Category: Basques in the U.S. (page 2 of 12)

May 1850: The “French (or Basque) Revolution” in Murphys, California

This week’s Flashback Friday post is a little different, referring to events that took place throughout the month of May 1850 in what was known at the time as “Murphys Camp,” one of the sites of the original California Gold Rush. Today this is Murphys in Calaveras County, CA. In Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (pp.208-9), William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao recount the story of how, in this settlement at the heart of the Gold Rush, there was what was described at the time as a mini “French” (we should really say Basque) Revolution!

Historic view of Murphys Main Street, from the visitmurphys.com

Douglass and Bilbao observe that Basques from Iparralde formed a sizable part of population of Murphys, and one that was capable of collective action. They quote the German traveler Friedrich Gerstäcker, who visited the camp in May 1850 and reported on what he termed the French Revolution:

An immense number of French, a large part of them Basques, had likewise arrived in Murphys, and a great many French stores sprang up along with those of the Americans. . . . There were also Germans, Spaniards and Englishmen in Murphys, but the French outnumbered them by far, and in any case made up three-fourths of the entire population of this little mining town.

The Basques became incensed when,

a law was passed by the California legislature that a tax of twenty dollars per month would be levied on all foreign gold miners in the mines of California, and in case they did not want to pay that, or were not in a position to pay it, they should leave the mines at once. If, in spite of this, they were thereafter to be found at another mine also engaged in gold mining, this would then be considered a crime against the state and punished as such.

… Especially the French complained and argued profusely; declared the law infamous, and decided not pay a  penny. Among the Germans were some Alsatians who especially agreed with them, and the Basques brought forth rifles and shotguns, declaring that it would be best to place themselves in armed readiness from the very beginning, so as to win the respect of the Americans.

[The tents] surged with Frenchmen, and especially Basques . . . and [there were] mixed outbursts of anger, such as: Wicked!, Help!, Down with the Americans!

A rumor later spread that two Frenchmen and a German had been imprisoned at Sonora over the tax, and an armed mob marched on the camp , only to find out that it was not true. They disbanded, although not before almost hanging the rumormonger, and California’s “French” or “Basque” Revolution came to an end!

 

Basques in the United States: Add your personal tale to this ever expanding project

We here at the Center for Basques Studies are amazed by the amount of work that has gone into collecting the countless stories of Basque immigrants to the United States, and the results of this labor can be found in the three volumes, and counting, of Basques in the United States. Now it’s your turn to tell your story! Do you have a relative who migrated to the States? Perhaps you migrated here yourself! Have you taken a look at your own family members’ entries and found discrepancies or have additional information? We’d love your help, and it only takes a few minutes, here’s how:

First, visit our website: https://basquesintheus.blogs.unr.edu

There you will find links to add a new entry, correct an existing entry, or add to an existing entry. Today, we’re going to look at creating a new entry.

Once you click on the link, you will be lead to the following page:

As you can see, it’s a form where you can input all of the information you know. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the specifics! Fill in what you know.

Next, you will be asked to add more personal information about the family, work experience(s), and stories of your migrant. Once again, do the best you can!

Be sure to add a photo if you have one!

Lastly, you are required to include your own information so that we can reach out to you.

Once again, this is your chance to be part of this amazing project! Be sure to take a few minutes out of your busy day to preserve the history and memory of your family, believe me, it will be worth it. And keep in mind, we regularly post on individuals mentioned in this biographical encyclopedia. Who knows, you or your family members could be next!

Please contact us via replies (at the bottom of this page) if you need further assistance. We look forward to reading your stories!

Jon Bilbao Basque Library News

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library is experiencing an interesting period in its already long history. Since this time last year, the library’s staff has been working on a number of projects to better serve the Basques of North America, whether they are researchers or members of the public who are interested in Basque culture.

We are especially excited about the archival collections, composed of Basque-American family papers, research collections, and records of Basque clubs around the country. We are transferring all the information about these collections to a new management system that will greatly improve accessibility to them. Improving access to these materials will help researchers to better understand the historical development of the Basque-American community.

