Category Archives: traditions

Recap: Volume III, 2013

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Similar to the imminent art of improvising verses in the Basque language, or bertsolaritza, our life, especially in the digital world, is ephemeral. This oral tradition reaffirms and expresses an identity rooted in a specific area but with a global projection thanks to the emergent technologies of information and communication. Since its inception Basque Identity 2.0 has assumed the challenge of its own fugacity by exploring different expressions of Basque identity, understood in transnational terms, through a global medium. Perhaps, this comes down to accepting that our ephemeral condition is what really helps to shape our collective memory and identity, and which are constantly revisited and reconstructed.

Bertsolaritza-2013Maialen Lujanbio, bertsolari or Basque verse improviser, sings about the Basque diaspora. Basque Country Championship, Barakaldo (Bizkaia), December 15, 2013. Source: Bertsoa.

In June, we celebrated the 4th anniversary of Basque Identity 2.0. I would like to acknowledge our colleagues and friends from A Basque in Boise, About the Basque Country, EITB.com and Hella Basque for their continuous support and encouragement (“Sucede que a veces”—“It happens sometimes,” May post).

We began the year reflecting on our historical memory, which has increasingly become a recurrent topic in the blog for the past two years. Through the stories of Pedro Junkera Zarate—a Basque child refugee in Belgium from the Spanish Civil war—Jules Caillaux—his foster dad while in Belgium, and one of the “Righteous among the Nations”—and Facundo Sáez Izaguirre—a Basque militiaman who fought against Franco and flew into exile—I attempted to bring some light into a dark period of our history. Their life stories are similar to some extent to many others whose testimonies are critical to understand our most recent history of self-destruction and trauma (“Algunas personas buenas”—“Some good people,” February post). Some of these stories are part of an ongoing oral history project on Basque migration and return. As part of the research I was able go back to the United States to conduct further interviews and to initiate a new community-based project called “Memoria Bizia” (“#EuskalWest2013,” November post).

In addition, May 22 marked the 75th anniversary of the massive escape from Fort Alfonso XII, also known as Fort San Cristóbal, in Navarre, which became one of the largest and most tragic prison breaks, during wartime, in contemporary Europe. This was the most visited post in 2013 (“The fourth man of California,” March post).

On the politics of memory, I also explored the meaning of “not-forgetting” in relation to the different commemorations regarding the siege of Barcelona 299 years ago, the coup d’état against the government of Salvador Allende 40 years ago, and the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States. Coincidentally, September 11th was the date of these three historical tragic events (“El no-olvido”—“Not-to-forget,” September post).

The Spanish right-wing newspaper ABC led the destruction of the persona of the late Basque-American Pete Cenarrusa, former Secretary of the State of Idaho (United States), by publishing an unspeakable obituary. Nine blogs from both sides of the Atlantic (A Basque in Boise, About Basque CountryBasque Identity 2.0Bieter Blog, 8 Probintziak, Nafar Herria, EuskoSare, Blog do Tsavkko – The Angry Brazilian, and Buber’s Basque Page) signed a common post, written in four different languages, to defend Cenarrusa (“Pete Cenarrusaren defentsan. In Memorian (1917-2013)”—“In defense of Pete Cenarrusa. In Memorian (1917-2013),” October post). It was a good example of digital networking and collaboration for a common cause. However, this was not an isolated event regarding the Basque diaspora. Sadly, nearly at the same time, ABC’s sister tabloid El Correo published a series of defamatory reports against the former president of the Basque Club of New York. Once again, ignorance and hatred laid beneath the personal attacks against public figures, for the only reason of being of Basque origin.

Basque literature, in the Spanish and English languages, was quite present in the blog throughout the year. Mikel Varas, Santi Pérez Isasi, and Iván Repila are among the most prolific and original Basque artists of Bilbao, conforming a true generation in the Basque literature landscape of the 21st century (“Nosotros, Bilbao”—“We, Bilbao,” April post). The year 2013 also marked the 10th anniversary of “Flammis Acribus Addictis,” one of most acclaimed poetry books of the late Sergio Oiarzabal, who left us three years ago (“Flammis Acribus Addictis,” June post). The blog also featured the late Basque-American author Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton’s book, “Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees”, which is a welcoming breath of fresh air for the younger readers (“Yes!July post).

This has been a year filled with opportunities and challenges. Personally, I have been inspired by the greatness of those who keep moving forward in spite of tragedy and unforeseen setbacks, and by those who are at the frontline of volunteering (“Aurrera”—“Forward,” December post).

Thank you all for being there. Now, you can also find us on Facebook. I would love to hear from you. Happy New Year!

Eskerrik asko eta Urte berri on!

(NOTE: Remember to use Google Translate. No more excuses about not fully understanding the language of the post).

