Oscar Álvarez-Gila, PhD in History and professor of the History of the Americas at the University of the Basque Country (UPV), and a member of the consolidated research group at UPV, Basque Country, Europe, and the Americas: Links and Atlantic Relationships, has been cited on our website on many occasions. This is thanks to the great work he’s carrying out about the Basque Passionists in Peru, or to his article discussing the leading role played by the Basque Diaspora, especially in Argentina, in the process of consolidating Basque national symbols at the beginning of the 20th century.
And he’s back again today thank to an article in Americanía, Revista de Estudios Latinoamericanos, in which, according to the article’s abstract, he is “trying to establish a classification and chronology of the different initiatives carried out since the beginning of the 1990s to promote localization, preservation, and the sharing of the legacy of documentation related to the Basque diaspora, especially that produced regarding the great migrations from the middle of the 19th century, the main evidence of which is linked to the creation of a network of associations of all types which have left behind a legacy of material and documentation that it hard to find and harder to preserve. The scope of the work includes the successive actions set in motion by different political, cultural, and social agents in the Basque Country itself and abroad, which culminated in 2019 with the inauguration of the Archives of the Basque Diaspora, as well as the possibilities that this initiative offers for knowledge, research, and the sharing of said legacy.”
The history of the Basques of the diaspora is a part, an essential one, of the history of our nation, most markedly since the period that began with the arrival of the first Basques to the New World and encompasses the work, action, and organization of these Basques from then to today, all over the world.
The footprints of the members of our small national community across the planet is quite significant. They also point to the sense of community. The Basques, since the creation of the first brotherhoods and guilds in the New World colonies, have kept up an amazing level of organizational work aimed at providing mutual aid and support. These goals broadened in the last third of the 19th century, through the creation of what we now know as the Euskaletxeak, or Basque Centers, as they also took on the role of defending the interests of the Homeland after the abolition of the fueros (as is the case of the Laurak Bat Center in Buenos Aires). The birth of the Basque nationalist movement in the 20th century arrived in earnest the the global Basque Community, and the arrival of the exiles, especially to the Americas after the Francoist insurgents’ victory, helped strengthen that role of both support and nationalist demands.
All that activity left behind a legacy of extraordinary value that must be preserved and shared. Unfortunately, the political realities in Spain and France have been an obstacle to the ability of the Basques to carry out that labor with our own institutions.
It has only been since the 1980s, with the Southern Basque Country’s recovery of some of its traditional institutions and the installation of a Basque Government that encompasses three of the six/seven territories that make up our country, that there has been the ability to take on this task. It is the institutions of these territories that make up the Basque Autonomous Community which have see as their own goal for their policies with the diaspora the whole of all Basque communities worldwide, regardless of their territory of origin.
The road has been long and complex. We cannot forget the many difficult challenges the Basque society in these three territories has had to face. But the end result has been a slow process that, we hope, seems to be finding its way in this Archive of the Basque Diaspora, which is now being funded well.
The work is hard but extremely necessary. We’re sure that there are treasures in the documentation that have been lost along the winding road of the “Basques in the world”, and others are about to join them. Now’s the time to save them.
Americanía – 12/2020 – Spain
Una memoria diasporizada
Iniciativas por la recuperación, conservación y difusión del patrimonio documental y la memoria histórica de la diáspora
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