Month: June 2015 (page 2 of 3)


Boise’s iconic Library! sign. An exclamation point could also be added to my recent travels around the United States.

After the end of the spring semester I took two weeks of to travel around the United States. I visited amazing places, such as, Chicago, South Bend (Indiana), Michigan, and Boise. In Chicago for instance, my favorite icon was The Bean in Millennium Park. Taking photos there is such a funny experience. The Art Institute of Chicago is near the Bean, it is a beautiful building in which you can spend hours admiring the artwork: Day of the God (Paul Gauguin), Stacks of Wheat (Claude Monet), American Gothic (Grant Wood), The Bedroom (Vincent van Gogh), etc.
South Bend was another interesting stop on the road, the University of Notre Dame founded in 1842, is considered by many to be among the most beautiful campuses of any US university.
In Michigan I spent one of the best days of the trip just relaxing in the lake. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. Lake Michigan is shared, from west to east, by the U.S. states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.
I finished the holidays in Boise (Idaho). One of the biggest Basque communities in the U.S is located there. The vast majority of the Basques living in the Boise area came from the province of Bizkaia. It was so nice to visit the Basque Block: The Basque Center built in 1940. The Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boaring house built in 1864. The basque museum and cultural center, the Fronton, and different bars, such as Gernika and Leku-Ona make you feel like at home. To read more about the immigration experiences of Boise see these books: Boise Basques: Dreamers and Doers and From Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa.

However, one of the most interesting things of my trip was the Library of Boise.
It was the first time I saw a library with an exclamation sign: “LIBRARY !”. It really surprised me, I’d never seen anything like this before. So I started finding the reason behind this. OMG! I was astonished when I found the answer.
Everything started in 1984 when Howard Olivier and his wife Megan moved to Boise to help run the Flying Pie (Pizzeria). Howard Olivier mentions that: “Over the first ten years of living in Boise I grew to love the BPL (Boise Public Library)”. He remarks how one day in October of 1994, he was driving down 9th St. to the library, and while waiting for the light to change, he saw a brand new illuminated sign on the building, reading: LIBRARY. In the first second of taking it in, his thought was, “No – it’s a better library than that.” He spoke with the members of library and he told them that he was sure that Flying Pie would be happy to pay for the exclamation point. And the rest is history! He called the sign company that had produced the signage, and told them that he would like to buy the exclamation point to add to the LIBRARY. In 1995 they added the exclamation point to make it LIBRARY!

Zulaika book reviewed in Uztaro

The Spanish-language version of That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika, titled Vieja luna de Bilbao. Crónicas de mi generación (Donostia-San Sebastián: Nerea, 2014) is reviewed by Jexux Larrañaga Arriola in the latest edition of Uztaro (no. 93, April-June, pages 115-20), a journal specializing in the human and social sciences.

Vieja luna de Bilbao

For Larrañaga, the book represents an attempt on the part of the author to reclaim the ideal world he dreamed about in his youth through new ways of thinking about the events of that time. In fact, he suggests, Zulaika revisits the idealism of his youth with a new kind of realism and that highly subjective sense of recovery allows him to make some kind of sense of his past failures.

This starting point actually constitutes, in Larrañaga’s opinion, the subjective sense of a whole generation’s failures, and it is out of this very acknowledgement of failure (whether personal or collective) that, by the end of the work, Zulaika salvages the promise of the future in his vision of the “new city.”

To download the article (in Basque), click here.

To shop for the book in English, click here.

To shop for the book in Spanish, click here.

Flashback Friday: The Fall of the “Iron Ring”

On June 12, 1937, the so-called “Iron Ring” of Bilbao (Bizkaia) was bombarded and finally destroyed by the armed forces of Francisco Franco. The “Iron Ring” was a series of fortifications made primarily of steel and concrete. Constructed between 1936 and 1937, the purpose of this structure was to defend the city of Bilbao, which was an important  industrial center for the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War. The breakthrough of this fortified line left the Bizkaian city unprotected. In the next few days, Franco’s troops advanced northward through the Basque territory and, finally, on June 19, took Bilbao.


