Category: basque diaspora (page 1 of 8)

Old European culture and language finds new home and thrives thousands of miles across the Atlantic: Does this sound familiar?

Do you know the name of a small stateless nation in Western Europe with a vibrant and distinct old culture and language (which predates later languages like English, French, and Spanish), has a flag composed of the colors red, white, and green, and from where people left in the nineteenth century to settle an inhospitable landscape in the Americas, while today their descendants celebrate their cultural heritage by maintaining many of the customs and the language of their forbears?  Got it? Yes… it’s Wales!

The flag of Wales. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We’ve posted before on the cultural and historical links between the Basque Country and Wales, and we think this is yet another great story that will resonate with people with Basque connections. In 1865, a group of Welsh people settled in Patagonia, Argentina, developing the inhospitable landscape to forge what is today Chubut Province. The capital of Chubut is Rawson (from the Welsh ‘Trerawson’) and other Welsh place names include Puerto Madryn (‘Porth Madryn’ in Welsh), Trelew, and Trevelin. Interestingly, these were all Welsh-speakers, and the settlement was a planned effort to try and establish a new Welsh-speaking community 7,000 miles away from home. Its founders were worried that, with the growing emphasis placed on English, the Welsh language would die out in Wales and thus embarked on this extraordinary journey. To this day, and despite many ups and downs, Welsh exists as a language of everyday use in this part of Argentina, in the area known as Y Wladfa (the Colony), and is strongest in the coastal towns of Gaiman and Trelew, and the Andean settlement of Trevelin. Today, estimates vary on there being anywhere between 5,000 and 12,000 native Welsh-speakers in this area, with a further 25,000 speaking it as their second language. After a number of years through the twentieth century when official Argentinian government policy sought to establish a Spanish-only society, in the last few decades Argentina has embraced what it sees as the general benefits of a multicultural and multilingual society. This has led to a flourishing of the Welsh language, with schools full of learners and newspapers like Y Drafod (established in 1891) and the newer Clecs Camwy (2011).

The flag of Puerto Madryn, representing the Welsh-Argentinian experience. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If you have a spare hour, check out this amazing documentary, in English, Welsh, and Spanish (with subtitles!), made by the BBC Cymru/Wales, about this community.

So what of the Basque connection? Well, apart from the obvious similarities in the immigrant experience as a whole, as we all know, Basques also settled in Argentina. There is a Basque community in Chubut as well, represented by the Centro Vasco Etorritakoengatk in Puerto Madryn and the Centro Vasco del Noreste del Chubut in Trelew. And we know that both the Welsh- and Basque-Argentinians have taken part together in many multicultural events.

While such stories may be somewhat anecdotal to the great “narrative” of the history we are taught more generally, footnotes at best within larger, supposedly more important stories, I do think they are valid examples of the triumph and endurance of the human spirit; of how we as groups cherish our cultures, our minority (and minoritized) languages, and the lengths we go to in order to maintain and extend our community ties via these cultures and languages. And there are many lessons to be learned here for Basque-Americans. Cautionary tales do abound, of course, such as that of the Scottish Gaelic-speaking community in Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, which numbered around 200,000 people in 1850–helping make Gaelic, in both its Scottish and Irish varieties (the latter found principally in Newfoundland) the third most spoken language in Canada after English and French at the time–but today stands at around 7,000. That said, the Government of Nova Scotia did establish an Office of Gaelic Affairs to support and promote the Gaelic language there and current efforts to revitalize the language include literature and even movies in Gaelic.  Check out the following short documentary movie about the Gaels (Gaelic-speakers) in this regard:

If you’re interested in this topic, you may like our multi-authored work, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio. This work addresses the themes of language rights and language protection, and how minority languages contribute to enriching the lives of all those around them (something that is explicitly made clear toward the end of the BBC Cymru/Wales documentary).

