Category Archives: People

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Jaialdi is coming, are you ready?

jaialdi3Jaialdi is getting closer and closer. Are you excited? I know I am, ready to see friends and family and a few kalimotxos too. Lots of people are working hard to get things ready. I thought I’d share a few things I’ve come across as we get closer to the big weekend.

The official website for Jaialdi is www.jaialdi.com, where you can find information about lodging, the schedule of events, vendors, sponsors, and more. Things start off on Tuesday and Wednesday with Welcome to Boise, but things really get going on Thursday with Sports Night and Street Dance. Events wrap up on Sunday at the Expo and a final Street Dance to close out the festivities.

In conjunction with Jaialdi, Athletic Bilbao, one of the premier soccer teams in Spain, will come and play Mexico’s Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente in a friendly match at Albertson’s Stadium (the stadium where the Boise State Broncos play) on July 29. Tickets are already half-way sold, so if you want to join in on the fun, you better hurry.

A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to get this friendly to happen. Originally, Athletic Bilbao was going to play a MLS team from the Pacific Northwest, but that fell through. And regulations state that the game has to be played on real turf (not that blue stuff the Broncos play on) so that had to be arranged. One of the drivers organizing this event is Argia Beristain and in this article in the Boise Weekly she gives up some of the dirt on how this was all pulled together.

What else should everyone know about? What are you looking forward to the most? Me, I’m looking forward to a kalimotxo on the Basque Block, talking to old friends, and maybe a few new ones too.

Luze ta oparo bizi: Leonard Nimoy’s Basque connection

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 8.34.17 PMLeonard Nimoy, beloved actor who is best known for his role as Mr. Spock, died today at the age of 83. He is of course world-renowned for his contributions to the Star Trek franchise, but he was a versatile actor, appearing in many movies, television series, and on Broadway. What I didn’t know was that he also had a Basque connection.

This NPR story highlights how Nimoy, before he got his big break on Star Trek, was a journey-man actor, playing primarily ethnic roles. One of those roles was on the TV show Wagon Train, which follows a wagon train as it makes its way across the American West, from Missouri to California. In the 4th episode of season 3, entitled The Esteban Zamora Story, the plot deals with a trio of Basque sons, one of which is found dead with a knife. When their father joins them from the old country and learns of his son’s death, he is honor-bound, as are all Basques, to avenge his son. Leonard Nimoy plays one of the sons, Bernabe Zamora. Ernest Borgnine, that venerable veteran of film and TV, plays his dad, Esteban Zamora.

This bit from the Basque media outlet EITB, playing on the resemblance between Mr. Spock and the previous Lehendakari of the Basque Country, Jose Ibarretxe, examines in detail the show’s interpretation of Basque culture, including the quite stunning outfit that Mr. Borgnine wears in honor of his home town.

At the risk of spoiling the show, here is the synopsis from IMDB:

Scouting ahead of the train Flint discovers a young man bleeding to death from a stab wound and a knife nearby. He takes the body and knife to Sheriff Hixon who he knows. The Sheriff recognizes the body as that of the youngest Zamora brother who has a reputation as a trouble maker. His father Estaban Zamora, a Basque from Spain, is on the train planning to join his three sons in the new country herding sheep. The sons tell him a horse fell killing his son but Estaban quickly realizes they are lying. The Basque tradition requires the father to exact revenge for the killing of a son. Everyone including the sons want to prevent Estaban from following the tradition. As Esteban asks questions, he soon learns his youngest son was running with a group of sheep rustlers and the family name is smeared. The Sheriff tells Estaban there is little evidence showing him the knife Flint recovered. Estaban recognizes the knife as one he made for his sons and confronts the eldest son Manuel. His wife shows Estaban Manuel’s knife to protect her husband forcing Estaban to learn the painful truth.

Thanks to Guillermo Zubiaga for translating “live long and prosper” to Euskara!

