Tag: Jon Bilbao Basque Library

The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies 50th Anniversary

Photo credit: Josu Zubizarreta

During the darkest days, when we were denied our language, our culture and our identity, we were consoled by the knowledge that an American university in Nevada had lit one small candle in the night.

-Lehendakari Jose Antonio Ardanza, March 1988

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

Last week, on November 8, the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies celebrated its 50th anniversary with CBS faculty, students, and staff as well as countless members of the Basque community and supporters of the Center. Held at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library, the space was packed quickly. There was food and drink and a wonderful atmosphere. People reconnected with old friends and new ones at the lively event. Here’s some background on the CBS ‘s History and Mission:

History

Originally called the Basque Studies Program, the Center was created in 1967 as part of the Desert Research Institute at the University of Nevada, Reno. At that time, the DRI was creating new programs to reach various aspects of the Great Basin’s inhabitants and history. The idea for studying the Basques was proposed since Basque-Americans have long formed a prominent minortiy in the region and have contributed a great deal to its development. Bill Douglass served as the Program’s director from 1967-1999, when he retired to become Professor Emeritus in Basque Studies. The Basque Studies Program was renamed the Center for Basque Studies as a result of a program review conducted in 1999.

CBS Mission

The primary mission of the CBS is to conceive, facilitate, conduct, and disseminate the results of interdisciplinary research on the Basques to a local, regional, national, and internation audience, and by extension to draw attention to the human experience of small ethnic groups. The Center seeks to maintain excellence in all its endeavors and to achieve its goals through high quality research, publications, conferences, active involvement in scholarly networks throughout the world, as well as through service and teaching.

Channel 2 News was present and recorded a short news video on the event, available online. In it, they interview Xabier Irujo, the CBS director, and Dr. Sandy Ott, one of our professors. The video definitely captures the mood of the event.

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

President Johnson of UNR was given the word first, and he spoke of the history of the CBS and its impact on the UNR campus. He has taken a few trips to the Basque Country with the advisory council and genuinely enjoys our culture! Next up came William A. Douglass, our namesake and one of the founders of the CBS, as well as a pioneering researcher on Basques in the U.S. Douglass reflected on the center’s history and his own place within it. Dr. Irujo then spoke about both the CBS and Basque Studies in a global context, providing jokes and anecdotes. We were then honored by Jesus Goñi’s bertsoak celebrating the Center’s place in Basque history.

Photo Credit: Iñaki Arrieta-Baro

Photo Credit: Gemma Martín Valdanzo

Overall, it was a great event that gathered so many voices from the Basque community and academia. To 50 more years of the CBS!

 

 

 

 

 

WSFH 45th Annual Conference

The Western Society for French History’s 45th Annual Conference was held on November 2-4 here in Reno, sponsored by our very own Center for Basque Studies and the Santa Clara University History Department. Dr. Sandy Ott led the local arrangements committee with help from numerous members of the CBS staff and students, dedicating countless hours to the conference’s success. There were around 150 speakers and attendees to the 35 panels on diverse topics such as “Imperial Mobilities: Labor, Goods, and Technology between Colony and Metropole” and “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile the French Basque Country.” To check out the program, visit the WSFH website. I will include a brief description of the conference, however, provided by the society:

The forty-fifth annual conference of the Western Society for French History will be held from November 2-4 in Reno, Nevada. The theme for this year’s conference is “Diasporas, Displacements, and Migrations,” and engages with diverse human experiences of relocation, both forced and voluntary, and invites reflection on large-scale human displacements, both past and present, and the long-term consequences they generate. Our keynote speakers will be Tyler Stovall (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Annette Becker (Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense).

The University of Nevada, Reno is the home to the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies, which is co-sponsoring the conference. The conference will highlight the Basques and their vibrant culture, and participants will be able to sample Basque cuisine at the Friday business luncheon. The Basque experience reflects the conference theme, and our aim is to bring aspects of Basque culture to the program so that participants can appreciate the historic importance of the Basque people in the Great Basin Region of the American West.

