Tag Archives: Idaho

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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#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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Pete Cenarrusaren defentsan. In Memorian (1917-2013)

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Pete-Cenarrusa-Fish-Creek-homesteadPete Cenarrusa, 2009. Argazkia: Glenn Oakley©.

Pete Cenarrusa duela astebete hil zen, 95 urte zituela. Arraroa da, hasteko, Pete ezerengandik “defendatzeaz” mintzatzea. Bere gurasoak inguruko euskal herrietan hazitako etorkinak izan ziren, baina milaka miliatara ezagutu ziren, Idaho erdian. Pete-en lehen hizkuntza euskara izan zen, eta bizitza osoan zehar jarraitu zuen euskaraz hitzegiten, batzuetan ingelesezko hitzak sartuz erdian.

Pete Idahoko Unibertsitatera joan zen, boxeo taldean aritu zen eta nekazaritza eta abeltzantza graduak gainditu zituen (92 urte zituela, ikastaro gogokoenak elikadura, kimika organikoa eta bakteriologia zituela idatzi zuen blogean, “mundu guztiari gomendatuko nizkioke ikastaro hauek unibertsitatean”. Marineetan sartu zen 1942an eta abiazio begirale bilakatu zen haiekin. 59 urtez egin zuen hegan, 15.000 hegaldi-ordu baino gehiagorekin, istripu bakarra ere izan gabe.

Errepublikar bezala hautatua izan zen Pete Idahoko Ordezkarien Etxean 1950ean, eta bederatzi legegintzaldi bete zituen, hirutan Bozeramaile bezala. 1967an, Idahoko estatu idazkaria hiltzean, gobernadoreak postua betetzeko izendatu zuen, eta han zerbitzatu zuen 2003ra arte. Ez zen ohiko moldeko politikaria izan. Bere lagun eta oinordekoak hiletan jaso bezala, Pete ez zen hizlari ona; baina politikari gehienek ez bezala, Pete-ek bazekien hori. Hala ere, gaitza da haren arrakasta ezbaian jartzea: Pete-ek ez zuen sekula hauteskunde bat galdu, eta 52 urtez egon zen administrazioan, Idahoko historiako hautetsi batek inoiz egin duen denbora luzeena.

ABC Espainiar egunkari nazionalak “hil-mezu” bat argitaratu zuen, Javier Rupérez Estatu Batuetako espainiar enbaxadore ohiak idatzita. Rupérezek Pete “euskal separatista” deitzen du, Espainiaren aurkako “itsukeriaz” betetakoa, “bere heriotze egunera arte”. Duela hamarkada bat baino gertatutako gertakari batetatik gordetako pozoiz idatzitako artikulua da, Pete hil eta egun gutxira idatzitakoa. Pete-ek ez du bere burua defendatzerik orain. Horregatik sentitzen dugu hori bere ordez egiteko betebeharra.

ABC-Pete-Cenarrusa

Testuingurua marraztearren, Rupérez, egilea, ETAk bahitu zuen 1979an. Hilabetez egon zen bahituta. Askatu ostean, 26 euskal preso askatu zituzten espetxetik, eta espainiar legebiltzarrak euskal presoen tortura kasuak aztertzeko batzorde berezi bat sortzea adostu zuen. Ezin dugu jakin zer bizi izan zuen Rupérezek, eta nahiago genuke hala gertatu izan ez balitz. Zalantzarik gabe norberaren mundu ikuskera formatzen du halako gertaera batek. Baina Pete-ek ez zuen zerikusirik izan gertaera lazgarri harekin, eta jakin badakigu hark gaitzetsi egingo zukeela. Eta hor sartzen du hanka Rupérezek, Pete-ekin eta euskaldunekin orokorrean.

Bere Karreraren amaiera aldera, Pete-ek Idahoko legegintzaldian Euskal Herrian eta Espainiako gertakari kritiko batzuei zuzendutako adierazpen baten sarrera iragarri zuen. Ofizialki “memorial” bezala ezagutu zenak AEBetako eta Espainiako liderrak bake prozesuari heltzeko dei egin zien . 2002an, Rupérezek memorialaren berri izan eta berehala Idahora hegaz egin eta Espainiar presidentea, Estatu Saila eta Etxe Zuria erne jarri zituen. Bat-batean, Mendebaldeko estatu txiki baten legegilearen adierazpena lehertu eta nazioarteko albiste bilakatu zen.

