Tag Archives: California

#EuskalWest2013

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In memory of Lydia (Sillonis Chacartegui) Jausoro (1920-2013)

“When he first came to the mountains his life was far away… He climbed cathedral mountains. Saw silver clouds below. Saw everything as far as you can see. And they say that he got crazy once. And he tried to touch the sun…”

John Denver (Rocky Mountain High, 1972)

By the time “Rocky Mountain High” became one of the most popular folk songs in America, the North American Basque Organizations (NABO) was an incipient reality. During a visit to Argentina, Basque-Puerto Rican bibliographer Jon Bilbao Azkarate learnt about the Federation of Basque Argentinean Entities (FEVA in its Spanish acronym), which was established in 1955. Bilbao, through the Center for Basque Studies (the then Basque Studies Program) at the University of Nevada, Reno, was the promoter of a series of encounters among Basque associations and individuals, which led to the establishment of NABO in 1973. Its founding members were the clubs of Bakersfield and San Francisco (California); Ontario (Oregon); Boise (Idaho); Grand Junction (Colorado); and Elko, Ely, and Reno (Nevada).

Following last year’s field trip into the Basque-American memory landscape of migration and settlement throughout the American West, I arrived on time for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of NABO that took place in Elko, Nevada, during the first weekend of July. NABO’s 2013 convention was hosted by the Euzkaldunak Basque club, which coincidentally celebrated the 50th anniversary of its National Basque Festival.

NABO-Convention-2013-ElkoNorth American Basque Organizations’ officers, delegates and guests. (Elko, Nevada. July 5th.) (For further information please read Argitxu Camus’ book on the history of NABO.)

On the last day of the festival, NABO president, Valerie Arrechea, presented NABO’s “Bizi Emankorra” or lifetime achievement award to Jim Ithurralde (Eureka, Nevada) and Bob Goicoechea (Elko) for their significant contribution to NABO. Both men were instrumental in the creation of an embryonic Basque federation back in 1973.

Goicoechea-Arrechea-IthurraldeBob Goicoechea (on the right), Valerie Arrechea, and Jim Ithurralde. (Elko, Nevada, July 7th.)

The main goal of my latest summer trip was to initiate a community-based project, called “Memoria Bizia” (The Living Memory), with the goals of collecting, preserving and disseminating the personal oral recollections and testimonies of those who left their country of birth as well as their descendants born in the United States and Canada. Indeed, we are witnessing how rapidly the last Basque migrant and exile generation is unfortunately vanishing. Consequently, I was thrilled to learn that NABO will lead the initiative. The collaboration and active involvement of the Basque communities in the project is paramount for its success. Can we afford to lose our past as told by the people who went through the actual process of migrating and resettlement? Please watch the following video so that you may get a better idea of what the NABO Memoria Bizia project may look like.

This video “Gure Bizitzen Pasarteak—Fragments of our lives” was recorded in 2012, and it shows a selection of interviews conducted with Basque refugees, exiles and emigrants that returned to the Basque Country. The video is part of a larger oral history research project at the University of Deusto.

While being at the Center for Basque Studies in Reno, the road took me to different Basque gatherings in Elko, San Francisco, and Boise.

Basque-Library-RenoBasque Studies Library sign outside the Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno. Established in the late 1960s, the Basque library is the largest repository of its kind outside Europe.

Jordan-Valley-Basque-SignOn the US-95 North going through Jordan Valley, Oregon.

During my stay I was lucky to conduct a couple of interviews with two elder Basque-American women. One of them was Lydia Victoria Jausoro, “Amuma Lil,” who sadly passed away on November 14th at the age of 93. Lydia was born in 1920 in Mountain Home (Idaho) to Pablo Sillonis and Julia Chacartegui. Her dad was born in Ispaster in 1881 and her mother in the nearby town of Lekeitio in 1888. Both Pablo and Julia left the Basque province of Bizkaia in 1900 and 1905 respectively. They met in Boise, where they married. Soon after, Lydia’s parents moved to Mountain Home, where she grew up. She had five brothers. Lydia went to the Boise Business University and later on, in 1946, married Louie Jausoro Mallea in Nampa. Lydia and Louie had two daughters, Juliana and Robbie Lou. (Louie was born in 1919 in Silver City (Idaho) and died in 2005 in Boise. His father, Tomás, was from Eskoriatza (Gipuzkoa) and his mother, Tomasa, from Ereño, Bizkaia.) When I asked about her intentions for the summer, Lydia was really excited to share with me her plans of going to the different Basque festivals. She felt extremely optimist about the future of the Basques in America. Goian bego.