The fortification along the ridge


Prepared for defense

To learn more about different experiences of war in Europe during the tumultuous years of the 1930s and 1940s, check out the book edited by anthropologist Sandra Ott, War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946.

National Geographic recommends Jaialdi


June 10. On its Intelligent Travel blog, prestigious magazine National Geographic has just included the 2015 Jaialdi Basque festival as one of five recommended open-air events to attend this summer in America.  In the “Beyond the Guidebook: Where the Locals Go” section, as part of Maryellen Kennedy Duckett’s recommendations to “Get Outside in the U.S.A,” Jaialdi is described as “a multisensory bash celebrating all things Basque.” To see the original post click here.

We’re sure here at the Center that if you’re reading this blog, you probably won’t need any extra encouragement to get out and about, July 28-August 2, at Jaialdi this summer. Just in case, though, bear in mind that even Old World Basques will be heading to Boise to attend the event, as noted in this article by Euskalkultura here, and they want to meet you!

Good Summer Reads: Children’s and Young Adult Books from the CBS

“The more you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!  

Summer is almost here and kids will be out of school soon. Great for the kids of course, but also time for parents to start getting creative when it comes to giving them something to do to fill up those long summer days. Do not fear! The Center has a range of Basque-themed books aimed specifically at children and young adults and what better way to get your kids interested in both reading and the rich culture of the Basques and the Basque-American experience? We believe these books are both entertaining and educational and we would love to see what you think.


CBS stand at the annual Durango Book Fair in the Basque Country

Let’s start with a story for our youngest family members: The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi / Euskadiraino igerian joan zen neska, by bestselling author Mark Kurlansky, is a bilingual English-Basque tale of a little girl who one day, while swimming in the ocean near her home in Massachusetts, swims so hard that she accidentally ends up in a land called Euskadi, where the men have very long ears and flat wool hats and the people speak a strange language. When she eventually swims home she has a hard time convincing the grown-ups around her that this far-off land, where the people eat strange creatures from the sea and sing and dance, really exists. This is an ideal book to read to your youngest kids, at bedtime or anytime, and if you can speak a little Basque, why not read along in this ancient (but still living!) language?


Young readers always welcome!

For slightly older kids, Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees, by Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton, is a whimsical story about the adventures of a five-year-old girl, Maite Echeto, her beloved friend Oui Oui Oui, a goslin she raises from the time it hatches, and her mother in the fairyland setting of the French Basque Pyrenees while her father is away in America seeking his fortune. Meet wise old Farmer August in his favorite straight-back chair beside the fireplace and Great Aunt Victoria who, whether spring, summer, or fall, always wears her black coat sweater. Find out why Oui Oui Oui (now a fully grown gander) becomes the pride of the entire village of Peace, where Maite lives with her mother. And once  Maite’s father sends for his wife and daughter, will there be a place for Oui Oui Oui in the New World? See a review of the book by Pedro J. Oiarzabal here.

Young adult (and no so young) readers are in for a treat with prizewinning Basque author Bernardo Atxaga‘s Two Basque Stories, with two tales framed around the relationship between grandfathers and grandsons.  In “Two Letters All at Once,” Old Martin, a retired Basque sheepherder in Boise, receives two letters in  the space of ten days and, being used to thinking a lot all alone on the range, begins to wonder if they’ll be the last letters he’ll ever get from the Old Country. He tries to explain all this to his eight-year-old grandson Jimmy as he reminisces about his past, growing up in a small Basque village, Obaba, with his friends Iharra and Beltza. When Iharra and Beltza fall out, Martin gets stuck in the middle of the feud, and he reflects on the meaning of friendship and unresolved enmities. “When a Snake Stares at a Bird,” this time set in Obaba itself, is a coming-of-age tale in which fourteen-year-old Sebastian, a city kid, is visiting his Grandpa Martin, who talks to animals and dreams of one day going to Terranova. Sebastian meets and falls for Mariatxo, a local girl, but cannot get his grandfather’s strange behavior–wandering into the woods and talking to all the animals there–out of his head. There is an interesting account at Euskal Kazeta of how Nere Lete, the translator of these works, came to undertake this project here.