Helping to preserve the documentary heritage of the Basque Diaspora is one of our main goals. Are you in possession of any papers or documents relating to your Basque family? If this is the case, please consider using the Jon Bilbao Basque Library as a repository that will enable researchers and members of the community to learn more about your family’s Basque heritage. Please contact the Basque Librarian Iñaki Arrieta if you are interested in this opportunity (email: arrieta@unr.edu).

Photo credits: Jon Bilbao Basque Library

 

 

Women chefs and their influence on Basque gastronomy: Part 1

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Zuriñe Garcia, head chef at the Andra Mari restaurant in Galdakao, Bizkaia.

I’m sure everyone out there is aware of the reputation of Basque cuisine at the world level. The food and drink of the Basque Country now serve as major attractions for visitors to this singular and spirited little corner of Europe, where world-renowned chefs like Juan Mari Arzak, Martin Berasategi, Pedro Subijana, Hilario Arbelaitz, Andoni Aduriz, Eneko Atxa, and Victor Arguinzoniz, among many others, ply their trade. While all these chefs publicly acknowledge, whenever they can, the influence of their mothers on their own love of cooking, what about Basque women chefs? How come women’s names appear to be missing from such lists?

The first and most obvious answer is that women’s names could of course be added to any checklist of contemporary Basque chefs. The first name that immediately springs to mind is Elena Arzak, joint owner with her father, Juan Mari, of the Arzak restaurant. Indeed, after its beginnings as a bar in 1897, Arzak was converted into a restaurant and later run, on the death of her husband Juan Ramon Arzak, by her grandmother, Francisca “Paquita” Arratibel. Juan Mari was nine-years-old at the time, and in the words of Elena, in an interview with The Guardian (see below): “He was an only child surrounded by women, in a matriarchy … I think that is why he idolises women now.” Indeed, today, Arzak is 80 percent female, with six women chefs in the kitchen.

Besides Elena Arzak, both Zuriñe Garcia at the Andra Mari restaurant in Galdakao, Bizkaia, and Pilar Idoate, who heads up the Europa hotel-restaurant in Pamplona-Iruñea, have Michelin stars.

Alongside such prominent women chefs, Basque-language TV viewers may well be familiar with Aizpea Oihaneder, who, as well as presenting her own cooking show on ETB1, Oihaneder bere satsan, jointly runs the Xarma Jatetxea in Donostia-San Sebastián with Xabi Diez. Likewise, Eva Arguiñano, from Beasain, Gipuzkoa, is a well-known TV chef, while also working at the restaurant of her brother, the famous Karlos Arguiñano. We could also list other contemporary women chefs like Txaro Zapiain at the Roxario restaurant and cider house in Astigarraga, Gipuzkoa, Estibaliz Mekoalde at the Castillo de Arteaga restaurant in Gautegiz-Arteaga, Bizkaia, and Aitziber Lekerika at the Errekaondo restaurant in Zamudio, Bizkaia (to name just a few).

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Nieves Barragán Mohacho, from Santurtzi. Picture from the Barrafina website.

Mention should also be made of the growing reputation of Nieves Barragán Mohacho from Santurtzi, Bizkaia, the Executive Head Chef of the Michelin-starred Barrafina in London, where, as in the case of Arzak, other women chefs are front and center in the kitchen. Barrafina was named UK restaurant of the year in 2015 (and runner-up in 2016) as well as being named the OFM Awards Best Restaurant 2016. In the words of Four Magazine:

Nieves Barragán Mohacho grew up in the Basque region of Spain, in the capital city of Bilbao. From a young age she was aware of food and cooking. Her mother spent most of her time looking after Nieves’s grandmother in the house and so to keep Nieves entertained she involved her in the kitchen’s daily activity. She began with simple things, peeling potatoes and stirring the contents of pans but progressed quickly and by the age of seven Nieves was roasting her own chicken. Nieves quickly understood there was an abundance of excellent local ingredients that surrounded her and a strong tradition of local cooking.

