Month: April 2015 (page 2 of 2)

Discovering Txakoli/Chacolí !

Kaixo, everyone!

In preparation for the annual Reno Txakoli festival held at Craft, I thought I would warm-up by sharing my own Chacolí adventure.

My name is Kerri Lesh and I’m the newest student at the Center for Basque Studies.  I arrived this spring semester with a focus on sociolinguistics, as well as on aspects of cultural maintenance among Basques.  My first contact with Basque culture would have been in high school while staying with a family in a town called Herrera de los Navarros in Aragon.  It was during a trip to the neighboring city of Zaragoza in which I learned about their desire to be independent from the rest of Spain.  Throughout my undergraduate education I revisited my interest in Basque culture by reading up on it through books such as Paddy Woodworth’s The Basque Country.  However, it wasn’t until I was working around wine that I learned about Txakolina (the Basque term).  I soon became obsessed with this tangible (and very drinkable) representation of Basque Culture.  It provided me a piece of the culture at a time when I wasn’t able to travel the distance.

As part of my desire to learn more about wine-making, I decided to spend some time in Chile and become familiar with the process during harvest time.  During my time there, I read about the Basque diaspora and the culture that migrants brought with them to South America.  In the process of researching Chilean history, I happened to come across a book mentioning the local production of an alcoholic beverage called chacolí, and eventually I found a small town that apparently still made it!  I rounded up a few coworkers (who had no knowledge of what chacolí was!) and we headed to Doñihue, a small town just outside of Rancagua, Chile.

Once we arrived to Doñihue, we found Viña el Boldo which was one of the few wineries that made chacolí.  As we opened the bottle and poured ourselves the first glass, we noticed the color and clarity were different than I had mentioned.  The color looked most similar to a rosé, and didn’t seem to be filtered.  Tasting it was even more surprising as I was expecting something acidic and tart.  However, it tasted fruitier, with with much more body than any Spanish Txakolina I had every tasted.  Not knowing what to think, we decided to take the advice of some of the locals and visit a couple local artisans who apparently produced the wine in their homes.  We soon found the two main producers of the area who were eager to introduce us to their families, animals, and their own versions of chacolí.  Starting to grasp that this chacolí was very different from that made in the Basque Country, I asked what grapes they used.  There were a few varietals mentioned, most of which were torontel and muscatel-different than the Hondarribi zuri or beltza used in Txakolina from the Basque Country.


Photo courtesy of Kerri Lesh



Photo courtesy of Kerri Lesh

I left Doñihue a bit uncertain of the relationship between Txakoli from the Basque Country and chacolí from Chile.  However, I was happy to have found what might be a remnant of Basque diaspora in South America.  I have since taken advantage of the library here at the Center for Basque Studies to learn more about the history of this beverage.   I look forward to connecting the dots of what might be a link between the Basque culture of Spain and South America.


So for more information on Txakolina, stayed tuned for as we gear up for Craft’s Txakolina Festival coming soon!

I would be delighted to receive any emails with comments or additional information you’d like to share.  Feel free to contact me at:




Photo courtesy of Kerri Lesh



An Interview with Pedro Oiarzabal: Get Involved with Memoria Bizia

Pedro J. Oiarzabal, a researcher on Migration and Diaspora Studies at the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute (University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain) and the Jon Bilbao Research Fellow at the Center for Basque Studies is visiting us in order to continue with his innovative and daring research project: Memoria Bizia (Living Memory). The Basque Diaspora Living Heritage Project 2014-16. United States and Canada. We had the opportunity to talk to him during his brief stay in Reno.

Can you tell us what the goal of the project is?

Memoria Bizia aims at collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of migration and exile through the personal oral testimonies of elderly Basque men and women residing in the United States and Canada. In fact, this community, the Basque communities across the U.S. and Canada, become active protagonists instead of being research “subjects.”

In a sense, this research, if not unique, at least departs from the typical academic study, would you say?