Memorialaren inguruko bozketa hurbiltzen zihoan heinean, tartean azaldu ziren alderdi ezberdinen arteko joan-etorriak ugaritzen joan ziren. Baina Pete-en erantzuna biribila izan zen – bera parafraseauz: noiztik hasi dira Amerikako Estatu Batuak kanpo-politika atzerriko gobernuen bidez egiten? Amaieran, Idahoko legebiltzarrak aho batez onartu zuen memoriala. Bertan, Idahoko euskaldunen historia eta Idahoko legebiltzarraren aurretiazko jarduerak deskribatu zien hala nola Frankoren diktaduraren errepresioa gaitzezpena, euskaldunek haien kultura mantentzeko ahalegina eta “bazterreko frakzio batzuk ezik” euskaldunen agertzen zuten bortxaren gaitzezpena jasoz.

Perfektua izan ala ez, demokratikoki hautatutako estatu legebiltzar autonomo batek aho-batez egindako adierazpena izan zen. Baina dirudienez atzetik ibili zaio Rupérezi urte guzti hauetan. Pete hil eta apenas 72 ordu igaro zirela, Rupérezek bortxaren aurrean begiak itxi dituen ahalegin baten “inspiratzaile eta buru ikusgarri” bezala salatu zuen Pete. Ahalegina, Idahoko senatuko buruak esan omen zuenaren arabera Espainiako aferei buruzko “tokiko ordezkarien muturreko ezjakintasunaren” eta “erretiratu aurretik hartutako azken ekimenarekin Cenarrusari atsegin emateko nahi orokorraren” ondorio izan zen, haren ustez. Rupérezen aburuz Pete ez zen Idahoko euskal komunitatearen adierazgarri tipikoa, eta baziren beste batzuk merezimendu handiagokoak.

Ez dugu Rupérez ezagutzen. Baina hark ere ez ditu euskaldunak ezagutzen, eta ziur dakigu ez zuela Pete ezagutu.  Pertsona txikia behar du oso, hil berri denaren bizkarrean labana sartzen duenak. Gutako batzuk euskaldun amerikar hau pertsonalki ezagutzeko ohorea izan genuen. Edozelan ere, euskal nortasuna Euskal Herrian eta Euskal Herritik kanpo babesteko Pete-ek egindako ekarpen izugarria islatu nahi izan dugu (ikus hausnarketa pertsonalak About the Basque Country eta The Bieter Blog helbideetan). Mezu hau sinatzen duten lau blogek ezinezkoa dute geldi egotea Pete Cenarrusaren izenaren belzte publiko honen aurrean. Post hau libreki zabaldu eta zure egitera gonbidatzen zaitugu, zure blog, webgune edo sare sozialetan.

Rupérezek Mark Twaini hartu omen dion aipu batekin ixten du bere artikulua “Heriotza guztiak ez dira berdin hartzen”. Again egia da. Edonola ere, Rupérez jaunari ziurtatzeko moduan gaude Pete-en heriotza bizitzan zehar gauza handiak egin dituenak merezi dituen tristezia eta errespetu osoz hartua izan dela. Javier Rupérez bezalako pertsonentzat bereziki egokia den Mark Twainen beste aipu batekin amaitu nahi genuke: “Hobe da ahoa itxi eta ergela iruditzea, ahoa zabaldu eta zalantza oro uxatzea baino”.

Agur eta ohore, Pete

Sinatuta:

A Basque in Boise (ingelesez)

About the Basque Country (gastelaniaz)

Basque Identity 2.0 (euskaraz)

The Bieter Blog (ingelesez)

The Angry Brazilian (portuguesez)

8 Probintziak (frantsesez)

EuskoSare (ingelesez)

Buber’s Basque Page (ingelesez)

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PETE CENARRUSA (1917-2013)
Idahoko abeltzaina, euskal separatista.

