Month: November 2017 (page 2 of 2)

Grad Student News: Amaia Iraizoz

This year, Amaia Iraizoz has been writing her dissertation, which she will defend this December. She has also participated in several conferences. In March 2017, she attended the Southern American Studies Association’s biennial conference Migrations and Circulations in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she presented the paper “Bringing Modernity to the Homeland: The Hybridization Process in Aezkoa Valley’s Socioeconomic Practices.” That same month, she participated in the Northern Nevada Diversity Summit, presenting a paper on a Basque studies panel.

As we come close to saying goodbye to Amaia, we leave you, our loyal readers, with her own words on her research. Amaia’s impressive work has been possible thanks to the Campos family generous funding. Eskerrik asko, Amaia, Tony, eta Juliet!

I was born and raised in Aritzu, a small rural town in northern Navarre. My family household’s history and personal experiences of migration led me to apply to the Ph.D. program in Basque Studies here at UNR, an institution that is pivotal in the study of Basque migration. I am part of the 5th generation of my household to come to the Americas, and because of this longstanding trajectory of migration, I came with a clear intention of what to study: the influences of migration in my homeland, a topic in Basque migration literature which had yet to be studied.

I was raised listening to the stories of my ancestors’ migratory experiences: uncles, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and so on. My family spread throughout the Americas, from Cuba to Argentina, Mexico and in-between.  Many of them ended up returning to their native household after long periods overseas. Therefore, I turned my focus to the influences of these departures, the prolonged absences of family members and their eventual return, along with the effects these situations had on local rural communities.

Emigration, characterized by transnational encounters and interactions between different cultures and practices, has produced both changes in destination societies as well as in the homeland. My dissertation addresses the influences that these transnational encounters produced in Navarre, concretely in Aezkoa Valley and the surrounding areas. In this context, both emigration and return changed the everyday lives of the people in these rural communities. In that regard, new social realities emerged as a consequence of both emigrants and returnees. The society in the northern Navarrese valleys had to confront new problems, for example the adaptation to the relative’s absences and returns, which not only affected the social relationships inside households but also these communities as a whole.

This research also highlights the relationships among the returnees and the development and modernization of the area. The economic circumstances before mass migration, as well as what happened when those emigrants returned to their hometowns provides a context for the study. I analyze the ideas that they brought from the Americas and how these in turn influenced the economy of their hometowns, through the projects they carried out, such as renovating and improving infrastructure such as transportation (roads, etc.), education (schools), and industrializing the area by creating business that brought wealth to the inhabitants of the area. Returnees should no longer be seen as failed migrants but instead as leading figures of the revitalization and transformation of their rural birthplaces, as pioneers in the industrialization and modernization of Navarre.

None of my research would have been possible without the generous donation to the Center for Basque Studies by Tony and Juliet Campos, establishing a graduate student assistantship for the study of Navarrese migration. I want to give special thanks to them for making this project possible, not only academically, but also by giving me the chance to experience the absence and separation from my family and hometown, which drew me closer to the experiences that many of these emigrants and my relatives faced and lived through.

Esker mile aunitz Tony eta Juliet!

Flashback Monday: Ellis Island’s 125th anniversary

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island, which closed 63 years ago on Sunday. Over 12 million immigrants passed through its doors for inspection before entering the United States, and Basques were no exception. From February to May 2010, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum held an exhibition on the Basques, entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques.” Here’s an excerpt from the website, with photos from the exhibit:

“Hidden in Plain Sight” was an interactive exhibit that presented opportunities for all ages to discover the unique origins, language, and history of the Basque people; the factors that pulled them away from their homes; the legendary tales of colorful immigrants; Basque contributions in the United States and the world; and the unprecedented cultural connection with their homeland.

Basques have rarely been recognized for their historic contributions or cultural distinctiveness. Similarly, as they passed through Ellis Island, their nationality, names, and heritage were often disregarded by otherwise well-meaning officials. In many cases they were simply listed as Spanish or French.

Today, even though Basque politicians, scientists, sports figures, business executives, artists, and movie stars may be prominent throughout the US and in many nations around the world, they are still often overlooked as being Basque, perpetuating them being “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

This exhibition was organized by the only museum in the United States devoted to preserving Basque culture and history, The Basque Museum & Cultural Center, in conjunction with and supported by the Basque Autonomous Government.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” opened on February 6 with a special ceremony in the Great Hall at Ellis Island with performances by the Biotzetik Basque Choir, the Oinkari Basque Dancers, and soloist Amaia Arberas. The ribbon cutting was performed by Patricia Lachiondo, President of the Basque Museum & Cultural Center and Guillermo Echenique, General Secretary of Foreign Action of the Basque Government. Performances by the Biotzetik Basque Choir followed. The Oinkari Basque Dancers also performed at Liberty Island later in the afternoon.