Nor should we forget the huge contribution of one of the main ambassadors of Basque cuisine abroad, Teresa Barrenechea from Bilbao, whose Marichu restaurant was such a feature of the New York restaurant scene for many years.

So things are changing, it would seem. But it’s also interesting to note an arguably forgotten dimension to this story: the historical impact of women chefs on Basque gastronomy. In fact, Paquita Arratibel, who established Arzak as a restaurant, was only one of many women pioneers in the Basque restaurant world, and there were others before her … a story we continue in Part 2 of this post tomorrow.

Further Reading

Allan Jenkins, “Elena Arzak: The best female chef on the planet,The Guardian, August 19, 2012.

Rachael Pells, “Barrafina: No reservations about Britain’s best restaurant, which puts female chefs centre stage,” The Independent, July 5, 2015.

Sudi Pigott, “Why a Basque woman’s place is in the kitchen,” The Independent, April 27, 2012.

 

Conferencing on the East Coast with Amaia and Edurne

Last week, from the 1st to the 7th, I had the pleasure of attending the Southern American Studies Biennial Conference “Migrations and Circulations” at the University of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA) with my colleague Amaia Iraizoz. We took advantage of our trip to the East Coast and visited Washington D.C. and New York City as well. So I’ve taken a moment to share some of our experiences with you, our loyal readers.

Richmond’s Capitol Building

After an early flight out to Richmond, VA, we took the chance to walk around the capital and enjoyed a delicious dinner. We were exhausted from the trip, but the warm weather really encouraged us to explore the city. I’ll be sure to return! The following day, after an hour-long bus ride, we arrived in Williamsburg, a beautiful colonial town, rich in history.

Downtown Williamsburg

Walking through the streets downtown, you feel immersed in the setting, especially since every building is well taken care of and as part of a living history museum of sorts, you bump into people dressed in 18th-century garb. However, we had a conference to attend, so that took us to the University of William and Mary.

Amaia presenting on her dissertation

At the start of my presentation

Like many East Coast colleges, the campus was full of brick buildings and spacious lawns. The event was held at the College of Education, which was conveniently located. The conference brought together a vast array of researchers, dealing with diverse topics. Amaia and I were a bit exotic in our research though, but those who attended our presentations were full of questions about Basque migration and what we do at the Center for Basque Studies. A side note: at the opening  reception, I was surprised to find guindillas, those delicious pickled peppers often served with pintxos or beans. As expected, I had more than just a few…

Conference Selfie

Blurry pic of a guindilla!

We took the train to D.C. where our host, Sam Zengotitabengoa, a member of our board, picked us up and took us on a tour of the town. We couldn’t have had a better guide! He told us about the Basque community on the East Coast and his upbringing there. We even visited the Gernikako Arbola that was planted last year. He also pointed out all the best places to visit and let us stay at his home. We hope to return the favor some day, Sam was amazing!

Representing Nevada!

Washington Monument Sunset

We spent the final two days in New York City. What an intense place! I’ve never felt like such a West-coaster till I visited this city. Everyone and everything seemed to be in movement around me! We had two intense days, seeing all of the sights, including biking around Central Park and going to the Top of the Rock. However, we were on a quest for Basques!

Bikes in Central Park

Top of the Rock

We visited the Delegation of the Basque Country in the United States, and were warmly welcomed by Ander Caballero (the delegate), Unai Telleria (economic development officer), and Felipe Victoria (institutional affairs officer). They wanted to know more about our research and then told us a bit about what they do in New York. We spent quite a bit of time with them and learned more about the delegation’s mission.

Inside the office with the Lehendakari

Unexpectedly, but a testament to Basques around the world, we bumped into Francisco’s Centro Vasco in downtown Manhattan. It’s a shame it was closed, but we’ll be back next time. Unfortunately, the New York Euskal Etxea was also closed, so that’s on our list as well.

Next time Francisco’s!

