Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Cool" Basqueness

This interview with Gloria Totoricagüena comes to us courtesy of EITb:

Basque-American teenagers need to learn it is cool to be Basque

Igor Lansorena - Released 12/12/2008

In an exclusive interview for in Boise, Gloria Totoricagüena, a prominent researcher in the field of the Basque Diaspora, talks about the future faced by Basque communities in the United States.

One of the problems of maintaining the Basque culture and traditions in the United States is that, until five years ago, the definition of Basqueness was very traditional, Gloria Totoricagüena, a prominent researcher in the field of the Basque Diaspora, argues.

Gloria, born in Boise in the bosom of a Basque family, former Oinkari dancer and member of the Basque Center Euzkaldunak and Basque Museum and Cultural Center boards in Boise, knows very well what she is talking about.

"Accordion, 'trikitixas' (Basque diatonic button accordion) playing old songs, war songs, songs from the civil war. It was to maintain the culture of their parents and grandparents", Gloria says.

According to Gloria, who has seen her daughter Amaia grow up in the Basque block, go to Basque dancing, learn Basque songs and do some of the things she did, Basque-American teenagers need to see that "it is cool to be Basque, it is chic to be Basque". Teenagers need to see they can be Basque without having to wear a 'kaiku', she adds.

"When teenagers from Chino, from Reno, from San Francisco, when they come to Boise and they see five hundred other teenagers with 'txapelas' (Basque berets) and it is cool to wear a txapela dancing to Ene Bada, or dancing to Basque rock music, they would be like... oh, this is not something of my parents or my grandparents," Gloria explains.

When we talk about ethnic identity, Gloria thinks Basques in the United States need to realize that you can be Basque and modern at the same time, that you can be like the teenagers in the Basque Country.

"Sometimes, the parents and the grandparents, even people my generation, some people who are very traditional, would say they are not really Basque if they listen to rock music, they are American. If you go to the Basque Country and turn on the radio, and it is U2 and Cold play and Red Hot Chili Peppers, what is the difference between being in Los Angeles or being in Berriz?" she wonders.

For Gloria, there is not a problem with the stronger identity absorbing the weaker one. "Euskal Herria is connected to global culture. You can have traditional culture and global culture at the same time. We do not subtract Basque identity when we add global culture. We just add it," she argues.

However, Gloria sees there are some places in the United States where ties with the Basque Country are not as strong as in Boise, and where they don't speak Euskera, French or Spanish. In these cases, a sort of reconnection is needed to keep their Basque identity. "If those people can make a trip to Euskal Herria, if we have programs for teenagers to take them to the Basque Country and to make friends with people there, or people from the Basque Country to come here and live with families, they are much more likely to maintain that identity", Gloria says.

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