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The basque diaspora

There are estimated to be nearly ten million descendants of émigré Basques around the world, and today many of them continue to live our language and our culture. Between 1900 and 1920 alone, 430,000 people from all territories of the Basque Country moved to the United States. Large number of Basques emigrated to South America too. Over 170 Euskal Etxeak (Basque centres) represent Basque language and culture in 24 different countries around the world.

451. As early as the sixteenth century Basque institutions were founded in Peru (Cofradía de Aranzazu) and Mexico (Colegio de las Vizcaínas), it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that the Basque Centres we know today were created in Argentina, Cuba and Brazil. Today, the Basque Centres share the euskaletxeak.net network. 452. The social structure and inheritance system of the Basque territories acted as a spur to emigration. From the sixteenth century on, many Basque soldiers and mariners set up home in the Americas. Later, their descendants participated actively in the wars of independence. Poster from the Simon Bolibar Museum in Bolibar, Biscay. 453. In the nineteenth century, following independence from the metropolis, there was a new wave of emigration. The economic crisis in Europe fostered a massive departure of Basques towards the American West and Latin America. 454. In Latin America, Basque emigrants headed first to Uruguay, and then on to Argentina. The Argentinean President Justo José de Urquiza and his minister Alberdi promoted Basque immigration, with over 200,000 Basques arriving between 1857 and 1864. 455. Saint Pierre et Miquelon, in the south of Newfoundland (Canada), was a base for Basque, Breton and Norman fishermen. Today, an important Basque community lives on the archipelago and Basque Fêtes are held each year, with various demonstrations of Basque culture. 456. The gold fever of the mid-nineteenth century drew many Basques to California from Europe and South America. Many of them went on to became shepherds, and by the end of the century their flocks were to be found throughout the American West. Many bought ranches and became American citizens. 457. Emblem of NABO. There is a large community of Basques in the USA, with 37 centres related to Basque culture. The various associations are linked in the North American Basque Organizations, NABO, created in 1973). 458. The Basques built cities such as Jordan Valley in Oregon in 1915, and settled in others such as Boise (Idaho), Elko and Reno (Nevada). The Basque community, which was already strongly involved in trading and other industries, soon began to promote festivals and other cultural events of its own. 459. The Jaialdi of Boise (Idaho), staged every five years, is one of the most important events run by the Basque associations in the US. The 2010 event was attended by 45,000 "euskaltzales". 460. Basque Festival in Los Banos, California. 461. In the USA, the Basque presence is especially important in the area of Boise, the capital of Idaho, where there are around 20,000 Basques, and the current mayor, David H. Bieter, has Basque ancestors. Among many other initiatives, since 1998 an ikastola has been run for pre-school children and there is a Basque Museum & Cultural Center. Since 1961, the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada has run the Basque Studies Program, which organises studies of Basque culture, runs Basque classes and publishes books. The centre includes such leading specialists as William A. Douglass, Linda White, William H. Jacobsen, Sandra Ott and Joseba Zulaika. 462. The communications giant AT&T, chose the figure of a Basque shepherd —associated in the US with honesty and hard work— for its cell phone advertising campaign. From California, Dionysian Txoperena spoke to his family in Goizueta, Navarre. The Basque language, which he had been punished for speaking at school under the dictatorship, made him famous around the world. 463. Basque pelota courts can be found across the globe. Jai Alai (or cesta punta) is very popular, especially in the USA. Following a golden age between the 1950s and 1990s, with packed ball courts and millions staked on the results in four continents, today Jai Alai continues to act as a meeting place for the Basque community. In Florida, for example, the courts also run classes in Basque and other activities related to Basque culture such as traditional dances. 464. In Argentina and Chile, the Basques have left their legacy not only in family and place names. In addition t annual events and cultural activities, there are a series of very active Euskal Etxeas, grouped together in the FEVA (Federation of Basque Organisations of Argentina) and associations such as the Juan de Garay foundation. 465. Another important wave of Basques emigrated to Australia around 1960, where they headed for the sugar cane plantations of Queensland. There is now an active Basque community operating in the Euskal Etxeak of Sydney and Townsville. 466. The popular actor William L. Petersen (Illinois, 1953), who plays Grissom in the television series, CSI, studied at the University of Boise. This contact with Basque culture led him to learn Basque at Oñati, where his daughter Maite was born. 467. The Basque History of the World, by the New York Times correspondent Mark Kurlansky, was an American best seller in 1999. 468. Leopold Eyhart, (Biarritz 1957), an astronaut with the European Space Agency, became the first Basque in space when he travelled to the MIR orbiting space station on various missions with NASA. 469. The multimedia exhibition Batek Mila, Euskal Munduak, produced in 2007 by Euskal Kultur Erakundea de Uztaritze, displayed the culture and varied idiosyncrasies of the Basque community to the world.
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