BUBER'S BASQUE PAGE
Ongi Etorri! What started out as a personal homepage has grown
to a site that contains nearly 1000 pages and receives over 16,000
hits per day. The popularity of this site is a testament to all of
those who have contributed to this site. Eskerrik asko!
I am always looking to improve the site. If you would like to
contribute, please contact me.
Enjoy your visit.
Archive for the ‘Diaspora’ Category
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Do you remember that AT&T commercial from 2000 featuring a Basque sheepherder, mingling with his flock in the American West, talking on his cell phone with his family back in the Basque Country? Pedro Oiarzabal does. He uses this commercial, featuring the late Dionisio Choperena, to lead off his article on the Basque Diaspora, an article requested by Facebook for a new initiative they have called Facebook Stories.
The tag line of Facebook Stories is “People using Facebook in extraordinary ways.” And Pedro, who many of you may know from his research on and close connections with the Basque Diaspora not only in the US but around the world, describes how social media such as Facebook have helped to bridge the gulf between the Basque Diaspora and Euskal Herria. This is especially pertinent to the Basques since, as Pedro points out, there are more Basques living outside the Basque Country than within it. And, today, with practicing culture being almost a lifestyle choice, anything that helps Basques of the diaspora connect with the mother culture and give them an outlet to explore, express, and enhance their culture is critical to ensuring it flourishes.
Pedro draws from his connections and experiences working with the Basque Diaspora to highlight how social media has brought new people together to forge new collaborations, how a family dispersed across the entire globe is discovering its roots, and how second generation Basque Americans use social media to connect to the culture of their parents and grandparents. I must also say eskerrik asko to Pedro for calling out this very page!
Pedro’s article is one of the first to be featured on Facebook Stories. It kicked off the series in grand fashion and is followed by a wide variety of stories, including one on how a scientist used Facebook to identify 5000 species of fish within 24 hours. Some fascinating stuff!
Sunday, September 16th, 2012
It seems like we are in a special time for Basque films. A number of projects are either in production or just wrapping up for release that promise to highlight numerous aspects of Basque culture. Here are a few that have caught my eye.
The first is Basque Hotel, by Josu Venero:
Basque Hotel is a U.S. road movie, a visual record, and testimony, in which stories are interwoven to create an overview of Basque emigration to this part of the world. It passes through the extensions of the old American West (Nevada, Idaho and California) and hits the streets of New York, the city where everything is a mix and comes to life. Five renowned novelists weave a web of real and fictional spaces through dialogue, history and experiences of the Basque community in the United States. In this literary tour, the voice-overs are heard giving fragments of the various novels of the writers (Robert Laxalt, Bernardo Atxaga, Asun Garikano, Joseba Zulaika and Kirmen Uribe). The testimonies of these players and their writings rebuild their visions and American experiences, sketching a spectacular journey from the Basque Country to the United States; and from the Basque Hotel to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Izaskun Arandia-Richard’s film, To Say Goodbye
, is an animated feature about the refugee children who fled the Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War to England, where they remained:
TO SAY GOODBYE is a powerful and inspirational film about the loss of childhood, the stripping away of identity and, ultimately, the hope of reconciliation, all set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.Through innovative animation, the film tells the story of the 4000 Basque children evacuated to the United Kingdom in 1937.
Forced to bid a hurried farewell to their parents, these children were told they would only be in the UK for three months. 75 years later, some are still there, forever separated from their parents and their homeland, their families torn apart and their childhood destroyed by a brutal and bloody conflict.Through the voices of 14 of these children, now in their 80s & 90s, we reveal this tragic episode in history in a stunninganimated documentary that is profound, unexpected and uplifting.
Basques in the West
, directed by Amaya Oxarango-Ingram and Brent Barras, is a filmed aimed at documenting the Basque contributions to the culture of the American West:
The Basques have been around for generations in these areas, herding sheep and adding their vibrant culture to the beauty of the land.
The documentary we intend to make features the Basque people, what they have done to add culture and vitality to the west, the sheep industry, and the central tension they face with keeping with their traditions and adapting to the modern world.
Released a few years back, Artzainak: Shepherds and Sheep
, by Javi Zubizaretta and Jacob Griswold, examines the sheep industry, and follows the connection between the previous generation of Basque herders to the current Peruvian herders:
Artzainak: Shepherds and Sheepis a short documentary that exposes the struggles and hardships of immigrant shepherds in the hills of Idaho. The film traces a basic outline of the Basque and South American immigration to this breath-taking region of the American West. Spending as many as 9 months out of the year in the hills, these immigrants battle loneliness and despair while they remain thousands of miles from their families. With little to no command of the English language, the shepherds quietly make an honest living to send money back to their homelands. “Artzainak” tells these stories from the mouths of the shepherds themselves.The documentary was produced during the fall of 2009, and the filming itself took place in mid-October. Javi Zubizaretta and Jacob Griswold spent a week in Idaho, interviewing shepherds and watching them work as they brought the sheep down from the mountains. The film is currently being submitted to film festivals around the country to bring awareness to the problems faced by these individuals.