In this project, the researcher becomes just the conduit of the social community-based network that we are creating. The project’s main idea is to build an intergenerational and sustainable bridge within the different Basque communities to save the living memory of their elders. In this regard, Memoria Bizia seeks to empower local Basque individuals, communities, and their associations to be active participants in their own history. It is a different way of generating information and knowledge, while fostering values such as ownership.

How do you intend to accomplish it?

From the very beginning, the community has taken part in the design and implementation of the project, with the North American Basque Organizations (NABO) being the main force behind Memoria Bizia. For years, we have talked about the need to carry out interviews with the last Basque migrant generation. Fortunately, last year, four organizations—NABO, the Basque Government, the Etxepare Basque Institute, and the University of Deusto—understood the importance of recording those testimonies and got together to fund this project. In addition, I have designed specific training workshops to teach individuals how to conduct and process oral history interviews. In a way, the interviewer and the interviewee are coauthors and co-owners of the resulting testimony.

What do you intend to do with the oral history interviews?

Both the interviewer and interviewee are constructing narratives by weaving an intertwined living memory tapestry, resulting in an unprecedented database open to everyone who wishes to explore and analyze the history of immigration and settlement through Basque eyes. This digital database will constitute a living treasure for future generations to come. Consequently, we have established three official repositories for the long-term preservation of the audio/video recordings: the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Boise, and the University of Deusto Library. Our goal is to establish more archives to store hard copies of the recordings in the near future.

This idea of an open network goes beyond Basque America, right?

Correct, not only Basque communities but also different institutions, such as the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Montreal (Quebec), the Great Basin College, Elko, the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at the Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and New York University have seen the urgent need for such research and have enthusiastically joined this open network. We are extremely fortunate to have them as partners and grateful for their unconditional support.

What has been the response from the local communities?

It has been phenomenal! So far, local interviewing teams, made up of numerous trained volunteers, have been set up in different locations, including Montreal and Toronto in Canada, and New York, Chino, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Elko, Ontario (Oregon), Boise, and Reno in the U.S. And also there are associated projects in Miami, Bishop, and Northwest Mojave (California). This constitutes the largest ever ensemble community-based network with the goal of collecting and preserving the oral history of Basques in the United States and Canada in a systematic and standardized way. We are also in the process of identifying potential interviewees, while we have begun interviewing some of those already identified.

What next? If a person wants to join the project, what does he/she need to do?

The project is eager to geographically span areas such as Fresno, Los Banos, Susanville, Gardnerville-Minden, Utah, and Wyoming in the United States, and British Columbia in Canada. At the same time, we need to reinforce the existing teams with new volunteers, particularly young members of the Basque communities. We are also seeking new partners to sponsor new initiatives across the country. Consequently, anyone interested in participating in the project, as an interviewer or an interviewee, or anyone wanting to establish an interviewing team in their local area or wanting to join an existing one, please contact Kate Camino at

The Cleveland Model: Basque style cooperative organization in America



In a traditional hierarchical company, workers have no influence on the day-to-day business routine and have no share in the corporation’s profit pie. As a result, the workers can be apathetic toward the company, as they do not feel like a part of the organization. The everyday working experience is just another clocking in and clocking out, collecting the hour’s wages. On the other hand, in a worker-owned and worker-controlled business firm such as a cooperative, employees have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process and be a part of the company’s success. The cooperative organization is the depiction of capitalism with a human face, a hybrid economic model between socialism and capitalism. Although operatives have the characteristic of a philanthropic based organization, in structure most cooperatives are a for-profit organization, owned and run by the people who actually work in the organization. In this type of business, each worker, from production worker to top management, gets one vote in the major decision-making process. Both the lower level employees and administration staff earn an equal share of income, disposing of the requirement for any government-set minimum wage. In addition, workers participate in a voting process and group discussion to secure their business interests and ensure a healthy monetary position for the cooperative from which they earn their fortune. Therefore, cooperatives tend to encourage long-haul and stable employment with a better working environment and better income.

