Basque motto of "Zazpiak-Bat" specifically refers to the seven
historical regions of the Basque country joining together to be one.
This motto is adapted here to refer to the seven essential elements that
make the difference between a Basque club that sputters versus one that
What does it take to
have a successful Basque club? Many things actually, but here the focus
is on seven elements that will make a crucial difference between a club
that sputters versus one that thrives: workers, recreation, donors,
educators, leaders, a crowd and
Combining these seven (zazpi) elements will make for a stronger club
Those who have worked
to form and maintain a Basque club know that this task is not an easy
one. To start a club, it requires a grass-roots effort were someone
actually takes the initiative to contact others about the possibility of
getting together and forming a club. While our federation of Basque
clubs, NABO can be a resource, there is no substitute for the
grass-roots effort that is required to create a club. NABO and its
members can offer support (e.g., one existing club can help to publicize
events for another club starting up nearby) but preferably a core group
of people needs to coalesce with the shared vision of starting
NABO is there to
assist Basque clubs, but there is no substitute for the
grass-roots or local initiative that is necessary in creating
and sustaining a club. It takes a dedicated core of people
to do the necessary work of building the foundation. A recent new NABO member is the "Iparreko Ibarra"
club that embraces the Sacramento area.
The context varies
from place to place: in one place there might well be a noticeable
concentration of Basques (e.g., in Bakersfield, California) which makes
contacting possible members easier, while in other places (e.g., Denver,
Colorado) the possible membership pool might well be scattered far and
wide in numerous cities. The fact is, there are Basques in every
state. We have received inquiries even from Basques in Hawaii
about starting something there (and believe me we were doing what could
to promote that--imagine a NABO Convention on the beaches of Oahu?) but
in this case, it would require some serious preparatory work. This
might mean going through the local phone book and finding and calling
the Basque surnames; placing ads in newspapers; contacting area Spanish
or French clubs that might have Basque members, etc. Bottom line—it
takes someone(s) with initiative and that takes us to our first crucial
element of a Basque club.
In the Basque country,
the uztarri is used to harness two or more oxen to pull a cart.
This now serves as our NABO analogy: the uztarri (the federation of
NABO) combines the strength of various oxen (NABO’s member
organizations) so together we can keep the cart (Basque culture)
moving into the future. For how NABO might be able to
assist your club, click on
Growing your club.
WORKERS. The question “who is Basque” can still trigger a lively
discussion. Is a Basque an Euskaldun—one who speaks the Basque
language? Someone born to a Basque parent or someone born in the Basque
country? The criteria varies from person to person. So how
about this for a "working" definition: a
Basque is someone who moves tables and chairs for a Basque event. A
Basque club will be only as strong as its foundation, and in this case
it is the strength and dedication of its workers who are willing to give
of their time (for no pay) for a common cause.
There are numerous
examples of the worker without whom there would be no party. As
some know, putting on a Basque festival is no easy job: facilities need
to be reserved, you have to get the necessary permits, put out
publicity, arrange entertainment, prepare the food, clean the mess ....
Here is how it breaks
down: according to the last U.S. Census and the information
provided NABO by our member clubs/organizations, less than one of ten
people who define themselves as Basque has made the step to join a
Basque club/organization! So less than ten percent of the
self-defined Basque community has taken on the task of keeping things
going. (Click on
Membership Drive for more information about this and how we are
looking to reach out to more Basques.) Then of course, that is
assuming most members actually step up to consistently contribute which
is rarely the case in most clubs--thus only a portion of that 10% ends
up as workers. We owe this largely silent, invisible group of
people our gratitude: their tireless efforts have made it possible to
give a visible form of our celebration of Basque heritage.