Lydia-Victoria-Jausoro“Amuma Lil” at the San Inazio Festival. (Boise, Idaho. July 28th.)

On July 19th I travelled to San Francisco, where I met my very good friends of the Basque Cultural Center and the Basque Educational Organization. On this occasion, I participated at their Basque Film Series Night, by presenting “Basque Hotel” (directed by Josu Venero, 2011). 2014 will mark the 10th anniversary of Basque movie night, one of the most popular initiatives in the Basque calendar of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bidaurreta-Anchustegui-Oiarzabal-EspinalBEOWith Basque Educational Organization directors Franxoa Bidaurreta, Esther Anchustegui Bidaurreta, and Marisa Espinal. (Basque Cultural Center, South San Francisco. July 19th. Photo courtesy of Philippe Acheritogaray.)

This summer marked my first time in the United States, twelve years ago. I have been very fortunate to experience, at first hand, the different ways that Basques and Basque-Americans enjoy and celebrate their heritage. From an institutional level, the cultural, recreational and educational organizations (NABO and its member clubs) display a wide array of initiatives that enrich the American society at large, while private ventures flourish around Basque culture: art designs (Ahizpak), photography (Argazki Lana), genealogy (The Basque Branch), imports (Etcheverry Basque Imports, The Basque Market), music (Noka, Amuma Says No), books (Center for Basque Studies), news (EuskalKazeta)… A new Basque America is born.

Eskerrik asko bihotz bihotzez eta ikusi arte.

On a personal note, our Basque blogosphere keeps growing…

Chico-Oiarzabal-ChiramberroWith Basque fellow bloggers “Hella Basque” (Anne Marie Chiramberro) and “A Basque in Boise” (Henar Chico). (Boise, Idaho. July 28th.)

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

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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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The fourth man of California

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Comrades, the doors opened, and slavery ended, breaking the heavy chains that oppressed youth. Be rebellious and never daunt before the enemy oppressor”

(The 1938 Fort San Cristóbal escape anthem written by Rogelio Diz Fuentes, Prisoner #1104, and Daniel Robado, Prisoner #1133)

Next May 22 marks the 75th anniversary of the massive escape from Fort Alfonso XII, also known as Fort San Cristóbal, which became one of the largest and most tragic prison breaks, during wartime, in contemporary Europe. However, History has not been too keen on recording this episode compared with similar events. Paul Brickhill’s autobiographical book “The Great Escape” (1950) narrates the heroic prison break of 76 allied prisoners of war from the German Stalag Luft III camp (Żagán, Poland) in March 1944. Fifty escapees were caught and murdered by the Gestapo, and only 3 succeeded by reaching Sweden and Spain, which were neutral territories during World War II. The story was immortalized by the memorable film “The Great Escape” (1963). On the other hand, in the case of the escape from Fort San Cristóbal, 795 people broke free, 206 were murdered, and, coincidentally, only 3 succeeded by crossing the French border. Contrarily, only silence, fear, and brutal repression resulted from this prison break.

Fuerte San Cristóbal / EzkabaAerial view of Fort San Cristóbal-Ezkaba. Image source: Iñaki Sagredo ©.

Located at the top of San Cristóbal or Ezkaba Mountain, a few miles away from Iruña (Nafarroa), the fort was built as a military compound between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Obsolete for its original purpose, the fort was turned into an improvised political prison from the very beginning of the Spanish Civil War until 1945.

