It is hard to believe I am finally here in the Basque Country. I’m tempted to say that I’ve waited a long time to get here to Euskalherria to start my fieldwork, but that wouldn’t be a completely accurate statement. I could even say with some certainty that this year’s work and life in the Basque Country will represent both a reduction and culmination of my life’s interests and experiences, however, that would be limiting to the extensions of those same interests which lead me here: languages, culture, wine, travel, food, diversity, and making connections with people around the world. So, before sharing the amazing experiences I’ve already had while studying here, I would like to highlight those which were had before my arrival to the Basque Country this January.
Knowing I would be conducting fieldwork here for a whole year, I wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity to travel to South America with my father. In 2014, I spent an amazing time learning about the production and wine-making process in Casablanca, Chile. With so much Basque heritage there, I was delighted to discover that the Basque diaspora still held its roots firmly planted in this South American country. Finding the popular Basque wine called Chacoli was an adventure I won’t forget (see previous blog to read more about Chacoli in South America), discovering the ways in which a culture can change and be maintained across the globe. But before returning to Chile, my dad and I checked out some Basque culture in Argentina.
I had come to know of a Basque restaurant from a man who had wandered into the Center for Basque Studies before my departure. He told me about his family and how one of them had started a restaurant in Buenos Aires. I mentioned I’d be heading there soon, so he gave me the information to find Leiketio. The food and drink which combined aspects of both Basque and Latin American cuisine were amazing. However, the most satisfying part of the meal was being able to use the little Basque I had acquired from the previous summer to speak to a server who had recently moved from the Basque Country.
My second encounter with Basque culture in South America happened after my dad had returned to the US, and I had moved on for my second visit to Chile. I was in the beautiful, historic town of Valparaiso, listening to music and enjoying the warmer weather when a couple had passed me speaking Basque. I started talking to them and found out they were the band Niña Coyote and Chico Tornado (and very well known I might add in the Basque Country! See below for a clip of their music). Also turns out the family of one of the members lived on the same street that I currently live now here in Euskalherria!
Just goes to show that si, el mundo es un pañuelo! Hau bai mundu txikia! It’s a small world!
I hope to keep making these cross-cultural connections over the next year here. Stay tuned for more adventures in fieldwork from here in Euskalherria!
As I was wandering through my Facebook, I came across a post by Mikel Garaizabal, enologist at Mendraka Winery. For anyone that knows me, I’m a little obsessed with Basque wine–in particular, Txakolina. Although I have not visited the Basque Country in over 10 years, and what I did see of it was only San Sebastian, I hope to visit these fields during my upcoming trip there this summer. This video covers the grape varietals used in producing Txakoli, and even goes into detail to describe the terroir with picturesque views with the ocean in the background, the cycles according to season, and the green hills on which these vines thrive. Take a look below and check out the Bizkaia Denominacion de Origenes.
Charlie Arturaola is a Uruguayan wine expert who starred in El Camino de Vino, and is also the star in the a new independent film directed by Nicolás Carreras and produced by Lino Pujia. In the film, Charlie plays a wine taster that has lost his palate and who goes in search of getting it back. This story takes place between Italy and the Basque Country as Charlie hunts down his lost senses. For a short clip of Charlie in the Basque Country, watch:
Check out the movie coming soon at:
Out of the top 10 restaurants in the world, only two are from the same “country,” one of them being from the Basque Country more specifically. And, even more impressive than that, out of the top 20 restaurants in the world, a whopping FOUR (that is 1/5th everyone!) of the restaurants are from the Basque Country!
Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena, who jointly run the Arzak Restaurant in Donostia-San Sebastián. Photo by Javier Lastras, via Wikimedia Commons
Within the Top 20 are:
#13 Asador Etxebarri
What does this mean for the Basque people? Well, many things I assume, but I’m guessing it has and will continue to bring in more awareness of Basque culture and its talents and adaptability in the modern world. This combination of nostalgia and invention go hand-in-hand to continue giving recognition to and set these people apart in the globalized society. And this may in part be exactly what the culture needs to stay alive.
Click below for the full list of restaurants:
What are the chances that Jaialdi-one of the largest Basque festivals in the world and celebrated only once every five years-would take place the summer after I start my studies at the CBS in Reno?!
Thanks to a couple of acquaintances and friends of friends, I was able to get in touch with sommelier Mikel Garaizabal at Jaialdi. As someone who has worked in the wine industry and has been studying for the CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine exam) it was quite an honor to meet this man who is also an enologist at Mendraka winery (website in progress) making txakolina, expert in working with Tourism and Hospitality, and an author of four books, one of my favorites-the award-winning Txakoli de Bizkaia. El Viaje (Txakoli of Bizkaia: The Journey). Mikel graciously made time for our interview despite his busy schedule, and displayed his enthusiasm as he shared his knowledge of wine and travel. Over the course of the interview, we talked about the history of Txakoli, and a bit about similar wines made in Chile that are remnants of the Basque diaspora. For more information on Mikel Garaizabal check out his website and video below.
http://www.catarvino.com/ (In Spanish and Euskera)
http://www.catarvino.com/portfolio/partes-de-la-vid/ (In Spanish)