Category: migration

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.

 

Faculty News 2017: William Douglass

On February 8 and 9, 2017, William Douglass presented public lectures in Boise, Idaho. The first day he gave a seminar on the Basques in Cuba & Beyond in a Basque Culture Class at Boise State University and that afternoon he addressed a University-wide audience on the subject of “Migration and Identity.” The following evening his talk at the Boise Basque Museum was entitled “A Basque Author’s Reflections.” All three events were well attended and were followed by lively public discussion. Before returning to Reno Douglass enjoyed a lunch with the Goitiandias–his Boise Basque  “family.” All are descendants of the baserri Goitiandia of Aulestia, Bizkaia, where Bill and his family lived for about a year (1964) while he conducted his anthropological field research for his doctoral dissertation. He subsequently presented his Cuba lecture at the Center for Basque Studies and his “Migration and Identity” one in a seminar at the University of Nevada-Reno Knowledge Center.

 

  

Monday Movies: “On the Line”

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the upcoming CBS publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. 

On the line (2008), by the Donostia-San Sebastian based director, Jon Garaño, is a mockumentary (satire documentary) about the volunteer border patrols that oversee the border between the United States and Mexico.

The short film mixes three formats: news program, documentary, and fiction. It relates the life of a volunteer border patrol, Adam, who guards the Mexican-American border in order to prevent the arrival of illegal immigrants. Towards the beginning of the short, his wife, Jane, is preparing breakfast while chatting with the filmmakers about her children. It’s a big white working-class family. The woman is proud of her volunteer husband, and as a good wife, she brings Adam’s lunch. She says goodbye to him with her baby in her arms. This ideal family model of American society is opposed to the immigrant woman Eugenia`s figure, who is trying desperately to cross the border in the desert, with a baby in her arms. Eugenia is a single mother and does not have the family structure that Jane has. When Adam arrives at the post, his colleagues tell him that a couple of Mexicans are crossing the borders, and there is no trace of the police. He takes his rifle and rushes to the place where Eugenia was spotted. Watch the rest of the short film, and we hope you enjoy it!

Director Jon Garaño said this about this short film:

The topic occurred to me when I lived in San Diego. This American city is close to Tijuana, on the border. Every day there was news about illegal immigration into the United States, and it occurred to me that I should shoot something about this issue. But On the Line could have been set in Ceuta. Some local realities transcend their environment, and can be perfectly understood beyond their borders. In fact, we live very similar realities in the world. Like us, or any country that receives immigrants, Americans must recognize the importance of immigrants, and I wanted to reflect on this in a very subtle way. It is for this reason that we ended the story with a shot of the American flag. I think that this shot has not been correctly interpreted. It was understood as a criticism. Possibly I erred in the form of expressing the message, but what I wanted to transmit is that those who cross the border are now part of the country.

Stay tuned on Mondays for more on the Kimuak series, and the upcoming book.

Post by our new Professor, Mariann Vaczi. Interview coming soon!

Nevada Independent reports on Basque culture in the Silver State

On the occasion of Attorney General and CBS Advisory Board Member Adam Laxalt’s annual Basque Fry, the Nevada Independent recently reported on the Basque presence in the state and included some great personal recollections on the part of state senator Pete Goicoechea, part of which we quote below:

His grandfather, also named Pete Goicoechea, worked on a fishing boat on a seaside town on the Bay of Biscay until he immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century.

When his grandfather landed at Ellis Island, they pinned a tag on his coat that said “Elko, Nevada” and put him on a train, Goicoechea said. He couldn’t speak a word of English, couldn’t read or write but could figure out anything in his head. (“If you were talking about a nickel, he’d cheat you out of three cents,” Goicoechea said.)

“It was a hard life for them. A lot of them spent the first year before they had enough money in a tent with their sheep,” Goicoechea said. “There was no (Bureau of Land Management), no regulation at all. There’d be a group of them, the Goicoechea brothers and their families, they lived with those sheep from somewhere south of Duckwater close to Tonopah for winter and the Idaho border for summer.”

His grandfather ran moonshine for a period in Gold Creek during Prohibition, finally settling down and buying a ranch in 1937 and switching to cattle. “Sheep may be a little more delicate, but they have a personality,” Goicoechea said. “If you can run sheep, you can take care of a bunch of cows.”

Check out, too, Goicoechea’s observations about the emblematic Picon Punch!

See the full report here.

Immigrant tales like those mentioned above form the essence of the Center’s ambitious collection, Basques in the United States,  by Koldo San Sebastián, with the assistance of Argitxu Camus-Etxekopar, Joxe Mallea-
Olaetxe, Jone Laka, and José Luis Madarieta.

Join us in celebrating A Man Called Aita

We are so happy to announce the publication of Joan Errea’s A Man Called Aita. These stories, told in rhyming verse, tell an extraordinarily deep, complex, and moving story about being Basque in the U.S. West and what it was like to grow up on a ranch on the frontier. They tell the story of the life of Joan’s father, aita in Basque, Arnaud Paris, who originally came from Iparralde and herded sheep in Wyoming before venturing out on his own to ranch in Central Eastern and Northern Nevada for many years. There is so much to say about this little book, a true gem of Western Americana, much of it ably done so in Pello Salaburu’s masterful introduction.

