Category: Basques in the U.S. (page 1 of 14)

“Winnewhat?” “Winne-e-macca!” NABO 2018

 

“Winnewhat?”

Winn-e-macca

This is how I could summarize my first contact with natives of Winnemucca, Humboldt state in northern Nevada. I guess they forgave my deficient pronunciation thanks to the fact that we were in a relaxing setting, surrounded by Basque-Americans at the Ormaechea’s Basque Restaurant bar.

“You will improve that after a Picon, buddy!”

(By Iñigo Medina Gracia. Photo credit Benan Oregi)

Our main purpose was to attend as guests the 40thAnnual Basque Festival and the NABO Summer Convention (main meeting for the North American Basques Clubs) in Winnemucca on Saturday, 8th of June. This time, the club delegates came from all over the USA (states of California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and even Washington D.C. were represented). Assistants were called to follow the development of main programs ran by the federation chairs. They analyzed the organization’s developments over the past five months, designed and approved future projects, and voted for internal presidential elections. Philippe Acheritogaray from San Francisco’s BCC was elected as new NABO president. Incumbent president Annie Gavica from Boise Basque Museum became Vice-President. Mayi Petracek from Colorado was ratified as Treasurer, and our partner at the CBS Kate Camino from Reno became the new Secretary (Zorionak Kate!).

As guests, we had the chance to mention some of the projects we are running currently.

Basque librarian Iñaki Arrieta gave an introduction about the project carried out by the CBS and the Basque Library, which is located in the UNR. He underlined the work homed by this entity, and mentioned the Library’s vision of acquisitions as a memory and research portal institution focused on Basque Culture and Basque Diaspora. The mission of the Jon Bilbao’s Basque Library is the world’s leading academic library on Basque Diaspora primary focused in North America. Its duty as institution is to develop a collection of Basque resources, preserve the documentary heritage of the Basque Diaspora in the US, and serve as research portal in English to memory institutions. Inaki reported the importance of various current donations done by several individuals (Anita Anacabe, Cengotitabengoa Family or Linda Dufurrena), including the recent donation of Frank Bergon as an incentive for other Diaspora members who could contribute to enrich the Archives. A new digital management system with different repositories designed by the UNR was also presented.

Basque Government’s representative Benan Oregi, mentioned the recent programs they are offering within the Diaspora and also in the Basque Country. Presented projects were  ”Gaztemundu” program and “Euskal Herria: huge migration territory”. This last testing pilot project focused on bringing a current approach and wide scoop perspective about the historical importance of Basque Diaspora oriented to high school students in Euskal Herria. Summer courses ran by the Directorate for the Basque Community Abroad in Azkoitia during 12 and 13 of July, were also mentioned. The leitmotiv of the summer courses this time will be “Migration and Mobility within the Basque Community Abroad”. I was also presented in plenum as assistance and management interlocutor between the Basque Government and the North American Basque Clubs.

After 7pm, Ardi Beltza dancers from Ruby Mountain performed their “Etxea: Memoirs of Gernika”, an emotive representation about the bombing of Gernika during the Spanish Civil War. The performance featured the recently published “The Bombing of Gernika, A Short History”, written by Dr. Xabier Irujo and published by the CBS. The book narrates“the decision of the fascist forces to attack the open city, (…) the horror of the bombing, (…)  its aftermath,and (…) the terrible events that colored not only the modern history of the Basques, but of all of humanity as it ushered in a new age of warfare.”

After dinner, the Basque-American band “Amerikanuak” made the night enjoyable with their concert in the surrounding area of the Ormaechea’s Restaurant. Assistants had a good time and did not waste the chance to dance typical and popular Basque songs until midnight.

Next morning at 8am, the brave participants in the Festival ran (some of us just walked) the 5K run proposed by the organization. It was a nice chance to burn the delicious and generous dinner offered the night before at Ormaechea’s, one of the two Basque restaurants settled in Winnemucca. After that, everything was ready for the scheduled parade along the city. Assistants held a wake over to ensure themselves a strategic position in both sides of the West Winnemucca Blvd in order to guarantee the best chance for picking up the sweets that the parade participants were going to throw.