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Aurrera

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“Nadie puede emprender una lucha si de antemano no confía plenamente en el triunfo. El que comienza sin confiar perdió de antemano la mitad de la batalla y entierra sus talentos. Aun con la dolorosa conciencia de las propias fragilidades, hay que seguir adelante sin declararse vencidos…”

(Papa Francisco, Evangelii Gaudium, 2013)

Aurrera! ¡Hacia adelante! Apenas a unos días del fin del año las hojas del calendario nos delatan el paso irremediable del tiempo, al igual que nos obligan a mirar en el retrovisor de nuestra memoria con la esperanza de extraer conclusiones que puedan albergar una guía de actuación en el nuevo año que se nos avecina.

En medio de la multitud, la vida se nos revela como un sinfín de fotogramas hechos de instantes efímeros, haciéndose más presente que nunca las ausencias de los seres queridos. Otro año más volveremos a estar juntos, aunque ya no estemos todos.

A principios de este año el Instituto Heidelberg para el Estudio del Conflicto Internacional presentó su análisis de los conflictos violentos existentes en 2012 a nivel global. El resultado era de 43 conflictos violentos de alta intensidad de un total de 396. De éstos, 18 eran guerras repartidas por 15 países diferentes. La imagen no podría ser más deshumanizadora. Habrá que esperar al siguiente informe para confirmar que la violencia que ha asolado a nuestro planeta durante el 2013 no ha variado mucho con respecto a los años anteriores.

global-violent-conflicts-2012Conflictos violentos en 2012 a nivel estatal. Fuente: Instituto Heidelberg, 2013.

En medio de la celebración de estos días nos damos cuenta de lo afortunado que somos, o al menos más afortunados que otros. Cientos de campañas solidarias de organizaciones no gubernamentales, ya sean locales, estatales o internacionales, se propagan como un fuego al calor de un sol de invierno en Navidad. En los tres primeros puestos de los anuncios de Google nos encontramos a la Agencia de la ONU para los Refugiados (ACNUR) desde donde se nos invita a ayudar a los niños refugiados sirios como resultado de una de la guerras mencionadas en tan desalentador informe, mientras Médicos Sin Fronteras nos invita a “salvar vidas” haciéndose socio, y la Fundación Vicente Ferrer nos anima a apadrinar a un niño indio como forma de erradicar la pobreza extrema en ese país asiático.

En el corazón del mundo occidental neo-liberal, la ONG Educo nos alerta del grave deterioro del sistema de bienestar social en el Estado español, que ha provocado que 2,5 millones de niños vivan en contextos de pobreza y que un 25% de los niños sufran malnutrición. Con el objetivo de paliar la falta de alimentos Educo ha elaborado un programa para el que solicita donativos.

Proyecto de Becas Comedor: con la comida no se juega y sin ella tampoco. Fuente: Educo, 2013.

¿Eres solidario/a? ¿Colaboras con alguna ONG? Cuéntanoslo.

Jai Zoriontsuak eta Urte Berri On!!!

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El no-olvido

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“Ahora bien, si poco a poco dejas de quererme dejaré de quererte poco a poco…piensa que en ese día, a esa hora levantaré los brazos y saldrán mis raíces a buscar otra tierra.”

Pablo Neruda (Si tú me olvidas, en “Los Versos del Capitán”, 1952)

Cada día cientos de miles de pequeñas historias se agolpan alrededor de sucesos que por su trascendencia social, política o económica llegan a fraguar el devenir de todo un pueblo, país o región. Es entonces cuando se impone desde el poder una política activa ya sea, según convenga, de recuerdo o de amnesia. Una política pública de la memoria que transcurre por la senda de la historia con una excepcional carga emotiva y simbólica, en constante reinterpretación desde el presente y para el presente. En un extremo tenemos, por ejemplo, la conmemoración del llamado “Glorioso Alzamiento Nacional” del 18 de julio de 1936, y que se constituyó en el festivo “Día Nacional de España” durante la dictadura del General Francisco Franco hasta 1977. En el otro extremo nos encontramos con la promulgación de la Ley de Amnistía del 15 de octubre de 1977 en el contexto de la Transición Española. Dicha ley, vigente a día de hoy, impide juzgar los delitos cometidos durante la Guerra Civil y la época franquista, incluyendo los crímenes de lesa humanidad, aun siendo imprescriptibles según el Derecho Internacional. De esta manera, la historia se convierte en un juego de luces y sombras, de olvidos y recuerdos intencionados.

Un día como cualquier otro es ese del 11 de septiembre en el cual convergen eventos trágicos de gran calado histórico que surcan geografías varias y que se desarrollan en diferentes épocas. Entre ellos se encuentra el 299 aniversario de la caída de Barcelona (el 300 desde el inicio de su asedio), el 40 del Golpe de Estado en Chile, y el 12 aniversario de los ataques a las “torres gemelas” del World Trade Center de Nueva York. En los tres casos, la instrumentalización del pasado a través de la memoria juega un papel fundamental en la legitimización de políticas del presente. ¿Qué significan esas conmemoraciones anuales de carácter nacional y qué impacto tienen en la sociedad? ¿Qué se entiende por el recuerdo o el “no-olvido” de los acontecimientos que tuvieron lugar un 11 de septiembre?

