This article was translated by John R. Bopp
A few days ago, Oscar Álvarez-Gila, PhD in History and researcher at the University of the Basque Country, specialized in the Basque presence in the world, whom we’ve cited on many occasions, recently posted a reflection on social media about what path our society ought to take in order for “the Basque diaspora to be able to considered a true, complete, diaspora.”
We thought that a reflection such as his, focused on such a fundamental question for our country as this, deserves to be shared, especially in this quite interesting moment ranging from the Day of the Diaspora on Sept. 8 to the 7th World Congress of Basque Collectivities, which will be held next week in Bilbao.
Oscar Álvarez-Gila explains the heed Basque society ought to pay to “recognize and appropriate the diaspora, to integrate it into the very notion of what the country is” because “until the diaspora is known and the Basques here recognize that the Basques of the diaspora are also part of the Basque Country, we cannot properly speak about a diaspora in its fullest sense”.
To do so, he puts forth the example of another society with a large diaspora, Sweden; a society that has assimilated that the Swedish diaspora is part of Swedish society. To prove his point, he shares an article about a young astronaut who was born in the US to a Swedish mother, and who is recognized as completely and quite unexceptionally Swedish.
Of course, it helps a lot that her mother has Swedish nationality, something that, for the moment, we Basques can’t share, as we don’t yet have “Basque nationality” to offer.
Regarding the Path of the Diaspora
Many times, I’ve thought that there is something missing in the Basque diaspora in order for it to be considered a true, complete diaspora. For that, it’s necessary for the society of the Basque Country to recognize and appropriate the diaspora, to integrate it into the very notion of the country. Until the diaspora is known and the Basques here recognize that the Basques of the diaspora are also part of the Basque Country, we cannot properly speak about a diaspora in its fullest sense.
For the first part, knowledge, steps have been taken now for quite some time, slowly but surely, in that direction. When we’ve made efforts to investigate, describe, and share the history of these other Basque Countries being developed on the other side of the ocean to the public, we’ve helped and continue to contribute to reinforcing our diaspora identity. Every time the Basque communities abroad make an effort to stay alive and active, they contribute to reinforcing our diaspora identity.
But neither the knowledge nor the survival of the Basque communities abroad, as important as they are, is enough, if we can’t get Basque society in its homeland to develop an affectionate closeness with the diaspora, to fall in love with the diaspora. Setting and sharing a Day of the Basque Diaspora, that happy initiative that we’ve been called on to celebrate the past two years, on our calendar of special celebrations might be an effective step in that direction. But still, we have to admit, there is a long road ahead.
Where would I like for us to go? Not to dreamland, but rather to the example of other societies that have similar diasporas to ours. Perhaps to a similar place which broadcasts interesting news, like that shown on SVT, Swedish public television. In that story, the journalist was congratulating an American astronaut by the name of Jessica Meir for “becoming the first Swede in space”. That was the title. The first Swedish person, no less. Now, in the text of the article and in the interview with Jessica, it’s clarified that she’s “Swedish-American” (that is to say, part of the diaspora), born in the United States, but a member of a large Swedish-American community that exists in that country. In fact, she herself admits in the interview that she barely speaks Swedish, no more than a few words. But despite all that, for one of the most important media channels in Sweden, neither her birthplace nor her origin in the diaspora are an obstacle to recognizing that she has as much right to be considered as Swedish as someone from Stockholm, Malmo, or Lulea. She’s Swedish. A Swede from the diaspora, but “Swedish” with no further adjectives.
Will the same thing ever happen here?
That is what we wish and hope for.
SVT – 20/7/2019 – Sweden
Jessica Meir om att bli första svenskan i rymden: ”Det är lite svårt att tro”
Den 25 september skjuts Jessica Meir, Nasa-astronauten med både svenskt och amerikanskt medborgarskap, upp till den internationella rymdstationen ISS. Det är första gången en svensk kvinna vistas i rymden.
SVT fick tag i henne under träningen i Star City utanför Moskva.
Google translator. SVT does not let Google translate automatically work, so you’ll have to copy and paste the text into the translator yourself
* Óscar Álvarez Gila is a doctor in History at the University of the Basque Country, where he is currently a professor of New World History. During the 2008-2009 school year, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for European Studies at the University of Oxford. Two years later, he was the W. Douglass Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno. Moreover, in 2013-2014, he was the Elena Díaz-Verson Amos Eminent Scholar in Latin American Studies at the Columbus State University in Georgia. Finally, in the 2016-2017 year, he carried out a research stay at the University of Stockholm as a Magnus Mörner Memorial Professor. His field of research is especially focused on the study of international migrations during the 19th and 20th centuries, with special attention to the case of emigration from the Basque Country to France, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Cuba. This line of work has allowed him to also study the links between religion and emigration, the institutionalization of emigrant communities, as well as the culture and construction of identities in the communities of the diaspora. He has also worked on projects and interdisciplinary research collaborations, especially on topics linked to migrations and climate change, or more recently, on topics linked to genetics and history.