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buber.net > Basque > Features > Books > Book Review: An Enduring Legacy by John and Mark Bieter
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Book Review: An Enduring Legacy by John and Mark Bieter

by Blas Pedro Uberuaga

June 28, 2003

Read: September, 2000.

I felt that this was a very good overview of the Basque experience in America, specifically Idaho. It gave me some idea of the experiences the men who came before my father had. My father is of the second generation of Basque immigrants, of the time when the three year contracts were in force and a Basque network was already in place. The greater uncertainty felt by the men and women who came at the beginning of the twentieth century must have been orders of magnitude greater than for my father, though the potential rewards were also greater.

The Bieters give a good overview of the histories of the Basques, starting with a story about Jose Navarro (who was the uncle of my great-grandmother). They give a good history of the efforts of both the original immigrants and their decendants' to keep at least some aspects of Basque culture alive. They do point out, in a way that makes me look at my own choices, that the aspects of Basque culture that have survived in America are those that are easy to continue, that the are convenient for people who want a Basque connection, but don't have the time or want to put forth the effort to, for example, learn the language. I see this as a call, to me at least, to try to strengthen my knowledge of not only the language, but also the history and culture of my ancestors.

They give some history of the involvement of Idaho Basques in the politics of Euskadi that I hadn't known of before (Anaik Denok), but found very interesting.

Reading the parts about the industrialization of the Basque Country, I felt that there were connections between the Basque Country and the Latin American countries similar to the point of view discussed in Che Guevara by Jon Lee Anderson. The industrialists, much as the capitalists of the US and the ruling elite of Latin America, cared little for the majority of the Basques, the rural Basques, but that Sabino Arana, the Basque nationalist, was much like Che in that he came from the elite group and idealized the rural peasants and wanted to change life for them without necessarily consulting with them. It is also interesting to note that ETA was born not too long after the Cuban Revolution.

I found this to be a quick read but an interesting one, that gave me some very good insights into the Basque-Idaho background that I hadn't known before. It is a very good introduction to what it means to be Basque-American and why some of us choose to identify with both the Basque and American culture. I strongly recommend this book, not only to Americans of Basque decent, but anyone who is interested in the issues of ethnicity in America and why some would choose to be both American and ethnic at the same time.

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