Category: Academics at the Center (page 2 of 9)

Visiting Scholar Haritz Azurmendi Speaks on Basque Nationalism at the CBS Lecture Series

Haritz Azurmendi is a visiting scholar from the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). Azurmendi gave an engaging lecture at the CBS Lecture Series late October, where he addressed Basque debates about nationalism from a historical and contemporary perspective. Tracing the evolution of Basque nationalist thought over 1968 to 2018, the lecture situated Basque discourse about identity and nationalism within the broader intellectual debates between the Modernist and Ethno-symbolic schools.  To what extent, Azurmendi proposed, is Basque nationalism a product of the Enlightenment, of capitalism and of the general resurgence of nationalist movements in the 19th century? To what extent does the emergence of Basque nationalist symbols constitute a pattern of a Hobsbawmian “invention of tradition”? Alternatively, how do they draw on pre-modern ethnic memories? Azurmendi presented the evolution of Basque nationalism as a contested ideological terrain where left wing abertzalism, right wing bourgeois nationalism, Marxism and post-colonial discourses competed for diverse interpretations of the nation.  He identified the initial phase of these developments as the First Renaissance that relied on the exaltation of the peasantry, traditionalism, folklore, and a certain romanticism of rural life. The Second Renaissance, in turn, drew from urban modernity, existentialist thought, and social poetry. Azurmendi discussed the fascinating debate among public intellectuals concerning the question of why, and to what end, is one to speak Basque, with arguments ranging from sentimental reasons to justice, the importance of choice, and the defense of local culture. Azurmendi concluded that in light of the current Catalan crisis and Spanish reactions to it, we must re-think Basque nationalism and its diverse appeal to discourses about the “post-national subject,” the right to decide, democratization, independence, and the role of the Basque language.

Haritz investigates the idea of the nation in Jose Azurmendi`s work as a PhD student in the department of Political Science at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). He is using the CBS library resources to finish his dissertation, which he will defend next summer. This is what he said about his stay in Reno: “I try to travel around at weekends. I have visited such must see places in the neighborhood as Lake Tahoe, Mount Rose, and I am planning to go to Lake Pyramid soon. I also enjoy historical visits to places like Virginia City. And, of course, I love meeting Basque Americans and hear their stories and memories!”

Haritz`s talk ended with a lively discussion among the faculty, students and visiting scholars of the Center for Basque Studies. Eskerrik asko Haritz!

      

 

 

 

 

 

Basque Books Round-Up 2018

It has been another busy and exciting year for Basque publishing! The year started out with our attendance at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Our booth there was very well-attended and we launched local Elko author Gretchen Skivington’s novel (a past winner of our Basque writing contest) Echevarria. In addition to selling the book at our booth, we also hosted an event at which the work of Joan Errea was read by your Basque books editor, Florence Frye read from her stories about growing up in Gerlach, David Romtvedt read from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space, and Gretchen presented from her new book as well. The spring continued with the publication of our director Xabier Irujo’s short history on the bombing of Gernika, The Bombing of Gernika: A Short History. The publication was celebrated in Winnemucca in conjunction with the Basque festival and NABO convention held there with another booth and with a wonderful dance performance about the bombing of Gernika by Lamoille, Nevada dancers Ardi Baltza. Ardi Baltza continued presenting the dance and the book at events in Gooding, Idaho, and Elko, Nevada, among other places.

It was with great pleasure this year that we published At Midnight by the late Javier Arzuaga. This tremendously interesting story recounts the experiences of a young Basque priest counseling to condemned prisoners in the aftermath of the 1950s Cuban revolution. It is a tremendously powerful story about doubt, faith, human kindness, and the confrontation with the eternity. In a masterful translation by Cameron J. Watson, this book is a must read!

Bertsolaritza has also been a theme of the year, with Basque bertsolariak also attending the Elko Poetry Gathering and a book forthcoming with shared articles on the oral poetry form and the experience of poetry in the Western United States. In addition, we published World Improvised Verse Singing, edited by Xabier Irujo, a collection of articles on improvised and other oral poetries from around the world.

The tenor changed with our next publication, Stories of Basque Mythology for Children, by Bakarne Atxukarro, Izaskun Zubialde, and illustrated by Asun Egurza. This delightfully and colorfully illustrated children’s book runs the gamut of classical Basque mythological tales, all translated by students from the USAC program in Donostia-San Sebastián.