Looking at Ellis Island from an international perspective, the New York Times recently profiled it in its Daily Briefing, with links to articles:

Back Story

Ellis Island, the gateway to the U.S. for more than 12 million immigrants, is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its opening this year. Sunday marks the day it closed in 1954.

Many Americans are descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island in a wave of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Upon arrival by ship, steerage passengers were transported to the island for inspections. (First- and second-class passengers skipped that step.)

Those found to have serious contagious illnesses or deemed unemployable could face deportation.

Nearly 70 percent of arrivals didn’t speak a word of English, but language was never an issue, said Doug Treem, a National Park Service Ranger.

Interpreters translated scores of languages — they were required to speak at least four each, other than English. Many were immigrants or children of immigrants.

“I doubt if anyone working as a translator at the U.N. right now could have gotten a job at Ellis Island,” said Mr. Treem.

One translator, the child of European immigrants and a veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, worked in Italian, German, Yiddish and Croatian, while attending law school at night. That was Fiorello LaGuardia, who went on to be a three-term mayor of New York City.

I’m guessing language was an issue for Basques, for I wonder if any inspectors spoke Euskara! What we do know is what awaited these migrants once they were in New York City.  As Douglass and Bilbao note in Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World:

Elderly Basques residing the American West today still retain vivid memories, spanning more than half a century in some cases, of getting off the boat in New York City filled with trepidation, only to hear the welcome words, “Euskaldunak emen badira?” (“Are there Basques here”). pg. 374.

These words often came from Valentín Aguirre’s agents at the Casa Vizcaina, a hotel and travel agency of sorts for Basques in New York. Aguirre sent employees to meet every ship that arrived from Europe. Once the Basque immigrants met up with these agents, they were taken to the hotel where they were welcomed with familiar food in their native Euskara environment. Some may have even played a few games of pelota at the hotel’s fronton. Aguirre would help them reunite with family or find employment in the West. He would purchase their tickets and give them instructions for their second journey across the States, at many times pinning their names and tickets onto their lapels so that they would safely arrive at their destinations.

Although there are many stories of Ellis Island, the horrible conditions and foreign-ness of the place, it was the port of entry for many of our relatives here in the West. With its 125th anniversary, we remember the long journeys our ancestors took to find their new place in the United States. “Euskaldunak emen badira?” Yes, we are here and will remain.

 

Grad Student News: Kerri Lesh

Kerri Lesh has spent the past calendar year conducting fieldwork in the Basque Country.  Her research investigates how various components of Basque gastronomy promote cultural and linguistic maintenance.  She has spent a significant amount of time living in San Sebastian, and also in Elorrio, learning about viticulture practices while improving upon her Basque language skills. Kerri presented a portion of her research at the Food Studies conference in Rome, Italy this October.  She has also chaired and co-organized a panel that will be featured at the forthcoming annual American Anthropological Association, to be held in Washington D.C. this November.  Kerri will return to the Center for Basque Studies in January 2018 to write her dissertation. We can’t wait to have her back. For now, we leave you with some photos of Kerri during her fieldwork. Although it’s tough work, I’m still envious of all the food and drink she’s had the chance to enjoy!

Kerri with Joseba Lazkano from Gaintza Txakoli

Kerri with Elena Arzak

Kerri with Hilario Arbelaitz in Zuberoa

Faculty News 2017: Mariann Vaczi

Although she’s a recent addition to the CBS, Dr. Vaczi is a busy academic. Her book about Bilbao and its soccer madness, entitled Soccer, Culture and Society in Spain: An Ethnography of Basque Fandom (Routledge, 2015) earned Honorable Mention at the 2016 Book Awards of the North American Society for the History of Sport. It also received great reviews in academic journals. Mariann spent the past two years in Catalonia doing ethnographic fieldwork in order to diversify her research interest in sport and sub-national identities. She contributed a chapter on sport in Spain for the Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics, and she published research articles about sport and Basque and Catalan nationalism in American Ethnologist and Ethnos. She was invited to edit a special issue titled Sport, Identity, and Nationalism in the Hispanic World in the Journal of Iberian and South American Literary and Cultural Studies. She will present a paper at the 2017 annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Windsor, Ontario.