As you can imagine, we returned to Reno exhausted, but we’re back in action at the Center. We had an intense trip, but it was worth every moment. Till the next conference!

CBS Blog celebrates International Women’s Day

Marilyn the trikitilari. Great street art found in Iurreta, Bizkaia.

The Center is proud once more to celebrate International Women’s Day, whose slogan this year is “Be Bold For Change,” and calls on people to help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world; while the United Nations theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030.” We are happy and proud to endorse these sentiments and, following the success of last year’s International Women’s Day post, in which we included a roundup of posts we had done on Basque and Basque-American women, we thought we’d repeat the winning formula by revisiting some of the posts we’ve done this past year on gender-related themes.

Jeanne d’Albert (1528-1572), Queen of Navarre, c. late-16th century. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As regards the Basque Country itself, we have this past year explored the lives of historical figures like Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre, and, more recently, Eulalia Abaitua, a pioneering ethnographic photographer in the nineteenth century. In the past week, we’ve seen how women were front and center in eighteenth-century popular protest movements and how Bilbao has come to honor the women boat-haulers of its industrial past. We also remembered Maialen Lujanbio‘s historic victory at the 2009 national bertsolaritza championship. Moving ahead to the present, we got a glimpse into the busy lives of Basque sportswomen Maider Unda and Patricia Carricaburu in a post here. Continuing the sporting theme, we also celebrated along with the Athletic Bilbao women’s soccer team, the 2015-2016 champions, here as well as commiserating here with the Basque Country women’s soccer team that narrowly lost 2-1 against the Republic of Ireland; and we recently mentioned a major women’s pelota tournament. In the field of culture, meanwhile, we covered the premiere of the new pastorala on the extraordinary life of Katalina de Erauso and profiled Naiara de la Puente, an accordionist who was nominated for a Latin Grammy award last year. We also recently bid farewell to pioneering children’s author Marinaje Minaberri.

 

Mother and child. Photo by Eulalia Abaitua (c. 1890). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On the other side of the Atlantic we began a successful series of posts based on some of the more unusual or outstanding stories gathered in our major new publication Basques in the United States.  Two of the most read posts in this regard concerned Basque-American women: one on the long and remarkable life of Basque woman sheepherder Juanita Mendiola Gabiola and another on the importance of women more generally in that important historical institution, the Basque boardinghouse, through the lives of Anastasia “Ana” Arriandiaga Gamecho Arteaga and Luciana Celestina “Lucy” Aboitiz Goitia. Moving on to the present we recently included a post on the fascinating life of Teresa de Escoriaza, and, in our series on prominent American women of Basque descent, a profile of actress, singer, and businesswoman Nina Garbiras. And we bid a sad farewell to a beloved author and friend in Joan Errea. On a happier note, we also posted on a great social and networking initiative, the Basque Ladies Lagunak Christmas Luncheon in Reno.

Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the woman sheepherder.

It would also be remiss of us not to mention the Center’s own dynamic women! We did a roundup of Sandy Ott‘s busy and successful year, as well as that of our (mostly women) grad students.

Our very own Sandy Ott

Ziortza Gandarias from Bizkaia, Amaia Iraizoz from Nafarroa, and Edurne Arostegui from California (or Kalifornia). The future of Basque Studies!

All this month, of course, is Women’s History Month and we are paying special attention to Basque-related stories of women in history, so be sure to keep checking in for more fascinating life histories. And a big shout out to Basque ladies everywhere!

Teresa de Escoriaza: A Pioneering Basque Woman Journalist, Broadcaster, Author, and Teacher

March is Women’s History Month, a celebration that traces its roots back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911 (check out this article by Time to see how this annual event all came about). We at the Center are delighted to be able to share stories of women’s experiences in both the Basque homeland and diaspora, especially in light of the fascinating, important, and often hidden tales such stories reveal. That’s why we’re dedicating special attention this month to recounting some of these stories. Keep checking in with us here at the Center’s website, or via our Facebook page, to read about these amazing women.