96 urterekin zendua, Cenarrusak, hala laburtu baitzuen aitaren Zenarruzabeitia abizena, Idahoko estatuaren bizitza politiko eta sozialaren protagonismoa izan zuen ia hiru hamarkadatan zehar, behin baino gehiagotan hautatua izan zen tokiko legegintzaldian eta urteetan zehar bete zuen Estatu idazkari papera laborarien lurraldean. Haren gurasoek XX. mende hasieran egin zuten alde Euskal Herritik Estatu Batuetara, aberrikide askok legez, Amerikar Mendebaldeko abeltzaintzaren artzain eskaerari erantzunez.

Laster, euskal jatorriaz jakitun, lurraldekideen oroitzapen indibidual eta kolektiboak suspertzen saiatu zen eta hirurogeita hamargarren hamarkadan jarduera honek joera nazionalista indartsuak hartu zituen. Ez zuen alferrik nabarmendu EAJ-k “euskaldun unibertsalaren” “Sabino Arana” sariarekin.

2002an joera abertzale hauek ETAren jarduera terroristari ezikusia egiten zioten, Espainia eta Frantziaren “gatazkaren amaiera” negoziatzearen aldeko jarrera eskatzen zuen eta Euskal Herriaren autodeterminazioa eskatzen zuen Idahoko ganbera legegileen memorandumaren saiakeraren forma hartu zuten. Cenarrusa saiakeraren inspiratzaile eta buru ikusgarria izan zen, zeinentzako Ibarrecheren Eusko Jaurlaritzaren eta “Gara” eta “Egunkaria” kazetarietan gorpuztutako Batasunaren terminalen laguntza izan zuen. Lurraldean bisitari ohikoak hauek, orduko tokiko legegile eta oraingo Idahoko hiriburu Boiseko alkate David Bieterren abegikotasuna izan zuten.

José María Aznarren gobernuak George W. Bushen Etxe Zuria maniobraz ohartarazi zuen, eta honek Idahoko legegileei Espainia bezalako herrialde lagun eta aliatu batentzat iraingarri izan litezkeen testuak onartzearen desegokitasuna ikusarazi zien. Estatu Saileko bozeramaileak adierazpen irmoa egin zuen, tartean “Espainiar herriak erregularki ETA deituriko erakunde terroristaren biolentzia” jasaten zuela baieztatuz. Justuki Cenarrusa/Bieter/Ibarreche/Gara/Egunkaria memorialak jaso nahi izan ez zuena. Izan ere, babesle hauen ahaleginak ahalegin, testu zuzendua izan zen azkenean Idahoko legebiltzarkideek onartu zutena.

2003ko urtarrilean izan zuen Idahoko Senatuko presidenteak espainiar Gobernuari gertatutakoaren inguruko atsekabea adierazteko aukera, tokiko ordezkariek espainiar aferei buruz zuten ezezagutza sakonari eta Cenarrusari honek Estatu Idazkari izateari utzi aurretik atsegin eman nahiari egotzi ziolarik gertakari osoa. Robert I. Geddes senatariak euskal jatorriko abeltzain eta politikariari erregutu zion “hurrengoan Espainiari gerra deklaratu nahi izanez gero, aurretiaz ohartarazteko, gaizkiulerturik eman ez zedin”. Orduantxe bertan izendatu zuen Idahoko Senatuak Espainiak Washingtonen zuen enbaxadorea Estatuko ohorezko hiritar. Eta Espainiak ofizialki izendatu zuen Adelia Garro Simplot, euskal ondorengoa hau ere, demarkazioko ohorezko kontsul. Garro Garroguerricoechevarriaren laburdura da. Cenarrussak, zeinek ez dion hil arte Espainia konstituzional eta demokratikoaren aurkako itsukeriari utzi, ezin zen izan euskal komunitatearen ordezkari bakarra Idahon. Mark Twainek liokeen bezala, heriotza guztiak ez baitira berdin hartzen.

Javier Rupérez. Espainiako enbaxadorea Ameriketako Estatu Batuetan (2000-2004)

[* Itzultzailearen oharra: Izen eta abizen guztiak jatorrizko testuan bezala jaso dira, aldaketarik gabe.]

