Category Archives: Festivals

This is not the Basque Country

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned”

                                                                 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (The Communist Manifesto, 1848)

Between July 28 and August 2, 2015, the city of Boise (Idaho, United States) will held one of the largest Basque cultural festivals outside the Basque Country, Euskal Herria. It is estimated that more than 30,000 people will attend Jaialdi. This is the story of homeland visitors and alike encountering their fellow people of the diaspora, perhaps, for the first time in their lives. It would be an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of “home” and “homeland” for diasporans’ identity as well as notions of “authenticity” and “cultural (re)production”. Where is the Basque Country in the imagery of those who left their land of origin? Where is “home” for Basque Americans? How the homeland imagines the expatriates as part of their “imagined community”?

jaialdi_postcardHomeland visitors coming to Boise should, if I may, prepare themselves to embrace the many different expressions of Basque identity and culture that will encounter, which may depart from pre-conceived ideas of what Basque culture and identity are as produced at home. Paraphrasing the friendly summer reminder for tourists, posted through many towns across the region, “You are neither in Spain nor in France. You are in the Basque Country,” please remember “Basque America is not the Basque Country” or is it? What do you think?

Athletic Club Bilbao vs Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente | Boise Basques | Oinkari Basque Dancers | Biotzetik Basque Choir | Euzkaldunak | Basque Museum and Cultural Center Exhibits | Basque Studies Symposium | Memoria Bizia Meeting | NABO Convention | Ahizpak Designs | Amuma Says No | Gayaldi Boise Edition | The Basque Market | Bar Gernika | Leku Ona | Boiseko Ikastola

For more information, please read “The Open Circle” (at “Diaspora Bizia,”


Recap: Volume IV, 2014

Despite the growing number of Basques residing outside the European homeland, the existing emotional distance and knowledge gap between the Basque Country and its diaspora have unfortunately not narrowed (“#BasquesAbroad,February post). Significantly, the 20th anniversary of the Public Law 8/1994, which is the present legal framework of institutional relationship between Euskadi and the diaspora, passed unnoticed (“Decide,” May post).

If it is possible to argue that the Basque diaspora is for the most an invisible community to the eyes of the majority of the Basque society, what can be said about those others less fortunate people who arrive at our coasts? Within the context of the 10th anniversary of Al-Qaeda attacks in Madrid, we remembered the horrendous death of 15 young sub-Saharan people who perished attempting to swim to the Spanish autonomous city of Melilla (“¿Verdad?”—“Truth?” March post). Migrants are indeed an invisible but worldwide transnational community of over 232 million people. In an increasing interconnected world, at some point in our lives all of us will become a stranger in a foreign land.

For the past years, the blog has reflected on our historical and social memory. On this occasion, I explored the meaning of “forgiveness” as rooted in the memory of those who suffered prosecution and exile (“Perdonar”—“Forgiving,” December post).

The year 2014 marked the 5th anniversary of Basque Identity 2.0. I would like to acknowledge and our friends from A Basque in Boise, About the Basque Country, Euskonews, Hella Basque, and Un libro al día for their continuous support and encouragement (“#NotInMyName,” September post; “Le petit mort,” June post).

Thank you all for being there. Also, I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that, as of January 2015, I will write the blog “Diaspora Bizia” at—the only specialized media on the Basque diaspora and culture.

I would love to hear from you. Happy New Year!

Eskerrik asko eta urte berri on!

(NOTE: Remember: If you cannot understand English, you may use Google Translate).




Recap: Volume III, 2013

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, 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).



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

(Papa Francisco, Evangelii Gaudium, 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Zoriontsuak eta Urte Berri On!!!



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 Azkarreta 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]


El no-olvido

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y tú, ¿qué no olvidas?



“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.


Recap: Volume II, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eskerrik asko eta Urte berri on!

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


Tiempos nuevos

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

George Bernard Shaw (Back to Methuselah, 1921)

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

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

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

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

Jai Zoriontsuak eta Urte Berri On!!!



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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.”


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

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