1714 es el año de la caída de la ciudad de Barcelona ante las tropas de Felipe V—primer Rey de la Casa de Borbón en España—tras catorce de meses de asedio. La derrota militar del 11 de septiembre supuso el inicio de la abolición de las instituciones catalanas que culminó dos años después. Tras la restauración del Estatuto de Autonomía de Catalunya se eligió tal día para celebrar de manera oficial su Día Nacional, la Diada. Una de las actividades conmemorativas de la jornada se centra en una ofrenda floral en el Fossar de les Moreres, donde se encuentran enterrados muchos de los defensores de Barcelona durante su sitio.

El-Fossar-de-les-Moreres-BarcelonaEl Fossar de les Moreres. Imagen: Pedro J. Oiarzabal.

Simbólicamente, las 17:14 de la pasada Diada marcaron el momento álgido de la unión de norte a sur de Catalunya a través de una cadena humana de 400 kilómetros, y que aunó entre 1.500.000 personas, según la Generalitat de Catalunya, y 400.000, según el Ministerio del Interior del Gobierno de España. Es la llamada Vía Catalana hacia la Independencia, y cuya iniciativa popular, con gran acogida en la diáspora catalana, tuvo reflejo en 116 países a lo largo y ancho del planeta.

Cartell-Via-Catalana-México-DF-31-d'agost-2013Cartel de la Vía Catalana en México D.F. Imagen: Asociación Cultural Mexicano Catalana.

1973 marca el fatídico año del Golpe de Estado, auspiciado por el Gobierno de Estados Unidos, contra el gobierno del Presidente de Chile Salvador Allende, y cuyo suicidio aceleró la victoria de los sublevados. En unas pocas horas, desde la toma de Valparaíso a las 6:00 de la mañana por parte de las tropas rebeldes, y el asalto al Palacio de la Moneda en Santiago a las 10:30, el destino del país se truncó. La caída del gobierno legítimamente elegido en las urnas se tradujo en la implantación de una férrea dictadura militar, personificada en la figura del General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, y que perduró hasta 1990. De forma similar al régimen franquista, el de Pinochet instauró por ley el día de su sublevación como día festivo para conmemorar el “Aniversario de la Liberación Nacional”, el cual no fue derogado hasta 1998. Las cifras oficiales sobre violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas por el régimen militar alcanzan cerca de 3.200 muertos, siendo un tercio de ellos personas desaparecidas.

Manifestantes-conmemoración-40-aniversario-golpe-militar-Santiago-de-ChileManifestantes portando fotografías de desaparecidos durante la conmemoración del 40 aniversario del golpe militar, Santiago de Chile. Imagen: Sebastián Silva/AFP/Getty Images. El Nuevo Herald©.

El eslogan político del “Nunca olvidaremos” (“Never forget”) resuena alto y claro cada 11 de septiembre en Estados Unidos desde 2001. Desde el impacto del primer avión a las 8:46 y del segundo a las 9:03 transcurrieron tan solo 17 minutos. Sin embargo, las consecuencias de los ataques perpetrados por Al Qaeda siguen perdurando a día de hoy. Se argumenta la instauración de un nuevo orden en la política internacional, donde las libertades individuales están sido sacrificadas en nombre de la seguridad colectiva.

9-11-tribute-light-memorial“Tribute in Light” es una instalación de arte conmemorativo que simboliza el espacio dejado por las “torres gemelas”. Imagen: Kevin Mazur Photography/Getty Images. NY Daily News©.

Es el día y la hora, del que hablaba Neruda…el 11 de Septiembre de 1714, o de 1973, o de 2001…Es el día y la hora en el que se forjan los “no-olvidos” nacionales que disputan al recuerdo el protagonismo en una memoria fratricida, de encuentros y desencuentros, de afrentas y reproches, de odios y desamores, y que nos catapultan irremediablemente a un pasado que se deshilacha, como una bandera de batallas perdidas raída por el paso del tiempo, en un presente ambiguo y reversible. Lo que prevalece es el “no-tiempo” que facilita la repetición de los errores del pasado.

Y tú, ¿qué no olvidas?

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Yes!

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“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark”

Victor Hugo (Les Misérables, 1862)

Against the backdrop of the secular Basque immigration history to the United States of America, a five-year-old girl, Maite Echeto, awaits the return of her father to the Old Country with her mother. In a visit to her cousins’ farm Maite meets a new-born goslin, by the name of “Oui Oui Oui,” that she ends up adopting. As one could imagine this is the beginning of their numerous and unexpected adventures throughout the colorful countryside of the Basque Country in France (Iparralde). Maite and the goslin are the main characters of the children’s book Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees.

Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees is the posthumous and first short story of Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton. As a well-known local artist she also illustrated the book with original drawings. Mary Jean was born in 1921 in Reno, Nevada, and passed away in 2008 in Verdi, Nevada. She lived in Iparralde for a number of years in the 1950s. According to her family, “Mary Jean had a vehicle and was popular with the family because the roads then were in bad shape. She lived most of the time in a little house named Bakea, in Laxia of Itxassou [Itsasu], Lapurdi.