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Mundos invisibles

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“Somos la memoria que tenemos y la responsabilidad que asumimos, sin memoria no existimos y sin responsabilidad quizá no merezcamos existir”

José Saramago (Cuadernos de Lanzarote, 1997)

Ante el relativo grado de desconocimiento de la sociedad actual—particularmente de las generaciones más jóvenes—sobre el hecho de la emigración vasca, y ante la inevitable desaparición de la última generación histórica de emigrantes y exiliados y de aquellos que en su día retornaron, desde la iniciativa Bizkailab de la Universidad de Deusto nos propusimos realizar un estudio urgente sobre la memoria e historia del país, empezando por el Territorio Histórico de Bizkaia. La finalidad era, y sigue siendo, la de entender y difundir la identidad y cultura de un colectivo, a través del testimonio oral de sus protagonistas—tanto de aquellos que en su día emigraron como de los que regresaron—que hasta cierto punto, a día de hoy, permanece relegado al olvido.

oletaAustraliar-haCelebración del tradicional encuentro anual vasco-australiano en su vigesimocuarto aniversario, Oleta (Bizkaia). Fila superior: Mario Satika, Begoña Barrutia, Koldo Goitia, Maribi San Antonio, José Badiola, Iñaki Etxabe y Anne Etxabe. Fila inferior: Mila Aboitiz, Mila Aberasturi, José Ignacio Etxabe y Angelita Fundazuri (Fotografía de Pedro J. Oiarzabal).

Durante meses, hemos tenido la oportunidad de conocer “mundos invisibles”, hilvanados por memorias de otros tiempos, que se entrelazan con las de miles y miles de vascos que por una razón u otra tuvieron que abandonar Euskal Herria, y que en algunos casos, tras décadas en el extranjero, decidieron regresar a su hogar. ¿Qué es lo que quedaba del hogar? ¿Cómo fueron recibidos a su regreso? ¿Qué fue de aquellos vascos que regresaron tras la larga noche del franquismo, tras las interminables jornadas cortando caña de azúcar en Australia o en la soledad más absoluta pastoreando en las colinas del Oeste Americano? ¿Qué ha sido de su historia, de nuestra historia colectiva, del patrimonio cultural inmaterial que conforman los miles de fotogramas que compone la historia más gráfica de la emigración y del retorno a Euskal Herria?

¿Quién no conoce a algún familiar, lejano o no, o ha oído hablar de un vecino o un amigo que probó fortuna como cesta-puntista en el Oriente o en las Américas; de un exiliado; de un pastor; de un cortador de caña; de un hijo o hija de aquellos que se fueron para no volver más? Amerikanuak, Australianuak, Venezolanos, Argentinos, Uruguayos…vascos y vascas con acentos e historias sin contar que conviven entre nosotros y que comparten culturas, lenguas, vivencias de emigración y experiencias de retorno—unas más felices que otras, no carentes de incomprensiones mutuas, y a veces incluso de rechazo. Conforman mundos que nos transportan a otros tiempos y espacios, mundos invisibles, virtualmente desconocidos, pero reales. Sus historias son indispensables para comprender nuestro pasado y nuestro presente como un pueblo abierto al mundo.

ArrosaAmerikanuak20122-haEncuentro anual de los Amerikanuak, Arrosa (Nafarroa Beherea). De izquierda a derecha Jean Luis Oçafrain, Gratien Oçafrain y Michel Duhalde; emigrantes retornados de Estados Unidos (Fotografía de Pedro J. Oiarzabal).

El estudio nos llevó a recorrer numerosas localidades del país y nos acercó a paisajes del Oeste Vasco-Americano, pudiendo realizar más de 46 horas de grabación a personas cuyas vidas les condujo a más de 12 países en América, Asia, Europa y Oceanía. Hoy en día, la historia de Euskal Herria se enriquecería aun más si cabe incorporando las páginas sueltas escritas por vascos y vascas en lugares tan dispares como North Queensland, Idaho, Nevada, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Montevideo, México D.F., Filipinas, Cuba, Yakarta y un largo etcétera. Añadamos esas páginas al libro de nuestra historia y démoslas a conocer. Apenas hemos empezado a vislumbrar las raíces profundas del fenómeno de la emigración, y sobre todo del retorno, que existen en nuestra sociedad, y de su significado histórico en relación al progreso y al bienestar que a día de hoy disfrutamos, y que es en cierta medida, también gracias a los sacrificios y esfuerzos de aquellos que tuvieron que abandonar su tierra.