Although it is difficult to know the exact number of inmates at the time of the escape, it is estimated that there were approximately 2,487 prisoners from different areas of Spain. Many of them were affiliated to or sympathizers of leftist and nationalist political parties and trade unions as well as soldiers and militiamen, loyal to the Republic and the Basque government. The harsh living conditions within the fort walls, hunger, sickness and the sadistic behavior of some wardens fuelled the prison break with the clear political goal of continuing the fight against the rebel troops. A planned mutiny led by Leopoldo Picó Pérez (Prisoner #319) and Baltasar Rabanillo Rodríguez (Prisoner #1012)—communist militants from Bilbao and Valladolid, respectively—resulted in freeing one-third of the total prison population. Many were ill-prepared for the escape, without provisions and proper clothing.

During the following days, nearly 28% of the escapees were brutally murdered by Francisco Franco’s army in the nearby fields and mountains, while the rest of the men were soon captured enduring forty days of isolation and inhuman treatment. Thirteen so-called leaders, including Baltasar, were sentenced to death. Leopoldo was also intercepted and brought to prison. He was shot without trial. Another 46 captured fugitives died in the fort between 1938 and 1943 due to sickness and sordid cruelty.

Only 3 men—Valentín Lorenzo Bajo, José Marinero Sanz, and Jovino Fernández González—as it was documented later on, succeeded in getting to the French border, 30 miles away from the fort.

However, the story did not end here. In 1998, a man visiting from California had a series of casual encounters with six different people in an area from where he recalled escaping to France after fleeing away from Fort San Cristóbal sixty years earlier. The man told them that he was born in Azagra (Nafarroa) in 1918, being imprisoned in the Ezkaba fort from where he broke free in 1938. He finally managed to cross the border, finding refuge in Martin Urrels’ farmhouse in Banka. There, he learnt about Martin’s two brothers, Michel and Jean, who lived in the Cedarville area, California, working as sheepherders. Michel and Jean had immigrated into the United States in 1910 and in 1914, respectively. From France he left to Mexico, crossing the border to California, where he worked for the Urrels brothers for a few years. The man went to explained how he enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, being deployed to Europe as part of a tank battalion. After the war, he got involved in the trucking business that his sons inherited.

This was the story as remembered by some of the people who met the strange visitor. In his 80s the man from California decided to reencounter the past through revisiting his memories. Though his identity is still a mystery, the story should corroborate the existence of a fourth escapee. This could mean that the Ezkaba escape was the most successful prison break in contemporary Europe.

Back in 1938, Diario de Navarra, a local newspaper, published a distorting note on the tragic event, while describing the escapees as “murderers, robbers, and thieves who had abused the human regime of Franco’s Spain.” The escape was another clear example of the official amnesia imposed by Franco during his four-decade dictatorial regime. However, it became part of the collective memory of many who never forgot May 22, 1938. In 2000, the Association Txinparta was set up to recover the historical memory of the Fort of San Cristóbal prisoners between 1934 and 1945. Similarly, in November 2002, the Association of the Family Members of the Executed, Murdered and Missing People in Navarre in 1936 was also established to honor the memory of more than 3,300 people who were murdered in Nafarroa during the Spanish Civil War. In 2006, Iñaki Alforja directed the documentary “Ezkaba, the great escape from Franco’s jails”.

If you have any information on the Fort San Cristóbal escape and, particularly, on the identity of the fourth man please contact us by sending a message. We would love to hear from you!

Many thanks to Fermín Ezkieta for sharing his excellent and extensive work on the history of the escapees from Ezkaba.

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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.

SF

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.

on the road

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.

Boise

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

Reno

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).

Elko1

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.”

Henar_Pedro

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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The Flag

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Johnson County, Wyoming - encompassing the rolling plains of the Old West and the towering peaks of the Bighorn Mountains. It’s a land rich in both history and scenery. A place of sheep herders and cattle barons, renegades and rustlers. Where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid holed up after their outlaw exploits. Where miners consumed with gold rush fever passed through on the Bozeman Trail. Where some of the most famous Indian battles in American history occurred. And where the Johnson County Cattle War, a rangeland dispute which historians often deem one of the most notorious events in our history, left its mark here in the late 1880s…and that Owen Wister wrote about in his epic American novel, The Virginian.”