If graphic novels are more your thing, meanwhile, then the Joanes or the Basque Whaler trilogy is what you’re looking for. Across these three novels, author and illustrator Guillermo Zubiaga tells the epic fictional tale of Joanes, who first tries to ply his trade in local waters, around the Bay of Biscay, but is gradually forced to look farther afield. Without the means to do so, he must ask local witches for help, which entails its own price, a price that will come back to haunt him in the future. While his fame and notoriety grow with every exploit he gets involved in, his flaws are also gradually exposed. This all leads to a dramatic conclusion in which our anti-hero Joanes must face up to his past wrongdoings. Here history, myth, and fantasy combine to portray the experience of Basque whalers, their adventures on the high seas, and ever expanding journeys across the oceans, as an epic equal to that of American cowboys, Norwegian Vikings, or Japanese Samurais.

Don’t forget, too, that the University of Nevada Press has published two books by the biggest selling Basque children’s fiction author of all time, Mariasun Landa: The Dancing Flea and Karmentxu and the Little Ghost, two groundbreaking works that explore topics not usually addressed by American children’s books.

So come on folks… let’s get those kids reading this summer!

And watch this space… because this year the CBS will be publishing the English-language debut of Kirmen Uribe‘s famed Basque gunslinger Garmendia. As well-known as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, or Wyatt Earp back in the day, here in this Wild West adventure story Garmendia is pursued by evil Tidy Harry–who runs Clean City–and his henchmen Rat and Bat.





Ongi etorri Jaialdi 2015

jaialdiJaialdi 2015 in Boise, Idaho!

As the spring semester has ended, summer presents new opportunities to become acquainted with Basque culture.  As someone who is not of Basque decent, I intend to make-up for my lack of “Basqueness” by attending one of the biggest celebrations of Basque culture in the United States – and apparently it only happens every 5 years!  What luck it will be celebrated during my first year of studying at the University of Nevada’s Center for Basque Studies.  There will be international performers as well as those state-side.

Jaialdi started back in 1987 as a way to promote and sustain Basque culture in the United States and abroad; nearly 30 years later, it’s one of the largest Basque festivals anywhere in the world. You’ll be able to watch traditional sports and dancing, dance to Basque music, and — of course — eat and drink with the best of ’em. Check out the schedule to start planning your Jaialdi experience.

Hope to see you all there!


Women climbing mountains, Edurne Pasaban – First Woman Mountaineer

Originally from Kansas, the last semester living in Reno and the surrounding areas has provided me with a few more opportunities for hiking and mountain climbing. Last weekend, my roommate guided a group of us up Mt.Tallac, just southwest of Lake Tahoe, which at the summit reaches 9,739 ft. This mountain got its name after the Washo word “daláʔak”, meaning ‘big mountain’. The hike, rated “difficult to intermediate,” has an elevation gain of  3,250 feet (990 m).

Completing the hike gave me the smallest idea of what Edurne Pasaban has accomplished. Edurne Pasaban is the first (Basque) woman to complete the ascent of the 14 eight-thousanders on Earth. In addition, she has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of the Basque Country, a Masters in Human Resources Management from ESADE Business School and is Associate Professor at the Instituto de Empresa.


Foto courtesy of Irekia, Basque Government Delegate Ander Caballero and mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, at the Delegation of the Basque Government in the US.

On May 5, Basque mountaineer Edurne Pasaban presented her book “Tilting at Mountains” at the Delegation of the Basque Government in the US, headquartered in New York City.

“Tilting at Mountains” tells a love story of the mountains, and how in all love stories there is passion, happiness, and joy, but also suffering, loss, disappointment, and defeat. It is a deeply personal and human book, in which Pasaban tells of her experience, her life in the mountains, and her own analysis of that which this brutal adventure has brought her. It is a story from which the reader can take values that, in the end, are perfectly applicable to any adventure in life: effort, sacrifice, preparation, perseverance, and concentration.  Click here for the full article in Spanish.


