Category: Basque Books (page 1 of 10)

Basque culture, Basque books, and bertsoak bloom in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The Center’s booth at the Western Mercantile

It was our pleasure here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies to be invited to participate in the 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nevada. This year’s festival was focused on the contributions of Basques in the West and included sessions on Basque arborglyphs, Basque poetry, Basque writing, the experience of Basques in ranching—featuring the insight of longtime Nevada resident and stalwart of Winnemucca’s Basque community, Frank Bidart—only 95 years young!

Portrait of beloved Basque sheepherder and owner—and shepherd of generations of 4-H sheep program participants in the Reno area—Abel Mendeguia, by Linda Dufurrena, on display in the Western Folklife Center

One of the highlights of the whole show was the participation of berstolariak, especially those from the Basque Country including reigning champion Maialen Lujanbio, as well as Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran and Miren Artetxe! The Basque bertsolariak were also accompanied by US Basque improvisers Jesus Goñi from Reno and Martin Goicoechea from Rock Springs, Wyoming. From Buffalo, Wyoming, Center author and musician David Romtvedt participated in many musical venues playing generally with his daughter Caitlin, and they were also a common sight to be seen playing after hours, usually in the company of Ardi Baltza accordionist Anamarie Lopategui. Basque-American author and Elko native Vince Juaristi was also in attendance with his stories of growing up Basque in the US. There were also dance performances by Elko’s Ardi Baltza and Elko Ariñak dancers, the latter being accompanied by Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa. Popular Basque musical group Amerikanuak played, led by Jean Flesher from Salt Lake City, a true pioneer of Basque culture in the US (as many of the people mentioned here are), with members from as far away as Berlin, Germany in attendance! The Basque show on Thursday night was hosted by the Center’s own Kate Camino. Center friend and author Joxe Mallea presented on aspen carvings and artist Zoe Bray painted portraits of Basques and presented her portraits at the Western Folklife Center. The session on Basque writing featured the readings from My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, Florence Larraneta Frye, David Romtvedt, who read from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space and Elko’s own Gretchen Skivington who presented on and read from her brand new novel Echevarria. And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or many people, the numbers of Basque participants was truly a wonder to behold.

The Center also participated in the show’s vendors with stand in the Western Mercantile. After hours, the Basque party continued at Elko’s Ogi Deli and the Star Hotel!

We have come a long ways from when cowboys and sheepherders fought range wars in this same part of northern Nevada. It was such a pleasure to be included and for Basque contributions to be recognized by all the cowpunchers! 😉

Dr. Xabier Irujo presents at the 52. Durangoko Azoka

While wrapping up my fieldwork after spending a year here in the Basque Country, I took a day to travel from Bilbao to Durango to see the famous Durango Book Fair. Aside from getting to travel with a friend to this happening scene, with numerous publishers, book stores, and new media, I was able to see a familiar face. Professor Xabier Irujo was presenting his book titled “The Verdad Alternativa“, which discusses the lies and propaganda regarding the catastrophic effects of the bombing of Gernika.  The session was well attended with standing room only, with several from the audience providing follow-up questions.

Congratulations Professor Irujo!  Look forward to seeing you and everyone else at the Center for Basque Studies in January!

 

Basque Heritage Provides a Novel Theme: The Sheep Walker`s Daughter

By Sydney Avey

Who are the people we come from? Dee stops asking that question. But after her secretive mother dies, people who each know part of her story come forward.

Geography and culture play a critical role in grounding readers in a fictional story. I chose a Basque heritage for my first novel’s main character precisely because I knew nothing about the Basques. It was the perfect choice. Dolores Moraga Carter (Dee) knows nothing about the Basques either, but she will learn. And her discovery will change her life.

In 2014, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter received an honorable mention in a literary contest sponsored by the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Given the fact that I am not Basque, I felt highly honored. In October 2017, the Center published the second edition of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter as a Basque Originals.

