Tag Archives: Basque Autonomous Community

Decide

a:  to make a final choice or judgment about

b:  to select as a course of action

c:  to infer on the basis of evidence:  conclude

d:  to bring to a definitive end

e:  to induce to come to a choice

f:  to make a choice or judgment

Within the context of the swell and unparalleled power that we individuals are able to exercise in the so-called Western society regarding the ability to choose from an unborn baby’s sex to religion, citizenship and even physical aspect, it is incomprehensible how difficult it becomes when addressing the issue of exercising the rights of political national groups and their capability to decide on a collective basis.

From the 28th to the 30th of May, international experts debated the meaning of Basque nationhood in a globalizing world in Bilbao. Organized by the International Catalan Institute for Peace, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, and the University of the Basque Country, the meeting explored the meaning of sovereignty from many different angles as it is everyday practiced. On the last day of the conference, local social groups shared their experiences on practicing “sovereignty” by acting upon it on their daily decisions, for instance, about promoting the use of the Basque language, Euskera, the respect for our environment, and defending the workers’ rights. Among those groups, Gure Esku Dago (It’s in our hands) embodies this theoretical concept of “sovereignty” as an initiative in favor of the right to decide. On the 8th of June, this popular initiative will organize a human chain of 123 kilometers uniting the cities of Durango (Bizkaia) and Iruña (Navarre). As of today, more than 100,000 people are supporting the event, in the homeland as well as in the diaspora.

Gure-Esku-Dago-Argentina“Gure Esku Dago” in Argentina. Supported by the Federation of Basque-Argentinean Entities (FEVA).

Coincidentally, on the 29th the Basque Autonomous Community Parliament (Basque Parliament, hereafter) adopted, by a majority vote, a resolution on the right of self-determination of the Basque People as a basic democratic right as it previously did in 1990, 2002 and 2006. Two days and 20 years earlier, the Public Law 8/1994, passed by the Basque Parliament, became the current legal framework of institutional relationship between the Basque Autonomous Community and the diaspora, which was established in order to “preserve and reinforce links between Basque Communities and Centers on the one hand, and the Basque Country on the other hand,” and to “facilitate the establishment of channels of communication between Basque residents outside the Basque Autonomous Community, and the public authorities of the latter.” Indeed, the passing of the law itself became a clear act of sovereignty, which legally recognized the existence of a large population of Basque people outside its administrative borders—a true transnational  community of citizens—and provided a formal framework for collaboration. Looking back there is a need to acknowledge the visionary work done by Karmelo Sáinz de la Maza—the main person behind the law—or the late Jokin Intxausti—the first government delegate in charge of re-establishing contacts with the various Basque diaspora associations and communities—among many others.

Carmelo_Urza_Jokin_Intxausti_and_William_A_DouglassCarmelo Urza, Jokin Intxausti, and William Douglass, at the then Basque Studies Program, University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), 1986. Photo Source: Basque Library, UNR.

Also, the anniversary of the Law 8/1994, which surprisingly has passed unnoticed, offers us an opportunity to rethink our identity in terms of a borderless citizenship within the context of the current Basque presence in the world. The fact is that the reality of today’s mobility and return to the Basque Country is quite different from past emigration waves. It is necessary, in my opinion, to adequate the law to the new flows of migration and return, while enhancing and strengthening the programs towards the needs and demands of individuals and associations with the goal of intertwining a solid global network based on common interests.

Creative_Commons


 

#BasquesAbroad

 “Someone said that forgetting is full of memory, but it is also true that the memory does not give up”

(Mario Benedetti, Echar las Cartas, 2002)

In 2013, the number of Basques abroad, registered with a Spanish consulate from a municipality in the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi), was nearly 72,000. As shown in the map, they are living in over 50 countries, being France (13,000), Argentina (11,000), Venezuela (6,500), Mexico (6,300) and Chile (5,000) the countries that host the majority of them. All evidence indicates that Basques will progressively go abroad. A recent survey points out that nearly half of the Basque young population are willing to look for a job in a foreign country. Sixteen percent of Basques between 15 and 29 years old believes that in the future they will be forced to “emigrate abroad to work, unwillingly.” For instance, from 2009 to 2013, the number of Basques registered with a Spanish consulate has increased by 35%. They preferred destination was the European Union, followed by Asia and America.

MAPA-PERE-VASCO-2013“Number of Basques residing abroad.” Source: Spanish National Statistics Institute, 2013.

On December 18, 2013, the University of Deusto presented the results report of its first social survey on Euskadi (DeustoBarómetro Social / Deusto Gizarte Barometroa, DBSoc). According to the report, in relation to the attitudes toward the welfare policies, the five areas where the majority of Basques believed that there should not be budget cuts under any circumstances were “health” (86%), “education” (79%), “pensions” (68%), “unemployment benefits” (49%), and “Science and R+D” (36%). That is to say, while nearly three quarters of the Basque society’s priorities focused on health, education and pensions, the five areas that obtained the least support were “embassies and consulates” (7%), “defense” (6%), “equality policies” (6%), “development cooperation” (5%), and “support for Basques abroad” (5%).