Mary Jean’s parents were Jean Pierre Etcheberry and María Simona “Louisa” Larralde. Jean Pierre was born in 1891 in the small town of Saint-Just-Ibarre (Donaixti-Ibarre), in the Basque province of Lower Navarre, Nafarroa Beherea. He arrived in New York City at the age of 18. He worked as a sheepherder in Flagstaff, Arizona, and later on in the Winnemucca area. Jean Pierre arrived in Reno around 1914 and worked for the Jeroux family, a successful rancher at that time. María Simona “Louisa” was born in 1896 in Erratzu in the province of Nafarroa. She was the seventh of ten children, of whom six migrated to Nevada and California. Louisa arrived in New York City in 1914. Upon arrival in Reno, she worked as a maid in the mansion of the Jeroux family. “No doubt this is where she met her future husband Jean Pierre Etcheberry,” Paul Etxeberri, a nephew of Mary Jean, states. They married in 1917 in Reno and had three children: St. John, Paul John and Mary Jean. A decade later, Jean Pierre and Louisa bought a sheep ranch in southwest Reno and managed the Santa Fe Hotel, a successful Basque boardinghouse in downtown Reno, for over thirty years. Jean Pierre passed away in 1943, and Louisa in 1989 at the age of 93.

Mary Jean has now become part of Basque-America’s literary legacy, alongside Frank Bergon (Jesse’s Ghost), Martin Etchart (The Good Oak, The Last Shepherd), Robert Laxalt (Sweet Promised Land, The Basque Hotel…), Gregory Martin (Mountain City), and Monique Urza (The Deep Blue Memory), among others.

Before passing away Mary Jean entrusted her great-nieces, Marylou and Jennifer Etcheberry, with her precious manuscript, although it was just recently published.

Oui-Original-ManuscriptBook cover of Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees alongside the original type-written manuscript. Photo by Pedro J. Oiarzabal, July 2013, Reno Nevada.

Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees was published by the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2012, the second book of its Juvenile Literature collection. It follows Mark Kurlansky’s The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi, published in 2005 in English and Basque. With more than eighty titles ranging from diaspora and migration books to graphic novels it is by far the largest publishing house in the world on Basque topics for the English-speaking audience. Not shy to admit that academic presses should welcome other types of non-academic quality literary works, the Center for Basque Studies has issued a call for the first annual Basque Literary Writing Contest. (Please note: Entries closed on September 15, 2013.)

Marylou-EtcheberryMarylou Etcheberry, proud great-niece of Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton, poses with a copy of Oui Oui Oui. Photo by Pedro J. Oiarzabal, July 2013, Elko, Nevada.

Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees is a welcoming breath of fresh air for the English-speaking reader, and especially for its younger members, regardless of their ethnic and cultural background. I hope that many more titles would follow the adventures of Maite and her goslin.

My dearest darlings,” Jacque, Maite’s father, writes. “This is the letter I’ve dreamed of writing for four long years…Our future in America looks bright, and I can look forward to having my darlings with me…” This might well echo the wishes of many families that became strangled due to the physical separation upon leaving their homes and their loved ones behind. It very much resembles the family histories of our recent past. For Maite and her mother, it marks the beginning of a new quest.

Many thanks to Paul Etxeberri for gathering information on the Etcheberry family.

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Recap: Volume II, 2012

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The year 2012 marked the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of thousands of Basque children as a result of one of the darkest periods in European contemporary history—i.e., the Spanish Civil War. Its consequences in Basque soil were shattering, particularly for the civil society and its children. In 1937, over thirty small towns and villages in Bizkaia were intentionally bombarded by Generalissimo Francisco Franco´s Nazi allies to demoralize the Basque resistance. This provoked a massive organized departure of its youngest population. Some of the children were exiled to the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, having to endure, also, the outbreak of World War II. Many of them even enlisted in the Red Army (“No place for children,” March post).

Some of the children´s testimonies were collected in an oral history video—“Gure Bizitzen Pasarteak—Fragments of our Lives”—as part of an ongoing project that also took me to the land of the Basques in the United Sates (“#EuskalWest2012,” September post). The research attempts to uncover the lives of Basque migrants and exiles who had returned to the Basque Country as a way to make sense of the “injured” collective memory of an entire generation, which, undoubtedly, needs to be healed by acknowledging their sacrifice and suffering (“Mundos invisibles”—“Invisible worlds,” November post).

America was quite present in the blog throughout the year. It is well known the historical significance of this continent for the Basques as it has become a second home for hundreds of years, weaving a tight web of emotional geographies (“Etxea”—“Home,” April post). It is also known, to a certain extent, the relevance of some of the Basque migrants and descendants in the history of their countries of residence as in the cases of Julián Irízar (Argentina) and Jean Esponda (United States). Basque-Argentinian Lieutenant Commander Irízar led a successful rescued expedition in 1903 to the Antarctica, which also became the first official voyage of Argentina to the continent. One of the islands in the Antarctic Argentine Islands was named in his honor (“The Irízar Island,” February post). On the other hand, Johnson County, Wyoming, designed a flag to commemorate the State Fair´s 100th anniversary, which depicts the Ikurriña or Basque flag in order to honor the county´s Basque origins. This goes back to the arrival of Jean Esponda in 1902 from the Old Country. The Johnson County´s flag is the first official Basque flag outside the European homeland (“The Flag,” August post).