An early reviewer characterized the book as a coming-of-age story of a middle-aged woman. I hadn’t thought of it this way, but it rings true. Part of figuring out who we are is understanding our family history. I wrote this story to explore the motives my own mother had in keeping our family heritage a secret.

It isn’t uncommon for a novelist to explore troubling family issues in the guise of fiction. In the process, authors make choices about which personal details to include and which to change. I chose a different heritage from my own because I wanted to stand in Dee’s shoes, free of preconceptions, and explore a culture I knew nothing about.

Why the Basques?

I didn’t have a budget to visit the country I chose, but I needed to have some sense of place to write credibly. I have been to Barcelona and love it. Having some knowledge of that region gave me a place to start some virtual road tripping (films, YouTube) and develop a sense of the terrain.

A Google search led me to the Basque population centers in the United States. Bakersfield, CA was on the list, just a four hour drive from my home in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, That allowed me to do some original research.

The Basque culture is a mystery to many Americans, even those of Basque origin. After the first edition came out, many people stepped up to tell me that their heritage was Basque. That they didn’t know much about the culture affirmed that I made the right decision. The Basque theme also popped up in reviews.

“This historical novel introduced me to the Basque culture.”

“The Basque culture was always of interest to me and she described it beautifully from the way of life to the food.”

“The well-researched Basque culture of California provides a credible backdrop for the characters’ emotional journeys as they negotiate between self and family, coldness and warmth, old hurts and new faith.”

I hope one day to visit the Basque land.

 

Grad Student News: Edurne Arostegui

 

Last time we checked in on me,  I was finishing up my first semester at UNR. During the spring, I went to the East Coast with Amaia Iraizoz, presenting at the Southern American Studies conference, as well as visiting with the diaspora in Washington D.C. and New York City. Later that month, I presented at the Northern Nevada Diversity Summit and gave a passionate speech for the Unity in Diversity event held by UNR’s GSA. My article, “Memoirs of Mobility and Place: Portrayals of Basque-American Identity in Literature of Nevada,” was published at the end of October by Eusko Ikaskuntza in the new book on Art and Diaspora.

After getting through the year at the CBS, I spent the summer working for the Center for Basque Studies Books, translating new entries for the upcoming edition of Basques in the United States. This semester, I’m still  coordinating the blog as well as the seminar series, having lectured in September on “Basque Women in the West: Bringing Migrants out of the Shadows.” I have also been a guest lecturer in Dr. Vaczi’s classes and am TAing for Dr. Ott’s “Basque Culture” class, focusing on diaspora. UNR also piloted a new program for grad students, ACUE’s Effective Teaching Practices, and I got the chance to participate, finishing up the course this week.

Much of my time has also been spent organizing the WSFH conference with Dr. Ott. After having attended many conferences, I finally realized the work that goes into it, but it was well worth the effort. Speaking of conferences, I’m organizing my schedule for next year, which is looking hectic. However, Dr. Ott has given me the chance to teach “War, Occupation, and Memory” next semester, so I’m looking forward to teaching.

Time flies during doctoral studies, but I’m  taking advantage of every moment I can get!

Faculty News 2017: Sandy Ott

Cambridge University Press published Sandy Ott’s book, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948. In his endorsement of the book, John Merriman (Yale) observes that “her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the German occupation…in the Basque Country.” Sandy also contributed to The Oxford Companion to Cheese (Oxford University Press). Sandy conducted further archival research on German POWs in the French Basque Country (1945-1948) and gave a paper on the topic at the annual conference of the Society for French Historical Studies in Washington, D.C. She also lectured at the University of Southampton (UK) on the intersections of anthropology and micro-history. In July, Sandy joined Advisory Board members in the Basque Country for their weeklong excursion. She also (unexpectedly) became interim chair of Communication Studies at UNR, alongside her regular duties in teaching, research and service in Basque Studies. She is also the local organizer of a major French history conference that takes place in Reno soon.

