Category: Basques in Florida

Jai Alai Blues: A New Documentary Film

Check out this teaser for the new documentary film Jai Alai Blues (2015), directed by Gorka Bilbao for Berde Produkzioak and released by Atera Films, which traces the rise and fall of jai alai in Miami and beyond.

Jai Alai Blues official website here.

Read a review for the film by Neil Young for The Hollywood Reporter here. In Young’s words, “As a lively slice of offbeat, exotic social history — whose second half concentrates squarely on the game’s checkered history in the United States — it appeals beyond the usual sports-doc demographic and should be checked out by festivals and channels specializing in non-fiction fare.”

If you’re interested in this subject, see, too, Michael J. Mooney’s in-depth article “Whatever Happened to Jai Alai?

And the Center has also published a couple of books that may be of interest:

Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa. While more about the handball version of the sport than jai alai per se, this work does survey the different versions of pelota, as well as demonstrating just how intrinsic it is to Basque culture.

Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi. This multi-authored study offers a wide-ranging series of perspectives on numerous sports, pelota included.

 

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Cristina Saralegui

Born in Miramar, Cuba, in 1948, journalist, broadcaster, and entrepreneur Cristina Saralegui, whose family later moved to Miami, is the most famous talk-show host of all time on Spanish-language TV in the United States.

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Cristina Saralegui during her show at the Beacon Theatre, New York City, March 31, 1992. Photo by José Oquendo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Her own background, recounted in detail in her autobiography Cristina! My Life as  a Blonde, is a fascinating example of how preserving a Basque sense of identity was crucial to her family.  Her grandfather, Francisco Saralegui Arrizubieta from Lizartza, Gipuzkoa, originally went to the Americas at age seven with virtually nothing to his name. Eventually, he became the foremost entrepreneur in the paper industry in Cuba, earning the nickname “the Paper Czar.” With the money he earned, he was determined his own children should not forget their roots and besides a mansion in Miramar, outside Havana, he also set up home in Donostia-San Sebastián for his family. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, the family was left stranded in the Basque Country. Francisco, who was in Cuba at the time, could not return because he was a Basque nationalist, and he had to arrange for them to be smuggled out of the country.

Eventually, the family business in Cuba expanded to include broader publishing interests, and Cristina’s father, Bebo Saralegui, was also involved in running the firm. Following the Cuban Revolution, the family–made up of her mother, Terina Santamarina, as well as younger siblings Vicky, Patxi, and María Eugenia–relocated to Key Biscayne, Florida, where her youngest brother, Iñaki, would later be born. Cristina went on to study journalism at the University of Miami and enjoyed a successful career in print journalism, becoming editor of the Spanish-language version of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1979. In 1989 she launched El Show de Cristina (The Cristina Show) on the Univisión channel, which enjoyed an unprecedented run until its final broadcast in 2010.

She has won 12 Emmys and is also a successful entrepreneur, running both lifestyle brand Casa Cristina and media company Cristina Saralegui Enterprises. In August 2005, she was named one of the “25 Most Influential Hispanics in America” by Time Magazine and in October of the same year, she became the first Latina to be inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. She has received the Valor Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in recognition of her pioneering efforts in educating her viewers on gay and lesbian issues as well as AIDS awareness and education; the ADCOLOR Award’s All-Star Honoree celebrating outstanding achievements by diverse professionals in advertising, marketing, and media; as well as the Raúl Julía Award of Excellence by The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. Together with husband Marcos Ávila (a former member of the band the Miami Sound Machine) she also established the Arriba la Vida/Up with Life Foundation in 1996 to educate the Hispanic community in the US about AIDS prevention.

Cristina Saralegui has never hidden her Basque heritage. In her own words (from Cristina! My Life as  a Blonde), “if we Cubans are supernationalistic even though we have been a nation only since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Basques have had that characteristic for a thousand years. I am not a direct product of the tropics… My family is only second-generation Cuban. In fact, we are Basques on all four sides.” She continues: “To be Basque is to be argumentative, complex, unique … Theirs is a reverse society in which the men also cook, the women are stubborn and hard as stone, and everyone survives through obstinacy and pure tenacity.” And for her, Basques are “half savage, half saint–a truly wondrous people.”