(Johnson County, 2012)

Within this grand introduction to the singular history of the Johnson County in the State of Wyoming, surrounded by wild beauty and its frontier origins, lie the story of the Espondas from Baigorri; the Harriets, the Etchemendys, the Urrizagas, and the Caminos from Arnegi; the Iberlins from Banca; the Ansolabeheres, the Iriberrys, and many others. All these Basque pioneers came from the tiny province of Nafarroa Beherea (approximately 511 square mile), in the Department of the Atlantic Pyrenees in France, and with a current population of 28,000 people. On the other hand, Johnson County, established in 1879, and its main city Buffalo, has a population of over 8,500 people on an area of 4,175 square mile.

The history of the Basque presence in the Johnson County begins with the arrival of Jean Esponda in 1902 as reported by Dollie Iberlin and David Romtvedt in their book “Buffalotarrak”. Most Buffalo Basques originated in the village of Baigorri, because Jean Esponda, a successful immigrant from Baigorri, settled in that area of Wyoming. Esponda immigrated into California in 1886 and then moved to Wyoming in 1902, where he set up a thriving sheepherding operation, claiming many Basques from his own natal village and neighboring villages for nearly two decades. Esponda became known as the “King of the Basques”. He passed away in 1936. By the end of the 1960s, Basque sheepmen owned over 250,000 acres (approximately 390 square mile) of Johnson County land, which was about 76% of the land of the entire province of Nafarroa Beherea. According to the United States Census, in 2000 there were only 869 Basque people in Wyoming, being the smallest, but nonetheless vibrant, Basque community in the American West.

basq04111Basque group photograph at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, in Buffalo, Wyoming, in the late 1960s. (Photograph courtesy of the Center for Basque Studies Library, University of Nevada, Reno)

110 years have passed since Jean Esponda set foot in Wyoming, and much of the Basque heritage is still flourishing. It has become part of the social and cultural fabric of Wyoming. In this regard, Johnson County designed a flag to commemorate the State Fair’s 100th anniversary, which depicts the Ikurriña or Basque flag (originally designed in 1894 in Bilbao, Bizkaia) with the county’s seal in the center, as a way to honor the county’s Basque origins. The Johnson County’s “Basque” flag is the first official Basque flag outside the Basque Country, and the first in the nation. Its symbolism will definitely help to preserve and assure the continuity of the Basque history in the State of Wyoming. It will be publicly displayed, for the first time, at the State Fair that is going to be held on August 11-18 in Douglass.

Do you know similar stories to this one?

jo_co_flag The Johnson County, Wyoming “Basque” flag

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Blog Recap: Volume I, 2011

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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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Zazpiak Bat Dance Group de San Francisco: Paso a paso desde hace 50 años

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Fundado en Junio de 1960 en San Francisco, California, el Basque Club of California (Club Vasco de California) se convirtió rápidamente en un referente cultural tanto a nivel de las comunidades vascas del estado como a nivel nacional, contribuyendo, por ejemplo, a la creación de la federación de organizaciones vascas de Norte América (NABO) a principios de la década de 1970. En sus orígenes, el Club Vasco de San Francisco estuvo compuesto, en su gran mayoría, por vascos de Nafarroa Beherea y Nafarroa que habían emigrado a Estados Unidos en la década de 1940. Muchos de ellos tras la depresión económica de la Segunda Guerra Mundial decidieron trasladarse de las zonas rurales de California a San Francisco en busca de nuevas oportunidades, rejuveneciendo, de esta manera, a la comunidad vasca de la ciudad.

A día de hoy, varios clubes vascos continúan en activo en California. El decano de las asociaciones es el Kern County Basque Club, establecido en Bakersfield en 1944. A este le sigue el Southern California Basque Club, creado un año después en la localidad de Chino. Habrá que esperar a la década de 1960 para encontrarnos con una nueva hornada de asociaciones: El Club Vasco de California (San Francisco, 1960), Los Banos Basque Club (Los Banos, 1964), y Chino Basque Club (Chino, 1967).