At 12am, the opening ceremonies took place at Nixon Lawn where the dancing performances started while the requests to participate in the Basque sporting events were open. Two bars with beverages and Txorizo sandwiches offered the assistants a nice way to season the combination of warm weather, friendly atmosphere and open Basque culture. The first floor of the East Center of Winnemucca’s Convention Center was fulfilled by several stands of vendors that mixed Basque thematic items and Western crafts. The visitors also had the opportunity to visit an historical exhibit about the Basque Country provided by the Boise Basque Museum, get involved into AISA Euskara courses and purchase the varied publications on Basque themes edited by CBS that our partner Daniel Montero was featuring there.

At 1.30pm, a typical Basque lunch was offered to all participants. The menu included salad, beans, lamb stew, bread, steak and dessert. The afternoon agenda was fulfilled with the Txerriki sausage show off and paella exhibition and sale at 5,30pm. After dining at the iconic Basque Martin Hotel, we topped it all with the dance at West Hall of the Convention Center. The bands Decoy, Amerikanuak and Ardi Beltza performed, and created a festive atmosphere until midnight.

Sunday morning held no pessimistic feelings but fraternity and holy joy at 9am during the Basque Catholic mass offered at the Winnemucca Convention Center. After the homily, participants gathered at the West Hall to have a marvelous Basque breakfast of tripota, jamon, chorizo, eggs, potatoes and bread. The Basque dance competition awards were announced, which marked the end of a marvelous festival in Winnemucca. Or should I say “Winn-e-macca”?

 

 

 

 

Boise State Conference 2018: Memory & Emotion.

 

Image result for boise state memory and emotion

Between March 15-18 some of us from the CBS attended the Conference organized at Boise State University by the Department of World Languages: the 1st International Cultural Studies Conference, organized by the professors Nere Lete and Larraitz Ariznabarreta. The Conference’s main theme was Memory and Emotion. Women Stories: Constructing Meaning from Memory.

                

Dr. Xabier Irujo and PhD Student Edurne Arostegi from the Center for Basque Studies

The Conference was divided into different panels and exhibitions. On Thursday, the main panels were “Autobiography as Abode,” “Bodies and Spaces of Violence” and the Exhibit “Gernika: Voices after the Bombs” that was exhibited in the Boise Basque Museum by Xabier Irujo, on loan from our very own Jon Bilbao Basque Library. Friday’s main panels were “(Basque) Diaspora and Beyond” and “Trauma and Liminal Spaces-Between Memory and Oblivion.” The weekend panel was “The Circle of Memory, Emotion, and Gender,” a panel that embraced two art exhibits such as “Step Into my Past: Life in a Basque Neighborhood” by the painter Frank Goitia, as well as Alejandra Regalado’s, “In Reference To” that was followed by a Community Panel Discussion. Later that evening, the participants celebrated the event with the Boise Basque community with dinner at the Basque Center. The last day March 18, the main panel was “History as Motif-Retelling Narratives.”.

     

Artists and Exhibits

Special issue of SIBA about sport, identity and nationalism with a Basque accent

The Journal of Iberian and Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies SIBA highlights, among other sporting cultures, Basque sport and politics in its latest special issue, edited by CBS professor Mariann Vaczi.

From Marxism to fascism across the ideological palette, sport has engaged politics and power in diverse ways. Nationalism, nation-building and identity construction through physical culture has become a prominent research subject for social science.  Sport studies have integrated and complemented the most significant theoretical currents and conceptual toolkits of mainstream sociology, history, political science and anthropology. This special issue deploys these approaches in an Iberian and Latin-American context. The authors examine sport, nationalism and sub-national identities; colonialism and post-colonialism; race-relations and indigenous politics; sport in authoritarian regimes, and the use of sport to break with European roots in quest of South American nationhood and identities. The concept of “sport” is understood here quite broadly: activities that have competitive dimensions and/or involve strenuous, ritualized, rule-driven or choreographed physical activity. Crossbreeding sporting elements with other realms of culture such as art and ritual, as with the bullfight; or cognition and logic, as with chess; or folklore, as with human tower building, only yield more exciting and exact conclusions about their social and political embeddedness.