 

    

Faculty News 2017: Xabier Irujo

Xabier Irujo participated in the conference that took place in Gernika in April 2018 as part of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the bombing. As part of the commemorative events, Dr. Irujo met with Dieprand von Richthofen, grandniece of Wolfram von Richthofen, main responsible for the bombing that destroyed the city. Dr. Irujo also co-organized with the University of Barcelona the conference on the Nazis in the Basque Country and Catalonia that was held on June 2-4 at the Benedictine monastery of Lazkao and on June 20-22 at the monastery of Montserrat where on 23 October 1940 Heinrich Himmler thought he would find the Holy Grail. Dr. Irujo co-organized and attended a third conference on Social Economy held at the University of the Basque Country. He has given eleven lectures during the spring and summer semesters, and has participated in the documentary The Last Trench that sheds light on the terror bombing campaign of the German, Spanish and Italian aviation in the Basque Country. His 2018 book Gernika, 26 de abril de 1937 published by Crítica has had a wide media impact, and his book Gernika 1937: The Market Day Massacre, reviewed by the New York Book Review, was appraised at the American Historical Review, and was listed as a Nevada Press best seller in Spring 2017. Zorionak Xabier!

 

Topeka by Asier Altuna: Of Men and Rams as Metaphors for Violence

 

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the CBS`s upcoming book publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

 

Aurrera doan herria, a nation progressing, a nation on track.” Or is it?

What distinguishes the creative brand of Asier Altuna is the minimalism, visual potency, and poetic value of images strongly rooted in the Basque imaginary. The director eliminates dialogues and transmits, from a critical perspective, brief but powerful messages about society, humans, and their behaviors. Altuna uses an eminently Basque tradition, the ram fight, to speak in a metaphorical way about the duality between human beings and animals in a sick, violent and intolerant society whose members aim to destroy one another and themselves.

The film starts out with the traditional Basque ram fight. This pattern is broken by a brief shot of a man who suddenly hits the person next to him with his head, very much like the rams just did. The natural sound of the fiesta is substituted by the sound of the tambourine and the xtalaparta, Basque instruments of percussion whose beat strengthens the sensation of the blows. Altuna shows how humans have occupied the primitive place of animals; they do not only charge at the person next to them, but also foolishly hit their head against a stone wall when they can`t find another person to attack. Meanwhile, one of the rams escapes and, in a display of common sense that humans have just lost, he disappears where he belongs, nature. The duality proposed between the animal behavior of human beings and the human behavior of the animal is best visualized by the anthropomorphic sculpture ram by Ricardo Hernández.

It is almost inevitable to interpret these images as a metaphorical treatment of the Basque Country. It is particularly curious and ironic that the short film should open with an overprint that reads “Aurrera doan herria,” “a nation progressing, a nation on track,” a slogan borrowed from the Basque government at the time, whose Department of Culture sponsored part of the short film. Enjoy!

 

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/16310694″>TOPEKA</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3148570″>txintxua</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

 

Basque Ladies “Lagunak” Luncheon

 

Last Saturday, the 23rd of September, we celebrated the annual Basque Ladies Luncheon at the restaurant,  Louis Basque Corner. It is an essential event for all the Basque ladies in Reno and its surrounding areas. A unique occasion to gather together, and when there’s food on the table of a good restaurant, it is even better!

The event began at 11.30am, and the restaurant was pretty full when we arrived. The ladies, with their Lauburu necklaces -in all sizes and colors- were conversing,  laughing, and loving each other’s company, some of them, the bravest ones, were drinking Picon Punch. The talented ladies Judy Mendeguia and Joanie Test shared their beautiful handmade horseshoes and crosses with us, such beautiful and exceptional artwork made with so much love and passion. The Center for Basque Studies didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to show and share our latest publications with the ladies. The reception of our books was incredible, thank you so much!

Around noon we began having lunch, and the menu was delicious. The traditional Basque family-style lunch included soup of the day, French bread, Basque beans, salad, French fries, an entree, and a complimentary glass of house wine or a soft drink, and coffee. They set up an area for us and they treated us phenomenally.