LANGILEAK--Workers. Nothing happens in a
club without the work of dedicated members. Here two men
are helping to prepare the Lamb BBQ for the annual Elko
RECREATION. This can be called different things, but I’m going with this
because it links with our NABO formula of
recreation + education = perpetuation. Bottom line, Basque
gatherings have to be fun or else people are not going to opt
The primary impetus
behind the formation of most Basque clubs that are now celebrating
anniversaries that stretch across decades is that of people who wanted
to get together to have a good time. The immigrant generation--most of
whom founded our clubs--arranged informal gatherings that developed into
clubs. Basque families would assemble to share a good meal which
remains the defining element of most Basque gatherings. For most
Basque immigrants who had to work hard (i.e., herding sheep was not an
easy task) these gatherings offered them an opportunity to enjoy
themselves and each others company with a few hours of revelry.
continues with every club putting on an annual festival. To find
out when and where, click on
NABO news & calendar
clubs sponsor a Basque dance group or groups because they 1)
enjoy the festive dancing and 2) understand that it is a crucial
means of connecting their young people to their Basque heritage.
Here the Boise "Oinkari" perform at a festival. This
group's origins were informal dances at Basque gatherings when
people pulled out instruments to play until 1960 when a handful
of people took it to the next level to create a formal
group--with its own name-- with costumes and rehearsals for
DONORS. While money doesn’t literally make the world go around, in sure
does makes a difference for a Basque club. It takes the generosity of
people not only to give of their time, but also of money which is why
donors are a crucial component. There has to be some seed-money to get
things up and running, thus someone has to step up. Fundraisers
are a reality for every successful because you need money to pay the
bills. Every club puts on an annual picnic or festival that serves
as their primary annual fundraiser; others also supplement this with
other fundraising events such as monthly meals, raffle ticket sales,
reverse drawings and of course chorizo sales. To an extent, the
Basque Government is willing to financially support some of the efforts
of Basque clubs; for more information click on
Most of the time big dreams
require big money. For decades the dream was to build a
fronton for the San Francisco area Basques, but land prices in the Bay
area--then and now--were high. A group of Basque investors made
the commitment to "put your money where your mouth is" and thus the
Cultural Center came to be. In addition to the fronton, they also
had the foresight to include a restaurant and banquet room. The
financial risk taken by these folks decades ago has now yielded one of
the most impressive Basque centers anywhere with the
San Francisco Basque
Fundraising is a necessary reality for Basque
clubs. For most clubs, their picnic/festival is their
largest annual fundraiser. Some have supplemented this
with other efforts: here the Utah Basque Club is taking
part in the "Living Traditions Festival" in the Salt Lake City
To an extent, the Basque Government is willing to
financially support some of the efforts of Basque clubs; for
more information click on
EDUCATORS. This category embraces the teachers & the visionaries.
The immigrant generation were made Basque by their environment; they
came of age in the Basque country. It is not the same anymore, and
not just because things are different for a minority group such as ours
in America. The same applies for Basques born in the Basque
country. Being Basque nowadays is more of a choice from a whole
list of options. Thus it falls to the educators to find ways of
maintaining traditions and innovating ways of keeping people involved.
then, if a Basque identity is going to endure in world of numerous
alternative choices, Basque clubs have to do an effective job of
providing a foundation of what it means to be Basque, again referencing
our motto of
recreation + education = perpetuation.
Teachers in a club
include the dance instructors, the people teaching Euskara classes, the
people preparing an exhibit of Basque photographs, etc. A related
yet separate entity here include
those who see new ways of connecting with people to keep the club
vibrant and alive.
An example of a
visionary would be someone like Al Erquiaga of Boise. The
visionary sees things in a new, engaging way. Some of Al's visions
that have come to fruition include the Boise "Oinkari" dance group, the
Bihotzetik choir of Boise, and perhaps you might have heard about
Jaialdi--the largest Basque celebration in America that is celebrated
once very five years. Al also had a vision decades ago about
combining our resources to jointly promote our Basque heritage: that
vision was the foundation of what today is NABO. Al then went on
to serve as NABO's first president.
potential of a club rests on the shoulders of its teachers and
visionaries. Someone has to step up to work with the young
dancers; someone has to brainstorm a new idea or approach to get
people involved in the club and in Basque culture. An
example of a Basque-American visionary is Al Erquiaga of Boise.
