Tag Archives: Barcelona

Blog Recap: Volume I, 2011

In the context of understanding the many processes that take part in the creation and development of the Basque identity (or Basque identities) this blog has attempted to understand and explain it from different perspectives. This has taken us to comprehend identity as a true glocal and multidimensional phenomenon. The Basque Country and its diaspora (or diasporas) are envisioned as a spatial and time continuum at the crossroads of tradition and modernity.

Like a puzzle, Basque Identity 2.0 has put together different stories to draw an image of past and present aspects of our culture and traditions, while arguing about the meaning of authenticity, the reproduction of our identity, and the preservation of our common homeland and diaspora history (“The Basque global time,” April post). In this regard, I explored the implication of Basque cuisine in Barcelona, Catalonia as an “appropriation” of the “Basqueness trademark” or “Euskadi made in” label (“Euskal Barcelona,” February post), the endurance of Basque traditional dance in San Francisco, California (“Zazpiak Bat,” June post), and the redefined symbol of Basque music as a representation of our identity globally (“i-bai musika,” December post).

Most of these stories echoed the voices of many Basques around the globe, which sometimes are intertwined with my own life story as reflected, for instance, in the January (“Extraño”—“Singular”), July (“Cartografía de emociones”—“Cartography of emotions”), September and October posts. In a sense, I described the diaspora as a psychological and emotional community, which is increasingly connected to the homeland as an attempt to break up all geographical and temporal barriers (“Connected,” March post).

During the past year, I have tried to bring attention to our exiles as exemplified by the breathtaking story of “La Travesía del Montserrat” (“The Crossing,” August post) as well as our returnees, whom somehow have become “the forgotten Basques” of our contemporary history. In “Entre culturas” (“Between cultures,” May post) I talked about the returnees’ positive role that may play as “cultural brokers” between the society at large and the new migrants in the Basque Country.

Finally, in the aftermath of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (“¿Dónde estabas el 11 de Septiembre?—“Where were you on September 11th?” September post), ETA declared the end of the violent episode in its history (“Trust,” October post), while the Basque government called upon the Basque institutional diaspora to promote a peaceful image abroad (“2003, 2011,” November post). This post became the most commented and visited in the history of the blog, which tells us about the significance of homeland politics in the Basque diaspora. However, the diaspora is far from being a homogeneous and united entity. It is as ideologically plural as the Basque society itself, whose collective and historical memory plays a crucial role for its survival.

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

Eskerrik asko eta Urte berri on!

(NOTE: Please feel free to use Google automatic translation service…and good luck with it).


The Basque Global Time

Time present and time past

are both perhaps present in time future,

and time future contained in time past”

(T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets, 1945)

Some Basque diaspora communities and some groups in the Basque Country share, depending on the type of celebrations, some highly symbolic temporal commemorations. According to Michel Laguerre, “diasporic new years, holy days, and holidays incubate the memory of the homeland, heighten the temporal dissimilarity between the mainstream and the ethnic enclave, intensify transnational relations, maximize revenues in the diasporic economy…raise the public consciousness about the presence of the group in their midst, induce changes of the diasporic community, and help the group reproduce itself as a transglobal entity” (In Urban Multiculturalism and Globalization in New York City, 2003: 5). That is to say, different temporal commemorations such as religious, cultural, political, and hybrid are currently celebrated by Basques worldwide. However, the boundaries between religious, political, or cultural temporalities are not so clear-cut. For example, religious celebrations, such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola can be understood as strong Basque nationalist events while nationalist events, such as the Aberri Eguna are imbued with religious symbolism; and cultural events such as Korrika, the bi-annual pro-Basque language race are seen as highly political.

Following the Roman Catholic calendar Basque diaspora communities celebrate different religious festivities, such as Christmas, Easter Week, and Basque Patron Saints days (e.g., Saint Sebastian, January 20th—e.g., Madrid—Saint Fermín, July 7th, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, July 31st—e.g., Miami—Our Lady of Arantzazu, September 9th, or Saint Francis Xavier, December 3rd). Despite the obvious religious content of those festivities, for example, Saint Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Nafarroa, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Patron Saint of the provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, were not only considered religious symbols but also political symbols, particularly during the time of the Basque government-in-exile.

Similarly, Aberri Eguna (the Day of the Homeland) coincides, intentionally, with the Catholic festivity of Easter Sunday, as a metaphor for the resurrection of the Basque nation. It has been, and still is, commemorated in the Basque diaspora (e.g., London and Havana) since the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV in its Spanish acronym) established it in 1932. From 1936 to 1976, the Spanish Workers Socialist Party also commemorated the date, which was legalized in Spain in 1978. Since then, only the Basque nationalist parties, separately, celebrate it. However, since 2005 the annual Aberri Eguna celebration in Argentina were jointly celebrated by representatives from the nationalist youth group JO TA KE of Rosario, the extraterritorial assembly of the PNV in Argentina, and Eusko Alkartasuna-Argentina. In addition, the aerial bombardment of Gernika by Nazi Germany on April 26, 1937, is another highly commemorated date by Basque diaspora institutions and communities (e.g., Argentina and San Francisco, United States).

The main common cultural celebrations refer to the Basque language or Euskara. Euskararen Eguna, the International Basque Language Day, was instituted by Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Society of Basque Studies, in 1948, and it is celebrated on December 3rd, the day of St. Francis Xavier. It has been, and still is, celebrated in the diaspora. The bi-annual and very popular pro-Basque language event Korrika—a run and walk-a-thon to raise money for Basque language schools—is also celebrated abroad (e.g., Barcelona and Shanghai).

