Just before the Thanksgiving weekend on November 20th, Academic Minute featured a series of pieces about various drinks, to include beer and caffeinated beverages. Among the academics featured, Kerri Lesh presented on Txakolina–“a hard to define wine.”
As a cultural and linguistic anthropologist and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Kerri’s research examines the use of the Basque language, Euskara, in the creation of value for marketing local gastronomic products. Her dissertation, divided into chapters on various Basque beverages, analyzes how each product distinctly functions in various markets when using Euskara to promote it. One of her chapters looks at the various ways in which the traditional Basque wine, txakolina, is advertised and commodified to create value for the product as well as the Basque language.
Her piece that is featured can be found here on Academic Minute and on NPR’s podcast, discusses the uniqueness of this locally produced Basque wine, and the uncharacteristic ways in how it is defined. Aside from her love of food and wine, the aim for Kerri’s dissertation is to demonstrate ways in which value is created for the Basque language in contribution to language normalization.
Kerri plans to defend her dissertation this upcoming May, and to teach a course during the first session of summer titled “Consuming Identities: Food and Drink as Cultural Heritage.”
This month, the CBS and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library represented Basque culture at the 2018 Night of All Nations at the University of Nevada, Reno. Night of All Nations, organized by the International Club, provides the opportunity for students and visitors to learn about over 30 different cultures and people from around the world.
Volunteers from the CBS and Basque Library enjoyed a fun night educating guests about the Basque Country and Basque culture, while learning about the other cultures represented at the event. The most common questions we received were concerned about the geopolitical situation of the Basque Country and about Euskara. Towards the end of the event, pintxos were provided to give guests a taste of authentic Basque cuisine.
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!
On November 4, 1979, the Euskal Herrian Euskaraz (Basque in the Basque Country, EHE) association was launched in Durango, Bizkaia under the slogan “Euskararik gabe, Euskal Herririk ez” (Without Basque there is no Basque Country). It is an association that defends the right to live in Basque in the Basque Country. Today, its principal goal is to achieve a Basque-speaking Basque Country made up of polyglot or multilingual people.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Today, the association focuses its concerns on certain areas: the right to learn and study in Basque throughout the educational systems of the whole Basque Country, the right to use Basque and be dealt with in the language in all official situations (including, for example, healthcare, legal contexts, and any circumstances involving the public administration), the right to receive information via the media in Basque, the more general demand for linguistic normalization (comprising much of the aforementioned goals), and challenging what it interprets as any assaults on the linguistic rights of Basque speakers.
EHE symbol on a Basque-Spanish bilingual board, deleting text in Spanish (Zaldibia, Gipuzkoa). Photo by Josu Goñi Etxabe. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
From the outset, and to this day, the EHE association emphasized its activist nature. That is to say, it is an association that is nonaligned to any political party but advocates peaceful social protest to raise awareness about the minoritized status of Basque as well as in pursuit of basic goal of demanding a Basque-speaking Basque Country. This is considered controversial in some quarters, especially as the association challenges many official administrative goals of bilingualism in the Basque Country, asserting that such goals–in the context of a minoritized language–actually result in a situation of diglossia, in which an “H” or “high” language continues to occupy a dominant position over an “L” or “low” language.
Language is a key theme for many of the Center’s publications. See, for example, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio (free to download here) and The Challenges of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.
Ardi Baltza Kontalari
The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies invites you to Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika on November 2, 2018 at 7 p.m. in the UNR Wells Fargo Auditorium (MIKC 124). In this performance by the Lamoille, NV based Basque dancing group, Ardi Baltza Kontalari, the eyewitness accounts of the survivors of the tragic Nazi bombings on Gernika in 1937 are presented and honored. Through their lyrical and contemporary dance styles, mixed with traditional Basque steps, the dancers demonstrate the strength and resilience of the Basque people in the face of adversity.
Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika at the 2018 NABO Convention
This performance will also feature a short introductory talk by Dr. Xabier Irujo, professor at the Center for Basque Studies and author of The Bombing of Gernika: A Short History, on the events leading up to the bombing. Free admission.
To learn more about the Ardi Baltza Kontalari, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ardibaltza/
For information on Dr. Irujo’s book, a companion to this performance, visit: https://basquebooks.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-bombing-of-gernika-a-short-history
On October 3, 1994, the Basque TV series Goenkale premiered. It would go on to run for 3,708 episodes, finally coming to an end on December 28, 2015. It became the most watched show on the Basque-language channel ETB 1 and one of the most popular shows of all time for EITB, the Basque public broadcasting service.
Set in the fictional coastal town of Arralde, the soap opera followed the fortunes of the town’s inhabitants and several emblematic locales such as the Boga Boga bar, a popular local bakery, a video store, a gastronomic society, and the local police station, all centered around “Goenkale” or Upper Street, the principal street in Arralde.
It was originally scheduled to run for just three months, but its immediate success led to it being renewed. With episode number 3000 on July 5, 2010, it became officially the longest running TV series in Spanish broadcasting history to date, and the second longest-running show on European TV.
See a report on the show here.
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
Alan Griffin, an Irish musician, originally playing the flute and the tin whistle in traditional Irish fashion, did not think much of the alboka, the peculiar Basque, single-reed, woodwind instrument, when he first encountered it. Griffin said that it seemed like “a kind of circus trick”. Yet, three decades later, he became an influential part of the revitalization of the alboka and traditional Basque music.
Griffin started out playing at informal social gathering for Basque social dinners, and eventually met Txomin Artola while he was playing at a cider house with the music group Ganbara, which included the accordionist Joxan Goikoetxea and they began playing together in the group Folk Lore Sorta, which eventually evolved into the group Alboka along with Josean Martín Zarko.
Joxan Goikoetxea & Alan Griffin. Photo by: Ander Gillenea, uploaded by Aztarna via Wikimedia Commons
There is so much more to the story of how Griffin, along with his alboka and the group of Alboka helped the revitalization of traditional Basque music, to learn more about the story and Griffin’s thoughts on his musical career, click the following link: https://bit.ly/2pAqCe0.
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.
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.
Photos by Inaki Arrieta Baro