After taking into account the internal degree of relevance established by comparing the response options, the result of the question related to the welfare policies in the Basque society seems logical, particularly, within the context of a prolonged and deep socio-economic and financial crisis and extreme public budget cuts. When reflecting on the possible reasons behind such low support, it comes to my mind the existing distance between the Basque society and its diaspora, the knowledge that homeland Basques might have on the diaspora, and above all their interest on the Basques abroad.

The respondents established a degree of significance regarding the option “support for Basques abroad” in relation to their own quotidian and vital world. It can be considered the “emotional distance” that exists between the respondents and the “Basques abroad”, which goes together with the existing geographical, temporal and/or generational distances. Secondly, evidences suggest that the degree of knowledge that homeland Basques (especially the youngest generations) might have on diaspora Basques and the degree of proximity to the diaspora issue is marginal. This knowledge has been relegated to the confines of the intimate memory of migrants’ family members and close friends and to the micro-history of villages and valleys. To a great extent, the history of Basque emigration, exile and return is not adequately socialized, for instance, through formal education (e.g., textbooks and didactical materials). Consequently, the collection, preservation and public dissemination of the testimonies of Basque migrants is not only necessary but urgent. This indicates that there is a wide “information and knowledge gap” between the Basque society and the Basques outside the homeland. But, beyond the inquiry regarding such a lack of awareness about the Basque diaspora, a fundamental question remains open. Is there a motivation or interest to know?

Finally, in addition to the aforementioned gaps, the absence of the issue of the Basque diaspora in the public debate in Euskadi impedes it for being even discussed or included in the Basque political parties’ list of priorities. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the diaspora lacks of a voice and of an organized lobby, preventing the penetration of any of its potential official discourses into the Basque society. In other words, nowadays, the Basque diaspora is defined by a high degree of invisibility and silencing in the daily life as well as in the imaginary of the Basque homeland rather than the opposite.

What all this tell us about the Basque identity and the homeland’s collective imaginary? Do you believe that the integration of the history of the Basques abroad and the returnees into the official homeland history and collective memory will have an effect on its visibility and recognition? Do you believe that emergent technologies of information and communication have a role to play in narrowing the gap between the Basque Country and its diaspora?

Please leave us your opinion or alternatively follow the conversation in Twitter, #BasquesAbroad, @deustoBarometro and @oiarzabal

I would like to thank Iratxe Aristegi and the rest of the team of DeustoBarómetro Social / Deusto Gizarte Barometroa at the University of Deusto for their help.

Here, for the Spanish version of this post “¿La comunidad invisible? #VascosExterior

Creative_Commons


 

Recap: Volume II, 2012

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).

Creative_Commons


 


The Digital Basque Diaspora in Boise, Idaho…

By the early 1990s, the Internet became generally available to the public, and in 1994 the first Basque website, http://www.buber.net, was created in the diaspora by Blas Uberuaga who grew up in the Basque community of Boise, Idaho. In the homeland, for instance, the Basque Autonomous Community government established its first website in October 1996.

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In 1997 the Basque club or euskal elkartea from Seattle, Washington, U.S., became the first Basque diaspora club ever to construct an online presence.  Seattle was soon followed by other clubs such as the Utah Basque Club from Salt Lake City, and the North American Basque Organizations (NABO) in 1998. In 1999, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center of Boise also established its own website. It became the first online representative of the Basque community of Boise.

Nearly 90% of the institutional websites (i.e., official sites of diaspora institutions) that comprise the Basque digital diaspora had been established in the new millennium. As of March 2009, the diaspora had formed 211 associations throughout twenty-four countries, of which 135 (or nearly 64%) had a presence in cyberspace in twenty countries (or over 83% of the total).

Basque community associations in Boise also became active and joined the Basque Museum and Cultural Center in cyberspace, while multiplying their online presence by combining different online platforms including blogs, websites, and social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This trend demonstrates a powerful potential for Basque diaspora expression online.

The Basque diaspora is utilizing the Web as a twenty-four-hour easy to use and inexpensive platform to communicate, interact, maintain identity, create and recreate social ties and networks to both their homelands and co-diaspora communities regardless of geographical distance and time zones due to the low cost, effectiveness, and speed of the Internet. Basque diaspora web sites, blogs and social network sites are platforms for communication, social interaction, and representation.

The majority of the Basque diaspora webmasters in the U.S. and throughout the world argue that the Internet has the potential to maintain Basque identity abroad in terms of information, interaction, and communication, while reconnecting individuals with their collective identity and with a larger global Basque community—homeland and diaspora.

In your opinion, what impact do the Internet and social network sites such as Facebook have on strengthening and maintaining Basque identity in the diaspora?

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