Category: Basques in New York (page 2 of 2)

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.

 

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Norma Kamali

American Fashion’s Greta Garbo, Norma Kamali: Born Norma Arraez in New York City in 1945, in her own words, quoted in Kim Hastreiter’s article and interview here, “my mother was Lebanese and my father was Basque — fiery, crazy people — so I’m used to being around people who are intense and big.” But as Hastreiter also points out, Kamali is “a self-admitted hider,” someone who “has grown her brand without integrating the showbiz-PR-designer-as-celebrity aspect that many designers build into their lines these days in order to succeed.”

Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali

She graduated from Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 1964 and in 1968, together with her then husband, Mohammed (Eddie) Houssain Kamali, opened a basement boutique on Manhattan’s East side. Her designs were based mostly on the vintage look of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and some of her early customers included Diana Ross, Bianca Jagger, and Cher. Nowadays, she counts Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga among her clients.

Best known for her “sleeping bag” coat, garments made from silk parachutes, and versatile multi-use pieces, she also designed the iconic red one-piece bathing suit worn by Farrah Fawcett in a 1976 publicity shot for the TV show Charlie’s Angels (the poster of which sold over 12 million copies worldwide), an item which was ultimately donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2011. Kamali was also the first designer to create an online store on eBay, has won multiple awards, and received a plaque on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York City. Some of her work is, moreover, included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Check out the designs at her website here. And for short biography click here.

Flashback Friday: Safe and Sound

On November 6, 1941, Jose Antonio Jose Antonio Agirre Lekube (1904-1960), lehendakari or president of the Basque Country, arrived in Philadelphia and met his friends Manuel Maria Intxausti and Manuel de la Sota. On May 8, 1940, Agirre had departed from Paris (France) to Brussels (Belgium) along with his wife and children to visit relatives living there. Immediately after their arrival, the Agirre family was caught unaware when, on May 10, Adolf Hitler’s forces invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Thereafter, they struggled to escape from Europe to America. Eventually in August Agirre exiled safe and sound to Brazil. On November 4, after receiving a residence permit from the US Government, he arrived in Miami, before passing through Argentina. After his short visit in Philadelphia on November 6, Agirre went to New York and settled there, where he found a large Basque immigrant community. In the city of New York, then, he headed the reorganization of the Basque government-in-exile.

A short film documentary of 1942 about Jose Antonio Agirre and the Basque government-in-exile delegation in the city of New York:

Source: Basque Film Library.

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Portrait of Jose Antonio Agirre. Source: Jon Bilbao Basque Library, UNR

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Members of the Basque government-in-exile in New York. From left, Antonio de Irala, Telesforo Monzon, Santiago Aznar, Manuel de la Sota, Ramon Aldasoro, Jose Antonio Agirre, and Gonzalo Nardiz.


The remarkable story of Agirre’s escape from Europe is told in his own words in Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe.

On related topics, see Expelled from the Motherland: The Government of President Jose Antonio Agirre in Exile, 1937-1960, by Xabier Irujo; A Basque Patriot in New York: Jose Luis de la Lombana y Foncea and the Euskadi Delegation in the United States, by Iñaki Anasagasti and Josu Erkoreka; and War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

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