A final film, Emily Lobsenz’ Ipuina Kontatu
, has finished principle photography and is entering the editing process:
They speak one of the world’s most ancient languages, established one of the world’s first democracies and lead Europe’s Age of Exploration. For hundreds of centuries Basques have maintained their traditions while flourishing among Europe’s most innovative societies. Yet, for centuries their way of life has confronted threats as powerful as the Roman Empire, as transforming as the Industrial Revolution, as tragic as a dictator’s genocidal aggression and as universal as immigration.
Who are these people and how have they navigated the ages as one of Europe’s most ancient cultures to be one of its most flourishing modern societies? And are the Basques capable of continuing their way of life even in today’s world? While unique and dynamic characters enact that drama on the screen, a complex cultural portrait emerges.
In the Basque language, ‘Ipuina Kontatu’ means telling stories. Basques have passed their language and customs down the generations through an oral tradition. The narrative design captures that tradition by exploring Basque culture through personal tales and perceptions of its protagonists. The characters’ personal tales will be woven together so that their stories not only complete one another, but also create a dialog between them that calls into question not only Basque traditions and their place in today’s world, but also cultural traditions in general and their relationship to social progress.
If anyone knows of other films that are being made, please let me know!
Friday, September 14th, 2012
I’m a little behind, as usual, but I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention two articles that recently appeared about the Basques in the American West.
The first, Herding Sheep in Basque Country (Idaho), appeared in the New York Times last month and describes the Basque sheepherding experience via a chat with Henry Etcheverry, a herder in the Minidoka desert near Rupert, Idaho. The author, John O’Connor, spends some time with Jauna Etcheverry in the desert, checking on the sheep herds. O’Connor describes a bit of the history of the Basque sheepherding experience as well as the Basque culture of Boise.
My dad and my mom’s grandparents all came to the American West — a little further west than Minidoka, to the Jordan Valley, Oregon area — precisely to herd sheep. My dad originally came on a 3-year contract and made enough money to buy an apartment in Gernika. He was asked to return to the US and, during this second stint, met the granddaughter of other Basque immigrants. The rest, as they say, is history.
The article makes a point of noting that the new generation of herders are from Peru. My dad has sort of taken under his wing, so to speak, some of the Peruvian herders where he lives. One Christmas, some of these guys came over for dinner. I was talking to them and one mentioned that he was trained as an engineer in Peru, with a Bachelor’s degree. He was in the US because he could make more money as a sheepherder in Idaho than as an engineer in Peru. This simply amazed me.
Jauna Etcheverry mourns the end of the Basque shepherd, but, as he points out, his kids and the kids of other Basques simply don’t want to do that work. And this, to me, embodies the American dream. His kids, my dad’s sons, and many of the other Basque kids I know were taught to value education and hard work. Those kids built upon the foundation their parents built, working long days and months in the hills herding sheep, driving truck or working the farm. They made a better life for themselves, a direct consequence of the drive their parents had to make a better life for themselves. To me, this is the essence of the American dream, to be able to make a better life. The opportunity to do that for me and others like me was provided by these Basque immigrants.
The second article, 5 Basque American spots in Western U.S., by Bob Cooper in a July issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, focuses on another legacy of Basque immigration, the Basque restaurants that dot the American West. That these often family-style restaurants are popular is evidenced by how many comments and queries I get about Charley Shaffer’s Basque Restaurant List. Cooper picks 5 spots, scattered between Idaho, California, and Nevada, where you kind find a taste of the Basque-American sheepherder experience. The oldest on his list, the Noriega Hotel in Bakersfield, was, like many of these, a boarding house before it became a more traditional restaurant.
Not that these restaurants are traditional in an American sense. Often family-style, you sit at a large table, often next to strangers, and the food is brought out not as individual servings, but in big bowls and plates that are passed around. This is a great way to meet new people and sample foods you might be a little shy about, since you are committing your entire meal to a new dish. I’ve only had the luck to try a few such places, but every one has been a great experience.
Sunday, May 13th, 2012
A big Eskerrik Asko to the Txoko Ona Basque Center in Homedale, Idaho, for the very kind write-up they did about Buber’s Basque Page! I really appreciate it!
Sunday, March 18th, 2012
Anyone who has been to the Basque Country and visited any of the villages that dot the coast and the valleys between those peaks shrouded in mythology certainly knows the importance of the fronton to the Basque people. The plaza of most any town is often surrounded by the three corner-stones of Basque life: the Church, the tavern, and the fronton. I know best the one in my dad’s home town of Munitibar. Festivities may always begin with a mass at the Church, but they always center on the fronton, either a game of pelota or animal tests or a bertsolari contest. The fronton is the public space in which life happens.