Entre las actividades que tuvieron un mayor y temprano arraigo entre los socios del recién fundado club vasco de San Francisco se encuentra el grupo de danzas Zazpiak Bat Dance Group. Este primer fin de semana de Junio ha marcado el cincuenta aniversario de su primea actuación en público, siendo el grupo de danzas más antiguo de la Bahía de San Francisco. Al grupo de adultos se unió un grupo de danzas para niños llamado Gazteak, la primera banda de klika en el país, Zazpiak Bat Klika (1964), y el primer coro vasco del país, Elgarrekin (1979).

Zazpiak Bat Dance Group 1961

El grupo original de baile Zazpiak Bat en 1961. Sentados en primera fila (de izquierda a derecha): Mayie Camino y Bernadette Iribarren. Sentados segunda fila (de izquierda a derecha): Mayie Oçafrain, Anita Arduain, Christine Uharriet, Denise Ourtiague, Catherine Dunat y Louise Saparart. De pies (de izquierda a derecha): Juan Tellechea, Jeannot Laxague, Michel Duhalde, Michel Arduain, Michel Antoine, Michel Oyharçabal, Pierre Labat, Gratien Oçafrain, Frederic Fuldain y Paul Castech (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

Frederic Fuldain fue el creador tanto del grupo de danzas de adultos—junto al instructor Juan Tellechea, de Lesaka—como de la banda de klika, a la vez que el organizador de los primeros torneos de mus y de pelota del club vasco. Nacido en Bidarrai en 1929, Fuldain emigró a Bakersfield en 1951 donde trabajo como pastor de ovejas durante tres años. De ahí se trasladó a San Francisco donde abrió su propio negocio de jardinería. Fuldain fue el Presidente de Honor del club durante treinta años. Falleció en Belmont, California a la edad de setenta y seis años. La idea original de Fuldain era incluir bailes de las provincias de Bizkaia y Gipuzkoa como complemento a los bailes de la provincia de Nafarroa Beherea—origen de la mayoría de los socios de aquel entonces. Su mano derecha en esta labor fue Tellechea. En los inicios los dantzaris fueron acompañados por el acordeonista Jim Etchepare y los txistularis Juan José y Carmelo San Mames y Abel Bolumburu.

Frederic Fuldain

Ceremonia de homenaje a Frederic Fuldain en el Centro Cultural Vasco de San Francisco el 2 de Abril de 1995 (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

El grupo Gazteak fue creado por Michel Oyharçabal y Christine Maysonnave. En 1962, Pierre Etcharren, de Uharte-Garazi, se convirtió en el instructor del grupo de niños. Dos años después, tras el retorno de Tellechea a Euskal Herria, Etcharren se hizo también cargo del grupo de adultos. Cargo que ocupó durante veinticinco años. Desde entonces su hija, Valerie Etcharren, ha instruido a ambos grupos.

Desde Junio de 1961 hasta hoy, el Zazpiak Bat Dance Group ha actuado por todo el Oeste Americano y se ha consolidado como uno de los grupos de danza vasca más interesantes del país. En 1993 participaron en el Baztandarren Biltzarra de Elizondo bajo la atenta mirada del que fuera su primer instructor Juan Tellechea. Habían transcurrido veintinueve años.

“Euskaldunak Californian”

Dantzaris del Zazpiak Bat en Elizondo, Nafarroa en 1993. Primera fila (de izquierda a derecha): Martin Lasa, Xavier Oçafrain y Xavier Salaburu. Segunda fila (de izquierda a derecha): Idoya Salaburu, Isabelle Oillarburu, Maitexa Cuburu, Jeanette Etchamendy, Evelyne Etcharren, Elise Martinon, Rose Marie Etchamendy y Valerie Etcharren. Fila del fondo (de izquierda a derecha): Elisa Lasa, Isabelle Oçafrain, Valerie Gorostiague, Nicole Oçafrain y Stephanie Duhart (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