Kerri Lesh on top of Mt. Tallac, view facing west of Lake Tahoe

While I may never come close to the physical achievements of Edurne Pasaban, I find her story relatable not only as a woman, but as a person who is driven by a constant thirst for new and exciting experiences. She is an inspiration for anyone in achieving goals to be a better person by continually persuing the unknown – a great role model for anyone looking for a renewed sense of inspiration.

Basques in the News


Donibane Garazi, in Iparralde, recently featured in the New York Times travel section, is among the subjects of recent articles appearing in major outlets on the Basques.

Three articles were recently published on Basque topics in American and British online media.

On May 25, as part of H.D. Miller’s Eccentric Culinary History, there was a charming article titled “Basque-American: The Authentic Cuisine of the Intermountain West.”  Actually, this is far more than just a culinary guide, and Miller offers a fine summary of both Basque and Basque-American history, before getting to the all-important focus of the article: food, and in particular specific reports on several Basque restaurants in the American West.

For a wonderfully evocative history of the Basque boardinghouses that were the bases for today’s restaurants, see Home Away from Home: A History of Basque Boardinghouses by Jeronima Echeverria.


Meanwhile, on May 30, the Independent included a report by Alasdair Fotheringham on the shooting of a new movie titled Gernika, directed by Koldo Serra. The movie, filmed in English, seeks to portray the events associated with the bombing of Gernika, Bizkaia, in April 1937, and has an international cast.

Click here to read the article.  For more information about the movie, click here.

The Center’s professor Xabier Irujo has written extensively on the bombing of Gernika in Spanish, especially his El Gernika de Richthofen, read more about it (in Spanish) here. In English, readers might be interested in his history of the exile government of Agirre in Expelled from the Motherland. The Spanish Civil War is looked at from a dazzling variety of perspectives in our wide-ranging collection of short stories Our Wars: Short Fiction on Basque Conflicts. There are stories on the Civil War from Bernardo Atxaga, Ramon Saizarbitoria, Iban Zaldua, and Inazio Mujika Iraola!


Finally, on June 5, in an article for the Travel Section of the New York Times, Christian L. Wright offered an extensive travel guide to Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country.  According to Wright, “In recent years, a younger generation has emerged, opening design shops, rejiggering the food scene and sprucing up classic red-and-white farmhouses that dot the countryside.”

Read the full article here.

The specific case of identity in the Northern Basque Country, which is touched on in the New York Times piece, is addressed by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga in his ambitious survey of changing attitudes during the last two hundred years: The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006. On a lighter note, Iparralde is also the subject of Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees, our beautiful children’s book by Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton

Mothers and Writers


On June 3, 2015, in a column published by the Basque daily Berria (“‘Ai, Ama!’-renak”), Elixabete Garmendia discussed the stories of 17 women authors published by the CBS in an anthology edited by Gema Lasarte and entitled Ultrasounds: Basque Women Writers on Motherhood. Garmendia discusses current debates on the social realities and cultural conceptions of motherhood. She emphasizes the feelings of guilt modern mothers frequently experience for all sorts of reasons in the current working environment and as the result of changing nursing and educational patterns. Garmendia makes references to a “romanticized neo-maternalism” in which apparently progressive attitudes are in fact retrograde and in which women are blackmailed into having to achieve perfection in their parental roles.

To read the original article (in Basque), click here.

Cheers Gerediaga!

Under the slogan Topa Gerediaga! (Cheers Gerediaga!), the Gerediaga Association celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in the Astola neighborhood of Abadiño (Bizkaia) on June 7. Gerediaga is an association promoting social and cultural activities in the Durangaldea district, the area in and around the town of Durango, and the organizing body behind the Durango Book Fair, which provides a welcoming home to the CBS and its books every year. Indeed, this year will also see the fiftieth anniversary of the book fair, and the CBS hopes to plan some extra special celebrations to mark this major achievement. So cheers Gerediaga from everyone at the CBS!

To see a report on the event (in Basque), with accompanying photos, click here.  And there’s a video interview (in Basque) with Gerediaga members Jose Luis Lizundia, Jon Irazabal, and our especially good friend Antton Mari Aldekoa-otalora about the association here.

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