This year the conference organizers are introducing a new format: a linked Conference Plenary Roundtable and Conference Workshop.  Following on last year’s excellent discussion at the roundtable “Crisis in French History?” we have planned the roundtable “Addressing Structural Racism in French History and French Historical Studies,” followed by a related workshop in which we hope colleagues can explore in more depth pedagogical questions raised by the roundtable discussion.  If you are interested in exploring strategies for engaging with questions of race in your classrooms, please plan to attend this inaugural Conference Workshop.

As co-sponsorers of the event, we had our own books out and of course, Dr. Ott’s new Living with the Enemy. We also had a collection of posters from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library on display, which really livened up the space.  Numerous questions were asked about the Basques at the registration desk. One professor, although raised in Brittany, had Basque ancestors who had made their way into France. Another had visited the area in the late 1960s, who recalled his travels with much enthusiasm. The attendees seemed genuinely interested in learning more and got the chance to have a Basque-style lunch too. Food is always the best way to learn about a culture!

Yesterday’s post outlines the panel on “Nazism, Neo-Nazism, and Exile in the French Basque Country” and the presentations by Aurélie Arcocha-Scarcia, Mari Jose Olaziregi, and our own Ziortza Gandarias. Dr. Zulaika’s comments resonated with the present and the past of the Basques. Overall, it was a great success.

On a personal note, I had the chance to reconnect with a professor of mine after 10 years. I had seen his name on the program, Dr. Jonathan Beecher, but couldn’t put a face to the name. The moment he walked up to the registration desk, I immediately recognized him. He was on a panel entitled “Flaubert, Marx, and 1848,” with Biliana Kassabova and Dominica Chang, chaired by Naomi Andrews and commented on by Mary Pickering. I had a chance to attend the panel, and as I had read both Flaubert and Marx in Dr. Beecher’s class, “19th Century European Intellectual History,” I was brought back to the days that I began my studies in History. Back then, my focus was on Modern Europe, Germany to be exact. How things have changed! I am now in my sixth year studying Basque migration! Attending that panel made me reflect on my path as a historian, and the many professors and books that have influenced my studies. In that regard, the WSFH conference was a wonderful opportunity to hear different scholars and re-energize my own studies.

The Comforts of Home: A Basque Sheep Camp

The Basque Library has set up a new exhibit at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center.

From June 20 to August 10, 2017, The Comforts of Home: A Basque Sheep Camp showcases Dominique Laxalt’s sheep camp from Marlette Lake. Dominique purchased over a hundred acres of grazing lands high in the Sierras in the early part of the twentieth century, two thousand feet above the eastern shores of Lake Tahoe. Dominique herded sheep in the mountains above Carson City, Nevada, for decades, operating out of his base camp at Marlette. He took his sons with him and this made an indelible impression especially on Robert Laxalt, who later wrote of those experiences in Sweet Promised Land.

The materials from the camp were boxed up and in storage for decades. Upon the closing of the offices they were stored in, these items were found and donated to the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

Preparing a camp for themselves, the sheepherder had to be a jack-of-all-trades. Setting up the tent, hunting and fishing for food, cooking, and keeping track of supplies were the domestic side of their time outside tending the flock. All they had to survive on for many weeks at a time were the supplies they carried with them. Pack mules or horses carried the building blocks of creature comforts. As time went on, they would be resupplied by the ranch managers or owners. Early on this would be with other pack animals, then wagons, and finally trucks. Improvised fishing poles from branches, pot racks from belts, and improvised gadgets were all pressed into service. Not just double duty, many of the materials they carried had to be multifunctional.

Alone for weeks at a time, Basque sheepherders sometimes only had their horses, dogs, and sheep to talk and took to leaving tree carvings to express themselves. Aspen trees scarred up beautifully to leave a lingering glimpse into their thoughts. Women, animals, home, their names, and dates, all feature as themes in the carvings. This art emerged from solitude is wonderfully showcased by the Mountain Picasso: Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin exhibit, also at the Sparks Museum. Sponsored by the Nevada Arts Commission and the Nevada Historical Society, this exhibit is curated by Jean and Phillip Earl, a couple that has been collecting tree carvings for 50 years.