The study of the cooperative movement is gaining public attention when it comes to economic inequality issues. One the most cited cases studied in this matter is that of the Mondragón Cooperative Cooperation (MCC) located in the Basque Country of Spain. Mondragón is a prime example of how a cooperative structure can provide goods and services to society while at the same time creating wealth for the community. Mondragón co-ops have turned a formerly depressed area of the Basque Country in Spain into a thriving community, producing, among other things, computer chips, high-tech machinery, and large appliances. As Mondragón and most cooperative organizations tend to reinvest some of their corporate earnings back into the local community, they tend to favor sustainable business models that generate local employment and promote entrepreneurship. While embracing free market principles, Mondragón energizes its employees to strive for proficiency, quality control, and productivity so that their organization competes successfully in the commercial world. Following labor union standards, the Mondragón cooperative also tends to allow its employees to sort out and arrange their working environment, sensible working hours, and reasonable pay. The Mondragón business methodology decentralizes forces within the managerial structure and in this manner reduces the possibility of corruption and corporate espionage. The superiority of Mondragón cooperative models in resolving the antagonism between labor and capital has inspired others to embrace the cooperative as a model for community development in lower income regions.

Mondragón Style Cooperatives in America

One of the pioneers of an alternative business model in America, based on the highly successful Mondragón cooperative, is the Evergreen Cooperative in the Cleveland, Ohio. The Evergreen Cooperative was initiated in 2008 as a result of a joint venture among Cleveland-based organizations Including the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, the University of Maryland College Park, Case Western Reserve University, and the City of Cleveland. The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative is attempting to create occupations with livable wages in six neighborhoods with an average income per household below $18,500. This region is also known as the Greater University Circle (GUC).

 For further reading please visit:


Gemma Martinez Bárbara, Head of Province of Bizkaia’s Tax Policy Unit, Visiting Scholar at the Center

The Center for Basque Studies would like to welcome Gemma Martínez Bárbara!

Gemma is visiting from Bizkaia as part of the agreement made by the Diputación de Bizkaia and the University of Nevada.  Both institutions share the common goal of promoting and disseminating research about the Basque Economic Agreement and comparative federal fiscal systems through activities organized at the Center for Basque Studies at UNR.  This will lead to the CBS organizing a one-day seminar that The Government of Bizkaia will fund, in which Gemma will present a paper, and eventually a book chapter for publication. We will have another visitor next year as well as to help collaborate.

Gemma is a graduate in Law at the University of Deusto (Bizkaia-Spain) with a postgraduate in taxation. She is a civil servant of the Government of Bizkaia and has been Head of the Tax Policy Unit of the Foral Treasury in the Government of Bizkaia since 1999. She is in charge of the tax reforms legislative projects to be proposed to the Representative Assemblies of the territory.

She collaborates as a professor with the University of Deusto and the Chamber of Commerce of Bilbao in post-graduate programs and with the University of the Basque Country as a lecturer in seminars on tax issues. She is an active writer in several magazines dealing with fiscal and European Law matters (European Taxation, Aranzadi and Fitax…). She is a permanent collaborator with the Ad Concordiam Association for the Promotion and Difussion of the Economic Agreement. In 2013, she was the winner of the Leizaola Award with a research on Tax Harmonization and the Basque legislative powers.

We look forward to having Gemma at the CBS and are excited to see the fruits of this unique partnership!


Gemma receiving the Leizaola award

Paddy Woodworth’s lectures


Paddy Woodworth lectures at the Center for Basque Studies

Paddy Woodworth lectures at the Center for Basque Studies

Paddy Woodworth delivered a successful series of lectures during his stay at UNR invited by the Center for Basque Studies in association with the departments of Geography, History and English, and supported by a grant from the Hilliard Foundation. Three of his lectures were based on his recent book Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century, recently published by the University of Chicago Press, and one was dedicated to the ongoing Basque Peace Process. Paddy Woodworth, author of two books on Basque politics and culture–Dirty War, Clean Hands, The Basque Country: A Cultural History— frequently writes for the Irish Times on Basque issues.

Newer posts