In addition, a collection of article based on the conference that was held in Iceland regarding the massacre of Basque whalers there hundreds of years ago was presented, Jon Gudmundsson Laedi’s True Account and the Massacre of Basque Whalers in Iceland in 1615, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio. The story not only talks about the Basque whalers, however, but also the Icelanders, including especially Jon Gudmundsson Laedi, who rejected their countrymen’s violence and sought to present the truth about the events far out in the Atlantic. And it will continue to be a busy fall, with the current launch of a new kind of book for us, Meggan Laxalt Mackey’s, Lekuak: The Basque Places of Boise, Idaho, this richly illustrated book tells the story of Basques in Boise from their roots in trans-Atlantic migration and the sheepherding industries to their modern contributions to the city of Boise and the state of Idaho, an influence that will continue to be felt deeply into the future. And in production is the next installment of the Basques in the United States, with many more names added; Asun Garikano’s Kaliforniakoak, a history of Basques in California; a collection of articles on German and Nazi influence in the Basque Country and Catalonia during the Civil War and World War II, and our classic, the first English translation of the diaries of the first Basque lehendakari, Jose Antonio Agirre, in a richly annotated edition, and much more.

             

CBS Graduate Student News 2018

Kerri Lesh, supported by a Bilinski Fellowship, will defend her dissertation next Spring. In November, she will be presenting a wine tasting as well as on the panel, “Food, Money, and Morals: Semiotic Reconfigurations of Value,” for the American Anthropological Association. Her recently gained title as a Certified Specialist of Wine compliments her research which has allowed her to present for Academic Minute and the radio show, “The Good Life”.

 

After successfully completing her comprehensive exams and teaching her first course for the CBS, Edurne Arostegui took off to Euskadi to conduct field work. Her current research deals with Basque women’s migration to the United States. She hopes to track down return migrants and family members for interviews as well as consult archives and municipal records. She will also participate in conferences and present her work at various universities.

 

Marsha Hunter is a second-year PhD student who is currently completing her course work on Basque culture, history and politics. She is preparing for her comprehensive exams in May 2019, expanding her research on Basque nationalist activity in Idaho during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

Callie Greenhaw is the newest Ph.D. student at CBS. In addition to her course work, she is participating in the ACUE certificate program “Effective Teaching Practices in Higher Education”. This semester, Callie is contributing to the CBS blog, organizing the CBS’s Fall 2018 Multidisciplinary Lecture Series, serving as a TA in Dr. Ott’s Basque Culture class, and starting her research on the Basque community in Elko, NV.

 

 

CBS Faculty News 2018

Xabier Irujo participated in the commemoration of the 81th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika. As part of the events, he collaborated with the City Council of Gernika to inaugurate the “Itinerary of Memory,” a route through the most affected scenes of the raid. This consists of a tour of the eleven most significant points of the bombing, marked with several testimonies of survivors and photographs. It was an initiative that combined three paths: historical research, the testimonies of the survivors, and the possibility to see what Gernika was like before the bombing through QR. Dr. Irujo also participated in the conference “Experiment Stuka” on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the war experiments carried out by the Condor Legion in Alt Maestrat. He also co-organized three international seminars with the University of the Basque Country, the University of Barcelona, and the Public University of Navarre. Dr. Irujo addressed the Parliament of Uruguay as part of the events that took place during the III. Seminar on Basque Studies in Montevideo. He gave thirty lectures during the spring and summer semesters. His 2018 book 778 on the battle of Rencesvals/Errozabal had a wide media impact this summer in the Basque Country. He was invited to give the keynote lecture on this topic by the Orreaga Association in Pamplona and in Errozabal.

In 2017, William Douglass published an article on immigration policy (“Gizon bikarti baten mamuak”) in a book on the Trump administration (Trump amesgaizto amerikarra) edited by Arantxa Elizegi Egilegor. In 2018 he was interviewed by Las Vegas Public Television for a “Basques of Nevada” program in their Nevada Outdoors series. On May 18, 2018, he presented former Basque President, Jan José Ibarretxe, as the lecturer for the Second Annual William A. Douglass Annual Lecture in Basque Cultural Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. On August 22 he addressed the 25thannual dinner of the Estate Planning Council of Northern Nevada at Louis’ Basque Corner, Reno, on the subject of “Basques in Nevada.” He was also interviewed by Yvonne Gonzalez for her article entitled “Q+A Expert Discusses Basque History, Culture in Nevada” that appeared in the August 25 issue of the Las Vegas Sunnewspaper. On September 7 he gave an address on immigration in Agnone, Isernia (Italy) on the occasion of the book presentation of the second edition of his work L’emigrazione in un paese dell’Italia meridionale: Agnone tra storia e antropologia(Isernia: Cosmo Iannone Editore, 2018). While in Agnone, Douglass was interviewed by Radio Euskadi (via Skype) for its coverage on September 8 of the Day of the Diaspora in the Basque Country.