 

“Basques in Cuba” : William A. Douglass to lecture at the CBS

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 22, from 12:30-1:30, Professor Emeritus William A. Douglass will give a lecture on “Basques in Cuba” at the Center for Basque Studies. He will inaugurate the Spring 2017 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series the Center organizes, presenting on a topic explored in Basques in Cuba, a collection of articles edited by Professor Douglass and published after the eleventh international ‘Euskal Herria Mugaz Gaindi” Congress held in Havana, Cuba in 2015. Here’s a brief description of the volume:

Taking as their inspiration and cue Jon Bilbao’s book Vascos en Cuba, 1492–1511, the authors of this book, a collection of international academics, take up the subject of the involvement of the Basque people in Cuba from a variety of viewpoints and analytical and theoretical perspectives. The Basque Country has had a long and varied relationship with Cuba, its people, and its history. The chapters in this volume trace that connection based on diverse topics and viewpoints: the representations of Basques in classic Cuban poetry and Cuba as a topic in the nineteenth-century Basque novel; the involvement of Basques in the African slave trade, the role of the Tree in Gernika in Cuba’s Templete monument, the service of Basque parliamentarians and soldiers in Spain’s former colony, and the politics of Basque priests on the island are all treated, as well as much more. There are also chapters that consider the involvement of Basques regionally, in places such as Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, Vueltabajo, and Havana. Edited by renowned Basque scholar William A. Douglass, this volume provides an important contribution in reclaiming a mostly neglected history. (from the back cover)

Be sure to attend if you happen to find yourself in Reno, and stay tuned for the seminar series schedule, you won’t want to miss out!

Basques abroad

It is hard to believe I am finally here in the Basque Country.  I’m tempted to say that I’ve waited a long time to get here to Euskalherria to start my fieldwork, but that wouldn’t be a completely accurate statement.  I could even say with some certainty that this year’s work and life in the Basque Country will represent both a reduction and culmination of my life’s interests and experiences, however, that would be limiting to the extensions of those same interests which lead me here:  languages, culture, wine, travel, food, diversity, and making connections with people around the world.  So, before sharing the amazing experiences I’ve already had while studying here, I would like to highlight those which were had before my arrival to the Basque Country this January.

Knowing I would be conducting fieldwork here for a whole year, I wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity to travel to South America with my father.  In 2014, I spent an amazing time learning about the production and wine-making process in Casablanca, Chile.  With so much Basque heritage there, I was delighted to discover that the Basque diaspora still held its roots firmly planted in this South American country.  Finding the popular Basque wine called Chacoli was an adventure I won’t forget (see previous blog to read more about Chacoli in South America), discovering the ways in which a culture can change and be maintained across the globe.  But before returning to Chile, my dad and I checked out some Basque culture in Argentina.

I had come to know of a Basque restaurant from a man who had wandered into the Center for Basque Studies  before my departure.  He told me about his family and how one of them had started a restaurant in Buenos Aires.  I mentioned I’d be heading there soon, so he gave me the information to find Leiketio.  The food and drink which combined aspects of both Basque and Latin American cuisine were amazing. However, the most satisfying part of the meal was being able to use the little Basque I had acquired from the previous summer to speak to a server who had recently moved from the Basque Country.

My second encounter with Basque culture in South America happened after my dad had returned to the US, and I had moved on for my second visit to Chile.  I was in the beautiful, historic town of Valparaiso, listening to music and enjoying the warmer weather when a couple had passed me speaking Basque.  I started talking to them and found out they were the band Niña Coyote and Chico Tornado (and very well known I might add in the Basque Country! See below for a clip of their music).  Also turns out the family of one of the members lived on the same street that I currently live now here in Euskalherria!

Just goes to show that si, el mundo es un pañuelo! Hau bai mundu txikia! It’s a small world!

I hope to keep making these cross-cultural connections over the next year here.  Stay tuned for more adventures in fieldwork from here in Euskalherria!