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Teresa de Escoriaza (1891-1968) during her time as a radio broadcaster.

Today we’re going to talk about Teresa de Escoriaza (1891-1968), a pioneering journalist, broadcaster, writer, translator, and college professor, who–on becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1938–we may reasonably and proudly also celebrate as an influential Basque-American woman.

Teresa de Escoriaza y Zabalza was born in Donostia-San Sebastián on December 7, 1891. She studied in both Madrid and Bordeaux, obtaining a primary education teaching certificate, before going on to attend the Universities of Madrid and Liverpool in the UK (interestingly, another Basque connection with this great port city, as covered in a previous post here). Thereafter, she first embarked to the US in 1917 as an independent woman traveler, aged 25, to teach Spanish and French in schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Staying in the US, between 1919 and 1921 she took up a position as the New York-based foreign correspondent for the Madrid daily La Libertad, tellingly at first under the male pen name Félix de Haro. Having established her reputation, though, from 1921 onward she wrote under her own name.

During this time, she reported back on multiple facets of American life: women’s participation in US elections, the incessant activity and movement she observed in the great New York train stations, the different laws on marriage and divorce in different US states, religion in the US, prohibition, stores and shopping American-style, the freedom of American women compared to their counterparts in Spain, and the burgeoning flying craze that would sweep the US and Europe in the 1920s.

Returing to Madrid, she then wrote for both the Women’s section of the same newspaper and took on another pioneering role: that of war correspondent during the Rif War of the early 1920s between Morocco and Spain, in a series of articles that would later be published in book form as Del dolor de la guerra (Crónicas de la campaña de Marruecos) (On the pain of war (Chronicles from the campaign in Morocco)), published in 1921. Thereafter she continued to write on women’s issues and in the mid-1920s began a radio broadcasting career, exploring many of the same topics on Radio Ibérica. Indeed, she has been described as imparting the first feminist discourse on Spanish radio, a medium that she saw as a liberating vehicle for women’s education, and this during the era of the conservative dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-30). If that were not enough, she shared these labors with an intense period of publishing books: specifically, the translation of a French novel, an anthology of women poets, and a short novel of her own.

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A US passport photo of “Scory” in 1960. From the Montclair State University website.

In 1929 she moved to the US once more to take up a position as a professor of Spanish and French at Montclair State Teacher’s College (now Montclair State University) in New Jersey, where she taught there for 30 years until 1959. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the ensuing triumph of Franco meant that she would remain in the US for most of the rest of her life, becoming a US citizen, as noted above, in 1938. She never married, preferring an independent lifestyle, and after retiring in 1959 she moved to California. Right at the end of her life, she returned home, to the Basque Country and Donostia-San Sebastián, where she died in 1968.

Affectionately known as “Scory” at Montclair, her legacy there was celebrated in May 2012 with the dedication of the Teresa de Escoriaza Seminar Room in honor of her enduring legacy at the university. Quoting the Montclair State University article celebrating this dedication:

“There was something about her that commanded your attention and respect,” says her former student John T. Riordan ’59. “She was a larger than life person who played an important role in inspiring people. Her former students had enormous impact on the teaching of foreign languages in the United States, not just in New Jersey. Every publishing house was full of Montclair State alumni from the late 1940s and 1950s, as well as the New Jersey and national Departments of Education.”

Note: Much of the information here was collected from an excellent article by Marta Palenque, “Ni Ofelias ni Amazonas, sino seres completos: Aproximación a Teresa de Escoriaza,” in Arbor: Ciencia y Cultura 182, no. 719 (May-June 2006): 363-376. Available at: http://arbor.revistas.csic.es/index.php/arbor/article/view/36/36

“The Time of the Lambing and Shearing” – A New Exhibit at the Basque Museum & Cultural Center in Boise

If you’re near Boise this week, check out the opening of what promises to be a fascinating new exhibit, “The Time of Lambing and Shearing,” at the Basque Museum & Cultural Center. The opening and reception take place on Thursday, February 23, at 6:00 pm.