 

 

Faculty News 2017: Joseba Zulaika

Joseba Zulaika spent the spring semester of 2017 conducting field research on weaponized drones while living at the Catholic Workers Association in Las Vegas. His latest publication activities include “Aresti: A Red Dawn Is Breaking.” Foreword to Gabriel Aresti, Downhill and Rock & Core; “How Terrorism Ends—And Does Not End: The Basque Case,” Critical Studies on Terrorism; “Amets Amerikarra: Babes Nazazu Nahi Dudanagatik,” in Arantxa Elizegi Egilegor; Trump: Amesgaizto amerikarra, in Aleka; “Agirre at the Crossroads,” in The International Legacy of Lehendakari Jose A. Agirre’s Government. Joseba gave various public lectures: “Memoria y reconciliacion,” at the Elkarbizitzarako bilerak, Tolosa, for a debate with Juan Aranzadi and Aitzpea Olaizola, on May 12. He presented the paper “Ciudad, Arquitectura, Laberinto” at the symposium “The Role of Art, Design, and Architecture in the Construction of the Identity of Cities,” in Barcelona, Foment de les Arts i del Disseny, on June 30. He gave a lecture entitled “Terrorism, Sovereignty, and the State of Exception” at Trinity University, Texas, on October 10.

 

Monday Movies: “The First Time” at 70

Let me explain. Imagine my situation. 70 years passed, and nothing… I had a boyfriend here and there, but… what I always knew is that I didn`t want to die like this. And since everyone says it`s a wonderful, fantastic thing, the truth is that… it intrigues you. And I told myself: Begoña, if this is something so nice, you can`t lose out on it.

Begoña is an elderly woman—and a virgin. Convinced that death is close, she decides to hire a male prostitute, Daniel, to satisfy her curiosity about the thing that everyone says is so beautiful and marvelous. However, this will not be an easy task for Daniel. The First Time is Cobeaga`s first short film, which he made before he would become a household name behind such box office hits like Ocho Apellidos Vascos, Pagafantas, the weekly comedy series Vaya Semanita, or his Oscar-nominated One Too Many.

The short film was nominated for the 2002 Goya Awards, and received more than 30 awards in Spain and at international festivals. In his trademark mood of bitter sweet comedy, Cobeaga presents a completely anomalous situation that is nevertheless based on a range of familiar clichés: prostitution delivered to home. What is different here is that the client is not a man, but an elderly woman played by a splendid Mariví Bilbao. After the initial surprise about his client, the young gigolo (Aitor Beltrán) finds himself before an unprecedented query.

Cobeaga said this about the film, and the dark side of being an Oscar nominee from the perspective of creativity:

I like to pick diverse and different actors. I like this mixture. This has been present since The First Time, and also in the feature films there is this contrast: theater actors, humorists who work in television, actors who come from TV series…I think that 80% of the work of actor direction is about the choice of the actors. Sometimes I write with a particular actor on mind, other times no, but the election is always very scrupulous. When it comes to facing the direction of actors, I feel very confident, and I like it to be an intellectual process; I am not at all sensory when I talk with the actors. I intend to be very logical with what each character would do in each moment, and my behavior is the same in the dialogue with the actor. It is fundamental that they read the script from beginning to end, and transform the dialogues. From the perspective of dialogue, the script is never closed, and this gives tranquility. It generates good atmosphere, and the actors feel comfortable.

At a more personal or mental level, an Oscar nomination has its dark sides. The impression that you arrived at the Oscar when you barely even started yet… I developed a certain obsession with not believeing it too much, and this lead to self-confidence issues. Besides, a week after the Oscars I shot Río Puerco,  the short film that I am least happy with.  It was a tough blow psychologically. I started to think that the Oscar was tremendously accidental, that it happened to me, but it could have happened to any other person. It caused me insecurity. I was of low morale until the first script of Pagafantas came out.

The Monday Movies series presents Basque short films and contemporary cinema. Most of these short films have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of our upcoming book Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

Flashback Fridays: Children of priests denied birthrights in Gipuzkoa

By Katu:

November 3, 1653: Children of priests denied birthrights in Gipuzkoa

Wikipedia Commons

Until November 3, 1653, the children of priests in Gipuzkoa enjoyed the same birthrights as any other children of legally married couples. From that date on, however, by order of the Court of Appeals, they were prohibited from enjoying full possession of such rights.