During the Spring semester Joseba Zulaika has been on sabbatical with the purpose of finishing his manuscript on drone warfare. Hehas published the following articles: “What Do You Want? Evidence and Fantasy in the War on Terror,” in Mark Maguire and Ursula Rao, eds. Bodies as Evidence. Yale University Press);  “La última cena,” “Cenizas y rosas,” In Carles Guerra, ed., La paz aplazada. Documentos y ensayos en torno a una exposición. Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies; (with Anna Maria Guasch), “The Gaur Group in the Context of Post-War Basque Art: The Test of Modernity,” in Jacques Battesti, Gaur, 1966: L’Art Basque sous le Franquisme—Resistance et Avant-Garde. Bayonne: Musee basque et de l’histoire de Bayonne; “Self-Fulfillling Prophecy,” Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd Edition. During the months of February and March, Zulaika taught a course on the Bilbao-Guggenheim Museum at the University of Liverpool. On March 8, he gave a public lecture on “City, Architecture, and Labyrinth” at the University of Liverpool. On May 14, he lectured on “The Architecture of Borderless Drone Warfare” at a symposium on “The City and Other Policies” organized by Tabakalera, San Sebastian. On June 22, Zulaika also gave a public lecture in Itziar, “The Beginning and End of ETA,” with the occasion of 40 years after he began his fieldwork on Basque political violence.

On July 1, 2018, Sandy Ott was promoted to full Professor at UNR. In 2018, she published two book reviews: The Pyrenees in the Modern Era: Reinvention of aLandscape, 1775-2012 (London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 276 pp., for H-France Review, and a review of Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Jean Guéhenno (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 304 pp., for H-France Review. She did two podcasts about her book, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration, and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948 (Cambridge University Press, 2017): one for Historica (which focuses on the history of Spain) and another for the German Studies Review. She continues to serve as Interim Chair of Communication Studies (since July 2017).  In the Spring of 2018, she received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Service in the College of Liberal Arts. This Fall, Ott is teaching a course on “Basque Culture” with 32 students—none of whom has any Basque connections. They have learned a few Basque words and later this month will be treated to some singing by Louis Irigaray. Students will also hear about his experiences growing up as a Basque American in California. As Sandy says to her students, “since I can’t fly you all to the Basque Country, I’ll do my best to bring Basque culture into our classroom.” During the summer, Ott started a new research project in the Departmental Archives of Baiona and in the National Archives in Paris: the experiences of Jews in Iparralde and Bearn during the German Occupation and in the post-liberation years. She is working on the spoliation of Jewish property by Vichy and the Germans and the attempted restitution of such property by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in the post-liberation years.

Mariann Vaczi`s recent publications include “Football, the Beast and the Sovereign: The Politics of Joking Relationships in Spain” in the journal of anthropology Ethnos, where she addresses fan protests against Spanish state symbols at soccer games. Given the salience of anthem protests at sport events in the US as well, the New York Times interviewed Dr. Vaczi in April 2018 for its cover of the Spanish King`s Cup final. She has served as editor to a monographic special issue titled Sport, Identity and Nationalism in the Hispanic Worldat the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies(SIBA), including two of her own contributions in a roster of 13 authors. In 2018, Dr. Vaczi finalized additional publication projects about sport in the Basque Country and Eastern Europe, forthcoming and published in the journals Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares, and Communication & Sport. Dr. Vaczi`s book review of CBS colleague Sandy Ott`s Living with the Enemy (2017) is forthcoming at the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. At the invitation of Routledge, Dr. Vaczi is editing a volume with the title Sport and Secessionism with Alan Bairner from Loughborough University, convoking 17 authors from diverse contexts across the globe. Most importantly, she is eager to finish her second ethnographic monograph, this time on sport and the Catalan independence movement. Besides her classes about Basque culture and transnationalism, Dr. Vaczi has also developed a course called “Sport and Society from a Global Perspective,” which she will teach in Spring 2019.