 

Elko publication sheds light on Basques’ contributions

The Elko Daily Free Press is celebrating the city’s centennial in its series Elko 100, “The people who helped make Elko what it is today”, written by Toni R. Milano.  It goes without saying that a few Basques are on that list. Here’s a recap with links to all of the articles:

Stockmen’s in Elko

First off, we have the stories of Dan Bilbao Sr. and Jr., of Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino.  Daniel Bilbao Sr. was born in 1902 in Errigoiti (Bizkaia). He immigrated in 1914 to Mountain Home and then to Boise, where he owned a restaurant on 1916 N. 9th St.  By 1952, he bought Stockmen’s with two partners, and eventually bought them out. His son took over in 1974. To learn more, check out the article on them.

Anacabe Family

Elko’s General Merchandise

Next up is the Anacabe family, owners of Elko’s General Merchandise, the go-to place for Basque sheepherders in Elko. Joe Anacabe was born in 1883 in Berriatua (Bizkaia) and immigrated to the United States in 1901. He spent time in Idaho and Northern Nevada as a sheepherder before opening his first store in 1924. He had a son, Frank, with his first wife Fabiana Guenaga (born in Ondarroa). They briefly moved back to Bizkaia, but then returned to the States, spending some time in Berkeley. General Merchandise was opened in 1936, the place to shop in those days. He was widowed in 1952, but remarried to Margarita Olabe, also from Bizkaia. They had a daughter, Anita, who still runs the store. The Anacabe family must have so many stories to tell! Check them out here.

Alice Goicoechea

Alice Goicoechea was born in 1926 on the Diamond A Ranch, to parents Benito and Daniela Larios. She moved to Elko to work for her aunt and uncle at the Star Hotel, and later met Elias Goicoechea, whom she married and had 4 children. She was quite involved in the community and an inspiration to many. To learn more, visit the article on her life.

The Star Hotel

Anyone who’s been to Elko has probably eaten or had a picon punch at the Star Hotel. Pedro Jauregui Gomeza was born in 1880 in Muxika (Bizkaia). At age 18, he immigrated to California, working as a sheepherder. By 1908, he was in Elko and in 1910 he opened the Star Hotel, with his wife Matilde Eizaguirre, who had worked with him at the Telescope Hotel. They had many businesses together, selling and re-purchasing the Star throughout their career. Check out their impact on Elko here.

Jesús “Jess” Lopategui

Jess Lopategi Laucirica was born in Muxika (Bizkaia) in 1938, and arrived in Elko in 1957 and worked as a sheepherder. He married Denise Arregui in 1967 and worked at his in-law’s blacksmith shop. He was and is very involved in the Basque community in Elko, including starting its club and broadcasting a radio show in Euskera. Check out his ELKO 100 post here, and to learn more about him, listen to his interview for Ondare Bizia.

Ramon Zugazaga (Image from the documentary Amerikanuak)

Ramon Zugazaga, born in Gernika (Bizkaia) in 1946, started out as a sheepherder and even worked for Elias Goicoechea at the Holland Ranch (See post above on Alice Goicoechea). However, his heart was in the restaurant business so he opened the Biltoki in 1983. His other love is soccer, and he coached the Elko Indar Futbol Club for years. Although he’s retired now, he is actively involved in the Basque community in Elko. Read more here, and check out his interview for Ondare Bizia.

Barbara Errecart

Last, but not least, we have Barbara Errecart. Born in Utah, her family moved to Elko when she was quite young. In 1958 she married Jack Errecart, a Basque immigrant from Donibane Garazi (Nafarroa Beherea). After working as a sheepherder for some years, he bought the Silver Dollar Bar and then opened the Clifton Bar and Hotel, where the couple both worked. Barbara Errecart embraced Basque culture and even took up Basque dancing. Learn more in her article.

To learn more about Basques in the United States, be sure to check out the three volume Basques in the United States. Who knows, you may find your own family in there!

Montevideo’s Euskara Eguna: An overview of the celebrations

As you may have read in our post on the Day of the Basque Language, celebrations were held around the world. Our professor Xabier Irujo took part in the festivities that took place in Montevideo, Uruguay, so we’ve decided to share the jam-packed schedule of events. The way the Basque community in Uruguay was able to organize and observe the event sets a high bar for us all!