 

Berriak for February, 2015

Here is a round-up of a few items I thought were notable.

463858986Inaki Williams became the first black player to score a goal for Athletic Bilbao in their 117 year history. You may know that Athletic Bilbao only recruits Basque players, players from the Basque Country. Inaki was born in Bilbao to parents from Ghana and Liberia. Clearly his parents have pride in their new home, as they named their son Inaki.

basque-soccer-friendly2Keeping with the soccer theme, there is an update on the effort to bring Basque soccer to Boise. The effort, lead by Argia Beristain, has secured participation by both sides. The teams have not been finalized, though it is likely to be the same Athletic Bilbao against a MLS team from the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver). And, a date has been set: July 29! More details can be found here.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 2.42.25 PMIrene Peralta of Munchies magazine has a five-part series on the food of the Basque Country. In 5 roughly 15 minute videos, she covers the txokos of San Sebastian, the markets, and some of the best restaurants in the world. A great introduction to Basque cuisine.

51ERBzMF2ULBegoña Echeverria is a professor at the University of California, Riverside, who has had a long interest in Basque culture and, more specifically, the world of Basque witches. Her researches led her down a path that has culminated in a novel, The Hammer of Witches. Inspired in part by songs she heard as a child, the novel explores the life of a young woman in a small Basque town that has its share of mystery.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 3.02.06 PMCanoe.ca has a series of photos of the ancient carnival of Ituren, in which men dress up as bears and other mystical creatures, a carnival centered on sheepherding. Some anthropologists argue that it is the oldest pre-Indo-European carnival still being practiced in Europe. Regardless of the origins, the photos are simply fantastic. Taking place at the end of every January, this looks like something to make a trip for.

musean.jpgThe site fivethirtyeight has an interesting article about games for kids, with the main point that a lot of kids’ games (think Candyland) do not really challenge kids in any real way. Interestingly, they highlight the Basque card game Mus as a game that does challenge kids and is highly rated precisely for the way it encourages critical thinking and mental skills.

Catalina de Erauso, the Basque Lieutenant Nun

Catalina_de_ErausoBasque history is full of colorful figures, and Catalina de Erauso is no exception. Born in San Sebastian in 1592, Catalina was born into a world where the prospects for women were very limited. The convent was one of the few options, and she was enrolled in one at the age of 4, but by the age of 15, Catalina realized that a nun’s life wasn’t for her and she ran away, dressed as a man, called herself Francisco, and had a life full of adventures masquerading as a man. She was a sailor and soldier, traveling to South America. She was in several fights, killing more than one man, and even had a few romances, at least one of which nearly led to a wedding.

Her fame grew, and at one point the Pope gave her a special dispensation to continue dressing as a man.

Her memoirs have been translated into English. The Spanish version can be read online. She was also recently featured on Rejected Princesses, which is an amazing site in its own right, highlighting women from history and myth that don’t conform to the typical Disney mold. The owner of that site, Jason Porath, has done a great job of summarizing Catalina’s life and drawn this illustration to capture the essence of that life. See his site for this and many other intriguing women.

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Gnarled and Twisted

I visited my dad a few weekends ago. On the way home after taking him to a doctor’s appointment, we decided to stop to visit a couple of friends. Old friends, friends that had come over, like my dad, from the old country, who, like him, had made their life off the land of the western US.

Our first stop was one I knew well. An old buddy of my dad’s, one that he still gets together with to make chorizo and play mus, as a dairy between Boise and Homedale. We pulled into his drive way and he came trudging out of the barn. He doesn’t have so many cows any more, but he still plugs away. He and dad chatted about lots of things — various people they knew, the changes in the dairy business since they were younger — while we all sipped on beer, wine, or diet coke.

We then moved on to our second stop. This friend had just harvested his grapes and was in his garage, getting things ready to make wine. He had big bags of walnuts too, collected from his trees. If I recall correctly, this old Basque had made his living in the mills near Boise. He and dad had grown up together in the Basque Country and their talk drifted towards the girls they knew back then (how different would life have been if my dad had settled with a girl in the old country).