Also, we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Basque Fellowship Society “Euskal Erria” (Sociedad de Confraternidad Vasca) from Montevideo (Uruguay), the Basque Center Zazpirak-Bat from Rosario (Argentina), and the Basque Home (Euzko Etxea) from Santiago de Chile (Chile). These diaspora associations as many others worldwide are good examples of tenacity and steadiness (“ehun”—“100,”May post; “En nuestro propio mundo”—“In our own world”, June post, respectively).

Similar to last year, the most visited post also happened to refer to politics (“Tiempo de promesas”—“Time for promises,” October post). In the occasion of the elections to the Parliament of the Basque Autonomous Community, I attempted to explain the reasons behind the traditional low participation of diaspora Basques, and the importance, in my opinion, for the diaspora to be involved in homeland politics. It is there where diaspora politics are designed and shaped. It is there where the voices of the Basques abroad need to be heard.

Confronted with one of the most acute crisis that recent generations have witnessed, let´s remember Viktor Frankl´s— a Holocaust survivor—words, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Indeed, new but difficult times are ahead of us (“Tiempos nuevos”—“New times,” December post).

In June, Basque Identity 2.0, celebrated its 3rd anniversary. Special thanks to our colleagues from eitb.com, A Basque in Boise, and About the Basque Country for their continuous support.

Thank you all for being there. I would love to hear from you. Happy New Year!

Eskerrik asko eta Urte berri on!

(NOTE: Please feel free to use Google automatic translation service…it seems to have improved, just a little bit).

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Tiempos nuevos

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“Ves cosas y dices, ‘¿Por qué?’ Pero, yo sueño cosas que nunca fueron y digo, ‘¿Por qué no?’”.

George Bernard Shaw (Back to Methuselah, 1921)

Si comenzábamos el año viajando a la Isla de Irízar de la Antártida Argentina, lo despedimos desde las Islas de Diómedes (65° 47’ 0” N, 169° 1’ 0” O), situadas en la mitad del Estrecho de Bering, al sur del círculo polar Ártico. Están formadas por Diómedes Mayor (Inaliq), la cual pertenece a la Federación Rusa y se encuentra deshabitada, y Diómedes Menor (Ignaluk), habitada por 146 personas de la etnia Iñupiat Inuit, siendo parte de Estados Unidos. Separadas por un canal, éste puede ser atravesado andando cuando se encuentra congelado en invierno y, de esta manera, poder situarnos en una línea imaginaria que atraviesa el planeta de norte a sur. Es el meridiano 180°, coincidente con la línea internacional de cambio de fecha que marca el cambio de día en el calendario, y que sitúa caprichosamente a Diómedes Mayor—al oeste de la línea—a 21 horas por delante de Diómedes Menor—al este—en una distancia física de apenas 4 kilómetros. Consecuentemente, se conoce a Diómedes Mayor como la “Isla del Mañana” y a Diómedes Menor como la “Isla del Ayer”. Propio de una novela de ciencia ficción ¿quién hubiera podido imaginarse que pudiéramos viajar entre el ayer y el mañana y entre el mañana y el ayer, a pie, sin máquina del tiempo alguna, y compartiendo la misma hora solar?

diomedeMapa de las Islas Diómedes con la línea internacional de cambio de fecha (Fuente: Wordatlas).

Y es en esta subjetiva percepción del tiempo, y particularmente, durante los últimos días del año, cuando el mundo parece ralentizarse pero el discurrir del tiempo es el mismo. Y si hay algo en común tanto a las diferentes culturas y tradiciones religiosas que nos han precedido como a las actuales es la obsesión por medir el cambio cronológico, por organizar y controlar la dimensión temporal de nuestra existencia. Desde el reloj de sol hasta el atómico, pasando por el calendario juliano (46 a.C.) que dividía el año en doce meses, el de Constantino I el Grande (321 d.C.) que implantó las semanas en siete días, el calendario gregoriano (1582) que utilizamos oficialmente a día de hoy en casi todo el mundo, hasta la línea internacional de cambio de fecha o el tiempo universal coordinado. Todos han sido intentos de medir el tiempo, pasando de ser esfuerzos locales hasta ser adoptados universalmente. En nuestra pequeña geografía, sería el clérigo protestante labortano Joanes Leizarraga el que escribiera el primer calendario en euskera, Kalendrera, y quien también tradujera, por primera vez, el Nuevo Testamento al euskera, ambos publicados en 1571.

