.

On Basques in Idaho, more generally, see Boise Basques: Dreamers and Doers, by Gloria Totoricagüena , which charts the Basque settlement of Idaho;  From Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa, by Quane kenyon with Pete T. Cenarrusa, the remarkable personal account of “a patriot and statesman in two lands, half a world apart”; and Kashpar : The Saga of the Basque immigrants to North America, by Joseph Eiguren, which provides a highly personal account of what life was like for those early immigrants.

Paddy Woodworth, Long-time Friend of the Center, to Speak at UNR


Korrika 2015 Is Here!

korrika 2015

Korrika engages Basques of all ages and around the world in support of Euskara! An image from today’s beginning of the Korrika from




The Route for the Nineteenth Edition of the Korrika, 2015 (

March 19 sees the start of the biannual Korrika, a fun-run that seeks to raise awareness about Euskara (Basque)  and raise funds for schools aimed specifically at adult learners of the language. This year’s nineteenth edition of the relay, in which multiple runners take part at any one time, is a nonstop run crisscrossing the whole Basque Country over the course of eleven days and over 1000 miles. Designated runners pass on a baton, carrying a secret message inside that is only revealed and read out at the end of the run. This year’s event starts in Urepele and finishes in Bilbao on March 29, but multiple parallel celebrations have been and will also be held all over the world, from Boise to Berlin, Montreal to Montevideo, and Shanghai to Sydney.


Worldwide celebrations being held for Korrika 2015 (

For an appreciation of the history and cultural significance of the event, see Teresa del Valle’s Korrika: Basque Ritual for Ethnic Identity.

If you’re interested in learning more about Basque, one of the few tongues in Europe to predate the arrival of Indo-European-speaking peoples six thousand years ago, check out the following books:

Koldo Mitxelena: Selected Writings of a Basque Scholar, compiled and with an introduction by Pello Salaburu, a selection of texts on the history and structure of the Basque language by the most renowned scholar of Euskara.

The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo, which explores the fascinating dialectical variety of the language and is the first study of its kind in English, including in-depth case studies of particular dialects.

The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi, a collection of texts by experts in the field of Basque that explores the current bilingual situation in the Basque Country and the challenges Euskara faces looking toward the future.

Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio, the collected papers of a conference exploring the many facets of language rights and language protection from a variety of theoretical, legal, and academic perspectives.

Basque Ikastola Teachers Visit CBS


Alkiza, near Asteasu, Gipuzkoa, photo by Daniel Montero

Aitor Atxega and Olga Villa, teachers from the ikastolas of Asteasu and Alkiza, visited CBS the on March 9. Taking advantage of a sabbatical, they traveled to Reno, where they visited Peavine Elementary School. Retired teacher Marilyn Paradis gave them a school tour and introduced them to how classes are managed in Nevada.

Ikastolas are schools that are somewhat separated from the Spanish public school system and that instruct exclusively in Basque. Many were begun clandestinely during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, but in recent times they have emerged and are a leading force in education in the Basque Country. To learn more about the Basque educational system, check out Equality, Equity, and Diversity: Educational Solutions in the Basque Country, edited by Alfonso Unceta and Concepción Medrano. Download it for free here!


Ikastola community garden. Photo taken from Asteasu Ikastola page.


Visit the Asteasu ikastola site here (in Basque)

Welcome to the Center for Basque Studies Blog

Hello. Welcome to the new blog of the Center for Basque Studies! We are proud to welcome you to these pages which will provide a wealth of research, interesting stories, and complete up-to-date information about what is going on here at the Center. Also visit us at or!