Tag: Emigration

Old European culture and language finds new home and thrives thousands of miles across the Atlantic: Does this sound familiar?

Do you know the name of a small stateless nation in Western Europe with a vibrant and distinct old culture and language (which predates later languages like English, French, and Spanish), has a flag composed of the colors red, white, and green, and from where people left in the nineteenth century to settle an inhospitable landscape in the Americas, while today their descendants celebrate their cultural heritage by maintaining many of the customs and the language of their forbears?  Got it? Yes… it’s Wales!

The flag of Wales. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We’ve posted before on the cultural and historical links between the Basque Country and Wales, and we think this is yet another great story that will resonate with people with Basque connections. In 1865, a group of Welsh people settled in Patagonia, Argentina, developing the inhospitable landscape to forge what is today Chubut Province. The capital of Chubut is Rawson (from the Welsh ‘Trerawson’) and other Welsh place names include Puerto Madryn (‘Porth Madryn’ in Welsh), Trelew, and Trevelin. Interestingly, these were all Welsh-speakers, and the settlement was a planned effort to try and establish a new Welsh-speaking community 7,000 miles away from home. Its founders were worried that, with the growing emphasis placed on English, the Welsh language would die out in Wales and thus embarked on this extraordinary journey. To this day, and despite many ups and downs, Welsh exists as a language of everyday use in this part of Argentina, in the area known as Y Wladfa (the Colony), and is strongest in the coastal towns of Gaiman and Trelew, and the Andean settlement of Trevelin. Today, estimates vary on there being anywhere between 5,000 and 12,000 native Welsh-speakers in this area, with a further 25,000 speaking it as their second language. After a number of years through the twentieth century when official Argentinian government policy sought to establish a Spanish-only society, in the last few decades Argentina has embraced what it sees as the general benefits of a multicultural and multilingual society. This has led to a flourishing of the Welsh language, with schools full of learners and newspapers like Y Drafod (established in 1891) and the newer Clecs Camwy (2011).

The flag of Puerto Madryn, representing the Welsh-Argentinian experience. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If you have a spare hour, check out this amazing documentary, in English, Welsh, and Spanish (with subtitles!), made by the BBC Cymru/Wales, about this community.

So what of the Basque connection? Well, apart from the obvious similarities in the immigrant experience as a whole, as we all know, Basques also settled in Argentina. There is a Basque community in Chubut as well, represented by the Centro Vasco Etorritakoengatk in Puerto Madryn and the Centro Vasco del Noreste del Chubut in Trelew. And we know that both the Welsh- and Basque-Argentinians have taken part together in many multicultural events.

While such stories may be somewhat anecdotal to the great “narrative” of the history we are taught more generally, footnotes at best within larger, supposedly more important stories, I do think they are valid examples of the triumph and endurance of the human spirit; of how we as groups cherish our cultures, our minority (and minoritized) languages, and the lengths we go to in order to maintain and extend our community ties via these cultures and languages. And there are many lessons to be learned here for Basque-Americans. Cautionary tales do abound, of course, such as that of the Scottish Gaelic-speaking community in Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, which numbered around 200,000 people in 1850–helping make Gaelic, in both its Scottish and Irish varieties (the latter found principally in Newfoundland) the third most spoken language in Canada after English and French at the time–but today stands at around 7,000. That said, the Government of Nova Scotia did establish an Office of Gaelic Affairs to support and promote the Gaelic language there and current efforts to revitalize the language include literature and even movies in Gaelic.  Check out the following short documentary movie about the Gaels (Gaelic-speakers) in this regard:

If you’re interested in this topic, you may like our multi-authored work, Language Rights and Cultural Diversity, edited by Xabier Irujo and Viola Miglio. This work addresses the themes of language rights and language protection, and how minority languages contribute to enriching the lives of all those around them (something that is explicitly made clear toward the end of the BBC Cymru/Wales documentary).

 

New William A. Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies Inaugurated at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

The inauguration of the William A. Douglass Chair in Basque Cultural Studies took place on Monday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. One seminar and conference in Basque Anthropology and Culture will be offered annually by the university in order to promote Basque Studies and the topic of migration in a more general sense.