Para conmemorar el quincuagésimo aniversario del Zazpiak Bat diferentes generaciones de bailarines van a actuar en el Centro Cultural Vasco de San Francisco durante el fin de semana del 27 y 28 de Agosto de este año. Emigrantes vascos llevaron consigo experiencias, valores, prácticas y tradiciones culturales, religiosas y lingüísticas a Estados Unidos, produciendo su propia interpretación de cultura e identidad vascas. Recrearon una cultura en un nuevo país contra todo pronóstico, siendo capaces de trasmitirla exitosamente a las nuevas generaciones de vascos nacidos en tierra americana. Hoy como hace cincuenta años, la comunidad vasca de San Francisco sigue demostrando la vitalidad y la capacidad de soñar y amar que les llevo a construir una nueva Euskal Herria a miles de kilómetros de distancia de Europa.

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El Aberri Eguna de Félix Bilbao Dañobeitia (1917-2010)

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Félix Bilbao Dañobeitia, nacido en Zamudio (Bizkaia) en 1917, compartió su vida con Begoña Laita durante más de seis décadas y fueron padres de María Amada, Luis Mari, José Félix, y David, habiendo llegado a disfrutar no sólo de nietos sino también de biznietos.

Félix, gudari en los batallones “Guernica”, “Leandro Carro” y “Amayur” durante la Guerra Civil Española fue hecho prisionero en 1937 y condenado a realizar trabajos forzados durante dos años. Una vez terminada su sentencia regresó a su pueblo natal, pero su particular infierno no había hecho más que comenzar. Félix fue obligado a hacer el servicio militar durante tres años en La Legión del recién instaurado régimen del Generalísimo Francisco Franco, y fue destinado al Norte de África y al sur de la península. En 1944, tras ocho largos años pudo volver definitivamente a Zamudio. Félix continuó apoyando la resistencia nacionalista contra la dictadura franquista hasta 1948, fecha en que toda posibilidad de victoria se desvaneció.

En 1950 la Guerra de Corea había comenzado lo que provocó una demanda creciente de carne para abastecer a la tropa estadounidense que se había involucrado en la defensa de Corea del Sur. Consecuentemente se facilitó la entrada de vascos en Estados Unidos, hasta la fecha muy limitada, para cubrir las necesidades de la industria ovina. Las reformas migratorias impulsadas por el Senador por Nevada Patrick McCarran permitieron un límite de 250 pastores al año, entre ellos la mayoría eran de Bizkaia y Nafarroa. En 1951 Félix decidió emprender una nueva vida y emigró como pastor a Estados Unidos. En 1952, la cuota oficial de inmigrantes se incremento a 750. Pasados cinco años la familia pudo reunirse con Félix en California. Regentaron la famosa pensión vasca Hotel Du Midi durante una década y el restaurante Bilbao’s Basque Corner durante cinco años, ambos situados en el corazón de San Francisco.

Félix Bilbao en el Basque Cultural Center, Marzo 2007 (Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

Félix Bilbao en el Basque Cultural Center, Marzo 2007 (Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

Félix nos dejaba el pasado Sábado Santo, un día de reflexión y oración que prepara a los creyentes cristianos para la celebración de la Vigilia Pascual. La inesperada noticia de su trágico fallecimiento en un accidente de coche me llevó a recordar la última vez que nos vimos en el Basque Cultural Center de la californiana ciudad de South San Francisco unos días antes de mi regreso definitivo a casa. Muy consciente de que en tres años se cumpliría el 80 aniversario del primer Aberri Eguna se encontraba ilusionado por la posibilidad de que tan señalada fecha pudiese ser de nuevo celebrada por todos conjuntamente, nacionalistas y no nacionalistas, dentro y fuera de Euskal Herria. “Nos vemos pronto. Recuerda que el 2012 va a ser una fecha especial y cumpliré 95 años. Hay que celebrarlo”, me dijo. “Aquí hay Republicanos y Demócratas, pero el 4 de Julio, ante todo, son americanos. En Euskadi, debemos anteponer nuestro país a nuestras siglas partidistas, particularmente los nacionalistas. Somos vascos, esto es lo que nos une, aquí y allí. Hay que seguir trabajando…Gora Euskadi Askatuta”.

Félix, Goian Bego!

