Tag Archives: Ely

#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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Cartografía de emociones

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“Cuando pronuncio la palabra Futuro la primera sílaba pertenece ya al Pasado”

(Wislawa Szymborska)

Mientras leéis estas letras debería de estar cruzando el Atlántico al reencuentro con un yo entregado voluntariamente al olvido. Las agujas del reloj se ralentizan. No hay tiempo como el de los aeropuertos donde su transcurrir se congela como postales de un pasado inamovible. Echo la vista atrás y hago recuento de los casi tres años que llevo fuera del país. A pesar del tiempo transcurrido prevalece el hecho de pensar que todo lo que dejé tras de mi continúa como lo dejé. Revisito lugares de ausencias que ya solamente habitan en mi memoria. ¿Dónde ha quedado el hogar? ¿Dónde fueron a parar los infinitos cielos azules de Reno, el calor de los días, el frío de las noches, el eco del sonido?

Mi casa es un paisaje de horarios discontinuos y de emociones entrelazadas que buscan un equilibrio entre la necesidad del olvido y el peso de la memoria. El resultado son paredes cubiertas por tapices hechos con finas hebras de sueños, recuerdos y añoranzas que ansían imaginarse otros mundos posibles donde volver a comenzar y poder recrear una nueva casa ante la imposibilidad de regresar al pasado.

Ely_Nov2008 (41)The Paris Ranch, Ely, Nevada (Fotografía de P. J. Oiarzabal)

En el libro Mountain City (2000) el autor vasco-americano Martin Gregory reflexiona sobre su niñez, juventud, el significado del hogar y sobre aquellos emigrantes vascos con los que se relacionó durante sus estancias en el pueblo de Mountain City del estado norteamericano de Nevada. Muchos de estos personajes han desaparecido excepto en la memoria de aquellos que les conocieron. Gregory concluye en tono triste y de resignación: “Para mí el hogar es aquel lugar que no puedo evitar que desaparezca”.

La memoria—en esa lucha del recuerdo contra el olvido—en sí es baldía sino se transmite. En nosotros esta el rescatar del olvido la memoria de aquellos vascos que, como los de Mountain City y de tantos otros lugares esparcidos por el continente americano, han sido testigos únicos de un pasado, y que como tal no volverá, pero que es necesario recordarlo. La memoria se alimenta de sí misma, de los recuerdos que aviva, que hacen de su esencia inmaterial una permanencia palpable entre nosotros. Los emigrantes vascos y sus descendientes han generado un imaginario y un legado cultural que han propiciado fuertes vínculos entre ambas orillas del Atlántico, tejiendo una cartografía de emociones que no tienen en cuenta ni fronteras temporales ni espaciales.

¿Qué permanecerá de las Euskal Herrias del Oeste Americano? ¿Qué quedará cuando toda una generación de personas que forman parte de esa memoria colectiva de emigración, expatriación y exilio haya irremediablemente desaparecido? ¿Qué será de esa “casa vasca” erigida en suelo americano?

Ely_Nov2008 (6)Mural en honor a los Pastores Vascos, Ely, Nevada (Fotografía de P. J. Oiarzabal)

Ante el relativo grado de desconocimiento de la sociedad actual sobre el hecho emigratorio se han puesto en marcha diferentes iniciativas que bien podrían afianzar el trabajo a favor de la recuperación de la memoria histórica de la emigración. Por ejemplo, la Junta de la Comunidad Autónoma de Extremadura creo en el mes de Abril el Museo Virtual de la Emigración Extremeña que podría ser un modelo a seguir en el caso de la diáspora vasca. Sin duda alguna, se requiere un firme compromiso con la memoria, con nuestra historia de emigración y retorno con el objetivo de recuperar y divulgar la memoria oral de los vascos del exterior y de aquellos que regresaron en su día como una parte fundamental del patrimonio inmaterial de Euskal Herria. ¡Hay tanto por hacer!

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