Unfortunately, this lunch wasn’t the same without our beloved, Florence Larraneta Frye who was unable to attend. She is an amazing Basque woman who made the endeavor of the Basque Ladies Luncheon a reality, a dream come true. It is also worth thanking Kate Camino for maintaining the spirit and us ladies together.

Till the next time!

Frank Bergon: Adventures of a Basque American Novelist

The Center for Basque Studies Multidisciplinary Fall Seminar Series has begun with a bang. We had the pleasure of having the acclaimed novelist and professor Frank Bergon give our inaugural lecture, held on September 20 in the beautiful Leonard Room at UNR’s Knowledge Center. There was a terrific audience, much bigger than we would have ever expected, and Bergon’s presentation inspired us all in different ways.

After an introduction by Professor Zulaika and myself, Bergon talked us through his research for his novels, weaving in his own personal narrative. A native of Ely, Nevada, who then grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Bergon’s maternal grandparents were from Bizkaia, while his paternal ones from Bearn. He describes himself, above all, as a Westerner, although his work has explored the presence of Basques in the West.

His lecture was beautifully combined with photographs of his family and the many places he has traveled to for research and writing. Along the way, he spoke of the many Basque characters in his work, as well as the way he finds inspiration for future novels from past characters he has created. He is now working on non-fiction by describing “America’s True West. For Bergon, Western history and literature is not myth vs. reality: it is the complicated lives of people that go beyond stereotypes, from the Marlboro Man to the small rancher.

The audience was attentive to his talk, especially due to his gift of storytelling and charismatic nature. For me personally, having the chance to meet one of my literary heroes was an experience I will never forget. He inspired me to think about new angles and perspectives of the West, as well as helping me to reflect on the writing process. Eskerrik asko, Frank Bergon, and we truly thank you for your participation and warm spirit.

Monday Movies: “On the Line”

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the upcoming CBS publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. 

On the line (2008), by the Donostia-San Sebastian based director, Jon Garaño, is a mockumentary (satire documentary) about the volunteer border patrols that oversee the border between the United States and Mexico.

The short film mixes three formats: news program, documentary, and fiction. It relates the life of a volunteer border patrol, Adam, who guards the Mexican-American border in order to prevent the arrival of illegal immigrants. Towards the beginning of the short, his wife, Jane, is preparing breakfast while chatting with the filmmakers about her children. It’s a big white working-class family. The woman is proud of her volunteer husband, and as a good wife, she brings Adam’s lunch. She says goodbye to him with her baby in her arms. This ideal family model of American society is opposed to the immigrant woman Eugenia`s figure, who is trying desperately to cross the border in the desert, with a baby in her arms. Eugenia is a single mother and does not have the family structure that Jane has. When Adam arrives at the post, his colleagues tell him that a couple of Mexicans are crossing the borders, and there is no trace of the police. He takes his rifle and rushes to the place where Eugenia was spotted. Watch the rest of the short film, and we hope you enjoy it!

Director Jon Garaño said this about this short film:

The topic occurred to me when I lived in San Diego. This American city is close to Tijuana, on the border. Every day there was news about illegal immigration into the United States, and it occurred to me that I should shoot something about this issue. But On the Line could have been set in Ceuta. Some local realities transcend their environment, and can be perfectly understood beyond their borders. In fact, we live very similar realities in the world. Like us, or any country that receives immigrants, Americans must recognize the importance of immigrants, and I wanted to reflect on this in a very subtle way. It is for this reason that we ended the story with a shot of the American flag. I think that this shot has not been correctly interpreted. It was understood as a criticism. Possibly I erred in the form of expressing the message, but what I wanted to transmit is that those who cross the border are now part of the country.

Stay tuned on Mondays for more on the Kimuak series, and the upcoming book.

Post by our new Professor, Mariann Vaczi. Interview coming soon!

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