On June 30,  the museum is holding a reception for the Basque exhibits on display. You are all invited to enjoy refreshments from 4 to 6 p.m.

Post by Shannon Sisco and Iñaki Arrieta Baro.

An update from Irati, our Basque Library Intern

We here at the blog have decided to check up on Irati U., who you may have read about in a previous post. The following is an update from the Algortarra, who we are happy to have here at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library and at the Center for Basque Studies. She is doing a tremendous amount of work in the archive and it’s a pleasure seeing her every day.

Five months have passed since I landed in Reno and I couldn’t be happier! First off, this is my first experience related to working in archives so I had a lot to learn. When I arrived, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the archives and the materials in them. I couldn’t believe how interesting they are. I’ve found all kinds of documents, some dealing with exile, others with the first sheepherders in the West as well as boardinghouses, and the personal stories behind all of them. On example is the story of the migrant to Colombia “El Cojo” Gómez, who happened to be from my hometown, Algorta. He was a “good” smuggler in the sense that he told on “bad” people, even though he was murdered in retaliation for having killed three men. This is just one of the many stories hidden in the archives of the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

After the process of getting to know the materials, I received training from the library staff in various programs that I’ve been using to catalog archival documents. I think it’s wonderful that they spend time teaching new interns not just how to use the programs but also helping us throughout the way. I still have questions sometimes, but I think I’ve learned quite a bit.

One of the tasks I carry out here besides cataloging is working at the library by attending to visitors and students. It is also my first time working with the public in this way, and I think I’ve improved a lot since I first sat in front of the main desk. Most of the people who come are interested in learning what we do at this library as well as Basque culture and history. Others come because of their interest in their backgrounds, thinking they may have Basque ancestors. We also get a lot of students because our library is quieter than the main library.

We currently have a window exhibit on the bombing of Gernika that I helped to put together. Not only did I record one of the testimonies, that of Mercedes Irala, but I also helped to translate the texts and edit the video on display. The Gernika exhibit is just a small homage to this historic event, but I think it’s important for the diaspora to remember the events that marked our grandparent’s generation.

For now, I’m continuing to discover new treasures that were forgotten in the many boxes that comprise the archive. I’m trying to figure out what it is we have exactly and see if we can create new collections for cataloging. As you can see, I’m working hard and enjoying every minute of it.

Besides working at the library, I’ve had the chance to get to know Reno as well as its surroundings and people. For example, I spent a wonderful weekend at Black Rock Desert for the rendezvous organized by Friends of the Nevada Wilderness and Friends of BRD. I also had the chance to attend the Basque Picnic in Petaluma (CA), which was a way for me to take part in the Basque-American experience. I look forward to traveling more across the West.

Before I end this post, I just wanted to thank everyone at the Basque Library and in the Main Library for giving me this opportunity, especially Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, the Basque librarian, who has to deal with me every day and answer all of my questions. Mila esker!

An Interview with Beñat Dachaguer

As many of you know, we have quite a few visitors throughout the year. In this interview, we introduce you to Beñat Dachaguer, who is doing an internship at the library.

1) Tell me a bit about yourself…

My name is Beñat Dachaguer and I come from Bayonne in the French Basque Country. During this 2016-2017 school year, I am studying Books and Heritage Professions at Grenoble University. Before that, I taught English in high schools for 10 years.

2)    What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies?

For this training course in Books and Heritage Professions, I needed to do a 2-month internship in a library. I am very interested in Basque culture, language, and literature. I applied to the Basque Library and they accepted me as an intern for 2 months. I am here until June 30.

3)    What is the goal of your project?

The purpose of my stay at the Basque Library is to understand the procedures of the Basque Library in the framework of a North American research library. Thanks to this internship, I am also able to gain knowledge about the Library’s archival collections and the holdings in general.