In the 2003 World Congress of Basque Collectivities, the institutional representatives of the Basque diaspora recommended the establishment of a “Day of the Diaspora” to be celebrated in both the Basque Country and the diaspora as a way to achieve an official social recognition in the homeland. (Unfortunately, as of April 2011, the “Day of the Diaspora” has not been established yet). Despite the fact that Basque migrants are physically removed from their home country, they are able to be united with their co-nationals by sharing cyclical common events throughout time. The aforementioned celebrations unite Basques from all provinces, including diaspora Basques. These specific temporalities for communal gathering, fraternity, and for renewing pledges of identity, help diaspora and homeland Basques to imagine themselves as a Basque united global community regardless of their geographical location.

Are we ready to build a Basque global community?

For a version of the post in Spanish please visit: http://www.euskonews.com/0578zbk/kosmo57801es.html


Euskal Barcelona: Versión Original

“Gastronomía vasca en versión original” es un certificado de origen, identidad y compromiso. Usamos los mejores ingredientes y productores para cocinar de una manera limpia, saludable, respetuosa, y sobre todo, consistente con lo que nuestras abuelas vascas nos enseñaron sobre la comida y la cocina”

(Grupo Sagardi)

En mi última visita a Barcelona, si algo me quedó claro es que la densidad de turistas podría bien superar en ciertas áreas a la de los residentes censados en la Ciudad Condal. A esto le podemos sumar la gran variedad de establecimientos gastronómicos—desde aquellos que provienen de la aldea global de la comida rápida o la de las cocinas internacionales, hasta la cocina tradicional catalana, pasando por el boom de los restaurantes de “tapas” o “pintxos”, entre los que reinan los de “origen vasco”—y, sin ninguna duda, la imagen resultante es espectacularmente rica y amable. Común a todos estos restaurantes de “cocina vasca en miniatura” es su afán por esgrimir el valor de la “autenticidad” como elemento diferenciador de calidad ante una clientela extremadamente variada y cuyo conocimiento de las realidades que se contextualizan en Barcelona, Cataluña o España pueden diferir enormemente entre ellas.

A los ojos contemplativos de los defensores de la heterogeneidad se les antepone la difusión homogeneizadora del turismo de masas, propulsada por una híperglotona industria del marketing, cuyo único objeto es el de hacer negocio ya sea en nombre de la independencia de los Países Catalanes o de la unidad de España. La mirada del turista difumina los contornos de nuestras imágenes nítidas sobre lo que entendemos por identidad y sus símbolos. De hecho, no sorprende que en una misma tienda de “suvenires” se puedan vender una bandera española con la figura del toro de lidia, una “senyera” independentista, o se nos aluda al hecho diferenciador catalán en eslóganes impresos en camisetas y a la vez se nos superponga la imagen de Don Quijote y Sancho pululando por tierras castellanas bajo un sol abrasador. ¿Son dichas imágenes ciertamente antagónicas, incompatibles entre sí? La verdad es que tengo mis dudas.

Don Quijote y Sancho en Barcelona

Don Quijote y Sancho en Barcelona (2011, Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

Ejemplo de todo esto son los dos restaurantes Mikel Etxea, que se definen como “un trozo de Euskadi en el corazón de Barcelona”, o el Restaurante Sukaldari, todos ellos del Grupo AMT con sede en Barcelona, o los dos restaurantes Txapela del Grupo AN, también con sede en Barcelona. En este maremagno culinario destacan  los cuatro restaurantes Sagardi Euskal Taberna del Grupo Sagardi, empresa fundada en 1996, y en cuyo origen se encuentra Sidras Zapiain de Astigarraga. En la actualidad tiene una docena de restaurantes distribuidos por Barcelona, Granollers, Zaragoza, Madrid, Andorra La Vella, y Buenos Aires, y cuenta con cientos de empleados. Las omnipresentes Sagardi Euskal Taberna están, como no, distribuidas estratégicamente por los lugares de Barcelona más transitados por los turistas. Dicho grupo también regenta el Restaurante de la Euskal Etxea Centre Cultural. Fundada en 1979, es una de las mayores asociaciones vascas de la diáspora tanto en término de socios, unos cuatrocientos, como por su gran capacidad de organización de actividades culturales. El debate sobre el concepto de autenticidad, su interpretación, y su presencia o ausencia en las mecas gastronómicas del Euskal pintxo barcelonés, no se contrapone a la profesionalidad de los trabajadores que sustentan estos negocios o a la calidad de sus productos. Los pintxos que pudimos degustar en la Euskal Etxea fueron exquisitos.

Euskal Etxea Barcelona. Pintxo Bar

Euskal Etxea Barcelona. Pintxo Bar (2011, Pedro J. Oiarzabal)

La cocina tradicional—basada en productos de temporada y elaborada con mínimas técnicas culinarias—era un espejo de lo que la tierra y el mar producían y de lo que las personas podían cultivar. Hoy en día, la cocina tradicional se ha convertido en un producto de consumo de la sociedad post-industrial, que tan pronto se publicita en las grandes superficies de los aeropuertos como en los rincones de las ciudades más turísticas del planeta como es Barcelona. Lo que antes era común toma naturaleza de rareza, de especialidad, de originalidad y autenticidad, y cuyo valor es altamente apreciado. Es sinónimo de calidad, de ese valor primigenio anclado en nuestra memoria de lo que nuestras “abuelas” cocinaban. ¿Cómo un turista podría discernir entre la cocina vasca “made in” Donostia-San Sebastián o “made in”  Barcelona sin referencia previa alguna de lo que es la supuesta “autenticidad” de la cocina vasca tradicional, hecha y consumida en Euskal Herria? ¿No es ciertamente la subjetividad del consumidor la que confiere naturaleza de autenticidad a la cocina que saborea?