Tag Archives: The Basque Market

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,” EuskalKultura.com).



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]


The Basque Global Block

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.

Boise July2004 (1)

(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?