- What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies?
I was very lucky to have received the Begoña Aretxaga Travel Stipend this year, and the best part was that I got the email on my birthday, making it by far the best present. I’m currently a doctoral student at the UPV/EHU and the opportunity to have access to the library here was something I couldn’t miss out on. It certainly hasn’t disappointed me.
I initially came with the idea of putting myself through a sort of academic boot camp: non-stop reading, note-taking and writing. The CBS is the ideal place to study because of the diversity of materials housed in its really accessible facilities. What I didn’t realize till I arrived is the atmosphere CBS faculty, students, and staff have created along with the ongoing interaction with other visiting scholars. Besides working hard and getting good work done, I’ve had an engaging and worthwhile experience.
- Can you tell us what the goal of the project is?
My dissertation deals with the construction of Basque-American identity in the American West through the analysis of the stereotypes and imagery presented in works of western fiction and non-fiction, specifically, cowboy dime novels, and the stories of migrants. Although I am a historian through formation, I believe that the use of literary sources contextualized with events in migration history, both from the Basque and American perspective, help shed new light in the understanding of Basque-American identity. The aim is to understand how American society perceived and stereotyped Basque immigrants, and how in turn, second and third generation Basques turned these same stereotypes on their heads in order to create markers of a new hybrid identity.
The Basque migration experience and integration, or lack of, into the host society shaped their identity, not only within their community but also in its outward representation. Once Basque-American identity was assumed, what relationship did these migrants maintain with their homeland and how has it changed up to present? Migration obviously changes identity, while identity marks representation and recognition from both a political and socio-cultural standpoint. Therefore, the study of this process of identity creation helps us understand the actors and forces that change history.
- Would you say that this research, is quite unique?
Well, I think as academics, we all think our research is unique, or else we wouldn’t be doing it! However, much attention has been given to literary sources, I guess it’s a sexy topic. I’m interested in how American society perceived Basques and how they became a part of the history of the West. Instead of solely focusing on the migrant experience, I aim to understand identity through the lens of the spectator, trying to look past the rose-tinted glasses of pastoral romanticization. Surely, once I get further along in my research it will become more unique and distinctive, or so I hope.
- What have you accomplished since you arrived?
I’ve read, a lot! I came with a list of sources that I wanted to check out before coming, but it’s always interesting to see what you come across by chance and what other people are doing. My stay has given me the chance to become immersed in all things Basque. I’ve met great people and have probably spoken and listened to more Basque here than in the Basque Country!
- Are you enjoying the U.S.?
I’m from California so of course I enjoy coming home to the States. That being said, Reno is a completely new experience for me and I like what I see. It’s amazing to be surrounded by the landscape of the places that appear in my research. I never realized how tranquil and inspiring the desert could be, especially its vast and colorful sunsets. Reno has surprised me in many ways and I can’t wait to get another opportunity to return.