Aupa everyone! I thought I’d check in and tell you about my adventures in the Basque Country while conducting my fieldwork for my dissertation. It’s good to be back! As some of you may know, I spent six years here before hopping across the pond again to Reno. My initial trip was for six months and, well, I guess I liked it a bit too much and got interested in Basque history and culture, leading me to complete my M.A. at the UPV/EHU and then two years at the same institution beginning my Ph.D. studies. So, I’m definitely acquainted with the place which makes my research explorations all the more easier.
I arrived mid-July and didn’t have much time to relax since I attended the 56th Annual International Americanists Congress at the University of Salamanca. There, I not only presented but spent time with my co-director, Óscar Álvarez Gila. We participated in different symposia but got a chance to catch up and talk about my plans. As usual, he motivated me and pushed me toward new directions. When it came to the symposium, I took part in “The Visible and Invisible: A Theoretical and Methodological Approach to the Unheard, Unspoken and Unseen in Gender Studies,” alongside sociologists and psychologists studying contemporary manifestations of gender studies. At first, after reading the schedule, I was hesitant: what was I, a historian focusing on the turn of the century and migration, doing on this panel? However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were a small group, so after presenting, we spent two hours chatting and discussing our work. The feedback I received was fantastic! Sometimes you get so into Basque studies (e.g. everything I see is Basque in some way or related in the most far-off way, I’m annoying like that…) you forget to widen your perspective. In all, it was a great way to start off my fieldwork and made contacts for the future.
Next up, I visited a part of Gipuzkoa I’d never been to: Bergara, Antzuola, Zumarraga, and Legazpi. Spending time with an old friend of my mom, she and her brother told me about the connections they and others had with the States, especially Boise. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Arantzazu. Beautiful and bewitching, I marveled at the architecture and views of the valley below. While on that trip, I embarked on a quest for a ceramic txakoli pitcher and cups for my dad. I ended up getting them made in Ollerias, where Blanka Gómez de Segura learned the fading technique from the last potter of the area. She has set up a museum and shop and gladly showed me around. Definitely worth visiting! I ended up buying a katilu of my own and had to resist myself in the shop.
I’ve also visited Lekunberri (Nafarroa) a few times for various reasons. First of all, it’s cooler (in the sense of temperature) and there’s wonderful cheese everywhere (I’m a cheese addict). But from an academic standpoint, I’ve been put in contact with former sheepherders who have found a home there. Antonio, a neighbor, told me all about his experience in Fresno over a period of 40 years. I look forward to talking to him more in depth. I also became aware of a collection of letters preserved in Elantxobe from a sheepherder in Boise to his sister. The niece, Edurne (!), is willing to let me look through them and talk to me about her family and uncle. Besides, there will be lunch involved so two birds with one stone.
Lastly, I attended the Artzai Eguna (Day of the Sheepherder) in Uharte-Arakil on August 26. Although I regret not taking advantage of my time very well while there (too busy trying cheese and cider), I got to see how cheese is made and specimens of the Latxa breed of sheep. The market was bustling, so my usual strategy of asking older men wearing baseball caps whether they’d been to the West didn’t seem appropriate (although it usually works).
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I also wanted to mention that I finally met my colleague on the blog, Katu, in person for the first time. It’s crazy to think you’ve worked with someone for so long, exchanged countless emails, talked on skype for hours, yet never been in the same room. Luckily, we’ll be working together on a project dealing with Basque rock music in the 80s, so there’s more to come.
I’ll be updating you, our loyal readers, throughout my stay. Leave a comment if you have any questions, tips, or suggestions for my fieldwork. Ondo izan.