El vídeo “Gure Bizitzen Pasarteak: Erbeste, Emigrazio eta Itzulera Bizkaira—Fragmentos de Nuestras Vidas: Exilio, Emigración y Retorno a Bizkaia” muestra una selección de entrevistas realizadas en 2012 a vascos que en su momento fueron refugiados, exiliados, emigrantes y que a día de hoy han regresado al país. Nos relatan con sus propias palabras sus historias de vida, entremezclándose los discursos y testimonios más racionales con los más profundos y emotivos.

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Es ahora más que nunca necesaria la implicación de la sociedad, sus instituciones y agentes sociales, y de modo especial la de la población emigrante, la retornada y sus familiares para que se constituyan en agentes activos y participes en la propia reconstrucción del fenómeno histórico emigratorio vasco. Tal y como dijo, en su día, el Premio Nobel de Literatura José Saramago “hay que recuperar, mantener y transmitir la memoria histórica, porque se empieza por el olvido y se termina en la indiferencia”.

[Si nació en Bizkaia y por cualquier motivo decidió emigrar a cualquier parte del mundo, y ha regresado a Euskadi, escribanos a bizkaia.retorno@gmail.com Por el contrario si conoce a alguien que emigró y ha regresado hágale llegar este mensaje. Eskerrik asko!]

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Encounters

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For the past few years we have witnessed an increase of documentary productions on Basques of the American West through truly nostalgic stories of some remarkable lives. For example, Tim and Ken Kahn and Scott Carroll directed “The Last Link” (2004), while Javi Zubizarreta and Jacob Griswold produced “Artzainak: Sheperds and Sheep” (2010) and Nacho Reig and Gorka Bilbao filmed “Amerikanuak” (2010). “The Last Link” addresses the transformation of a Basque sheepherding community in the State of Wyoming through the story of Pete Camino who planned to travel to his home village of Arnegi in the Basque province of Behe Nafarroa. “Artzainak” looks into the hard life of former Basque sheepherders in the State of Idaho, while “Amerikanuak” focuses on another prominent Basque immigrant area, Elko, in the State of Nevada.

“Amerikanuak” falls in love with Nevada’s winter landscape of big and blue skies and with its main character, Juan Juaristi “Parrillas,” an 83 year old boarder at the centennial Basque boardinghouse, the Star Hotel of Elko. Juan becomes the link between the different colorful stories that the film narrates through its ninety minutes of majestic photography. Juan was born in Guizaburuaga in the Basque province of Bizkaia in 1926 and immigrated into the United States at the age of 29. He first settled in Pocatello, Idaho and then moved to Elko, Nevada and worked as a sheepherder for many years. I hear from Scott “Patxi” Igoa, current owner of the Star Hotel, that Juan got sick in May and has been moved to a nursing home. Juan still manages to go to the Star Hotel every Saturday to play mus, a Basque card game, and have lunch with his old friends. I would say that Juan was the last Basque sheepherder that lived in a traditional Basque boardinghouse in America. Most of them, nowadays, have closed down or refurbished as public restaurants and do not offer rooms.

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amerikanuak (teaser english)

This media has become a new cultural interface between two worlds—the world of the emigrants and their descendants, the Basque-America, and the world of their ancestors in the European homeland. For many in the Basque Country this is the first encounter with Basques abroad. The three documentaries are interlinked brief journeys through various Basque communities in America that reflect their rise and fall within the context of a migrant culture portrayed as endangered. The short documentaries explore Basque heritage in America, which is clearly and painfully fading away with the vanishing of the immigrant generation. Their homes in the Old Country are figments of their childhood and youth memories, while their present lifestyle and sheepherding culture in America cannot keep from disappearing. The image of Juan looking through the window of his room at the Star Hotel is a powerful metaphor of the life of many migrants that left the Basque Country to live the American dream in the hills of the American West and encounter many hardships, loneliness and despair…

If you have watched any of the documentaries, particularly if this is the first time that you have learned about Basques in America, please share your thoughts with us.

