Category: Basque Americans (page 1 of 14)

CBS Event: Literatura eta Musika with David Romtvedt

Do you have an interest in the Basque Diaspora and enjoy good music? If so, the CBS and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library is pleased to invite you to Literatura eta Musika featuring CBS author and accordionist David Romtvedt on March 11-12 at 4 p.m. in UNR’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center Rotunda.

David and Caitlin

On March 11, David will be reading from his book Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming. This book is a collection of personal essays written by and about the Basques of Buffalo. These stories illuminate the experiences of the Basques in Wyoming and tie into the broader theme of the Basque diaspora in the American West.

On March 12, David will be reading from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space. In this historical fiction piece, David explores the experiences of Zelestina, a 16 year-old Basque girl in northern Wyoming. Inspired by the real life experiences of two Basque women, the character of Zelestina departs from the stereotype of the Basque immigrant as a lonely sheepherder.

After each talk, David will perform on the accordion and will be accompanied by his daughter, Caitlin Belem Romtvedt, an accomplished musician who specializes in “Brazilian and Cuban music, and old-style swing, blues, and jazz”. After the lecture on March 12 only, Elko-based Basque accordionist Mercedes Mendive will join the duo.

Mercedes Mendive

Admission is free! We hope to see you there!

James Barayasarra Wins Second in Basque Literary Contest

James Barayasarra has won second prize in the 2018 Basque Literary Contest for his manuscript “Seven Wagons and a Half”, a hilarious and touching tale about growing up as the middle child of Basque immigrants Nemesio and Victorina Barayasarra.

“…[M]y parents did not have a high level of education, they were self-taught, were proud of their Basque heritage and American citizenship. They experienced many hardships, including poverty and discrimination, and yet they survived. It was tough, but I wouldn’t trade any of the events for all the towers in the world. I mean we were poor, discriminated against, but we made it through and I can live to tell about it. I have taught my offspring about my heritage and hope they will appreciate their Basque heritage and sacrifices of immigrants like Nemesio & Victorina Barayasarra,” Barayasarra said when asked about his inspiration for “Seven Wagons and a Half”, “The story is about the attempt to record the contributions of an immigrant family, such as Nemesio & Victorina. Even though they had challenges and struggled at times, they survived the hardest times. It is about appreciation of their hard work and to honor them for their sacrifices.”

James Barayasarra

James Barayasarra

Since his teaching days at high school level in Idaho and Nevada, teaching as well at SUNY Alfred State and Chesapeake College, having received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Master’s of Education from the College of Idaho, as well as a Masters in Natural Sciences from the University of Idaho; and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Biology from Saint Bonaventure University, Barayasarra has “ taken approximately 40 hours of theatre, creative writing, and art…[and has] 9 unpublished work plays, one that has been performed on stage, thank you very much”.

Interview with Michelle Petitte, Winner of the 2018 CBS Literary Contest

The Center for Basque Studies is pleased to announce the winner of our 2018 Literary Contest is Michelle Petitte, with her story Etxe Roxenia! 

Michelle Petitte

CBS Graduate Student Callie Greenhaw interviewed Michelle to find out more about her and her work.

Please tell us about yourself.

I was born in the French Hospital in Los Angeles and grew up feeling I was French Basque as much as I was American. I visited the Pays Basque with my Amatxi for the first time when I was thirteen and felt the pull of the culture and people. Retirement from my job as an educator two years ago has given me the time and opportunity to explore my cultural legacy and to begin writing Amatxi’s stories.

I live in Southern California and am married with two grown children.

What is Etxe Roxenia about?

Etxe Roxenia tells the true story of Arroxa Caminoa Bidegain, a young Basque girl born in 1864. She grew up in the enclave of Bosate, Spain; her Aita was the town miller. A serious childhood injury set Arroxa’s life on an unexpected path, one that would require espiritu indarra, strength of heart and spirit.

Arroxa was my great-grandmother. The story is written from my memories of the events as told by my Amatxi Lina, as well as notes kept by my mother, Renée. I also researched Basque culture and history, then tried to envision how each scene might have unfolded.

What was the inspiration for your work?

My Amatxi, Lina Bidegain Tauzin, was Basque. She grew up in Urepel, a small village in the Pyrenees mountains in France. She was a story teller. From her favorite spot on the corner of the couch, she shared with her eight grandchildren a lifetime of tales; crossing the Pyrenees on foot at age four, growing up in the village, traveling alone by ship to America at age nineteen. As a child, she was poor in possessions, but rich in family and love, and had a sense of adventure. Her grandchildren loved her stories. Now I am attempting to capture on paper her indomitable spirit, the beauty of her Basque heritage, the changing world that shaped her life.

Please tell us about your other projects.

