Coexistence: Being Basque and American

IkurraPeople have multiple identities--as a child, a sibling, a co-worker, a sports fan, etc.  Two of these many identity options are being Basque and American.  They are not mutually exclusive:  being one doesn't disqualify being the other.

Disclaimer: Originally published July 4, 2008 by John M. Ysursa who is responsible for this viewpoint.

Years ago the "Zenbat Gara" Basque dance group performed and following that one of their dancers found a posting online that declared the sentiment of why can't Basques be Americans like everyone else?  It appeared that the author was put-off by a group of people choosing to express an identity other than being just an American.  Well the short answer is, yes, Basques can be Americans like everybody else.  They can be both Basque and American.  We can embrace both our cultural identity as being Basque and our civic identity as being American--and being one doesn't require that the other be disqualified. 

People do not possess just one singular identity; rather who were are is a composite of multiple identities.  
People have multiple identities--as a child, a sibling, a co-worker, a sports fan, etc.  It is a peculiar aspect of the Western world that people can largely choose the degree to which they want to adhere to different identities--plural.  Two of these many identity options are being Basque and American.

For Americans of Basque descent, it does not represent a denigration of their American identity when they choose to celebrate their Basque heritage.  This weekend two of our member organizations (
Southern California Elko) will be celebrating their annual festivals that always fall on the 4th of July weekend.  There, as at most every other event during this Basque festival season, the festivities include an opening ceremony of sorts that always has two flags prominently displayed:  the American and Basque flags. There you'll hear the singing of the American then Basque (defacto version is "Gernikako Arbola") national anthems.  Succinctly, Basques are proud to be both American and Basque.  And most have it very clear, that they are fortunate to have this opportunity.  America gave our Basque ancestors opportunities that were not readily available at that time in their European homeland.  In America Basques were able to build a new home, and America did not demand that they forfeit their original heritage.  America just asks that you choose to be part of a larger family.

This sentiment of coexistence is shared throughout the Basque Diaspora as people of Basque descent in Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Canada, etc.  There too they celebrate both their cultural and civic identities. 

So on this anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that marks the birth of the American nation, we're proud to be both Basque and America, and we say thanks to America for the opportunities offered us including the freedom from being made to be just one thing, and the freedom of being able to choose who and what we want to be in life.




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