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Photo credits: Etxepare Institute

This year’s inaugural symposium was entitled “William Douglass, Basque Studies, and the Anthropology of Europe,” as an homage to the man who helped create Basque Studies in the United States. Introduced by the Provost, Douglass himself began the program with his lecture “Along for the Ride: Interpreting the Migrant Story,” in which he not only spoke of his career but also the connection to the present within debates on immigration.

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Various speakers, including Caroline Brettel, Sharon Roseman, Susan Carol Rogers, and our own Joseba Zulaika, gave talks on Douglass’ role in anthropological studies through various viewpoints. Mari Jose Olaziregi, representing the Etxepare Basque Institute–which created this chair as the latest to join many others in universities around the world–also contributed. As part of this Basque spirit in Amherst, Jackie Urla, Anthropology Professor at the University of Massachusetts, has created the course “Culture and Heritage in Europe,” which will touch upon the history of the Basques.

William Douglass seems to be everywhere these days and a chair in his honor helps to disseminate his work and the research he has inspired around the world. He is still quite active and we recommend his two most recent publications, Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, available at http://basquebooks.myshopify.com/products/basque-explorers-in-the-pacific-ocean, and  Basques in Cuba, which comprises various articles by different authors on the topic:  http://basquebooks.myshopify.com/products/basques-in-cuba.

To view the complete program, visit:  http://www.etxepare.liquidmaps.org/users_fichas_items/index/2475/6235?return=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.etxepare.eus%2Fen%2Fchairs

Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World 40 YEARS!

Amerikanuak (1975), by William A. Douglas and Jon Bilbao, is a cornerstone in studies of Basque emigration and diaspora. Although in the last four decades a lot of research has been carried out on this topic, this book is still essential today.

From October 14 and until December 9, different universities in the Basque Country are honoring this landmark work by holding inter-university seminars on topics related to the book titled “The Basque Country and the Americas: Atlantic Links and Relations.”

October 14: at the University of Navarre, Iruñea-Pamplona: “Navarre and the Americas.”

October 15-16: at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz: “Recovering the North: Companies, Capitals, and Atlantic Projects in the Imperial Hispanic Economy.”

October 23: the University of Pau, in conjunction with Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Basque Studies Society), at the Basque Museum of Baiona: “Research on Basque emigration.”

December 9 at Mondragon University, Arrasate: “The Image and Representation of Basques.”

William Douglass will be in the Basque Country collaborating in these inter-university seminars. For more information about these seminars (in Spanish) click here.

The Center for Basque Studies has more books written and edited by William A. Douglass that you may find interesting, such as: Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, Death after Life: Tales of Nevada, (edited with Carmelo Urza, Linda White, and Joseba Zulaika) The Basque DiasporaGlobal Vasconia, Essays in Basque Social Anthropology and History, and (with Joseba Zulaika) Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives (free to download here).

There is even a candid and vivid biography by Miel A. Elustondo, William A. Douglass: Mr. Basque, which will be of interest to anyone who has followed Bill’s work over the years.

 

Ondare Bizia: Exile-Emigration-Return

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“Ondare Bizia”  (Living Heritage) is a platform to encourage society to reflect on the historical and social phenomenon of exile, migration, and ultimately return to the Basque Country. The project was founded with the help of  Bizkailab Action Program of the Provincial Government of Bizkaia and the University of Deusto. The coordinators are Pedro J. Oiarzabal, a researcher at the Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute, and Nerea Mujika, Director of the Institute of Basque Studies at the University of Deusto. 

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Ondare bizia, immigration, exile, return. Images from the Basque Library, UNR

Paul Laxalt and father Dominique travers summer snow pack. Laxalt sheep range in High Sierra. Gus Bundy.

Paul Laxalt and father Dominique traverse summer snow pack. Laxalt sheep range in High Sierra. Gus Bundy. From the Basque Library, UNR

The project seeks to record interviews with people about their experiences. Click here to see a selection of recorded interviews (with subtitles in English) under the heading “Fragments of Our Lives: Exile, Emigration, and Return to Bizkaia.”

To read more about the immigration experiences of one particular Wyoming town, check out Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming, edited by David Romtvedt (and keep an eye our for David’s new novel, forthcoming this spring) and Dollie Iberlin, and for diaspora experiences in a more urban setting, The Gardeners of Identity: The Basques of the San Francisco Bay Area by Pedro Oiarzabal.