 

CBS Lecture Series

The Center for Basque Studies invites you to attend our Fall 2018 Multidisciplinary Lecture Series. Starting this month, the series will showcase the research of our librarian, our visiting scholars from the Basque Country, and faculty from the UNR Anthropology Department. Our lecturers will cover a wide range of topics and disciplines. It is held on Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 in the Basque Studies Conference Room (MIKC 305N). Be sure to check it out!

The schedule for the Lecture Series is:

OCT 25 “Debates on Nationalism in the Basque Country: 1968-2018” by Haritz Azurmendi

NOV 8  “A Critical Analysis of Cooperative Multinationalization: A comparative study of the French ‘Up Group’ and the Mondragon ‘Fagor Ederlan Group’” by Anjel Errasti

NOV 15 “Preserving Basque Digital Photographs: Dealing with Legacy Metadata and File Formats” by Iñaki Arrieta Baro

NOV 29 “Contested Reconciliation in the Basque Country: A Feminist Approach” by Andrea García González

DEC 6 “Politics, Aesthetics and Technologies of the Self in Sakha Blessing Poems” by Jenanne Ferguson

Edurne Arrives Back to Bilbao and the Basque Country

Puerto Viejo, Algorta

Aupa everyone! I thought I’d check in and tell you about my adventures in the Basque Country while conducting my fieldwork for my dissertation. It’s good to be back! As some of you may know, I spent six years here before hopping across the pond again to Reno. My initial trip was for six months and, well, I guess I liked it a bit too much and got interested in Basque history and culture, leading me to complete my M.A. at the UPV/EHU and then two years at the same institution beginning my Ph.D. studies. So, I’m definitely acquainted with the place which makes my research explorations all the more easier.

I arrived mid-July and didn’t have much time to relax since I attended the 56th Annual International Americanists Congress at the University of Salamanca. There, I not only presented but spent time with my co-director, Óscar Álvarez Gila. We participated in different symposia but got a chance to catch up and talk about my plans. As usual, he motivated me and pushed me toward new directions. When it came to the symposium, I took part in “The Visible and Invisible: A Theoretical and Methodological Approach to the Unheard, Unspoken and Unseen in Gender Studies,” alongside sociologists and psychologists studying contemporary manifestations of gender studies. At first, after reading the schedule, I was hesitant: what was I, a historian focusing on the turn of the century and migration, doing on this panel? However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were a small group, so after presenting, we spent two hours chatting and discussing our work. The feedback I received was fantastic! Sometimes you get so into Basque studies (e.g. everything I see is Basque in some way or related in the most far-off way, I’m annoying like that…) you forget to widen your perspective. In all, it was a great way to start off my fieldwork and made contacts for the future.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Next up, I visited a part of Gipuzkoa I’d never been to: Bergara, Antzuola, Zumarraga, and Legazpi. Spending time with an old friend of my mom, she and her brother told me about the connections they and others had with the States, especially Boise. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Arantzazu. Beautiful and bewitching, I marveled at the architecture and views of the valley below. While on that trip, I embarked on a quest for a ceramic txakoli pitcher and cups for my dad. I ended up getting them made in Ollerias, where Blanka Gómez de Segura learned the fading technique from the last potter of the area. She has set up a museum and shop and gladly showed me around. Definitely worth visiting! I ended up buying a katilu of my own and had to resist myself in the shop.

Arantzazu

I’ve also visited Lekunberri (Nafarroa) a few times for various reasons. First of all, it’s cooler (in the sense of temperature) and there’s wonderful cheese everywhere (I’m a cheese addict). But from an academic standpoint, I’ve been put in contact with former sheepherders who have found a home there. Antonio, a neighbor, told me all about his experience in Fresno over a period of 40 years. I look forward to talking to him more in depth. I also became aware of a collection of letters preserved in Elantxobe from a sheepherder in Boise to his sister. The niece, Edurne (!), is willing to let me look through them and talk to me about her family and uncle. Besides, there will be lunch involved so two birds with one stone.

All work, no play…

Sheep! mmm…cheese!