The Basque Country might be benefited from economic opportunities following the Brexit

                 The hysteria and hype of Brexit (The British Exit from the E.U.) might not be over yet. Every region in the world from Tokyo to Brussels has expressed their concerns regarding the doomsday scenarios of such an epic divorce between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). However, like anything else in the world, a bleak situation might offer a glimmer of light that brings the unthinkable opportunity into reality. Following the aftermath of a financial crisis in 2008, many Basque scientists left their homes to find work in the UK. Close to a decade later, these capable scientists have produced major patents and have contributed to the advancement of technology in a foreign land far from home. With Brexit, the pendulum swings back again and this time around it swings to the Basque side. Many of the Basque scientists will find the UK less favorable for the progression of their careers following Brexit, as Theresa May’s Government declines to secure the working permits of highly-skilled migrants once the UK leaves the EU. Such a momentum is a great opportunity for the Basque country to lure their capable scientist home after Brexit.

The regional government of the Basque Country has dispatched Ivan Jimenez, the head of Bizkaia Talent to win over Basque engineers and scientists and bring them home by alluring them with comfortable salaries and generous research funding.  Several headhunter apps have been established to recruit Basque scientists in the UK and arrange job interviews with tech firms in the Basque Country. These experienced scientists will bring their patents and technological advancements to  Basque firms. Thus, it will cement and potentially enhance the Basque Country’s position as a leading-edge producer of science and technology-related products and services. This strategy will also help ease some of the brain drain challenges that the region’s financial hub, Bilbao, has endured due to a dire shortage of high-skilled laborers. The decision to attract Basque scientists to come back home is actually perceived as a good opportunity by the many talented Basque men and women in the UK. The UK based companies where they currently work might soon lose their privileged access to the European market which affects companies’ ability to pay workers high salaries and provide them with bright career paths. Therefore, fulfilling their civic duty at home is not a bad choice after all.

For further reading please visit:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/06/basque-country-bid-lure-spanish-scientists-home-brexit/\

 

Life and Death in Basque Culture

By KATU:

Today, November 1, is a public holiday throughout the Basque Country coinciding with the Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day. Tomorrow, November 2, is likewise All Souls’ Day, and these celebrations convey the bond between the living and the departed.

From the pre-Christian tradition, likewise, there are hundreds of dolmen and cromlech stone circle sites in the Basque Country. These are believed to be burial places intended to honor the dead and may contain one or several corpses. For William Douglass and Joseba Zulaika, (Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, p. 52), “Generally, the higher the elevation, the smaller and simpler the dolmens, which possibly reflects a basic geographical distinction between lowland and highland peoples in terms of socioeconomic development.” Well into the modern age, on coming across one of these sites on remote mountainsides, shepherds would remove their txapelak (berets) and say a prayer for the deceased there.

With the coming of Christianity, cemeteries became the final resting place for the departed and one interesting feature of Basque cemeteries is the impressive range of funeral stelae (bilarriak in Basque) with their intricate carvings of animals, crosses, stars, suns and more abstract patterns. Moreover, all baserriak (Basque farmhouses) were typically connected to their local churches and cemeteries by means of an hil bide (death road). Moreover, in the words of Douglass and Zulaika, (Basque Culture, p. 296), “a death triggers an all-encompassing series of formal obligations among the survivors defined in terms of their genealogical proximity to the deceased and residential proximity to his or her baserria.”

There are many rituals associated with death in traditional Basque culture. One is the practice of spreading news of a death to not just the local community, but also the animals, especially the bees, for which special respect has always been reserved. A common saying in Bera, Nafarroa was: Etxeko andrea hil da, ta egizu argizeri aunitz, zerua bidaltzeko (The mistress of the house has died, make a lot of wax to send her to heaven). This shows the importance, too, of offering light. Light was thought to be essential when passing over into the other world, and for that reason, all kinds of torches, tapers, and candles hold special importance in Basque funerary rituals. To this day, many Basque homes are adorned with an argizaiola (board of wax), a wooden board with a long coiled candle.

Nowadays, of course, the global reach of Halloween has come to the Basque Country, with people—and especially children—getting into the spirit of things with fancy dress costumes and going out in search of candy. Candlelit pumpkins have even been spotted presiding over Bilbao cityscapes!

Katu’s Pumpkins!

Additional information is taken from Xamar, Orhipean: The Country of Basque.

Check out, too, William A. Douglass, Death in Murelaga: Funerary Ritual in a Spanish Basque Village (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969).

 

 

 

Newer posts