The Euskara Eguna (Day of the Basque Language) celebrations organized by the Euskal Erria Society of Montevideo began with the re-inauguration on December 2, 2016, of the Plaza Jesús de Galíndez. Attendees, including Agurtzane Aguado, president of the Society, unveiled a plaque in honor of Galíndez, an exiled Basque nationalist, who was a victim of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and was assassinated in 1956.

On the 3rd, an act commemorating the bombing of Gernika took place in the city’s Plaza Gernika. A lecture was given by Dr. Xabier Irujo, director of the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, while the txistulari Aitor Ormaetxe from Mar de Plata and the dantzari Martin Mendiola also performed. The event was closed with a concert by the Voces de la Plaza de Montevideo choir.

 

That evening, a meeting of three Basque-American publishers, Euskal Erria of Montevideo, Ekin of Buenos Aires, and the CBS Press in Reno was held at the headquarters of the Euskal Erria Society. There were book presentations of the many publications that came out in 2016. Dr. Irujo presented the ten titles that the CBS Press had published last year, including Basques in Cuba edited by William Douglass, which is a tribute to the book that Jon Bilbao published with Ekin in 1958. With the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the CBS Press also published a bilingual edition of Macbeth, which was translated for the first time into Basque by Bingen Ametzaga in 1942, although this translation had remained unpublished until now. Ekin of Buenos Aires published four books in 2016: La Odisea de Xabiertxo by Koldo Ordozgoiti, Historia de Radio Euskadi by Leyre Arrieta, Contraviaje by Arantzazu Ametzaga, and Diasporako Bertsoak by Asier Barandiaran. These four authors offered a presentation of their works the same day, December 3, at the Durango Book Fair in the Basque Country. The Euskal Erria publishing house produced three works in 2016: William MacAlevey’s The Rise of Legal Professions in Bilbao, José Luis de la Lombana by Iñaki Anasagasti and Josu Erkoreka, and, lastly, Ecos Vascos del Uruguay, a selection of Basque-Uruguayan inspired poems by the former Minister of the Interior and Defense of Uruguay, Raul Iturria.

There were hundreds of attendees who enjoyed a traditional roast (asado con cuero) and a recitation of poems from Iturria’s anthology of poetry.

 

 

 On Monday, December 5, during the afternoon,  Dr. Irujo gave another lecture at the CLAEH University’s headquarters, during which he spoke about the episodes of genocide that struck Basque soil between 1936 and 1945.

The celebrations culminated at the Parliament’s House of Representatives with an homage to the reception on October 8, 1941 that said House made to the Lehendakari Jose Antonio Agirre. The Deputy of the Partido Nacional, Pablo Iturralde, promoter of the tribute, spoke first, referring to the speech that the lehendakari offered before the House of Representatives. He ended by saying: “Today we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the episode that for both Agirre and the Uruguayan Basque community was so significant and moving, because in our country and especially in this House, the national representatives of that moment had the courage to contradict the powerful voice of international fascism that slandered the Basque people with impunity, even accusing them of the genocide in the town of Gernika that they themselves had bombarded with unknown brutality. That is why the descendants of those immigrants today have appealed to us so that, making use of the representation that Uruguayan citizens have conferred upon us, we pay homage to those men who in such dignified fashion came before us.”

 

After Deputy Iturralde’s speech, the president of the Basque Parliament Bakartxo Tejería’s message was viewed on screen, which made reference to the message that Lehendakari Agirre made to the Uruguayan Parliament. Afterward, the Deputy of the Frente Amplio Party Jorge Pozzi, who is of Basque descent, spoke about his spiritual connection to the Basque world and culture. He was followed by Germán Cardoso of the Partido Colorado, Daniel Radio of the Partido Independiente, José Luis Hernández of the Movimiento de Participación Popular (Frente Amplio), and, finally, José Arocena of the Partido Nacional. All of them referred to the noble and hardworking spirit of the Basques and the contribution that these people had made to the culture and history of the country, as well as to the desire for the independence of the Basque people. The MPP representative made public his support for the struggle for recognition of the Basque nation’s right to self-determination.