[Artículos sobre Félix Bilbao en Español y Euskera]

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Basque Club de San Francisco: Bertso a bertso desde 1960

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En Junio de 1960, los célebres bertsolaris Fernando Aire “Xalbador” y Mattin Treku viajaron a Estados Unidos para actuar ante las comunidades vascas de La Puente y Bakersfield en California y de Reno en Nevada, así como también en el picnic anual de la asociación francesa de San Francisco, Les Jardiniers Français, la cual estaba compuesta por un número considerable de vascos. Se estima que hacia 1955 más de dos tercios de la población vasca de la Bahía de San Francisco trabajaba en el sector de la jardinería. Al picnic de Les Jardiniers que tuvo lugar el día 19 en el Parque Saratoga Springs acudieron unas 2.500 personas. Durante la actuación de Xalbador y Mattin, el micrófono dejó de funcionar inesperadamente y el espectáculo se suprimió ante la profunda decepción de los propios bertsolaris y el enojo de los vascos que habían acudido a verles. A día de hoy, algunos continúan creyendo que fue un claro acto de sabotaje, para otros un simple problema técnico.

De cualquier modo, la reacción del sector más joven de la comunidad vasca de San Francisco no se hizo esperar. A finales de Junio fundaron el Basque Club of California (Club Vasco de California, o Basque Club de San Francisco) bajo la dirección de Claude Berhouet (natural de Donazaharre y por aquel entonces dueño del Hotel de France en San Francisco), con los objetivos de proteger y promocionar la cultura vasca y el Euskera. Hacia Octubre de 1960, el club había conseguido reunir a cien socios.

Xalbador y Mattin en camino hacia San Francisco, 1960. De izquierda a derecha: André Ospital, Xalbador, Michel Labéguerie, Mattin y Charles Iriart (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

Xalbador y Mattin en camino hacia San Francisco, 1960. De izquierda a derecha: André Ospital, Xalbador, Michel Labéguerie, Mattin y Charles Iriart (Cortesía de la Colección Urazandi de San Francisco).

El Basque Club de San Francisco tenía como precedentes a las relativamente efímeras Sociedad Vascongada de Beneficencia Mutua y al Zazpiak Bat Club creadas a principios de la década de 1920. El Basque Club rápidamente instituyó su primer picnic en 1961, un torneo de mus en 1963 y un campeonato de pelota en 1968, todos ellos de carácter anual. A su vez creo dos grupos de danzas (Zazpiak Bat y Gazteak) en 1960 y 1961 respectivamente, una banda de klika (Zazpiak Bat) en 1964 y un coro (Elgarrekin) en 1979. Pronto se convirtió en uno de los clubs vascos más activos de California y por ende del Oeste Americano.

La emigración vasca hacia California había florecido a lo largo del siglo XIX hasta mediados del siglo XX. Miles de vascos fueron atraídos por la posibilidad de encontrar trabajo en la industria ovina del Oeste Americano. Consecuentemente, a la par que la población vasca aumentaba en San Francisco y a imitación del Basque Club se crearon diferentes asociaciones socio-culturales en la Bahía que culminaron en la construcción en 1982 de su primera euskal etxea, el Basque Cultural Center, cuya asociación promotora fue establecida en 1979. Las organizaciones que surgieron a lo largo de los años fueron: Menlo Park Zazpiak Bat (1964); Basque Educational Organization (1984), Marin-Sonoma Basque Association (1989) y Anaitasuna Basque Club (1991). Hoy en día todas ellas continúan activas con excepción de la de Menlo Park que se disolvió en 1983.