En nuestro pensamiento el tiempo parece no transcurrir y recordamos a aquellos que nos han dejado a lo largo del año y aquellos otros que nos dejaron tiempo atrás. Y a pesar de la abrumadora crisis—también de valores—que nos asola y de los malos presagios que pretenden ahogar nuestra ilusión de cara al nuevo año, retemos al futuro desde la esperanza y hagamos realidad las palabras de Viktor Frankl, superviviente del Holocausto: “Quien tiene un ‘porqué’ para vivir, encontrará casi siempre el ‘cómo’”. Permitámonos soñar y preguntarnos “¿por qué no?”. Un nuevo tiempo comienza.

Jai Zoriontsuak eta Urte Berri On!!!

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#EuskalWest2012

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I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was—I was far away from home…”

Jack Kerouac (“On the Road”, Part 1, Chapter 3, 1957)

Nevada

One summer evening at dusk (Las Vegas, Nevada).

Upon arriving in Reno, Nevada, the memories I thought were gone for good came back quickly…the silhouettes of the mountains, the city lights, the fragrant smell of the sagebrush, and the name of the streets revealed themselves like invisible ink on a white canvas. Time did not temper the sentiments, and past stories did not diminish in size. It is always good to come back, even if it is impossible to return to the point where I left off.

Ainara Puerta, my colleague, and I embarked on a month-and-a-half-long field trip to conduct oral history interviews with Basque emigrants across the American West as part of a larger project called BizkaiLab, which is the result of an agreement between the Provincial Council of Bizkaia and the University of Deusto. The Center for Basque Studies in Reno became our base camp.

CBS

The Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The aim of the project was (and still is) to preserve the rich migrant past of the Basque people for future generations by gathering information from the people who actually migrated and from those who had returned. Their stories travel landscapes of near and distant memories, between then and now, between an old home and a new home, and are invaluable for understanding our past and our present as a common people dispersed throughout the world.

Elko2

The Star Hotel, Basque boardinghouse established in 1910 in Elko, Nevada.

Understanding the relevance of preserving the life histories of the oldest members of the different Basque communities in America, the North American Basque Organizations, the Center for Basque Studies, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, and the University of Deusto came together to organize, in a very short period of time, an oral history workshop to train community members in the interviewing process. This, we believe, is a way forward to empower the communities to regain ownership of their local histories as told by those who lived through the migration and resettlement processes.

Workshop

The Oral History Workshop on Basque immigrants in the U.S. took place at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center (Boise, Idaho). Participants from left to right, Patty A. Miller, Teresa Yragui, Grace Mainvil, Gloria Lejardi, Gina Gridley, Goisalde Jausoro, David Lachiondo, and Izaskun Kortazar.

NABO

The North American Basque Organizations Board of Directors. From left to right: Marisa Espinal (Secretary), Valerie (Etcharren) Arrechea (President), Mary Gaztambide (Vice-president), and Grace Mainvil (Treasurer).

Similarly, the road led us to the Basque Cultural Center where we met the members of the Basque Educational Organization; great friends. Their constant work has turned into successful cultural projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the book, “Gardeners of Identity”, which I was honored to author.

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The Board of Directors of the Basque Educational Organization at the Basque Cultural Center (South San Francisco, California). From left to right, standing: Ainara Puerta, Marisa Espinal, Aña Iriartborde, Yvonne Hauscarriague, Esther Bidaurreta, Nicole Sorhondo, and Pedro J. Oiarzabal. From left to right, kneeling down: Franxoa Bidaurreta, Mari-José Durquet (guest), and Philippe Acheritogaray. (Photograph courtesy of Philippe Acheritogaray)

By the time our trip was coming to an end we had driven over 4,000 miles (approximately 6.600 kilometers) through the states of California, Idaho, and Nevada in less than thirty days. We gathered over 21 hours of interviews with Basques from Boise, Elko, Henderson, Las Vegas, Reno, and Winnemucca. We conducted ethnographic work in the Basque festivals of Boise, Elko, Reno, and Gardnerville; took hundreds of photographs; attended community meetings; and met with several Basque associations and individuals.

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On the road, Highway 50, “The Loneliest Road in America.”

Since the last time I was in the country many dear friends—some of whom had been key players in their Basque-American communities for decades—had sadly passed away. And yet, I found some comfort when witnessing a new generation of Basques, born in the United States, coming forward to maintain and promote our common heritage. This, in turn, will revitalize the Basque life and social fabric of their communities and institutions.

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Oinkari Basque Dancers at the San Inazio Festival (Boise, Idaho).

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Zazpiak Bat Reno Basque Club dancers preparing for the Basque festival in Elko, Nevada.

Throughout our road trip, we also perceived how some rural towns—once lively hubs filled with Basque social activities—now painfully languished, while others were certainly flourishing. It is a mixed sensation, a bitter-sweet feeling that comes to mind when I reflect back on the “health” of our Basque America. Are we writing the last chapters of the Basque culture book in the U.S.? I do not believe so or, at least, I do not want to believe it. I am not sure whether the answer to this question is based on evidence or just wishful thinking. Like many other things in life only time will tell.

