Friday, September 24

Basques in California, the outpost of a diaspora that is now reinventing itself

Fermín Francisco Lasuen and Diego de Borica were born in the same city, in Vitoria. Barely six years separated them, the elapsed from 1736 to 1742, and as chance would have it that their experiences did not separate even thousands of kilometers from their homeland. One for the Franciscan faith – he led up to nine missions through the Mexican Sierra Gorda – and another for the military and administrative hazards – he arrived as a lieutenant in the viceroyalty of New Spain and ended up being governor – the history of both ended up intricate, as they ended up being the most illustrious people from Alava in Alta California. Friends, one held the religious power and the other, the civil. The biographies of Lasuen and Borica and several of their writings are some of the historical elements that the exhibition ‘Basques in California’ compiles, which in recent years has been deployed between the United States and the Basque Country and which now, with contributions from the museum Basque of Boise (Idaho) —the American city with the highest concentration of Basques— and the Sancho el Sabio Foundation, can be visited in Vitoria until October 28.

A pastor and double agent, a fugitive novice and other traces the Basques left in America

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The opening of this exhibition has coincided with the Basque Diaspora Day, which is celebrated on September 8, coinciding with the return to port of Juan Sebastián Elcano in 1522 after completing his first tour around the world. “The Basque people have historically been a migrant people. The Basques were integrated into the societies that welcomed them, becoming models of work and commitment to the community,” was noted in a video presented by the Secretary General of Foreign Action, María Angeles Elorza. “They carried their country deep in their hearts, and that is why they tried to make that idealized, perfect Euskadi that they kept in their hearts grow around them wherever they settled. And they transmitted their love for Euskadi to their daughters and sons. Their descendants of those emigrants are still Basques, because that is how they feel in the bottom of their hearts. They do not renounce being part of the society where they live, but they also know where their roots come from, “the video narrated. Copies of the only two newspapers that were published in the United States in Basque are even collected, the ‘Escualdun Gazeta’ and the ‘California-ko Eskual Herria’.

The exhibition also dedicates some showcases to revisit the history of Jesús de Galíndez. Born in Amurrio, this writer, jurist, professor and PNV affiliate went into exile to the Dominican Republic after the end of the Civil War and was kidnapped in New York by order of the Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1956. On March 12, he disappeared mysteriously after teaching a class at Columbia University. He got on the subway at the intersection of 57 and Eighth Avenue and nothing else was heard from him. Previously, he had meant himself as a spy in the service of the United States, an asset whose information was highly valued. After serving as a delegate in Ciudad Triujillo, in the Dominican Republic, he entered the spy ring with the British SIS and ended up as an FBI agent. Arthur P. Duggan, also on the payroll of that body and who is said to have recruited Galíndez, spoke of him in these terms: “Galíndez has been frank in stating that he prefers to report on the Nazis in Santo Domingo to do so on the activities of the Spanish Communists, where he has good contacts. In any case, whenever possible he has provided valuable information on the movements and intentions of the Spanish Communists. ”

“Looking beyond our geography is a constant in our history and in our society,” Elorza said this Wednesday, although he has drawn a distinction between the ‘traditional diaspora’ and what he has called ‘new Basque migration. “Our diaspora has shown signs of adaptability and resilience and is prepared to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization,” he pointed out, referring to the Basque Global Network, which already brings together 1,200 people, a number that he considers “discreet.” but that it is sure that it will grow, as the Basque Government has “reaffirmed” its commitment.

Urkullu highlights the “great network” of Basques

The conference was chaired by the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, whose first words were to remember those who died from COVID-19 around the world and who later also showed his pride in the work carried out by Basque communities abroad and the ‘euskal etxeak’, which he has called “active, open and dynamic”. “We are living through difficult times. Therefore, I transfer and share our sincere appreciation for the demonstrated ability to face adversity and help those who need it most. We have begun to see the light after the pandemic. I am sure that with the joint work and with the hope that we renew today, we will come out together and strengthened from it. We will once again show the world the great network of people we have abroad “, has abounded.

In the day dedicated to vindicating the Basque diaspora, there were also testimonies from Basques who currently reside abroad and who are part of ‘Basques in California’. “Evolutionary resilience, the capacity for innovation, doing things professionally … We all overcome problems together, with collaborative work and the common good is valued. These are the brands of the Basque Country, which distinguish the Basques before the European institutions “, highlighted Marta Marín, who serves as the Basque Country’s delegate to the European Union. “The most important thing is what we call the circulation of talent, which institutions and companies have to promote. The bad thing is when talent only leaves and does not arrive. Capital is lost and over time the country becomes poorer,” he added Xabier Goenaga, who works as a scientist for the European Commission. And Ángel Olaran, a missionary who has traveled part of Africa with his projects, explained how his Basque identity and also his travels and experiences have forged who he truly is: “There are two grafts that are as strong as my Basque roots: twenty years in Tanzania and thirty in Ethiopia. That mixture of the three components is me. ”

The Lehendakari has also emphasized his commitment to unite past, present and future with fifty activities and initiatives that are organized in more than a dozen countries. As a vault key to the past he has placed the exhibition ‘Basques in California’; the present is based on the activities already organized and the #EuskoChallenge challenge, which encourages Basques scattered around the world to show how they live, and the future passes through the HanHemen initiative, which intends to weave a network that brings together “ideas, proposals , experiences and needs “to all Basques. In addition, the Lehendakari has congratulated himself for already having an Archive of the Basque Diaspora that has been in operation for more than two years and for having a university specialization degree at the UPV / EHU. “Our recognition of the silent, voluntary and constant work of these thousands of people. You contribute the best you have to the community and contribute to strengthening the image of Euskadi through culture, gastronomy, sport or the diffusion of Basque”, he thanked Basques living abroad.

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