For the entire open access issue, see http://www.studia-iberica-americana.com/data/100172/assets/Issues/Siba2017@1518966639283.pdf

Here’s a brief review of the contributions that have Basque relevance in national and sub-national political contexts.

A Panther Among Lions: Iñaki Williams, Race and Basque Identity at Athletic Club de Bilbao

By Mariel Aquino (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Basques are a heavily ethnicized people due to their ancient, obscure, and insular origins: in his 1950s BBC series “Orson Welles Around the World,” the American director presents them as “the Red Indians of Europe.”

Never, however, had Basqueness been conceived in terms of Blackness until the first prominent black soccer player was signed by Athletic Club de Bilbao.

Aquino explores the integration of Iñaki Williams in the club, and how it produced the symbolic, if not necessarily real, inclusion of African immigrant communities within Basque identity. The integration of non-white players in European national teams has gained considerable media attention for the past decade, “signaling as it does,” Aquino writes in her analysis, “the destabilization of normative white European identity.” The case of Iñaki Williams is a particular breakthrough in a club where, because of its Basque-only philosophy, the discussion of player pedigrees in Bilbao actively constructs the boundaries between Basques and non-Basques. Aquino revisits some of the special chapters of defining Basqueness through player recruitment. Each case reveals a particular idea of ethnic identity in terms of birthplace, upbringing, genealogy and national belonging have variously established ingroup and outgroup boundaries. In all its variations, however, Basque identity was white until Iñaki Williams, whose eruption in the field provoked several race related commentaries Spain and Basque Country-wide, arguing that it should be perfectly natural that Blackness and Basqueness go together. This aggressive “rhetoric of colorblindness,” however, Aquino remarks, was ultimately just as “othering:” it was precisely this loud defensiveness that revealed that Black Basqueness, instead of quotidian, remains a major breakthrough.

 

A Basque-American Deep Game: The Political Economy of Ethnicity and Jai-Alai in the USA

By Olatz González Abrisketa (University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU)

At the height of its game in the late 1980`s,  jai alai was a 700-million-dollar business a year, with 14 active frontons throughout the United States, which would routinely fill with gamblers and aficionados of the “world`s fastest sport.” González revisits the two golden ages of the Basque sport in the United States: the 1950s-60s, and the 1970s-80s. The author argues that these two eras were also a generation gap not only in terms of age, but the political culture jai alai players brought with them. Overwhelmingly from the Basque Country, sport migrants in the 70-80s responded very differently than previous generations to what the game had to offer in the United States. While the first generation of Basque players were relatively content with the socio-economic opportunities sport migration offered them, the author argues that the emergence of ETA, considered revolutionary, left wing and socialist back then, had an impact on how Basque players viewed their situation in US capitalist culture.

The emergent Basque political culture lent ethos and vocabulary to US based jai alai players: an ethos of resistance and struggle, the strategy of hordago or all or nothing, and deeply politicized resistance strategies like hunger strikes were borrowed from their original Basque context and deployed in  the  American one.

These resistance strategies had great success in players` struggle for greater job security and fair treatment.

