This year, Amaia Iraizoz has been writing her dissertation, which she will defend this December. She has also participated in several conferences. In March 2017, she attended the Southern American Studies Association’s biennial conference Migrations and Circulations in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she presented the paper “Bringing Modernity to the Homeland: The Hybridization Process in Aezkoa Valley’s Socioeconomic Practices.” That same month, she participated in the Northern Nevada Diversity Summit, presenting a paper on a Basque studies panel.

As we come close to saying goodbye to Amaia, we leave you, our loyal readers, with her own words on her research. Amaia’s impressive work has been possible thanks to the Campos family generous funding. Eskerrik asko, Amaia, Tony, eta Juliet!

I was born and raised in Aritzu, a small rural town in northern Navarre. My family household’s history and personal experiences of migration led me to apply to the Ph.D. program in Basque Studies here at UNR, an institution that is pivotal in the study of Basque migration. I am part of the 5th generation of my household to come to the Americas, and because of this longstanding trajectory of migration, I came with a clear intention of what to study: the influences of migration in my homeland, a topic in Basque migration literature which had yet to be studied.

I was raised listening to the stories of my ancestors’ migratory experiences: uncles, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and so on. My family spread throughout the Americas, from Cuba to Argentina, Mexico and in-between.  Many of them ended up returning to their native household after long periods overseas. Therefore, I turned my focus to the influences of these departures, the prolonged absences of family members and their eventual return, along with the effects these situations had on local rural communities.

Emigration, characterized by transnational encounters and interactions between different cultures and practices, has produced both changes in destination societies as well as in the homeland. My dissertation addresses the influences that these transnational encounters produced in Navarre, concretely in Aezkoa Valley and the surrounding areas. In this context, both emigration and return changed the everyday lives of the people in these rural communities. In that regard, new social realities emerged as a consequence of both emigrants and returnees. The society in the northern Navarrese valleys had to confront new problems, for example the adaptation to the relative’s absences and returns, which not only affected the social relationships inside households but also these communities as a whole.

This research also highlights the relationships among the returnees and the development and modernization of the area. The economic circumstances before mass migration, as well as what happened when those emigrants returned to their hometowns provides a context for the study. I analyze the ideas that they brought from the Americas and how these in turn influenced the economy of their hometowns, through the projects they carried out, such as renovating and improving infrastructure such as transportation (roads, etc.), education (schools), and industrializing the area by creating business that brought wealth to the inhabitants of the area. Returnees should no longer be seen as failed migrants but instead as leading figures of the revitalization and transformation of their rural birthplaces, as pioneers in the industrialization and modernization of Navarre.

None of my research would have been possible without the generous donation to the Center for Basque Studies by Tony and Juliet Campos, establishing a graduate student assistantship for the study of Navarrese migration. I want to give special thanks to them for making this project possible, not only academically, but also by giving me the chance to experience the absence and separation from my family and hometown, which drew me closer to the experiences that many of these emigrants and my relatives faced and lived through.

Esker mile aunitz Tony eta Juliet!