The Basques who immigrated to the US brought their games with them. And, the fronton. A wonderful open-air fronton sits in my mom’s home town, Jordan Valley, Oregon. But, the oldest is in Boise. In fact, the fronton in Boise is probably one of the oldest sporting venues in the US. Like Wrigley Field in Chicago, it will turn 100 in 2014. The Jacobs-Uberuaga boarding house will turn 150 the same year. The Basque community in Boise is gearing up to celebrate these milestones, important not only in the history of Boise Basques, but Basques in the US as a whole. The fronton endures, just as the Basques have endured.
I personally am not overly familiar with Boise’s fronton. I may have stepped foot in it once as a kid. However, both Mark Bieter and Henar Chico have written wonderful testimonies about the role the Boise fronton has played in their lives. Mark describes the history of the fronton and how, to pelota players in the US, it is sort of the Wrigley Field of pelota. Henar, a newer resident of Boise, has become an aficionado of the fronton and the pala leagues that are very active. The fronton has become a very important part of her life in Boise. Both paint a picture, both past and present, of a building that has served as the cornerstone of the Boise Basque community for nearly 100 years. And, knowing the Basques, will likely be standing strong for another 100 years.
Thursday, January 26th, 2012
As I mentioned earlier, seemingly once I left home for school, my dad began making his own jamon and chorizo. Another tradition my dad has revived recently is making sheepherder’s bread. Actually, the whole gang in Homedale has gotten back to their roots, so to speak, and they hold competitions for the best bread. It gets pretty intense, with guys speculating about whether this loaf will turn out or not. My dad is no exception. He treated us to the full experience over break.
Out in the hills, he would dig a pit in which to bake the bread. At his home, however, he has a permanent pit, lined with a big concrete pipe. Most of the time, it’s covered with a board and it’s only rarely that the lid comes off and he makes a loaf, mostly because it does take some effort. He’s collected a large pile of sagebrush from the hills that he slowly is chipping away at.
I’ve had a recipe for sheepherder’s bread on my site for some time now, and from what I’ve been told and experienced from my wife’s own hand, it makes a very good loaf. But dad’s (txitxi to my daughter) recipe is slightly different:
Txitxi Bread for a #10 Dutch Oven
1.5 packets active dry yeast
(he uses Red Star)
1 quart + "a bit" lukewarm water
1 heaping Tbsp + 1/4 tsp sugar
Combine and let yeast proof.
Add 3/4 tsp salt and all
purpose flour until you reach
Knead until smooth.
Let rise until doubled in bulk,
twice. Put in greased dutch oven
(preferably with bacon grease)
and let rise until lid is pushed up.
If baking in oven, 350 degrees
Fahrenheit for approximately 60 minutes.
Keep covered with lid or tented with foil.
However, if you want to be authentic, you’ve got to cook it in the pit.
First, we burned quite a bit of the sagebrush, just to get some ashes to use later. These we dug out and let cool. We then burned another batch. These were for the hot ashes, the ones to cook the bread. Once the sagebrush had burned down such that we had maybe 5 inches of hot coals, we lowered the Dutch oven into the pit. This is where the cool ashes come in. We covered the Dutch oven with cool ashes to act as an insulating blanket and to keep the heat in. We further covered it with a little dirt. This seems to be the trickiest part: you want enough insulation to keep the heat in but not so much that you smother the fire. Dad said that you should be able to just barely feel the heat coming off when putting your hand near the top.
A critical step is to make sure the handle of the Dutch oven is up when you start burying it, as otherwise you won’t have anything to grab when you pull it out.
We left our bread in the pit for something on the order of 1 and a half hours. It was getting late and we needed to eat dinner, so we pulled it out, maybe a little early. The center wasn’t quite cooked. Dad threw it in the conventional oven for a while longer to eat the next day. He claimed we had smothered the fire, put too much ash on top. In any case, the bread looked great and, the next day, the bread tasted great too.
While we were burning all of that sagebrush and the wind picked up some embers and blew them around, I asked dad if he ever had a fire get away from him in the hills. He said once, a fire started to get away, but he was able to put it out, so nothing really happened. But he had a tale of another sheepherder who did have one get completely out of control. It burned quite a few acres, getting big enough that a fire crew had to be called in to put it out. I don’t know how much it ended up burning or exactly where this was, but dad said that this sheepherder somehow became part of the fire crew, helped put it out, and got paid to do it!
This is a very simple recipe, with only 5 ingredients. I imagine it was important for a young sheepherder, cooking in a strange environment with limited ingredients while also trying to herd sheep, to keep things as simple as possible. I’m not sure how much these guys would have cooked back in the old country, but I imagine it was very little. I also imagine that the bread isn’t too sensitive to how it’s cooked as things aren’t precisely controlled in this process. But, it sure does produce some very tasty bread!
Follow Buber's Basque Page
- Morris Student Plus, a great online Basque-English dictionary. There is a print version too.
- EITB24 is the best source for news
from the Basque Country in English.
- Astero is NABO's free Basque news & information service, brought to you by John Ysursa.
- Enciclopedia Auñamendi, the Basque online encyclopedia with entries on every Basque topic imaginable.
Gaurko Esaera Zaharra
Proverb of the Day
Besteren ama ona, norberea askoz hobea
Another's mother is good, but our own is much better.