Football and politics in Spain: An empirical analysis of the social base of the main football clubs

By Ramón Llopis-Goig (University of Valencia)

Complementing qualitative and historical research, Ramón Llopis-Goig offers a quantitative analysis of soccer fandom and political sentiments with regards to the four most politicized and symbolic teams in Spain: Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Athletic Club de Bilbao, and the Spanish national team. These teams have been major icons for Spanish, Catalonian and Basque identity construction throughout the twentieth century. Llopis-Goig explores the larger questions of regional nationalism, identity, and left vs. right political leanings through fans` self-identification, their following of the Spanish national soccer team, their preferences with regards to regional autonomy, and their left vs. right ideological orientation. According to this study based on representative sampling and a national survey, the fans of FC Barcelona are most left-leaning, and are most in favor of reforming the current state by increasing the autonomy of the region. This resonates with the larger social impetus of the current Catalonian sovereignty process.

The fans of the Basque Athletic Club de Bilbao have the strongest regional identification with their Basque heritage: fans identify as either only Basque or Basque and Spanish, but not exclusively Spanish.

The fans of Real Madrid are the most right-wing leaning, and most likely to define themselves as entirely or partly Spanish. Llopis-Goig`s research concludes that the symbolic import of these clubs remains important for political-ideological identifications, while radical, exclusive and homogenizing loyalties are not as prevalent as stereotypes would have us believe.

 

Pulling Up Stakes? Sport and Sub-National Solidarity for Catalonia`s Independence

By Mariann Vaczi (University of Nevada, Reno)

This contribution was inspired by an episode the author witnessed in Arrasate and Azpeitia in the Basque Country: Basques invited a Catalan human tower team, the Castellers de Barcelona, to build their breathtaking structures while Basque voted on a symbolic referendum about independence from Spain. This old traditional sport is an emergent symbol of Catalan nation building for the current sovereignty process, and the performance in the Basque Country expressed sub-national solidarity in Basque and Catalonian desires to vote about independence. The iconicity of tower building, and the sport`s ethos of cooperation express joint efforts in the pursuits of regional autonomy. The author takes the emblematic Catalan liberty song, Lluís Lach`s L`estaca (The Stake), which was performed at the event, as a metaphor for the agonic state-region relationships of Spain. During the Franco dictatorship, the stake was an image that tied people, and did not allow them to walk freely—a logic Basque and Catalan pro-independence actors argue they continue to feel. Pulling the stake from several sides, however, wears it out and eventually causes it to collapse.

Lluís Lach`s stake metaphor maps a particular political geography of Spain: the agonic relationship between the center (stake) and the periphery (pull away regions), as well as solidarity and united struggle among them. Sports have eminently contributed to this agonic relationship.

Vaczi examines how the two political peripheries have progressively conspired to “wear out” Spanish sovereignty through sport and physical culture, which are particularly apt to present these agonic interactions due to their physicality.

  

 

 

 

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! 😉

Asier Barandiaran: America in Basque Literature

What kinds of representations and discourses emerge in Basque literature about America and Basque Americans?

On December 7, Asier Barandiaran gave a talk at the CBS Seminar Series about the Basque diaspora in America through Basque literature. Asier has visited the Center for the fifth time in order to work and use the Basque library collection for his research purposes. Asier is Associate Professor at the Department of Education and Sport at the University of the Basque Country (EHU-UPV). He is also affiliated with the Department of Language and Literature and serves as vice president of the Basque Studies Society (Eusko Ikaskuntza).

Asier’s lecture departed from the presumption that literature does not only create texts but wider representations and discourses as well. What kinds of representations and discourses emerge in Basque literature about America, and Basque Americans? Asier made three distinctions in this regard: Basques traveling to the US, Basques living in the US, and Basque diaspora and identity maintenance in the diaspora. From improvisational poetry (bertsolaritza) to novels, a host of Basque authors have contributed to the creation of a particularly Basque imaginary in the American context: the sorrows of immigration and leaving one`s home; reminiscences about childhood and nature; the difficulties of settlement (including obtaining visas); the lonely life of sheepherders; an assortment of indigenous animals exotic to the Basque imagination; the Basque language, and the California sun have equally entered Basque literature. Eskerrik asko, Asier!

 

 

 

 

 

The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies 50th Anniversary

Photo credit: Josu Zubizarreta

During the darkest days, when we were denied our language, our culture and our identity, we were consoled by the knowledge that an American university in Nevada had lit one small candle in the night.