At the end of the session, which turned out to be very emotional and warm-spirited, the attendees went to the Acuña Figueroa of the legislative palace where the representative of the Euskal Erria publishing house, Mr. Alberto Irigoyen, and the President of the Parliament, Gerardo Amarilla, intervened. A facsimile of Lehendakari Agirre’s diary was given to the latter, as well as a copy of the history of the Euskal Erria Society and a history book on the Basque government-in-exile. The president of the Euskal Erria Society, Agurtzane Aguado, said that there are many Uruguayan figures who have referred to the contribution of the Basques to Uruguay, and recalled the words that Dr. Alberto Guani, President of the Supreme Court of Uruguay in 1941, said of the honor given by that institution to the Lehendakari Agirre: “For the first time in the history of the High Court of Uruguay, a meeting of this nature has been held in honor of a politician; And this has been so because when humanity fights a decisive battle between freedom and slavery, perversion and honesty, justice cannot remain blind to the drama and has the duty to put the sword that it carries as a symbol for the service of human dignity, represented by men like Mr. Agirre, defeated in the first part of the battle in which the forces of good triumphed.” Dr. Irujo closed the act by referring to the deep gratitude of all exiled Basques and immigrants to the American nations that provided asylum to these people when they suffered persecution and oppression in a war-torn Europe. Finally, the choir Voices of the Plaza concluded by singing “Agur Jaunak.”

 

500 Posts! What a pleasure to reach this milestone of sharing!

Yesterday witnessed the 500th post on the Center’s blog! And we think it entirely appropriate that we mark the occasion with a post looking toward the future of Basque Studies, with a roundup of what our young scholars here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies have been doing and hope to do in the future. Particularly exciting for us is the eclectic nature of our graduate students, who hail from all over the world. With such talented and committed young people, Basque Studies has a bright future!

Just like reaching the summit at Anboto, our CBS blog has reached a milestone, but we will continue to climb beyond

In honor of our milestone, today we are looking back, first at the posts that have most engaged you, our readers, over the past couple of years:

 

1. Our most read post, by a fairly long way, is the tragic case of Basque sheepherder Txomin Malasechevarria. This is a cautionary tale about just how hard it was for some people to cope with the extreme solitude of life in the mountains, the psychological effects of this loneliness, and the devastating effects this could have on not just their own lives but also those around them. There are no “winners” in this immigrant story. Check out the post here.

 

2. Next, we have a happier tale that celebrates the key role played by women in maintaining the foundations of Basque communities, through their work in Basque boardinghouses, part of the Basque immigrant experience in the United States.  Check out the post here.

 

3. Then we come to what was, for us at the time, a bit of a surprise, pleasant though it was! It’s a post reporting where the Basque Country ranks in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) league tables. The HDI is a United Nations statistical rating based on life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators that are used to measure human development. In short, it’s a means of measuring the health of a nation. Check out the post here.

 

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4.Coming in at number four is a post that continues to rise steadily in the rankings. It’s our post on the classic Basque song “Txoria txori” (The bird is a bird), a pivotal work in the Basque songbook that touches on quintessential themes in Basque culture, sung by folk, rock, and pop singers alike as well as sports fans and even reworked into an orchestral piece. Check out the post here.

5. Last in our top 5 is a post on the remarkable life and work of Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the woman sheepherder who was winning races, age 92, at the Third Age Olympics and died a centenarian. Check out the post here.

And then, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our personal favorites over the years!

  • One of our favorite pieces of writing was this “post within a post,” if you will, dated June 8, 2015, a review of one our most cherished books, My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, which in its focus on the introduction to the work goes beyond mere review to actually engage with and write about the landscape that serves as the backdrop to the book. Check out the post here.
  • Who doesn’t like chocolate? We certainly do! And we like it so much, we wrote a post about it! Check out our rambling thoughts on Basque chocolate, culture, and history in this post, dating from November 2, 2015.