4)    What makes your study unique?

I speak Basque as my mother tongue and as a fully-quaIified English teacher, I am also fluent in English. The internship allows me to learn more about the Basque diaspora and Basque-American identity. It is interesting to see how they manage to keep Basque culture and traditions alive.

5)    What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I enjoy the city of Reno. I think it is a lively and pleasant town where there are many things to do: restaurants, cinema, pubs, casinos…  and of course, I have gone to Louis’ Basque Corner, the Basque restaurant downtown and visited the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder. I also went to Pyramid Lake, which I found beautiful!

6)  Has the Center for Basque Studies and Library helped you in any way?

The Center for Basque Studies has helped me a lot. There are many interesting documents about Basque culture and diaspora. I have to write a report about my stay at the Basque Library, so all the materials available are very useful to me. Besides, the colleagues (library staff, faculty, and Ph.D. students) are really nice. There is a good atmosphere in the library.

7)    Are you enjoying the U.S.?

I enjoy the USA, mainly the Western part. Nevada and California are states where there is a good life quality. I already went to Chino, near Los Angeles, 20 years ago and I have kept an excellent memory of my stay there! I am glad to be back in the USA.

8)    What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

I haven’t really missed anything except one thing maybe … actually, in April and May, I usually have fun at Basque festivals like Nafarroaren Eguna in Baigorri or Herri Urrats in Senpere. But this year I was in Reno … so I couldn’t attend these 2 events. However, last weekend, I went to the Basque picnic in Bakersfield, California. It was like being at home, in the Basque Country…I even discovered two new drinks:  Madras and VO+sprite. Next weekend, I am going to visit San Francisco and attend the local Basque picnic there… the show must go on!

Gernika: voices after the bombs

Gernika exhibit posterThe bombing of cities and civilians during wartime has been a constant in history almost since planes became war guns. On April 26, 1937, Gernika, the sacred city of the Basque people, was brutally attacked and destroyed by the Nazi Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force, acting under the command of the Spanish General Francisco Franco.  More than 2,000 people were killed.

The bombing of Gernika was one of the first actions of the Condor Legion, a real-life training ground for the Nazi’s Blitzkrieg warfare. The methods developed by this unit served as a model for the bombings by the Luftwaffe during World War II.

Eighty years after this event, with the screaming and cries of those being bombed all around the world on television and social media, the voices of those who witnessed the destruction of Gernika remind us that suffering is real.

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library is opening the exhibit Gernika: Voices after the Bombs. Its goal is precisely to give voice to whose who suffered the bombing and its aftermath. The exhibit comprises a selection of six witnesses testimonials about the pain experienced by Gernika’s inhabitants. These testimonials have been translated into English, audio-recorded, and complemented with a mural of pictures of the ruins of Gernika.

Gernika exhibit photograph wall

The exhibit has been developed by Xabier Irujo, from the Center for Basque Studies, and Iñaki Arrieta Baro and Shannon Sisco, both from the Basque Library. They had the support of Mikel Amuriza, Edurne Arostegui, Daniel Fergus, Jill Stockton, Kathleen Szawiola, Irati U., Kyle Weerheim, and Joseba Zulaika in translations, marketing, and multimedia development.

Opening today, you can visit Gernika: Voices after the Bombs until the end of October at the window exhibit case at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

Jon Bilbao Basque Library News

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library is experiencing an interesting period in its already long history. Since this time last year, the library’s staff has been working on a number of projects to better serve the Basques of North America, whether they are researchers or members of the public who are interested in Basque culture.

We are especially excited about the archival collections, composed of Basque-American family papers, research collections, and records of Basque clubs around the country. We are transferring all the information about these collections to a new management system that will greatly improve accessibility to them. Improving access to these materials will help researchers to better understand the historical development of the Basque-American community.