-Lehendakari Jose Antonio Ardanza, March 1988

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

Last week, on November 8, the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies celebrated its 50th anniversary with CBS faculty, students, and staff as well as countless members of the Basque community and supporters of the Center. Held at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library, the space was packed quickly. There was food and drink and a wonderful atmosphere. People reconnected with old friends and new ones at the lively event. Here’s some background on the CBS ‘s History and Mission:

History

Originally called the Basque Studies Program, the Center was created in 1967 as part of the Desert Research Institute at the University of Nevada, Reno. At that time, the DRI was creating new programs to reach various aspects of the Great Basin’s inhabitants and history. The idea for studying the Basques was proposed since Basque-Americans have long formed a prominent minortiy in the region and have contributed a great deal to its development. Bill Douglass served as the Program’s director from 1967-1999, when he retired to become Professor Emeritus in Basque Studies. The Basque Studies Program was renamed the Center for Basque Studies as a result of a program review conducted in 1999.

CBS Mission

The primary mission of the CBS is to conceive, facilitate, conduct, and disseminate the results of interdisciplinary research on the Basques to a local, regional, national, and internation audience, and by extension to draw attention to the human experience of small ethnic groups. The Center seeks to maintain excellence in all its endeavors and to achieve its goals through high quality research, publications, conferences, active involvement in scholarly networks throughout the world, as well as through service and teaching.

Channel 2 News was present and recorded a short news video on the event, available online. In it, they interview Xabier Irujo, the CBS director, and Dr. Sandy Ott, one of our professors. The video definitely captures the mood of the event.

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

President Johnson of UNR was given the word first, and he spoke of the history of the CBS and its impact on the UNR campus. He has taken a few trips to the Basque Country with the advisory council and genuinely enjoys our culture! Next up came William A. Douglass, our namesake and one of the founders of the CBS, as well as a pioneering researcher on Basques in the U.S. Douglass reflected on the center’s history and his own place within it. Dr. Irujo then spoke about both the CBS and Basque Studies in a global context, providing jokes and anecdotes. We were then honored by Jesus Goñi’s bertsoak celebrating the Center’s place in Basque history.

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

Photo Credit: Gemma Martín Valdanzo

Overall, it was a great event that gathered so many voices from the Basque community and academia. To 50 more years of the CBS!

 

 

 

 

 

Flashback Monday: Ellis Island’s 125th anniversary

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island, which closed 63 years ago on Sunday. Over 12 million immigrants passed through its doors for inspection before entering the United States, and Basques were no exception. From February to May 2010, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum held an exhibition on the Basques, entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques.” Here’s an excerpt from the website, with photos from the exhibit:

“Hidden in Plain Sight” was an interactive exhibit that presented opportunities for all ages to discover the unique origins, language, and history of the Basque people; the factors that pulled them away from their homes; the legendary tales of colorful immigrants; Basque contributions in the United States and the world; and the unprecedented cultural connection with their homeland.

Basques have rarely been recognized for their historic contributions or cultural distinctiveness. Similarly, as they passed through Ellis Island, their nationality, names, and heritage were often disregarded by otherwise well-meaning officials. In many cases they were simply listed as Spanish or French.

Today, even though Basque politicians, scientists, sports figures, business executives, artists, and movie stars may be prominent throughout the US and in many nations around the world, they are still often overlooked as being Basque, perpetuating them being “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

This exhibition was organized by the only museum in the United States devoted to preserving Basque culture and history, The Basque Museum & Cultural Center, in conjunction with and supported by the Basque Autonomous Government.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” opened on February 6 with a special ceremony in the Great Hall at Ellis Island with performances by the Biotzetik Basque Choir, the Oinkari Basque Dancers, and soloist Amaia Arberas. The ribbon cutting was performed by Patricia Lachiondo, President of the Basque Museum & Cultural Center and Guillermo Echenique, General Secretary of Foreign Action of the Basque Government. Performances by the Biotzetik Basque Choir followed. The Oinkari Basque Dancers also performed at Liberty Island later in the afternoon.

