World Class Basque Exhibit Opens Friday
Boise’s own Basque Museum and Cultural Center, a bit of a hidden gem in Idaho’s and the Northwest’s cultural life, opens a marvelous new exhibit on Friday at the Museum on Boise’s historic Basque Block downtown.
The exhibit – developed by the Museum – premiered earlier this year at Ellis Island in New York, home of the National Memorial to the American immigration experience. I had a chance to see the exhibit there and can attest to its quality. You’ll be fascinated by the breath and depth of Basque influence in the world from politics to sports, from art to business.
The exhibit opens after a dinner and program on the Basque Block Friday.
Check out the website of the Museum for more information. There is also a website devoted to the exhibit. Reporter Scott Ki of Boise State Public Radio also did a nice piece on the exhibit.
One thing the exhibit does particularly well – this is worth remembering as political campaigns slash and burn around the immigration issue – is to remind us that America is a nation of immigrants.
In his 1958 book – A Nation of Immigrants – John Kennedy said: “Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world, and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
The Basque experience helps us reflect on the wisdom of Kennedy’s words. Make time to go see the exhibit. You won’t be sorry.
World Class Basque Exhibit Opens Friday
A Big Day In the Big Apple for Idaho Basques
A terrific new exhibit focused on the history and culture of American Basques – Hidden in Plain Sight – premiered on the hallowed ground of New York’s Ellis Island Saturday.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and Basque Museum Director Patty Miller (second and third from the right in the photo) helped open what is truly a world-class exhibit in the same rooms where 12 million immigrants passed into the United States from 1892 to 1954.
On the far left of the photo is exhibit curator Michael Vogt who did a masterful job of assembling artifacts, oral histories, photos, video and documents to help tell the story of the thousands of Basques who left northern Spain to settle in the United States. Many of those Basques ended up in southwestern Idaho, eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. The others in the photo are official representatives of the Autonomous Basque government in Spain who contributed financial and moral support to the exhibit project.
The notion of American Basques being “hidden in plain sight” is a takeoff on the fact that while Basques have done a remarkable job of assimilating they determinedly maintain language, traditions and culture. Musuem Board President Patti Laciondo wrote about that idea in the Idaho Statesman today.
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center has been around for 25 years, but this exhibit vaults a very special Idaho cultural organization far out on the national, even international stage. The National Park Service rotates a limited number of temporary exhibits through Ellis Island on an annual basis in order to compliment the starkly effective and profoundly moving permanent displays in the old building just off the southern shore of Manhattan. It is a singular honor for the Idaho musuem to be asked to mount such an exhibit. The exhibit will stay at Ellis Island through April and then open in Boise at the Basque Museum in September. As many as 300,000 people are expected to take a journey into the Basque story during the exhibit’s run in New York.
The always entertaining Oinkari dancers performed in cavernous Registry Hall at Ellis Island before the exhibit formally opened Saturday afternoon. The Basque choir from Idaho also performed. About 150 Idahoans made the trip to take part in the Ellis Island opening and many of them had their own stories about fathers, mothers or grand parents who entered the country through the gateway of American immigration.
It was impossible not to feel a lump in the throat as the Basque choir – Biotzetik – sang “America the Beautiful,” first in Basque then in English, in the place where so many new Americans caught their first glimpse of a new life in the new world. It was a moment that makes one marvel at what a country we have. A “nation of immigrants” in the language of John F. Kennedy, made great and unique in the world by the strength of its diversity.
American Basques are a fascinating part of the great American immigrant story, a part that will now, thanks to the work of the Basque Museum and Culutral Center in Idaho, be better known and appreciated around the country and the world.
Leave it to the Basques…
Been wondering if there is any good news in the world? Wonder no more.
Just in time for the Thanksgiving dinner comes new evidence – from the Basque region of Spain – that alcohol, wine, beer, whatever, in moderate daily amounts is good for the heart.
As the Independent reported: “The results showed that those who drank a little – a glass of wine or a bottle of beer every other day – had a 35 per cent lower risk of a heart attack than those who never drank. Moderate drinkers, consuming up to a couple of glasses of wine a day or a couple of pints of ordinary bitter, had a 54 per cent lower risk.”
As anyone knows who has traveled in the Basque region straddling the Spanish and French border along the Pyrenees, the Basques are great cooks and informed imbibers. The hospitality is legendary.
British scientists, of course, discounted the study, but what do they know. A glass of good red wine and a few tasty tapas in a bar in San Sebastian or Bilbao may just be one of the most civilized and stress reducing activities I can think of. Talk about good for the heart.
Toast the Basques. They know how to live. I personally think the study is brilliant.