Some of his ideas that have come to fruition include the Oinkari
Basque Dancers, the Bihotzetik choir of Boise, and perhaps you
might have heard of Jaialdi. The role of educators, then,
is crucial for the success of a club. NABO is presently at
work trying to make more resources available for these people.
For how NABO might be able to assist your club click on
Growing your club.
LEADERS. All the great ideas in the world amount to nothing if they
don’t get off the ground. This is why a successful club is due to a
handful of people who find a way to get people to begin pushing in the
same direction. This is not easy, and it takes exceptional people
skills. Able leaders are those who find ways of getting people to want
to join in the effort because it is worth their while.
An example of this is
Bert Aphessetche of the Chino Basque Club. As noted above, most
Basque clubs do not have their own clubhouse. That is what Bert
set about to accomplish over twenty years ago. He took it upon
himself to purchase the land for the building so that it would be
available if the club moved in that direction, and against resistance
(there as elsewhere there were voices that said a building wasn't
needed, the building site &/or plan was flawed, organizers were going
about it wrong, and other such charges that often kill such a project)
Bert succeeded as a leader to get people pushing in the same direction.
He did this not only with his words--he is an eloquent speaker--but with
his actions: he was there helping the build it with other volunteers.
Then again, almost two decades later, he spearheaded the campaign of the
Chino Basque Club to purchase an adjoining parcel of land to secure the
clubhouse's future. He is not the sole reason that back in April
2006 that the Chino Basque Club celebrated the twentieth anniversary of
its building, but most who are honest and able to celebrate the
accomplishments of others, know that without Bert's leadership there
might have been no building.
All the great ideas in the world amount to nothing if they don't
get off the ground. That is why leaders such as Bert Aphessetche of Chino are crucial. Twenty years ago he went
to work spearheading the effort to construct a clubhouse.
While he is not the sole reason, most who are honest and able to
celebrate the accomplish of others, know that without a leader
like Bert there would have been no 20th anniversary celebration
of the Basque clubhouse in Chino in April 2006.
A CROWD. In the film "Field of Dreams" the mantra is repeated "build it
and they will come." It came out in the movie, but it doesn't
always work out that way in real life. In every club it is always
a minority that does a majority of the work. But it is
counter-productive to scold people for not working more. As noted
above, less than 10% of self-defined Basques have gone on to join a
Membership Drive for
more information about this and how we are looking to reach out to more
Basques.) The numbers aren't the greatest, but it is
counter-productive to scold people for not doing more, but after all,
don't we want people to show up at our parties?
The simple fact
of the matter is that we want people to come to our events—otherwise
what good is all the effort of setting up tables and chairs if they are
empty? So yes, we also need those people who may work
or donate little or nothing, because they too make the Basque club a
success because we want our events well attended. It makes our
efforts worthwhile and rewarding. So let the word go out--yes come
to our parties and we won't make you feel guilty because having a good
crowd is an essential part of a successful club.
What good is
party if no one shows up? Clearly, without planning and
workers there would have been no party in the first place, but
unless other people choose to attend then what good is the
effort? That is why a club is also dependent upon those
who might directly contribute little or nothing in terms of work
or donations, but nonetheless make it a point to attend events.
7. GOGOA is the
Basque word for desire or will. It ultimately comes down to this great
intangible: Euskaldun bizi nahia—the will to live as Basque.
That is what it will take to keep a Basque world going here in America.
The challenge is to make identifying oneself as being Basque as something worthwhile, and
this remains NABO's largest endeavor in the future. NABO is at
work on various ways of doing this, including the following:
NABO news & calendar
Gure Etorkizuna: Connecting with Basque youth
Growing your club
These are some
preliminary ideas about what it takes to make a successful. Can
you help to add/subtract from this list? Send your comments via
email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can
grow this page to help clubs in their endeavors to keep things going.
EUSKALDUN BIZI NAHIA
"The Will to Live as Basque"
-Juan San Martin