Looking at Ellis Island from an international perspective, the New York Times recently profiled it in its Daily Briefing, with links to articles:

Back Story

Ellis Island, the gateway to the U.S. for more than 12 million immigrants, is celebrating the 125th anniversary of its opening this year. Sunday marks the day it closed in 1954.

Many Americans are descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island in a wave of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Upon arrival by ship, steerage passengers were transported to the island for inspections. (First- and second-class passengers skipped that step.)

Those found to have serious contagious illnesses or deemed unemployable could face deportation.

Nearly 70 percent of arrivals didn’t speak a word of English, but language was never an issue, said Doug Treem, a National Park Service Ranger.

Interpreters translated scores of languages — they were required to speak at least four each, other than English. Many were immigrants or children of immigrants.

“I doubt if anyone working as a translator at the U.N. right now could have gotten a job at Ellis Island,” said Mr. Treem.

One translator, the child of European immigrants and a veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, worked in Italian, German, Yiddish and Croatian, while attending law school at night. That was Fiorello LaGuardia, who went on to be a three-term mayor of New York City.

I’m guessing language was an issue for Basques, for I wonder if any inspectors spoke Euskara! What we do know is what awaited these migrants once they were in New York City.  As Douglass and Bilbao note in Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World:

Elderly Basques residing the American West today still retain vivid memories, spanning more than half a century in some cases, of getting off the boat in New York City filled with trepidation, only to hear the welcome words, “Euskaldunak emen badira?” (“Are there Basques here”). pg. 374.

These words often came from Valentín Aguirre’s agents at the Casa Vizcaina, a hotel and travel agency of sorts for Basques in New York. Aguirre sent employees to meet every ship that arrived from Europe. Once the Basque immigrants met up with these agents, they were taken to the hotel where they were welcomed with familiar food in their native Euskara environment. Some may have even played a few games of pelota at the hotel’s fronton. Aguirre would help them reunite with family or find employment in the West. He would purchase their tickets and give them instructions for their second journey across the States, at many times pinning their names and tickets onto their lapels so that they would safely arrive at their destinations.

Although there are many stories of Ellis Island, the horrible conditions and foreign-ness of the place, it was the port of entry for many of our relatives here in the West. With its 125th anniversary, we remember the long journeys our ancestors took to find their new place in the United States. “Euskaldunak emen badira?” Yes, we are here and will remain.

 

“Bringing Women out of the Shadows”

Basque migration to the Americas has been widely documented. From the 15-16th century Spanish colonial pursuits to the 20th century Franco dictatorship, Basques left the home country in great numbers to escape economic hardships and political turbulence in search of a better life. In the United States, the image of the lonely Basque sheepherder has become an important figure in the iconography of the American West, and Basque bars, restaurants, and cultural centers continue to thrive as descendants of the once ubiquitous Basque boarding houses.

Women, however, are conspicuously missing from the grand narratives of Basque migration, Ph.D. student Edurne Arostegui argued at her lecture at the CBS Seminar Series. “We need to make an effort to bring female immigrant experiences out of the shadows.” Even canonical works of Basque migration suffer from this lacuna, Edurne argued, while women came in great numbers, and worked just as hard as any man: they were sheepherders, boarding house managers, cooks, translators, housewives, bar tenders, and waitresses, etc. “Basque women immigrants are not given due credit as long as they are featured as mere appendices to their husbands who came to this country with no agency of their own. They did have their own dreams and aspirations about their new lives, and worked very hard for them.” Furthermore, the lecture featured pioneering women who affected gender breakthroughs by taking up traditionally masculine jobs like sheepherding or becoming pivotal figures, as leaders, in their communities. “We need to reach out to these women before their stories get lost,” Edurne concluded.

 

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.

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