Winnemucca

The Winnemucca Hotel, one of the oldest Basque boardinghouses in the American West, established in 1863 (Winnemucca, Nevada).

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The handball court in Elko, Nevada. A commemorative plaque for the mural reads as follows: “Ama, aita, euzkaldunak, inoiz ez dugu ahaztuko’…mother, father, Basques everywhere, we shall not forget! Our roots run deep.

Thank you all for your love, hospitality and support. Special thanks to those who opened their homes and lives by sharing their memories, some filled with hardships and struggles as well as with hopes and dreams. Indeed, our Basque roots run deep in the American West, and we barely scratched the surface.

Eskerrik asko eta ikusi arte…

On a personal note, “Basque Identity 2.0finally met “A Basque in Boise.”

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With Henar Chico in the “City of Trees.” (Photograph courtesy of Henar Chico)

[Except where otherwise noted, all photographs by Pedro J. Oiarzabal]

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Blog Recap: Volume I, 2011

  • Menéame0

In the context of understanding the many processes that take part in the creation and development of the Basque identity (or Basque identities) this blog has attempted to understand and explain it from different perspectives. This has taken us to comprehend identity as a true glocal and multidimensional phenomenon. The Basque Country and its diaspora (or diasporas) are envisioned as a spatial and time continuum at the crossroads of tradition and modernity.

Like a puzzle, Basque Identity 2.0 has put together different stories to draw an image of past and present aspects of our culture and traditions, while arguing about the meaning of authenticity, the reproduction of our identity, and the preservation of our common homeland and diaspora history (“The Basque global time,” April post). In this regard, I explored the implication of Basque cuisine in Barcelona, Catalonia as an “appropriation” of the “Basqueness trademark” or “Euskadi made in” label (“Euskal Barcelona,” February post), the endurance of Basque traditional dance in San Francisco, California (“Zazpiak Bat,” June post), and the redefined symbol of Basque music as a representation of our identity globally (“i-bai musika,” December post).

Most of these stories echoed the voices of many Basques around the globe, which sometimes are intertwined with my own life story as reflected, for instance, in the January (“Extraño”—“Singular”), July (“Cartografía de emociones”—“Cartography of emotions”), September and October posts. In a sense, I described the diaspora as a psychological and emotional community, which is increasingly connected to the homeland as an attempt to break up all geographical and temporal barriers (“Connected,” March post).

During the past year, I have tried to bring attention to our exiles as exemplified by the breathtaking story of “La Travesía del Montserrat” (“The Crossing,” August post) as well as our returnees, whom somehow have become “the forgotten Basques” of our contemporary history. In “Entre culturas” (“Between cultures,” May post) I talked about the returnees’ positive role that may play as “cultural brokers” between the society at large and the new migrants in the Basque Country.

Finally, in the aftermath of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (“¿Dónde estabas el 11 de Septiembre?—“Where were you on September 11th?” September post), ETA declared the end of the violent episode in its history (“Trust,” October post), while the Basque government called upon the Basque institutional diaspora to promote a peaceful image abroad (“2003, 2011,” November post). This post became the most commented and visited in the history of the blog, which tells us about the significance of homeland politics in the Basque diaspora. However, the diaspora is far from being a homogeneous and united entity. It is as ideologically plural as the Basque society itself, whose collective and historical memory plays a crucial role for its survival.

Thank you all for being there. I would love to hear from you. Happy New Year!

Eskerrik asko eta Urte berri on!

(NOTE: Please feel free to use Google automatic translation service…and good luck with it).

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i-bai musika

  • Menéame0

“La música es la taquigrafía de la emoción”

(Leo Tolstoy)

Mientras antropólogos culturales y etnomusicólogos nos relatan como la música es sin ninguna duda parte integral de una cultura y de las tradiciones orales de una sociedad, algunos sociólogos inciden en la importancia de la música y de las letras como elementos de socialización y de transmisión de información y de emociones. Aún más, investigadores pioneros en los campos de la neurología y psicología subrayan el impacto positivo de la música en nuestro desarrollo como persona y de nuestras propias estructuras emocionales. En sí, los sonidos en forma de canciones y relatos, al igual que aquellos aromas producidos en la cocina de nuestros mayores, se asocian a una memoria emocional anclada en un punto concreto de nuestra biografía. De esta manera, por ejemplo Joaquim Fuster argumenta que el motivo por el que una memoria es tan firme, tan sólida y tan duradera son las circunstancias emocionales en que se adquirió la memoria”. Ciertas memorias se encuentran asociadas a emociones específicas que son repetidas en el curso de la vida y que pueden ser evocadas, por ejemplo, por una determinada pieza musical, una imagen, un aroma o un sabor.

