Article about Nabo and Zazpiak Bat

This article was written by John Ysursa of Nabo for the Euskosare website.

Ipar-Amerika Biltzarra: North American Summit of Basque Organizations

The North American Basque Organizations, founded back in the early 1970s, began with a grand vision as reflected in its choice of name–North American rather than United States–because the hope was to also include Canada and Mexico along with U.S. The time has come to once again try to realize that vision.

The vision behind what came to be called NABO was the unification of scattered Basque entities into a viable federation that could jointly promote Basque heritage. It wasn’t an easy task back then, because among other things Basques had never really been united, not in the European homeland (though technically unified during the medieval era under the Kings of Nafarroa this reality did not reach down far past the higher circles of the monarchy) nor here in the Basque Diapora.

Vancouver Basque club members at their Merrit picnic.

The slogan “Zazpiak-Bat” (the seven historical provinces coming together as one) remained an elusive goal. Basques of the southern region of Bizkaia, for example, had essentially no interaction with Basques from the northern province of Zuberoa. This situation persisted well until the present. This same detachment was reflected in the Basque communities of the United States.

Basques of Bizkaian descent in parts of Idaho and Nevada interacted little with the Basque of California which were primarily from Nafarroa and Benafarroa. Thus when delegates from the Basque assembled in Reno in 1973, the first step before the forming of any alliances, ratifying of bylaws, selecting a logo or any of that, was just getting people in the same place to get acquainted.
Once some relationships developed, then the work of NABO began.

That is what we are hoping to fulfill by following the same formula. This time though, we will be joined by delegations from three Basque clubs in Canada and Mexico for a get-acquainted session. With the generosity of the Basque Government that funded their travel, NABO is pleased to serve as host to the following three delegations:

  • Vancouver, Canada: Elena Sommer & Jon Laurenz

  • Montreal, Canada: Jean Goyhenetche and Jean-Claude Elissalde

  • Mexico City: Eduardo Ormaechea & Begona Jauregi

  • These three delegations are coming here with the understanding that nothing formal is to be decided; like decades ago the first step is getting to know ech other. If that goes well, then we stand a better chance of actually doing some things together in the future. Thus there is no set agenda for the sessions; instead they are intended to serve more as a means of getting acquainted and brainstorming sessions to explore what might be possible to build together. These three delegations joined by ours from NABO will meet in person to explore possibilities of doing more things together and perhaps joining together as a true federation of North American Basque Organizations.

    Clearly, distances limit the scope of shared efforts, but perhaps we could create a North American Basque Celebration (or “Ipar-Amerika Jaia” in Basque) once every three of four years. One time we could have the gathering in Mexico, the next event would be in Canada, etc. Beyond the possibility of these periodic gatherings, we could also explore ways of pooling our resources to all push in the same direction: the promotion and preservation of our shared Basque heritage. These and other possibilities can all be on the table.

    This is a unique opportunity to initiate a dialogue, and maybe something more: to realize a long-ago established goal. Hopefully this upcoming weekend encounter will yield lasting, mutually beneficial relationships for the Basque communities of North America.