Find out more about Cristina Saralegui here.

 

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Jauretsi Saizarbitoria

Born in 1971 in Miami, Jauretsi Saizarbitoria is a digital strategist and curator, writer, consultant, DJ, and filmmaker. Fleeing Franco’s Spain, her grandfather, Juanito Saizarbitoria, from Mutriku (Gipuzkoa), and his wife Carmen founded the Centro Vasco restaurant in Havana, Cuba, which, besides being a meeting place for other Basque exiles, also became a famous hot spot for visiting US celebrities in the 1950s (read about Jauretsi’s visit to the Centro Vasco in Havana here). When the business was nationalized following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the family moved to Miami and the Centro Vasco was re-established there in 1963, with Jauretsi’s parents, Juanito Jr. and Totty, ultimately taking over the business, which also attracted famous figures from the entertainment industry and beyond. Read about her family history in this great interview here.

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Jauretsi Saizarbitoria

Raised in the entertainment world of Miami, she later moved to New York where she worked for magazines like Paper, Details, and Jane, and, after a decade in the publishing industry, she directed her first feature, East of Havana (2006), a documentary about hip-hop music in Cuba. She now curates media for a wide range of digital clients. See her profile here.

Saizarbitoria is an ambassador for Oxfam America‘s “Sisters on the Planet Initiative,” which  brings together prominent women in the US who advocate support for US policy that responds to the needs of the most vulnerable, both at home and abroad. And she is also a board member for the WIE (Women, Inspiration, Enterprise) network, which seeks to connect women leaders and help them create valuable networks.

And in case you were wondering, yes, she is related to the famous Basque novelist, Ramon Saizarbitoria, Check out some pictures from a visit she made to the Basque Country here.

 

What’s in a Name? Some Basque Place Names in North America

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Cape Alava and Ozette Island. Photo by Kimon Berlin, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that the weternmost point of the contiguous 48 US states is called Cape Alava, and was named after a Basque, José Manuel de Alava, who was born in 1843 in Vitoria-Gasteiz? It’s in Clallam County, Washington, and forms the western terminus of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. It was named after Alava in 1794 for his role as commissioner during discussions leading to the Nootka Sound Conventions, agreements between Great Britain and Spain that averted a war between the two empires over overlapping claims to parts of the Pacific Northwest in the 1790s.

What’s more, Arizona may also be a Basque-derived name, according to the National Park Service’s page, as explained here at Buber’s Basque Page.

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Downtown Durango, CO. Photo by Sascha Bruck, via Wikimedia Commons

What appears less open to question is the Basque connection when it comes to the name Durango, whether in Colorado, Iowa, or Texas, even if it did come via a town of the same name in Mexico, since the Mexican town derives its name from Durango, Bizkaia. Nor is there any doubt as regards Port aux Basques, the oldest of the collection of towns that make up the present-day Channel-Port aux Basques in Newfoundland, Canada. Similarly, Key Biscayne, an island in Miami-Dade County, Florida, owes its name, reputedly, to the fact that a “Biscayan” (which at that time meant a Basque) had lived on the lower east coast of Florida for a while after being shipwrecked. What’s more, a seventeenth-century map shows the place name Cayo de Biscainhos, the probable origin of today’s Key Biscayne.

Other place names with some Basque connections include the following (in a by no means definitive list):

  • Anza, Riverside Co., CA (named after explorer Juan Bautista de Anza)
  • The Les Basques regional county municipality in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Quebec, Canada
  • Navarre, Santa Rosa Co., FL
  • St. Ignace, Mackinac Co., MI (after the Basque Saint Ignatius of Loiola/Loyola)
  • St. Xavier,  Big Horn Co., MT (after the Basque Saint Francis Xabier/Xavier)
  • Uvalde, TX (a corruption of Ugalde, the Basque last name of a Spanish governor at that time).

Moreover, the name of Bayonne, Hudson Co., NJ, seems to be connected to Bayonne (in Basque, Baiona) in Lapurdi, although there is some disagreement as to whether this is actually the case. And Jean Lafitte, in Jefferson Parish, LA, is named after a famous privateer who was possibly born in Biarritz, Lapurdi.

Do you know of any more Basque-related place names in North America?