I have always loved to write. Etxe Roxenia is my first complete narrative story, but I continue to write about Lina’s life. I recently traveled to Montana with my sisters and cousins. We met the family of John Etchart from Aldudes and visited their Stone House Ranch where Lina immigrated to work as a cook for Basque sheepherders in 1916. This is another wonderful chapter of her life, filled with Basque people and experiences.

In order to record Lina’s stories for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we created an online blog called The Lina Project, and invited the family to share. It includes Lina’s Legacy pages with information about the Basque culture and historical context, along with Amaxti’s Story pages, short drafts of my memories of her storytelling. My sisters, Kathleen and Tonya, have contributed their own memories to the blog.

Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

Writing my Amatxi’s stories has become a journey of discovery. The more I learn about the Basque culture and people, the more I want to know. Along the way I have met so many interesting and gracious people; they share their own stories and support my aspirations. It has been a wonderful, inspiring experience and has deepened my connection to my Basque heritage

Zorionak, Michelle! Keep a look out in the Center for Basque Studies Bookstore for Etxe Roxenia, coming in May 2019.

Kerri Lesh presents at the 117th American Anthropological Association annual meeting

Photo credit: Mariann Vaczi

Last week, Kerri Lesh returned from presenting at the 117th American Anthropological Association‘s annual meeting in San Jose, California. Her presentation titled “Size (and Shape) Matters: Creating Value with the Basque Language through Wine, Cider, and Font” illustrated the value of using language in its form and content for marketing gastronomic products. Kerri was delighted to present alongside scholars such as Martha Karrebӕk, Kathleen Riley, Richard Wilk, and Chelsie Yount-André in their panel “Food, Money, and Morals: Semiotic Reconfigurations of Value.”

Kerri is a member of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) as well as a member of the Culture and Agriculture groups that are part of the larger AAA. Amongst attending other events and speakers, Kerri attended the SAFN meeting where Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First, was the keynote.  Eric is of Basque and Puerto Rican heritage and grew up milking cows and pitching hay in Point Reyes, CA, where he learned that putting food on the table is hard work. After studying rural education and biology at the University of Oregon and Evergreen State College, he traveled through Mexico and Central America, where he was drawn to the simple life of small-scale farmers. He is the editor of the Food First book Food Movements Unite! Strategies to Transform Our Food Systems; co-author of Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice with Raj Patel and Annie Shattuck; and author of the book Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture and of many academic, magazine and news articles.

 

Kerri has the pleasure of meeting Eric as the SAFN/Culture and Agriculture reception where Kerri and Daniel Shattuck were presenting Basque wine and Italian olive oil tastings. Three txakolinak were served in addition to the olive oil, both demonstrating the importance of culture in the development of taste and terroir. 

Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Arceño

If you like txakoli as much as everyone at the reception did, stay tuned for a piece on Academic Minute and NPR podcast where Kerri provides food for thought on this Basque beverage.

Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Arceño

 

 

 

The Center for Basque Studies had the pleasure of hosting the Ardi Baltza Kontalari from Lamoille, NV in early November. As a contemporary Basque dancing group, Ardi Baltza combines the concepts of tradition and innovation in their mission to preserve and educate about Basque culture.

During their first day at the CBS, Ardi Baltza demonstrated Basque dancing to the Basque Culture and Basque Transnationalism classes. Before each dance, their director, Kiaya Memeo, explained the meaning behind the dances and answered questions from the audience. The students were then invited to learn two dances, Sorgin Dantza, a comical dance where the women (taking on the role of witches) turn the men participating in the dance into women, and Pitx, a children’s dance. Their performance provided many of the students their first up close experience with Basque dance and culture.

See them perform a contemporary version of Makil Dantza here:

The next evening the Ardi Baltza Kontalari performed Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika. The show educated the audience about the fateful day of April 26, 1937, when the Condor Legion and the Italian Air Force, acting on the orders of Franco, dropped 31-46 tons of bombs on the Basque market town of Gernika. The dancers, using a combination of the traditional Basque and contemporary steps, illustrated the experiences of the Basque people before, during, and after the bombing, while Kiaya Memeo narrated the eyewitness accounts of survivors. Their performance served as a reminder about the importance of our history and honored the memory of the people who were in Gernika that day.

From Left: Jennifer Obieta, Amanda Shields Kerr, Franci Mendive Wilkinson, Kiaya Memeo, Olivia Memeo, Olivia Rice, & Hannah Hill

Eskerrik asko to the ladies of the Ardi Baltza Kontalari for traveling to Reno to perform for our students and the Reno community!

Nevada Stories Series: Folklife Program Videos Online

A couple of months ago, I came across a few videos on the Nevada Arts Council website highlighting Basque culture in Nevada.

Nevada Stories is an online video series focusing on folk and traditional artists, specific local traditions, and Nevada’s landscape. An outreach activity of the NAC Folklife Program, it supports the Nevada Arts Council’s mission to provide folklife education to all age groups and to highlight the individual folk artists, traditional communities, and cultural sites that make Nevada distinctive. Filming and production are funded through Folk and Traditional Arts grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

I’ll share the Basque ones here, but be sure to check out the website for more on the many cultures that comprise Nevada!