While talking to these guys, or better said listening, as they would drift between English and Basque, with some Spanish cuss words thrown in for good measure (to break up the English cuss words), I couldn’t help but notice their hands. These are men who had used their hands as tools, just like I might use a hammer, it seemed. Their hands were massive, with large knots for knuckles. Finger nails were deformed, having been smashed multiple times during a life of hard manual labor. They reminded me of some old tree, a tree that has been hit by the multiple forces of nature and man, and while damaged and scarred, still stands tall. Hands with fingers that bend in ways that they didn’t when these men were children, like some twisted branches off of the trunk of a tree.

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Tio Joe. Photo credit: Lisa Van De Graaff.

I couldn’t help but think of my Tio Joe, who simply has these massive hands. Hands that seem primal in form, the result of a lifetime of use. Not abuse, as they have been extremely productive, but they show the wear and tear of a life of hard work. The fingers don’t have the dexterity they were born with, but rather are almost lumpy appendages that seem to get in the way more than actually help.

Then, I look at my hands, hands that are soft in comparison. Hands that maybe have a scar or two, but are overall in good shape. When I compare my hands with their hands, I feel a twinge of guilt, born of a career spent at a computer, using my hands not to wield axes or buck bales of hay, but of typing and writing. These men have hands that were strong. They may not be now, but they had such strength in their prime.

But, then, I realize that this is the whole point. My dad left the Basque Country to find a better life, a life with opportunity, at least more opportunity than seemed possible at the time in Spain. All of these men did. They worked hard at what they knew best, using their hands, their shoulders, their backs to make the best life they could in a foreign land. They worked hard to make their life and the lives of their offspring the best they knew how. My dad worked so hard so that I wouldn’t, at least not that kind of work. I work hard in my own way, but it isn’t the back-breaking work my dad, or his friends, did.

Those hands, then, are part of the legacy of the ambition that brought these men to the US. Hands that the women who came also have, hands that suffered decades of abuse in the name of a better life. Hands that provided that life for countless sons and daughters.

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Two New Basque Novels: The Hammer of Witches and The Invisible Guardian

The Basque Country is central to two new Basque novels that

Hammer-of-WitchesThe Hammer of Witches, by Begoña Echeverria, takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, a time when Basques accused other Basques of being witches, when witches were burned for presumed heresy against the Church, and when a few brave souls fought back against such maleficent forces. Echeverria’s novel, though fictional, takes place during the peak of the Inquisition, as a cast of characters including a priest, a mysterious woman, and a young lady all navigate this dangerous time. Echeverria did extensive research to make the setting of her novel as historically accurate as possible. Here is an interview both about her motivation and her approach to writing this novel. The book can be purchased form the Center for Basque Studies.

Zaindari-IkusezinaThe Invisible Guardian (El guardián invisible in Spanish and Zaindari Ikusezina in Basque) by Dolores Redondo, isn’t exactly new. Published in 2013, Redondo’s novel takes place in the modern Basque Country, in the valley of Baztan. It follows a young detective, Amaia, who’s job is to uncover the mystery behind some recent murders. However, there are elements of the supernatural, of Basque legend, that creep into the story, and that confuse Amaia’s investigation. Could those stories her grandmother told her as a little girl be true? Could the fantastic creatures of legend be responsible for the murders?

Unfortunately, The Invisible Guardian isn’t available in English, yet, though an English translation is expected in 2015. There is, however, a comic book in the works and possible movie plans. Further, The Invisible Guardian is the first in a series of three novels following Amaia’s adventures in the Basque Country. Redondo has been labeled the rising Basque star of crime fiction, combining the standard tropes of that genre with a strong heroine and fantastical elements from Basque mythology to create something new.

Both of these novels sound intriguing and I’m looking forward to reading both.