Lastly, I attended the Artzai Eguna (Day of the Sheepherder) in Uharte-Arakil on August 26. Although I regret not taking advantage of my time very well while there (too busy trying cheese and cider), I got to see how cheese is made and specimens of the Latxa breed of sheep. The market was bustling, so my usual strategy of asking older men wearing baseball caps whether they’d been to the West didn’t seem appropriate (although it usually works).

Cheesemaking

Latxa Sheep

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I also wanted to mention that I finally met my colleague on the blog, Katu, in person for the first time. It’s crazy to think you’ve worked with someone for so long, exchanged countless emails, talked on skype for hours, yet never been in the same room. Luckily, we’ll be working together on a project dealing with Basque rock music in the 80s, so there’s more to come.

I’ll be updating you, our loyal readers, throughout my stay. Leave a comment if you have any questions, tips, or suggestions for my fieldwork. Ondo izan.

Congrats to Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain on Completing her PhD Defense!

On August 30th, the committee of Dr. Xabier Irujo, Dr. Mari Jose Olazregi, Dr. Justin Glifford, Dr. Mario Santana, Dr. Joseba Zulaika, Dr. Meredith Oda and Dr. Sandra Ott all gathered to hear PhD student, Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain’s PhD defense. When asked to explain her dissertation, Ziortza explained “The cultural magazine Euzko-Gogoa was undoubtedly an emblematic leader in the history of the Basque press and a symbol of the resurgence of the Basque language and nation during Franco’s dictatorship. However, there is very little academic research on the contribution that Basque literature in exile made to the secularization and modernization of Basque literature, and even less research about the magazine published in English. Euzko-Gogoa, since its beginnings, played an important role in the Basque culture. The symbolic, idealistic and vocational understanding of culture, which was characteristic of the 1950’s, created such a vital and dynamic movement that it is almost impossible to talk about the Basque cultural renaissance of the 1960’s without properly examining this magazine. The impact of exile was instrumental in the process of planting the seeds for future nation building. With a country defeated and its culture outlawed, it was in the diaspora where the Basque nation could be rebuilt and re-imagined. Euzko-Gogoa created a foundation of ideas that would serve to maintain the dialogue of a desired community while maintaining and developing the Basque language and culture. This dissertation acknowledges the exceptional nature of exile and its impact in the character/identity of the magazine.” The once grad student, passed with flying colors, and is now headed to Boise State University for a lectureship.

Dr. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain

Dr. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain

When I asked Ziortza about how she chose her topic for her dissertation she said, “I admire believers, dreamers and the ones that fight for impossibilities to make a better world. I realized that the cultural projects made in exile/diaspora were many times made by these unlikely heroes that defended actions and projects that were many times bordering fantasy and reality. Their unacceptability to succumb to impositions inspire me to write about them.” Ziortza explained how she loves fantasy, specifically J.R.R. Tolkien and in her words “envisioned myself in this imagined world where I could join the fellowship in the fight for middle earth.  So when I was teaching high school in the Basque Country I felt a yearning still for more education and opportunities. I was extremely lucky to also have met Dr. Olaziregi during my masters and she was always an amazing reference and person of inspiration. So I contacted her to see if there was an opportunity to seek out more knowledge in the Basque diaspora. The dominoes started to fall and sure enough the opportunity presented itself to leave my ‘Basque shire’ and set out on an adventure to research and share the passionate story of Euzko-Gogoa, it’s creator Jokin Zaitegi, and the amazing fellowship he created…Zaitegi was a dreamer who, despite his constant defeats, created a world for the Basque language and culture, for the next generation of Basques such as myself.”

      

Congratulations once again to Dr. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain on all her accomplishments and we look forward to all she will accomplish in the future!

 

Fall 2018 Semester is Here!

A new semester is beginning here at the Center for Basque Studies. Though we mourn the end of summer, it is sure to be a great semester full of new experiences and ways to expand our knowledge of the world.

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada via Wikimedia Commons

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada via Wikimedia Commons

We are offering several classes including two classes taught by our very own Kate Camino, where one would begin to learn the unique and beautiful language of Euskara. Mariann Vaczi is teaching Basque Tranationalism in the United States, which sounds like a fascinating class about the theories of globalization, social identity, diaspora foreign policy, identity construction, and nationalism and how they compare to the Basque individual and institutionalized ethnicity in the United States. Dr. Xabier Irujo is teaching a class on Basque politics, focusing on the history and legal status of Euskadi in relation to Spain and the European Union, as well as post-Franco nationalist movements and party development.  Joseba Zulaika is teaching a class on the Bilbao Guggenheim, focusing on not only the artistic and architectural aspects of the museum, but also its social and political effects on a local and global level. Finally, Dr. Sandra Ott is teaching a course on Basque culture within Euskadi and in emigrant settings, specifically the American West. We can’t wait to see what the next semester holds and wish you all a wonderful autumn!