The Basque Chef: Asier Garcia

Visitors to the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko (2018)–themed “Basques and Buckaroos”–saw firsthand that Basques know how to have fun! A popular social pastime in the Basque Country involves bar hopping while sampling the pintxo (pronounced “peen-show”) or bite-sized snack specialties of the house. Our guest chef Asier Garcia hails from Bizkaia and is now a resident of Boise. Asier leads a workshop group through the intricacies of creating a dozen different pintxos, deconstructing this artful tradition to enhance their culinary repertoires and satisfy their appetites.


Basque Cooking With Jean Flesher

Utah bandleader, contractor, Basque personality and cook Jean Flesher presents Basque cuisine in traditional fashion with a northern Basque country (French influenced) flavor. The workshop features classic dishes and cooking techniques. Participants learned new recipes (included in the video) and left with satisfied appetites and a full serving of Basque joi de vivre. This film was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and partnerships between the Western Folklife Center, Nevada’s Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, and the Nevada Arts Council.

Hunting the Mountain Picassos

For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno have used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures– along with names, dates, and sayings– were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century.

Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture – the 50th Annual National Basque Festival, Elko
For the last 50 years, Basque families from throughout the American West have gathered in Elko, Nevada on 4th of July weekend to celebrate their culture and the opportunities afforded them in the USA. Filmed over the three days of the 2013 National Basque Festival, “Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture” offers the viewer an all-embracing view of this multi-faceted event.

To learn more about Basque’s in Nevada, go to, Home Means Nevada 1896: Folklife in Nevada Historic Radio Series

Paul Laxalt Dead at 96

Paul Laxalt, born in Carson City, Nevada, on August 2, 1922, died on August 5, 2018 at the age of 96. Laxalt served as both the Governor of Nevada (1967-1971) and a United States Senator (1975-1987), and was involved in politics throughout his life, serving also as a chairman of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns and working with Reagan to clean up Lake Tahoe.

Laxalt went to college at Santa Clara University in California, then enlisted in the Army in World War II as a medic. Under the G.I. Bill, he went on to the University of Denver to earn his law degree. In 1950, Laxalt was elected Ormsby County’s (in northwestern Nevada, which contains Carson City) district attorney and served for one term. Laxalt was elected lieutenant governor in 1962.

10/6/1983 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Paul Laxalt Bob Michel Corrine Michel and Carol Laxalt watch the Performance by Oak Ridge Boys during the Barbecue for Members of Congress on the South Lawn by Reagan Presidential Library via Wikimedia Commons

10/6/1983 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Paul Laxalt, Bob Michel, Corrine Michel, and Carol Laxalt watch the Performance by Oak Ridge Boys during the Barbecue for Members of Congress on the South Lawn by Reagan Presidential Library via Wikimedia Commons

Laxalt was the brother of Robert Laxalt, who was the author of Sweet Promised Land, a groundbreaking novel for Basque culture in the United States, and the grandfather of Nevada’s Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt, who is now running for Governor of Nevada.

 

Diaspora Day

The very first Diaspora Day was held last Saturday, September 8th, a date designated by the Basque government because the date coincides with the first global circumnavigation in 1522 by Juan Sebastian Elkano and his crew.

People posing by Basque monument in Reno, Nevada  People gathering around

The day focuses on the Basque diaspora and different Basque organizations and communities would each find a way to celebrate. The idea is to bring more attention and celebrate the Basque diaspora. The Reno diaspora decided to do a walk from the Basque Sheepherder Monument to the Sheepherder Exhibit. To learn more about Diaspora Day and how it came into being, check out the blog post by Kate Camino on the new holiday: https://bit.ly/2CH80Tn.

Photo of Basque monument by Inaki Arrieta Baro

Photos by Inaki Arrieta Baro

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.

September 8: Basque Diaspora Day

By Kate Camino, for Astero:

Basque Diaspora Day Approaches

Basque GovernmentAs you all may remember, the Basque Government designated September 8th as Diaspora Day last January. The date was chosen after receiving several suggestions from Basques around the world, and because it coincides with the first circumnavigation of the globe, in 1522, by a crew led by Juan Sebastian Elkano who was from Getaria, Gipuzkoa. The hope is, by designating a day dedicated to the Diaspora, activities organized would make the Basque presence around the world more visible. In this its first year, the Basque Government would like to know how your club or Basque community is going to mark this date. Lehendakari Urkullu will be holding his own event at the Lehendakaritza on September 8th where he’d like to share what’s happening around the world. If your Basque club or community is planning an event, please share it with us atinfo@nabasque.eus. If you haven’t planned anything yet, you still have time. This video sums it all up “The Basque Country lives in you.” Ondo ospatu!

 

 

 

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