  • One of our most transcendent posts, dated February 12, 2016, concerns what came to be known as the infamous 1911 “Last Massacre” in Western Folklore. This was a major incident in the history of the American West in which Basques featured prominently and serves as proof, if needed, of how the Basque immigrant experience is an essential part of the fabric of this history. Check out the post here.

  • In another post that takes landscape as its primary focus, dated February 24, 2016, we explore how another Basque Country was “imagined” thousands of miles away from home in the remote Nevada mountains. For a great piece of original writing on the Basque experience in the American West check out the post here.

  • We’re especially proud at the Center to try whenever possible to emphasize the role of women in Basque culture and history. This post from March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, served as a roundup of some of the many posts we had published in this regard.  Keep checking in with the blog because this year we will be doing special posts throughout the month of March to celebrate women’s history month.

  • A relatively recent post, dated December 12, 2016, and one that is dear to our hearts emerged out of a reader’s inquiry about native Basque sheep and pig breeds. It got us thinking so much that we wrote a post about it. Check it out here.

Thanks so much for reading and here’s to another 500 and more. It is all because of you, dear readers, so eskerrik asko once again for engaging with us and for sharing our love of Basqueness!

December 21, 1946: First broadcast by Radio Euzkadi, the voice of the Basque Underground

radio-euzkadi-f

Established by the Basque government-in-exile and conceived as a means of resistance against the Franco regime, on December 21, 1946, Radio Euzkadi, “the voice of the Basque Underground,” broadcast its first words from Mugerre (Lapurdi). On February 24, 1947, it began broadcasting its first full programs as a means to expose the Franco regime. It lasted eight years, during this initial phase, at its headquarters in Donibane Lohitzune, Iparralde, before pressure from the Franco government–gradually being accepted by the Western powers within the new Cold War context–on its French counterpart forced the closure of the radio station in 1954 by the French authorities. A new incarnation of Radio Euzkadi was created in Venezuela in 1965, which broadcast until 1977.  Click here to listen to the Radio Euzkadi station ID, in Basque, Spanish, and English, recorded in 1969.

Further Reading

Don Jensen, “The Mysterious Radio Euzkadi.”

Xabier Irujo, Expelled from the Motherland.

Some Basque-American traditions during the Holiday Season

With the holiday season here, most of you out there will know that this is a time typically embraced by Basque-Americans to have a good old time, Basque-style, with plenty of eating, drinking, dancing, and general bonhomie. One only need check out Astero to get a flavor of all the events going on during the holiday season, but it’s worth recalling that all these Christmas parties, the lunches and dinners, as well as the New Year’s celebrations, are rooted in a long tradition stretching back many years. This custom–which in academic terms we could say was based on a drive to cement community and cultural ties, to keep those bonds strong, and maintain and pass on traditions, often in the face of adverse wider social conditions–has in recent years changed significantly, but I think it’s interesting to consider how and why these gatherings came about.

bsqaph0001-90-409

For those that could, Christmas was one of the few opportunities for Basque-Americans to let their hair down a little. Picture from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

As Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao point out in Amerikanuak (p. 386), such events were in former times typically less public than they are today. In their words, as regards the winter events (p. 388):

These Basque get-togethers all shared the characteristic of being closed ethnic affairs. With the exception of the Boise Sheepherders’ Ball, they were unheralded, inconspicuous events on the local social calendar. They were often held at some distance from the local population centers. None of this is surprising when we consider that the dates coincide with the periods of tension between the Basques and their neighbors … In such a climate, the Basques were not prone to display their ethnic identity publicly. If the Basque hotel and the private picnic or dance served as an ethnic refuge, where the immigrant could enjoy Basque cuisine, conversation, and company, he attempted in his dealings with the wider society to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Even the origins of the famed Sheepherders’ Ball, perhaps the most famous of all Basque winter social events, recall an altercation between different Basque insurance groups in the late 1920s. As John and Mark Bieter note in An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho (p. 100):

Both organizations scheduled Christmas dances for herders in town on the same night. The influential sheepman John Archabal mediated the controversy and convinced the two sides to organize one dance with a lamb auction for charity. Both parties agreed, and the annual Sheepherders’ Ball became a mainstay in Boise and, later, in other southern Idaho towns.