Musikene and the CBS Compile the History of Basque Music

The Center for Basque Studies and the Higher School of Music of the Basque Country, Musikene, have organized a conference on the history of the Basque music from Prehistory to the present times. The conference took place on June 28 and 29 at Musikene in Donostia-San Sebastian and the pianist and professor Jokin Okiñena offered a piano recital.

After a concert Prof. Okiñena gave in Reno in 2016, he and Xabier Irujo spoke about the existing void in relation to the history of Basque music since the publication of Arana Martija’s work in 1987. To carry out this task, the Center for Basque Studies signed an agreement with Miren Iñarga, director of Musikene.

The resulting volume coordinated by professor Okiñena will be published by the CBS. The project, which emerged thirty years after the publication of the last historical analysis of Basque music by Jose A. Arana Martija, will systematize the history of the Basque music from prehistory to the present and will include a separate section on the contribution of women to this relevant aspect of the Basque history. This is a novel project whose first sketch emerged in 2017 with the signing of an agreement between Musikene and the Center for the celebration of a conference and a piano recital and the publication of a book.

The conference has brought together nine experts on different aspects of the Basque music. Prof. Elixabete Etxebeste lectured about the history of the Basque music from Prehistory to the Middle Ages; Prof. Sergio Barcellona talked about Renaissance and Baroque; Prof. Jon Bagüés about Enlightment; Prof. Isabel Díaz about Basque Music in the 19th century; Prof. Iosu Okiñena about Basque music and Nationalism, Itziar Larrinaga lectured about the Basque music during war and dictatorship (1936-1978) and Mikel Chamizo about contemporary Basque music (from 2000 to the present.) Finally, Prof. Patri Goialde and Mark Barnés lectured about Basque jazz and Prof. Gotzone Higuera focuses on the contribution of Basque women to music.

Program

June 28:

10:00 Opening

10:30 Prof. Elixabete Etxebeste. Prehistory, Antiquity and Middle Ages

11:30 Prof. Sergio Barcellona. Renaissance and Baroque

12:30 Break

13:00 Jon Bagüés. Basque music and Enlightment

14:00 Lunch

15:30 Isabel Díaz. Basque music in the 19th century

16:30 Gotzone Higuera. Basque music and women

17:30 Break

18:00 Patri Goialde y Mark Barnés. Jazz in the Basque Country

20:00 Piano recital by Josu Okiñena

 

June 29

10:00 Josu Okiñena. Basque music and nationalism

11:00 Itziar Larrinaga. Basque music during war and dictatorship (1936-1978)

12:00 Break

12:30 Mikel Chamizo. Basque music in the 21rst century

13:30 Conclusions

14:00 Lunch and meeting of the scientific committee

 

From the Seeds of Jai Alai to the Streets of London

We could say that without the “pilota”, this meeting would not exist, ex professional Jai-Alai player and New England Basque Club integrant Aitor Aldazabal concluded.

By Iñigo Medina Gracia

Aitor Aldazabal, Juan Mari Aramendi, Riki Sotil, Raul Blanco, Edu Arrieta, Patxi Gandiaga and many others gathered in New London CT the 23th of June as organizers during the celebration of the New England’s annual Basque Festival. They were nostalgic but heartfelt when considering this statement.  As the ones who have loved loyally the ancient Basque sport of the “Fronton” in its “Zesta” modality and have to leave it sooner or later, life could be expressed as a set of steps where each one takes you to a different, eventually, completely unexpected one.

Those steps are the ones they experienced after playing at the main frontons of Jai-Alai (or Hi-Li) in Miami, Dania Beach, Hartford, Orlando, Milford, Newport and others. The events occurred during the late 80’s and first 90’s, as the players were on strike, the parallel development of other sports-show competence and the decay of the betting business forced them to reinvent their selves. After getting introduced to some of the organizers or assistant ex-pilotaris and knowing a bit more about their American experience, I noticed that somehow what happened was a recent chapter of Basque emigration history that has not been considered as it deserved to. As multilevel sociological phenomenon, maybe the Jai-Alai 80’s strike and the previous genealogical events which triggered it did not acquire the needed echo within the Basque migration movements. And for sure, it has been and still is, a very interesting individual and collective story.

