This article was translated by John R. Bopp
Many Basques, despite generations and distance, maintain a deep connection with their origins, their homeland. This “pride of belonging” that makes us brethren, even over years and miles, is one of the great treasures of our nation and our society.
The Directorate for the Basque Community Abroad of the Basque Government has set in motion a consultation process aimed at the Basque Community around the world to present proposals to help define the Day of the Basque Diaspora.
At the last Congress of the Basque Community Abroad, in 2015, the theme was “diasporization”. As Lehendakari Urkullu explained in his end of year letter to Basques around the world:
This is a made-up word, “diasporizar” in Spanish, “diasporizatu” in Basque, “diasporiser” in French, which expresses the value of the people who live abroad as a window to the Basque Country for the world, and as a bridge of permanent relationships to our Community. We wanted for everyone living in the Basque Country to be aware of the value we have in having such an active and committed Basque Community as yours. Our mission is mutual aid in service of our Country.”
Many times, we here have commented that the Basque presence in every corner of the world, working actively in their respective societies and at the same time maintaining strong links with their homeland, is an extraordinary and unique opportunity for our people and our country: it must be appreciated and encouraged.
Alongside the work of our institutions, in every sense of that word, that is being done and is still to be done, it’s absolutely necessary to put forward measures that highlight the existence and vitality of this global community.
One of the first, and most necessary, jobs is to highlight the importance and strength of that community of Basques around the world to the Basques who are living in the Basque Country, and outside it. We’re sure that none of us has yet understood the strength and all the promise that having a nation on every inhabited continent entails. Our nation, as we never tire of saying, is made up of committed people who have integrated themselves into the societies that adopted them twenty or even two hundred years ago.
Dedicating a day to the Diaspora gives us an “excuse” to show off this reality and to get to know it better, and we love the idea. It’d be even better if it also serves as a jumping-off point for the rest of the year, so that Basque society remembers this reality abroad, and our institutions keep it in mind as a priority.
If you’d like to take part in this project by proposing a specific day, you may. To do so, just pick a day and explain what reasons you believe that day should be chosen. Send your proposals to [email protected].
The deadline for the receipt of proposals is December 31 at 11:59pm. Once the suggestions have been received, they’ll be looked into, and finally, the Directorate for the Basque Community Abroad will choose one day and formally declare it to be the Day of the Basque Diaspora.
We have two proposals:
Why: this is the date that the first Euskal Etxea in the world was founded. On February 13, 1612, the Illustrious Basque Fraternity of Our Lady of Aranzazu was founded with the objective to take in all the residents in Lima who were originally from the Lordship of Biscay, the Province of Guipúzcoa, the Province of Álava, the Kingdom of Navarre, and the four Villas on the Mountain Coast (Laredo, Castro Urdiales, Santander, and San Vicente de la Barquera).
This fraternity and congregation was constituted for the greater glory of God and the Holy Virgin, and to bring together all the people from those places in that city, in order to work together as Basques for charity.
This fraternity, a true milestone, was a role model for other Basque fraternities, also highly influential, in places such as Chile or Mexico. What’s more, they have stayed open for over four centuries, and gone through all that history. Adapting themselves to the demands of each time, which is absolutely necessary to keep an organization alive and effective, the Basque descendants in Peru keep alive the spirit of those long ago Southern Basques who decided to create a society for all the members of their nation who were living in the Kingdom of Peru. It’s a society that, despite its age (or perhaps because of it), helps us understand who we are.
To fully understand the importance of this Euskal Etxea, and all it reflects about the ways of thinking and acting of those members of the Basque nations in the New World, we recommend reading this article (in Spanish) by Francisco Igartua about the fraternity. Francisco “Paco” Igartua, a Peruvian of Basque descent, more specifically a Peruvian-Oñatiarra, was the founder and director of the magazines Oiga and Caretas in Peru, which are two of the most popular magazines in that country. He was fully aware of its importance in history and as a tool for today’s Basques, and he worked hard to get the fraternity to be very active again.
Why: This is the day that the most well known voyage taking war children refugees abroad left the Port of Bilbao. Over 3,800 boys and girls left bound for Southampton, fleeing the barbarism of the Francoist insurgents. It wasn’t the first refugee boat that left, nor the largest of the expeditions, but it is the most well known, and it’s become a symbol of all the disasters that horrible civil war brought to our homeland.
Those boys and girls, and those who cared for them, left as refugees. Many of them later came home to a country that had been on the losing side of the war, with everything that that meant.
Most of them had lost family members. Some, more than a few, who went off for a temporary stay ended up setting down roots there and becoming part of the Basque Diaspora.
And in many cases, they did so without any roots of their own. They were too young to understand what was happening, and too young to understand their origins; they lost not only their connection to their families, but also to their roots, and to the society they were a part of.