The exhibit is based on the work of photojournalist Jan Boles, who in 1976 photographed the last lambing and shearing operations at the J.D. Aldecoa and Son, Inc ranch for a feature for the Idaho Free Press. Just recently, we posted a response to a reader’s query about native Basque breeds of sheep (see the post here) and it got us to thinking that there is a potentially a major narrative to be written about the role of sheep and sheepherding in forging the American West.  Lambing and shearing are two key cultural as well as practical events in the calendar of any sheepherding culture, bringing communities together. In the Basque case, such times would have represented a great example of auzolan. According to Wikipedia, the sheep-shearing feast is the setting for Act IV of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. And sixteenth-century English poet and farmer Thomas Tusser even created  a verse for the occasion:

Wife make us a dinner, spare flesh neither corne,
Make wafers and cakes, for our sheepe must be shorne,
At sheep shearing neighbors none other thing craue,
but good cheer and welcome, like neighbors to haue

Even if you can’t  make it to the opening tomorrow, this promises to be well worth a visit. We’re sure the exhibit will be yet another wonderful addition by the Basque Museum & Cultural Center to a greater understanding of the importance and contribution of Basques to this more general story.

It goes without saying that the seminal Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World, by William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao is  must read for anyone interested in the importance of the sheep industry to the Basque experience in the United States. For the Old World experience, check out Sandra Ott’s superb ethnography, The Circle of Mountains: A Basque Shepherding Community.

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!

The Ariñak Project: Learning about the many sides of Basque culture through music and dance

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The Ariñak Project, co-founded by Mercedes Mendive and Janet Iribarne in Elko, Nevada, is an ambitious attempt to learn about the multiple dimensions of Basque culture, centered on music and dance but also encompassing, for example, the Basque language and traditional Basque sports. According to Mercedes:

This endeavor was developed to teach important elements of music, including pandero (tambourine), accordion, txistu, alboka, txalaparta, singing as well as introducing our kids/members to the Basque language and Basque sports. It’s our goal to incrementally start our participants on a cultural journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.

As part of the project camp days are held on which participants learn the fundamentals of both music and dance from experienced instructors. The ultimate goal is to extend this learning to a more comprehensive understanding of how the instruments, the music, and the dance all form part of a greater whole that is Basque culture in general. For example, the project seeks to teach people the meanings behind popular Basque songs and dances, how and why they may be important in Basque culture more generally.

Check out Mercedes Mendive’s webpage (with contact information) here.

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And Euskal Kultura report on the project here.

This ambitious project mirrors similar efforts in the Basque Country itself that seek to interpret Basque dance as part of a wider cultural framework: first and foremost, and perhaps most obviously, as a cultural form intimately connected to music. As he notes, while doing research for his marvelous book, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music, Sabin Bikandi was himself an accomplished musician who (p.31),

suddenly realized that I had no idea of how to play for the dance, no idea of the repertoire, the repetitions, or the meaning of “following the dancers.” If I was going to write about Aldekoa, a pipe and tabor player and a dance master, I felt I had to learn the job, and the only way was to do just that—to learn to perform.

However (p.33),

the learning process was slow and complicated, and my knowledge is still a long way behind that of the great master, Aldekoa. However, the little that I learned helped me to reinterpret and understand the relationship between choreography and music, and in the end, how music and dance form a single entity. As I have observed, at present, dance and music are taught as separate subjects. Musicians do not learn anything but music, and dancers do basically the same as regards dance. Many dancers are not able to sing what they dance or the rhythm they mark while dancing. This has been a problem during my own learning process, for my musical-analytical approach found no response from the dance teachers. On the other hand, I found that many dancers are afraid of musicians’ knowledge about rhythm analysis and their knowledge of the science of music.

In short, as Bikandi observes in his work, stepping up to the next level, at least attempting to comprehend a true master like Aldekoa, required that kind of commitment to a greater understanding of how music and dance are one and the same thing, and how in this particular case, they are are also central to Basque cultural norms as a whole.

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