The Sheepherders’ Ball became known as an “apron and overalls” dance, because admission required sheepherder garb or traditional Basque costumes. Sometimes a stand was set up near the door, where any partygoers who arrived inappropriately dressed could buy jeans on the spot. Although it was reserved for Basques and their guests, the Sheepherders’ Ball attracted the attention of the general public. On December 19, 1936, the Boise Capitol News wrote: “Black-eyed sons and daughters of the Pyrenees danced their beloved ‘jota’ with snapping fingers and nimble feet Friday evening at the annual Sheepherders’ Ball held at Danceland, to the music of Benito Arrego’s accordion and pandareen.”

Nowadays, these holiday season get-togethers are more open affairs, with everyone welcome, as noted in our recent post on the Basque Ladies’ Lagunak Christmas Luncheon in Reno. But it’s good to see that this great tradition of holiday season lunches, dinners, and dances continues to bind the Basque-American community together.

Besides these events, there is also a tradition of Basque-American participation in Christmas parades, as Nancy Zubiri writes in her invaluable book, A Travel Guide to Basque America:

On Christmas Eve for several years local Basque Children traveled down the usually snow-lined main street of Gardnerville in  hay-wagons, displaying the Nativity scene, signing gabon kantak (Christmas carols) and playing instruments–an Old Country tradition. Their procession would end at the Overland, where they received gifts and [Elvira] Cenoz served them the traditional hot chocolate. But the custom ended when the number of children dwindled.

Nowadays, the Garnerville Basque Club, Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, usually takes part in the town’s annual festive Parade of Lights.

Christmas was also an occasion for family gatherings of course, as the stories collected in Portraits of Basques in the New World, edited by Richard W. Etulain and Jeronima Echeverria, testify to. For example, Ysidra Juanita “Jay” Arriola Uberuaga Hormaechea, born in Boise in 1908, recalled the holiday season of her youth (pp. 194-95):

We never knew what Christmas was until I was grown up, went to work, and earned some money. I brought in a fresh Christmas tree to our home at 310 Grove, in Boise. It was the first tree that our family ever had. Christmas day for us people was shared big suppers, dancing, and enjoying ourselves, in that way … Maybe, a little package for the kids. That was it … That’s the way it was when I was a girl.

Similarly, and in the Old Country tradition, Marjorie Archabal remembered (p. 91) Christmas Eve meals at which some thirty people gathered, women on one side of the table, men on the other, with the Archabal family patriarch and matriarch at the head. These meals took days to prepare, with the menu consisting of tongue, tripe, and codfish, among many other dishes. Meanwhile, growing up in a Basque home in northeastern Montana in the 1940s and 1950s, Rene Tihista recalled a blend of Basque and American traditions, with turkey making appearance at the family table (p. 121):

When I was a kid all the holiday gatherings with my uncles and cousins were held at our place. Mom raised a huge turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Dad played the accordion and violin and sang Basque songs. Of course wine flowed freely during our get-togethers. I would sit on dad’s knee and sing “Uso Zuria,” a song he taught me about a white dove that travels to Spain. It was the only Basque song I knew, but it must have been a hit because the grown-ups made me sing it over and over.

And no doubt many of you out there, if you are part of a Basque-American family, will be enjoying similar kinds of celebrations this holiday season.

If you do have any stories you’d like to share with us about your own Basque-style holiday celebrations, we’d be pleased to hear from you!

