Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Basque American Way of Life

This note describing the journey of a documentary filming crew from Euskal Herria in the USA was published by The Sparks Tribune:

Basque film crew stops in Sparks to document and discover“American way of life”

By Jessica Mosebach

John Ascuaga's Nugget played host this weekend to five young Basque professionals who indulged in the "American way of life," including larger drink and meal portions and friendly people.

The crew came from the Spanish Basque region of Europe to work on a television documentary series called “Basques in America,” exploring the Basque culture in the western U.S. The team — all native Basques — arrived in Los Angeles on Nov. 2 and includes a field producer, two reporters, a cameraman and a camera assistant. They traveled north through California earlier in November, stopping in Bakersfield, San Francisco and Sacramento before arriving in Nevada.

The experience has been an eye-opener for them, especially in the way of American life, they said.

The culture is very different here, said reporter Ander San Sebastian through translator Adela Ucar.

“Things are bigger,” San Sebastian said. "Just like a normal coffee is double the size we get .... It's been very exciting to get to know the American culture. It’s very spectaculous.”

This past weekend, they made a stop in Sparks to film the Ascuaga family at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. They also spent time with students at the Center of Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

On Saturday, they interviewed Michonne Ascuaga, daughter of John Ascuaga and chief executive officer of the hotel-casino. Michonne spoke of her family's Basque background in the Nugget's Restaurante Orozko, which serves Basque cuisine.

To complete the documentary, the crew members were sent through the European production company, Flying Apple TV & Film Producers, S.L.

Zigor Etxebarria Enbeita, 29, and Aldo Ferraris, 37, and are long-time employees of the company. Emma Marín, 24, San Sebastian, 24, and Ucar, 27, were hired as freelancers.

"Basques in America" will feature five stories: three biographical stories, one story on Basque women in Boise and one on the Basque population in Bakersfield.

"It's been very interesting knowing second-generation Basques, who, even though they were born here, they still speak Basque and they still feel a big attachment to Basque and its culture,” Enbeita said.

"It's still very vibrant, the community," Ucar said of the population.

The European Basque culture is found in two different regions. The French Basques are located southwest of France and the Spanish Basques border north-central Spain and inhabit the Pyrenee mountains.

According to Ucar, the French Basques migrated to Bakersfield while the Spanish Basques predominantly came to Reno and Boise.

The culture is unique in that its language is not rooted in any Germanic or Slavic family. However, Ucar said it is possible there is a Celtic language connection.

Ucar called the Basques “proficient travelers,” speaking to their historical contributions of “conquering new horizons.”

"You can find a Basque descendant all over the world," San Sebastian added, including South America and China.

During its first six days, the crew followed and profiled Joe Ansolabehere, the creator of television shows "Recess" and "Rugrats," as well as his colleague Paul Germain.

As it progressed to Stockton, the members devoted one day to California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and his family on his ranch.

San Sebastian, speaking through Ucar, said, "I think none of us had been through California before, so the trip in itself has been very interesting because (of) knowing all those characters with (such) different lives ... and backgrounds."

Marin did some research in preparation for the trip and found that the largest Basque population is in the U.S. is in the west, but said she didn't find any concrete numbers. Regardless, Marin said the response toward the crew's work was very positive by those they met with during their trip.

"We've all been very, very welcomed by the Basque community," Marin said. "Our work was very much appreciated. They kept saying, 'Thank you so much for doing this story on us, for being interested in our culture,' when it's us who are thankful for them letting us into their lives. They were very emotional about telling their stories and passionate."

Each reflected on what they learned the most of this trip. Ferraris joked and said for him, it's "an American way of life!" as the others laughed.

The documentary series is expected to be translated in Basque and aired in Europe in March. Each of the five segments will be an hour long.

The group returns home next week after its last stop in Boise to film for the final segment, "Women in Boise."

This is what Wikipedia tells us about Sparks:

Sparks is a city in Washoe County, Nevada, United States. The population was 66,346 at the 2000 census. Estimates in 2006 place the population at around 90,000 due to rapid growth in areas such as Spanish Springs, Wingfield Springs, and D'Andrea. Although Sparks was originally distinct from Reno, they have both grown toward each other to such a degree that today the border between them is purely political. They are often referred to as a twin city (i.e. "Reno-Sparks").

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