CHOOSING TO BELONG: Gaztemundu '06  

Originally published April 19, 2006 by John M. Ysursa. Neither NABO or the Basque Government is responsible for the following content.

We are born with the desire to connect with others, but today we largely get to choose with whom we will affiliate.  So one of the keys is getting young Basques to choose to belong to the Basque community and this can be facilitated with the assistance of Gaztemundu.

Humans are both very complicated and simple beings.  The complicated part includes why it is that two people can be looking at the exact same thing yet see and interpret it so differently.  That's one of the major problems historians (my day job) have to grapple with.  Other times, things are more straight-forward as in the instance of the universal human desire to connect with others.  For whatever the reason, we grave to be others.  While some of us prefer to be loners, there are still times when we want and need others.  In the film "Castaway" starring Tom Hanks as a marooned survivor on a deserted island, we are shown how as humans we grave company.  In this film, the Hanks' character creates "Wilson" (named after the Wilson volleyball that he gives a face) so that he has someone to talk with.  Put simply, we all grave to belong to something.  Now the questions are what will we choose to affiliate with and what does  Gaztemundu have to do with this?

One of the defining characteristics of living in the Western world today is that we are largely able to define our destiny.  This ability to decide is not absolute, but contrasted with other societies most Americans are able to offer a wide variety of answers to the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?"  Couple this with our innate desire to connect, we have individuals that are seeking to connect with something beyond themselves as they make their decision about their future.

The connections our young people can make run the gamut: some will choose to associate with their local gang; another with their local church; another with Nascar Nation, etc.  So why would someone want to choose to self-identify as a Basque?  There is no one answer to this because as humans we all relate to things differently (historians' dilemma above).  Here our focus becomes:  how do we get our youth to choose to belong to their Basque community? 

The varied answers to this question will comprise the substance of many more articles to come because this is something that we'll need to continue to explore if we're going to see the survival of Basques.  Biologically Basques will survive, but we're talking about having Basques choosing to belong and taking part in the promotion and continuation of Basque culture.  Yesteryear, this equation was more fixed:  those born Basque mostly self-identified as being Basque, which is why wherever you found Basques in the world, for example, a good many of them went to work creating Basque associations and clubs.  This equation is now less fixed:  even if you are born in the Basque Country to Basque parents, that does not assure that a youth will self-identify as being Basque.  They might as well end up defining themselves as a Bob Marley (reggae music icon) fan, or a dedicated member of some AOL chat room first, and then maybe on occasion as being Basque.  So what can we do to encourage young Basques to choose a stronger, more substantial connection with their Basque heritage?  This is where Gaztemundu comes in.

Gaztemundu is long standing program sponsored by the Basque Government to take a handful of Basques community leaders from the Basque Diaspora (the community of Basques who live outside the Basque homeland) and assemble them in the Basque Country for a two-week workshop.  Topics vary annually, but this year a program is being repeated because of its unique ability to train youth instructors in various ways of relating with youth.  This year's Gaztemundu has a specific objective:  it is intended to provide youth directors viable means of connecting with Basque youth and encouraging them to make the choose when the time comes down road to self-identify with being Basque because growing up they had a positive experience.  

So let the call out: we're looking for some good young men and women who are willing to attend this workshop and make the commitment upon their return to make an effort to impart a desire to youth want to affiliate with their Basque heritage.  The rush is on, because applications must be received no later than April 25th. 

Let us be clear:  the stakes are quite high.  If a sense of being Basque (beyond biology; i.e., the line "My grandfather was Basque") is going to endure, it will be because of the effort put forth by a dedicated group of individuals that will work to ensure that another generation continues our Basque heritage.  That is why we need to identify at least one youth director for each community.  Almost every club has a mus chairperson, a president, a treasurer, etc.  What we need is someone who will be dedicated to communicating information to the right people who are working with youth.  

Our young people are our future.  Yes, the immigrant generation created most all our Basque clubs, and they deserve our gratitude for what they have provided us.  But now it is the turn of another generation--the generation of Basques born in America--to step up like our parents did to keep our Basque identity alive.  

Help us get the word out--Gaztemundu 2006 is a great opportunity to train today's teachers to ensure tomorrow's future.  Help us find individuals who are willing to step up and answer the call.  We know that our young Basques as they grow older will choose to associate with something.  Let's do what we can to help make that choice choosing to remain Basque.  For this we'll need the help of some to make being Basque an enticing choice.  Gaztemundu can help us with this by providing new and engaging ways of working and playing as a Basque.  Our parents and grandparents did their job--it's our turn now.     



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