En nuestro pequeño planeta vasco han surgido un número de iniciativas innovadoras del ámbito cultural entre las que se encuentra muy especialmente Ibaimusic la cual reivindica el mundo de la música como forma de conectar con nuestras emociones, de relacionar nuestros sentidos con nuestras memorias, aunando en una misma sintonía-red a Euskal Herria y a la diáspora a través de la difusión de las diferentes tradiciones musicales vascas. Consecuentemente, esta propuesta cultural teje con intensidad una geografía de emociones y conocimientos que une a vascos de aquí y de allí, más allá de la distancia, y en donde Internet y las diversas aplicaciones digitales juegan un papel crucial. Nuestra comunidad global vasca toma cuerpo alrededor de un pentagrama acompañado por sus singulares signos musicales. El sociólogo vasco José Ignacio Ruíz Olabuenaga define esta comunidad como “una peculiar melodía constituida por las notas personales de todos los que nos sentimos vascos”.

Ibaimusicibaimusic “Emozioak lotuz-Conectamos emociones”

Proyectos como el de Ibaimusic nos proponen cientos y cientos de canciones que hilvanan cuentos e historias y nos transportan a otros tiempos y lugares que nos gustaría volver a visitar aunque fuera un instante…un solo instante. Nos acercan a placenteros recuerdos e imágenes que creíamos olvidados o desvanecidos en el tiempo, y que hacen que, al recuperarlos, las comisuras de nuestros labios se tornen en sonrisas. Imágenes de nuestra infancia inundan nuestra memoria y nos proyectan a otros tiempos donde lo imposible no existía en nuestro vocabulario y la vida se tornaba en un juego diario. ¿Cuál es la música vasca de tu niñez? ¿Qué recuerdos te traen las canciones e historias de tu infancia o juventud?

Y el tiempo transcurre. Y en nuestra memoria siguen perdurando un sinfín de sueños y de otros mundos posibles de alcanzar. Y a punto de iniciar un nuevo año echamos de menos las historias de aquellos vascos que decidieron quedarse en América, en Australia o en Europa y de aquellos otros que decidieron regresar y que durante años fueron recopiladas con extraordinaria paciencia por Alberto y por Kepa. Y seguimos echando de menos las palabras de Sergio y de tantos otros. Palabras forjadas por destellos de luz de estrellas que siempre dejan a la sombra vencida.

Jai Zoriontsuak eta Urte Berri On!!!

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Trust

  • Menéame0

“It is my notion that if a society has invested years of energy, time and money in creating division, it will take years of investing energy, time and money to rebuild the relationships that have been torn apart”

(John Paul Lederach)

Lederach, a world-renown peace analyst and facilitator from the United States, pronounced these words in October 1996 at a conference in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. I just moved to Belfast and missed the opportunity to meet him. According to Lederach, time and trust would be the main ingredients for a sustainable peace in the region. There was also a need for money and investment in one of the most impoverished areas of Europe at the time.

Two years earlier, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Combined Loyalist Military Command have declared their respective cease-fires. Within this context the European Commission rapidly created a special Task Force to identify how the European Union could best assist the incipient peace process, to Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland in consultation with the national authorities. The Task Force proposed to the European Commission a special support program as the European Union has a clear interest and vital role to play in maintaining the momentum for peace and reconciliation. In this sense, the European Commission has shown increased interest in the area of conflict resolution, in current problems such as in the Basque Country. In July 1995, the European Commission approved the “Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation” with a budget of 500 million Euros for 1995-97, which was later extended for the periods 1997-99, 2000-04, and finally for 2004-06. On April 10, 1998, the Multi-Party Talks ended in an agreement, the so-called Belfast or Good Friday Agreement. One month later the Agreement was supported by a majority of 71% of the population of Northern Ireland in a referendum process.

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For three years I conducted research at Queen´s University of Belfast on the “Peace Programme” and the role of the civil society articulated by voluntary and community groups in West Belfast, in both areas the Catholic and Protestant. It was a new academic field for me; not directly related to Basque studies or the Basque diaspora, but soon I relized the significance of the programme for its potential application to the Basque case. By facing the crude reality of the consequences of many decades of destruction at all levels—physical and moral—and learning from the silent daily work of many people on the ground I began to understand the meaning of big words such as “PEACE,” “RECONCILIATION,” “CONFLICT,” “MEMORY”…Building trust was their first and main goal. Both main communities at the ground level, through imaginative programs, were building bridges of trust with their grass-root work—from ecumenical homes as symbols of reconciliation between faiths and peoples to mixed kindergartens where children could play together and share different cultural traditions.

On October 20, 2011 ETA announced the “definitive cessation of its armed activity,” opening a new era in our lives, in our individual and collective history and memory. The lessons learned in the Irish case may encourage the European Union to support programs for peace and reconciliation as a way to generate ideas and mechanisms to apply to similar situations such as the one in the Basque Country. However, I believe it is the civil society the one that needs to lead the changes that we all want to see. We cannot go back and change the past, but it is up to us to build our future together. How would you imagine it? How would you like to remember our future? The way we wish to remember our future is the way we should live our present. It is about time and trust.

We have the last word.

Me queda la palabra.” En el Principio (in “Pido la Paz y la Palabra,” 1955) by Blas de Otero (1916-1979).

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