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The Digital Basque Diaspora in Boise, Idaho…

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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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The Basque Global Block

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Algunos expertos en temas de migración consideran que los símbolos son los últimos vestigios de la identidad de aquellos emigrantes completamente asimilados a sus países de acogida. Es lo que se entiende por “identidad simbólica”, la cual es definida como una forma de expresar la identidad heredada de padres y abuelos, y que es instrumentalizada con el objetivo de evitar cualquier conflicto con las formas de vida de la sociedad en la que hijos y nietos han crecido. Una identidad simbólica que se manifiesta de forma concreta en festivales, desfiles, deportes, juegos, bailes, o en muestras culinarias.

Sin ninguna duda, los símbolos ayudan a muchos individuos de la diáspora vasca a externalizar públicamente tanto su identidad colectiva vasca como las manifestaciones culturales de dicha identidad. En sí, macro-festivales vascos como el Jaialdi de la ciudad de Boise del Estado norteamericano de Idaho, y que se está celebrando estos días, son una expresión tangible de identidad y de reafirmación cultural en un ámbito público ajeno a lo vasco. De hecho, en toda la diáspora vasca que abarca más de una veintena de países son muy pocas las comunidades que a día de hoy han podido articular y gestionar un espacio público propio. La falta de nuevas oleadas de emigrantes, el envejecimiento progresivo de la generación emigrante, su dispersión geográfica, y la regeneración urbana que han experimentado muchas ciudades han evitado que perdurasen en el tiempo algunos espacios que en su día fueron verdaderos barrios vascos, como el de Broadway de San Francisco o el de Ezeiza en Buenos Aires.

Si existe algún lugar en los Estados Unidos donde los vascos como comunidad han construido  su propio espacio público es sin ninguna duda el llamado “Basque Block” de Boise. Un lugar conformado por un museo (Basque Museum and Cultural Center), dos antiguas pensiones—hoy en día ambas destinadas a relatar la historia de las comunidades emigrantes vascas y su posterior asentamiento—dos restaurantes (el Leku Ona y el Gernika Bar), una tienda (The Basque Market), un frontón, y el edificio de la asociación vasca (Euzkaldunak). Es un paisaje urbano ampliamente saturado por símbolos vascos y del cual el visitante puede difícilmente abstraerse.

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(Basque Block Mural, Julio 2004. Foto de Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

En el propio “Basque Block” un mural aúna la historia de la comunidad vasca en el Estado de Idaho y su devenir en el tiempo. El mural, diseñado por Bill Hueg en el año 2000 a petición del Museo Vasco de Boise, es un extraordinario ejemplo del poder de los símbolos como aglutinadores de la identidad colectiva y del sentir de una comunidad. De izquierda a derecha, el mural hace referencia a los viajes de Cristóbal Colón y a la participación de generaciones de vascos en el “descubrimiento”, conquista y colonización de las Américas; aparece un baserri en lo alto de una colina verde; un fragmento del Guernica de Pablo Picasso—un alto porcentaje de la comunidad vasca de Idaho procede de Bizkaia-; el Árbol de Gernika; la pensión de Uberuaga/Aguirre, establecida en 1903 en Boise; el retrato de Juanita Uberuaga Hormaechea, una de las pioneras en la enseñanza de bailes vascos en la década de 1940; el grupo de danza vasca Oinkari y que este año cumple su 50 aniversario; la Catedral Católica de St. John de Boise; un retrato de Jim Jausoro, acordeonista del grupo Oinkari desde 1947 hasta su fallecimiento en 2005; un hombre levantado una piedra cuadrangular en referencia a los deportes rurales vascos; y finalmente, como no podría ser de otra manera, se hace referencia a un campamento de pastores de ovejas, la principal ocupación de los emigrantes vascos en el Oeste Americano durante más de un siglo.

Tanto el “Basque Block” como el Jaialdi de Boise son considerados verdaderos éxitos a emular por comunidades vascas tanto de dentro como de fuera de Estados Unidos. En un contexto en el que la emigración vasca tuvo su punto final hace más de tres o cuatro décadas, ¿cuáles serían las estrategias más adecuadas que las instituciones de la diáspora vasca deberían de llevar a cabo para hacer frente al futuro más inmediato? Y en cuanto a lo que se denomina “identidad simbólica”, ¿hasta qué punto las propias comunidades de la diáspora se aferran a los símbolos como recursos para impulsar y promocionar sus propias identidades colectivas?

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