  

One of the many products of this route synthetized with the creation of the Rhode Island Basque Club in 2003, when some Roberto Guerenabarrena and other Basque-Americans ex “pilotaris” decided to run a Basque Club. This Euskal Etxea later gathered other Basque Diaspora members from states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, finally establishing the New England Basque Club. New England’s Basque Club has been an active chapter of the NABO federation from 2011, celebrating amusing Basque Festivals each year and running different cultural activities always enforcing Basque culture in the East Coast. This time, the place chosen was New London a “well connected enclave between big cities like Boston and New York. This has encouraged other Basques to visit us and join the celebration” organizer Juan Mari Aramendi assessed. In this sense, not only North East coaster Basques came to the meeting. Formers from other Euskal Etxeak or Basques communities like Montreal and Quebec, Florida, California and Nevada could be found onto the about seven hundred assistants.

The meeting was hosted thanks to the collaboration of the New London’s City Council who set the license for the celebration, the main sponsor Thames River Greenery who offered a sale selection of Basque products in this store and obviously the voluntary support carried out by all the members of different Euskal Etxeak. First step of the agenda took place on Friday afternoon at Thames River Greenery, where the visitors had the chance to taste some typical Basque products as cheese or white, rose (Txakoli) and red wine (Rioja). After this, the “Trikipoteo” (a popular run of bars in the Basque Country which always goes with an itinerant live performance of “Trikitixa” or Basque accordion and tambourine or “Pandero”) moved to the Hot Rod Wings bar in Bank Street. New England Basque Club invited the assistants to a tasty dinner based on the specialty of the house: many different types of sauced chicken wings.

Next morning, last steps of the setting up were figuring out at 11.30 when a parade conformed by visitors, dancers and musicians began from the City Hall to the Parade Plaza. The institutional reception lead by the Mayor Michael Passero, and accompained by Juan Mari Aramendi the New England Basque Club president and Iker Goiria from the Regional Council of Gipuzkoa, took place in front of the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse. After the welcome “Aurresku”, Passero gladly received all the visitors and underlined the value and importance of the coexistence between communities that the city of New London has hosted from its foundation. He also remarked the naval-harbor connections and strong whaling tradition similarities between both Basque and New England’s histories.

Bars were opened at the Parade Plaza offering different “pintxos” elaborated by Mikel de Luis from the Amona restaurant (NY) and Fernando Zarauzfrom the Txikito restaurant (NY). Also the paellas started to get cooked thanks to the good work of Bonifacio, Danny and Jean Pierrefrom Miami with the cooperation of different voluntaries from the New England Basque Club.

As the day went by, different music and dance performances started within the celebration premises. Musicians brought from Gipuzkoa made more enjoyable if possible the festive atmosphere breathed in the Parade Plaza. The dancing groups this time were “Gauden Bat” from Chino CA, “Zazpiak Bat” from San Francisco CA and “Ardi Beltza” from Lamoille NV. They offered a magnificent and inclusive demonstration (the visitors were allowed to join the dancers and learn Basque “dantzak”) which came with detailed explications about the origin and meaning of each dance. Meanwhile, the “Paella” was ready to get served just before the turn for the “Herri Kirolak” or Rural Sports came.  Woodchopper or “Aizkolari” performances were developed by Juan Mari Aramendi, Riki Sotil and Patxi Gandiaga, being Riki the first courageous contender to chop six trunks in a row and becoming winner of the challenge.

 

Time for the little ones to try some “txinga-eramate” (a Basque rural modality which consists in carrying a heavy dumbbell in each hand within a track. The person who succeeds in making more comebacks with no limit time and without leaving the dumbbells touch the floor, wins) started afterwards. We had the chance to see great young runners before they changed the dumbbells for the rope “Tug of War-Rope pulling”or “Sokatira” competition, where the struggle got funnier when the adults joined it (my muscles were aching next morning!).

Music continued grooving until dusk when the time to close an enriching Basque culture day in New London arrived. The outcome of the festival was an undoubtedly success, considering the beauty of how the sown seeds of old Jai-Alai Basque-American stories could blossom nowadays in such marvelous gathering and cultural expression.

 

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