Helping to preserve the documentary heritage of the Basque Diaspora is one of our main goals. Are you in possession of any papers or documents relating to your Basque family? If this is the case, please consider using the Jon Bilbao Basque Library as a repository that will enable researchers and members of the community to learn more about your family’s Basque heritage. Please contact the Basque Librarian Iñaki Arrieta if you are interested in this opportunity (email: arrieta@unr.edu).

Photo credits: Jon Bilbao Basque Library

 

 

An Interview with Irati, the New Basque Library Intern

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library recently welcomed a new intern, Irati U., who has arrived from Getxo (Bizkaia), a town neighboring Bilbao on the coast. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and a Master’s in Teacher Training from the University of the Basque Country, giving her the qualifications to teach high school philosophy. We took a moment to interview Irati so that we could introduce her to you, our readers. We look forward to having her around here at the center and library, as she is a welcome addition to our little community.

What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies and how long will you be here?

I am here on a grant called Global Training, which is given by the Basque Government, and I will stay here for six months, until July.

Tell me a bit about the Global Training program

Every year some Basque organizations and entities, with the help of the Basque government, offer several internship programs in foreign companies. The aim of these programs is to give the intern an opportunity to get some work experience abroad and then to come back and somehow enrich the Basque Country in their new jobs.

How did you learn about the Center for Basque Studies and its Basque library?

While I was reading the list that the University of the Basque Country offered for the Global Training program, I saw the name of the Jon Bilbao Basque Library. It immediately caught my attention and I researched a little bit about it. I found it really interesting and I decided that it was the place that I wanted to go.

What are you working on at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library?

I will be mainly working in the archives with Iñaki Arrieta and Shannon Sisco. We want to transfer all the information about the Basque collection to a new management system that will improve the access to them, so anyone from the main library can have access to the information in the archives.

What are your interests and hobbies?

I have various interests, but most of them are related to social and cultural issues. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching films and TV shows, and taking walks or hiking.

Are you enjoying the U.S.?

Yes, although it is cold and dry, I am having a very good time here.

What are you looking forward to in your stay here in Reno and in the United States in general?

I am willing to learn more about American culture and about the Basques in the States. I would like to travel around to visit some other important places for the Basque diaspora and, certainly, I would love to travel to the wonderful National Parks you have here.

What have you missed the most since youve been here?

I have only been here for a week, so I haven’t had enough time to miss lots of things, but I believe that what I will miss the most will be my boyfriend, family and friends, and, of course, the food and the sea!

 

New exhibit at the Basque Library

The Jon Bilbao Basque Library now has a new window exhibit!

Basque Culture has been  characterized as an oral culture for a long time, in which orality plays a strong role in cultural transmission. The best known oral cultural activity is Bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry.

Bertsolaritza is a form of sung improvised poetry and an important cultural expression for the Basque people. Improvisers (Bertsolari in Basque) are well known by the population and they often perform at all kinds of festivities. Bertsolaritza is the Basque contribution to improvised poetries around the world. Basques have been able to preserve, modernize, and publicize bertsolaritza worldwide.

The exhibit includes explanatory texts, a shortened version of the documentary Bertsolari by the well know Basque director Asier Altuna, photographs of Bertsolariak in the Basque Country and the US, and a selection of our books about Bertsolaritza.

The Basque Library at the University of Nevada, Reno is now part of Kulturartea, a network of academic organizations working together in the field of improvised poetry including Basque Bertsolaritza and other similar activities around the world. This exhibit is our first visible effort to increase awareness about Bertsolaritza in Nevada and beyond.

Bertsolaritza exhibit at the Jon Bilbao Basque Library

The Center for Basque Studies will kindly provide all of our visitors with complimentary copies of the work Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition. This volume brings together contributions by leading scholars in the field of orally improvised poetry. It includes, on the one hand, essays on improvised poetry and, on the other, essays in which leading practitioners of bertsolaritza study their own poetic art and its techniques.

The exhibit was designed by Iñaki Arrieta Baro and Shannon Sisco, and put in place by Shannon and our student workers Vivian Lewis and Annabel Gordon. It will be on display until April 2017.