“This book narrating the story of Marie’s life is captivating, moving, and very attractive in its simplicity. It shows how wonderful the relationship between the father and daughters was, that Arnaud was a warm man, and that they loved each other a lot and were very close. For Joan, her aita was a role model and a point of reference.”

Here, from A Main Called Aita is the title poem, which says much more than I can:

A Man Called Aita

With a brand new dream, a clarinet, and his suitcase in his hand.

The young Basque came to write his name in the history of this land.

Perhaps he was never famous but the world was a better place.

For the Basque who came and brought with him the faith of his proud race.

In the mountains of Wyoming where he first came to herd sheep,

How bitter were his lessons, how lonely was his sleep!

How many times he lay awake and looked up at starry skies,

Unable to see their beauty for the tears that filled his eyes.

How unbearably cold and lonely it must have been at times,

As he sat upon some windswept hill and wrote his songs and rhymes.

For the young man was a poet, a Basque “Bertzolari”;

And in later years he’d sing his songs to my brothers and to me!

With two dogs for companions, he spent six long years there.

He guarded all the lambs and sheep entrusted to his care.

He loved to dance, he loved to sing; to learn was a burning need;

For the greatest pleasure of his life was a good book he could read.

One day in his quest for books he found a copy of the Constitution.

And he quickly learned of the laws and rules that governed this great Nation.

He left Wyoming for Nevada, where his brother found them jobs;

And the two of them together, tended to the woolly “mobs.”

Now times were hard upon the land and wages seldom came.

Herders were sometimes paid in sheep; mostly the old and lame.

It was so, they built their own herds up and ran them on “tramp” ground.

It was hit and run, first come first served, there was no BLM around.

The grass was there and it was free, but the sheepmen fought each other.

It often came to troubled times with brother against brother.

And so it came to pass with them and bitter words were spoken;

Words that could never be recalled, so the partnership was broken.

The love between them still ran deep but forgiveness had been frozen.

They drifted apart and went their ways on the paths that each had chosen.

And each young man in his own way left his mark upon the land.

So my Father came to live his dream with his suitcase in his hand.

He labored well, and built his dream; he married sweet “Marie.”

He was always known as “Aita” by my brothers and by me.

Senegal TV network reports from Basque Country

The Senegal online TV network Diaspora 24 recently included a short report on Senegalese people residing in the Busturialdea region of Bizkaia. Senegalese make up the most important Sub-Saharan African community in the Basque Country, many first coming to fill positions in the Basque fishing industry and as a result settling in towns and villages along the Basque coastline. However, now the approximately 3,500 people of Senegalese origin reside throughout the country and have their own organization to help represent their interests: the Mboolo Elkar association.

As part of the report, carried out by Gernika-resident Fadima Faye, originally from Senegal, there was a visit to the Urdaibai Bird Center, “An International Airport for Birds,” as one of the emblematic sites of interest in the region. Interestingly, a migrating Osprey named “Cousteau,” which was tagged this year and left the center in September, has been located recently in its winter habitat along the Casamance River in Senegal.

See some pictures of the visit here:  http://www.birdcenter.org/en/news/news/643-2016-11-16-16-49-44

Hendaia honors Portuguese immigrants: Highlights Basque-Portuguese links

The city council of Hendaia (Lapurdi) held a one-day colloquium last Friday, October 28, to celebrate the contribution of Portuguese immigrants to society in Iparralde and beyond. It was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of a Franco-Portuguese  agreement in 1916 that helped facilitate Portuguese emigration to the French Republic, for which Hendaia was often the first point of arrival. An exhibition titled “Sala de Espera” (Waiting Room), featuring images of newly arrived Portuguese immigrants, was held to coincide with the colloquium. If you’re interested in this topic, check out this New York Times article on the Portuguese in France: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/pictures-tell-the-story-of-portuguese-in-france/?_r=0

Between 1886 and 1966, Portugal lost more people to emigration than any West European country except Ireland. As regards Basque-Portuguese links, in Iparralde, there is an important Portuguese settlement in Baiona and people of Portuguese origin are estimated to make up 1.5% of the total population of France as a whole. In Hegoalde, Portuguese settled in both Greater Bilbao and Ermua, Bizkaia, as well as in the fishing towns of the Bizkaian coast and in northern Nafarroa.

One well-known Basque cultural figure of Portuguese extraction is the bertsolari (oral improviser) Xabier Silveira, from Lesaka, Nafarroa. Check out the interview with him (in Basque) above.

381px-manuel_de_arriaga_-_fotografia_vasques

Manuel de Arriaga (1840-1917), c.1900-1909, from Casa Comun – Fundação Mário Soares, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, two(well, one certainly, and another possibly) key figures in modern Portuguese history were of Basque descent: Manuel de Arriaga (1840-1917), the first elected president of the First Portuguese Republic; and, conceivably–Salazar being a recognized Basque surname–António de Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970), the authoritarian ruler of Portugal from 1932 to 1968.