Bertso_Jaialdia_SF

Este año el Basque Club de San Francisco cumple medio siglo de vida y cuenta con el segundo mayor número de socios, unos 300, tras el Basque Cultural Center. Para conmemorar dicha efeméride el Basque Club ha invitado a Maialen Lujanbio y Andoni Egaña para que actúen en el Basque Cultural Center de South San Francisco el día 13 de Marzo. ¿Qué mejor tributo a Xalbador y a Mattin—los instigadores involuntarios del resurgir del asociacionismo vasco en San Francisco—y al Euskera en tierras americanas, que la actuación de dos de las figuras más representativas del bertsolarismo actual? Esta vez los bertsolaris invitados no estarán solos si no que les acompañaran los cuatro bertsolaris en activo de Estados Unidos: Gratien Alfaro, Johnny Curutchet, Jesús Goñi y Martin Goicoechea. Curutchet, Goñi y Goicoechea junto a Jesús Arriada, hoy en día retirado del bertsolarismo, recibieron el 20 de Septiembre de 2003 el National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, el máximo galardón relacionado con la preservación de tradiciones culturales y folklóricas otorgado en Estados Unidos.

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Handik-Hona: 1959-2009

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Este primer fin de semana de Junio marca el cincuenta aniversario del Western Basque Festival, considerado el primer festival vasco sino a nivel nacional al menos a nivel regional en la historia de Estados Unidos. El festival se celebró en la localidad de Sparks del estado de Nevada y atrajo a miles de vascos (y vascas) esparcidos por todo el territorio. Marcó un antes y un después. El éxito de dicho festival revitalizó a las diferentes comunidades vascas del Oeste Americano, plantando una semilla que continua fructificando, sin ninguna duda, hasta el día de hoy. Este resurgimiento por el interés de la identidad y de la cultura no se limitó a la población vasca sino que se extendió al resto de grupos, particularmente de origen europeo. Estos movimientos identitarios buscaban una cierta autenticidad perdida en el pasado y reclamaban por primera vez la identidad de sus antepasados como la suya propia. El modelo de asimilación de emigrantes impulsado por el gobierno americano había fracasado. Se abrieron las puertas al multiculturalismo y se favorecieron políticas que promovían hasta cierto punto las distintas culturas y lenguas de los llamados grupos “étnicos” del país. Se fomento la identidad compuesta (por ejemplo, la identidad vasco-americana) como la nueva forma de ser americano. Asociaciones vascas se multiplicaron a raíz del éxito de aquel “laboratorio” identitario que fue Sparks. Hoy en día, la Federación de Organizaciones Vasco-Americanas (NABO) no solamente integra a casi cuarenta asociaciones vascas de Estados Unidos, sino también a las canadienses de Quebec y Vancouver, siendo la primera federación vasca de este tipo a nivel mundial de carácter transfronterizo.

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Durante los días 24, 25 y 26 de Julio, la localidad limítrofe con Sparks, Reno (cuna del Centro y Biblioteca de Estudios Vascos, el Consorcio de Estudios Universitarios en el Extranjero, USAC, la Serie del Libro Vasco de la Universidad de Nevada, el grupo de danzas Zenbat Gara, y la asociación Zazpiak Bat) será testigo una vez más de una de las mayores concentraciones de vascas (y vascos) en la historia de Estados Unidos, con el objetivo de conmemorar el cincuenta aniversario de aquella euskal jaia de Sparks, con la mente puesta en las próximas generaciones y en la responsabilidad de continuar renovando la cultura vasca en el país norte americano. Es la gran cita vasca del año en Estados Unidos. En un mundo altamente globalizado, donde impera la noticia triste, gris y apocalíptica sobre el futuro inmediato de nuestras economías y sociedades, es realmente agradable comprobar que lo local y lo minorizado son valores en alza, aunque éstos no se coticen precisamente en Wall Street. No hay apenas distancia física entre las ciudades de Sparks y Reno, sin embargo ha transcurrido medio siglo de grandes esfuerzos, sacrificios, y también de satisfacciones entre ambos eventos. La comunidad vasca en América se encuentra en constante reflexión sobre la forma de afrontar el futuro de su identidad vasca, el mantenimiento de sus tradiciones, y sobre todo la recuperación y fortalecimiento del euskera, especialmente entre los más jóvenes. Reno es cita inigualable en el ámbito cultural de la Euskal Herria exterior. Durante los días 24, 25 y 26 de Julio Reno va a ser la capital de la cultura vasca. No se pierdan esta gran oportunidad y disfruten de este fenomenal aniversario.

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