 

 

 

Basque Ladies’ Lagunak Christmas Luncheon

 

This past Saturday, December 10, Basque ladies from around Nevada met at Louis’ Basque Corner in Reno for an afternoon of food, drinks, and catching up. Organized by Florence Larraneta Frye, the dining room was packed with women of all ages. As with any Basque gathering, the food was plentiful and the chatter brought the place to life.

This Christmas tradition started years ago as a way to foster the Basque spirit among women. As Frye put it “in the meetings, these women are in their element. No one is shy, we have name tags with American and Basque names, and everything explodes.” These events are open to all: “If you feel Basque, if you want to be Basque, you are Basque,” expressed Florence. That was definitely the feeling on Saturday.

After the delicious food, there were plenty of gifts to purchase for holiday shopping, including beautifully ornamented, antique spoons crafted by Judy and Abel Mendeguia. Lisa Corcostegui exhibited some of her photographs taken in the Basque Country. Ahizpak Basque Design jewelry, made by Maite and Izar Iribarren-Gorrindo, was also available. Finally, the word was spread about the Center for Basque Studies books, which really do make wonderful gifts for your favorite euskalduna.

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Having attended the event myself, I found it to be a great way to meet people in a lively environment. Everyone welcomed me and made me feel right at home. I look forward to the event next year!

Check out this Euskal Kultura article for more information about the event: http://www.euskalkultura.com/english/news/basque-ladies-take-over-a-group-of-women-coming-from-different-cities-and-states-started-gathering-in-reno-nevada

 

 

Prestigious award for great friend of the Center

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As part of the ongoing celebrations held in conjunction with the unique experience that is the annual Durangoko Azoka, the Basque Book and Record Fair held in Durango, Bizkaia, the  prestigious Argizaiola Award is presented to people who, in the bleakest of moments, have managed to bring light and warmth to Basque culture; to keep the culture going, in other words, when the chips are down. In 2013, for example, our very own Bill Douglass received the award.

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Five of the recipients of the 2016 Argizaiola Award, L to R: jaime Albillos Arnaiz, Kepa Mendia Landa, Carmen Belaza, Jose Ramon Zengotitabengoa, and Justo Alberdi Artetxe. Image taken from the Durangoko Azoka website.

This year, the award has been given to six people to represent the hundreds of individuals who have over the years carried out inurri-lana (literally “ant work”) in favor of Basque culture. In sum, this is public recognition for the often overlooked tireless efforts, long hours, and great personal investment of so many people to keep Basque culture alive and thriving. The six individuals were chosen to represent specific geographical areas – five in the Basque Country itself: Kepa Mendia Landa (Araba),  Justo Alberdi Artetxe (Bizkaia), Jaime Albillos Arnaiz (Gipuzkoa), Patxika Erramuzpe (Iparralde), and Carmen Belaza (Nafarroa); and one to represent the Basque Diaspora: our great friend Jose Ramon Zengotitabengoa, whose son Sam now represents the family on the Center’s Advisory Board.

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Examples of an argizaiola, or “board of wax,” a kind of coiled ornamental candle. In many traditional cultures,  any light-giving source, anything to keep darkness at bay, holds a special place in the human imagination. Photo by Juan San Martin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jose Ramon, a Bizkaian born in Zaldibar in 1938 and raised in the  Durango district, has certainly had an eventful life involving much traveling. At age fifteen he left home to pursue his studies. He went to university in Liège, Belgium, for five years before moving to England, where he lived and worked for nine years, followed by a two-year stay in Germany. Eventually, he moved to the United States, where he enjoyed a successful thirty-five-year business career in Chicago as well as raising a family before retirement. Through his and others’ efforts, the Society for Basque Studies in America was established, which served as a catalyst for numerous academic initiatives to promote and study Basque culture in the US. He also played a prominent role in establishing Nestor Basterretxea’s Basque Sheepherders’ Monument in Reno and served on the Center’s advisory board for many years.

Zorionak, Jose Ramon, and all the other “ants” who have done so much for Basque culture over the years!

 

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