Tag: jai alai

Young Basques making sports careers for themselves in the United States

The Basque-language daily Berria included an interesting report in its Sunday edition yesterday on three young Basques forging sports careers in the United States.

Jagoba Nabarte (Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, 1992) is a professional jai-alai player. In 2015 he received an offer to play at the Dania Jai-Alai fronton in Dania Beach, Florida, and in his own words, he didn’t have to think much about accepting because since the age of fifteen he’d had the goal of going to the US one day to play jai-alai: “On more than one occasion, someone who’d played in America showed up at one of my training sessions, and told me about how it was over there, and I was a little envious.” Although he was supposed to go to Florida in 2015, visa problems delayed the trip. He’d already quit his day job and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to fulfill his dream, and in the end, he had to wait until February this year to make the journey. He recently returned to the Basque Country after a six-month stay in Florida, but will shortly return to Dania Beach, where he finished in the upper half of the final classification table during his previous time there; not bad for a rookie pelotari. He observes that the courts are different in the US and the balls faster, two technical differences that he had to learn about quickly and the hard way. It goes without saying, too, that, as he notes, the bets are larger too in the US!

Uxoa Bertiz (Elizondo, Nafarroa, 1997) has been attending Drury University in Springfield, MO, on a soccer scholarship for the last three years and plays for the Drury Panthers. It has always been her dream to be a professional soccer player, and she did play for Real Sociedad in Donostia as well as the Basque national team. But as she says, she always thought she may go to the US one day: “Soccer in the United States has always attracted me.” Finding it hard to balance her passion for soccer with her studies back home, she applied to several US universities, where she knew the school system made it easier to continue her education while developing as a soccer player. Ultimately, Drury made her an offer and she traveled to Missouri to further her career: “For me, it was the best option, and I didn’t think twice.” She’s now studying computer engineering at Drury and has a busy schedule, getting up at 5 am every day for early morning training before attending class between 9 am and 3 pm, finishing up with more gym work in the afternoon. While it’s been tough to uproot from her family and friends and move thousands of miles away, she’s proud of what’s she’s achieved. And so she should be!

Eneritz Larrañaga (Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa, 1998) plays for the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College women’s basketball team in Miami, Oklahoma. She’s been in Oklahoma since August 2016 and, as she herself says, while it was tough to make the transition at first, once she made some friends, that helped a lot. In her own words, the “most difficult thing has been adjusting to the US style of basketball, because it’s a lot more individual and physical.”  She didn’t get a lot of game time during the first few months there, but has gradually adapted to the style of play. She’s also studying International Business, while training five days a week (starting at 6 am before class and then again in the evenings). And if that were not enough, she also works part time in a coffee shop. As she says, she really values getting to know lots of people from different countries but, naturally, she also misses her family and friends. Still, she’s happy to be getting a good education and achieve a good level of English, while also being able to play the sport she loves.

Read the full report (in Basque) here.

Jai Alai Blues: A New Documentary Film

Check out this teaser for the new documentary film Jai Alai Blues (2015), directed by Gorka Bilbao for Berde Produkzioak and released by Atera Films, which traces the rise and fall of jai alai in Miami and beyond.

Jai Alai Blues official website here.

Read a review for the film by Neil Young for The Hollywood Reporter here. In Young’s words, “As a lively slice of offbeat, exotic social history — whose second half concentrates squarely on the game’s checkered history in the United States — it appeals beyond the usual sports-doc demographic and should be checked out by festivals and channels specializing in non-fiction fare.”

If you’re interested in this subject, see, too, Michael J. Mooney’s in-depth article “Whatever Happened to Jai Alai?

And the Center has also published a couple of books that may be of interest:

Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa. While more about the handball version of the sport than jai alai per se, this work does survey the different versions of pelota, as well as demonstrating just how intrinsic it is to Basque culture.

Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi. This multi-authored study offers a wide-ranging series of perspectives on numerous sports, pelota included.

 

Old and New World Basques in the News

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Handball players in the Basque Country. Photo from Basque Library archive.

 

Two recent media articles examine Basque culture in both the Basque Country and the United States.

First, on March 22 the UK edition of Esquire magazine published a travel guide to the Basque Country. In “Another Country: The Basque Region,” author Tim Lewis takes us on a cultural, historical, gastronomic, sporting, and architectural tour of the Basque Country, inviting us to “discover the secrets of the original Europeans.”

If you’ve read the artice, or if you are interested exploring the topics yourself, on Basque culture in general, see Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, by William A. Douglass and Joseba Zulaika, a comprehensive introduction to the topic, with chapters on a wide variety of subjects from Euskara and Prehistoric art to the contemporary literature, music, and art of the Basque Country, and including the personal experiences of both authors’ field research.

In Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic, meanwhile, Olatz González Abrisketa explains the social and symbolic importance of this most Basque of traditional sports, a sibling of jai alai (the “happy fiesta” in Basque) or cesta-punta, as it also known. González Abrisketa asks: “But why is it precisely this game that conquered the centers of urban spaces in the Basque Country and the neighboring provinces? Why do Basques play this game and not another? What is its specificity? What does it tell us about the Basques? Why do they consider it their ‘national sport’?”

Sports of a more modern variety are explored in Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion, edited by Mariann Vaczi. These conference papers address a wide variety of themes crisscrossing several sports and countries. General topics covered here include gender, social connections, the logic of games, and the affective dimensions of sports, Of specific Basque interest, individual chapters discuss pelota, Basque soccer, the Udaleku Basque summer camp, and the famous 1931 boxing match held in Reno, Nevada,  between Max Bauer and “the Basque woodchopper,” Paulino Uzcudun.

Finally, for anyone interested in reading more about the significance and impact of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao for both the Basque Country and beyond, see Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika and available for free download here.

Crossing over to the New World, “‘Ni Boisekoa naiz’, Keeping Basque alive in Idaho,” was also published on March 22, by Ryan Schuessler for  Al jazeera America. Idaho has the highest percentage of Basque speakers in the U.S. and this article reports on the numerous initiatives to maintain the language there.

If you’d like to read more about Basques and the Basque language in Idaho, check out Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture,  by Estibaliz Amorrortu, which includes chapters on Basque language maintenance in the United States.

On Basques in Idaho, more generally, see Boise Basques: Dreamers and Doers, by Gloria Totoricagüena , which charts the Basque settlement of Idaho;  From Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa, by Quane kenyon with Pete T. Cenarrusa, the remarkable personal account of “a patriot and statesman in two lands, half a world apart”; and Kashpar : The Saga of the Basque immigrants to North America, by Joseph Eiguren, which provides a highly personal account of what life was like for those early immigrants.