By Nancy Zubiri
As part of his first official visit to the United States as the Basque lehendakari, Patxi Lopez introduced himself to festival goers at Boise’s Jaialdi 2010 on Thursday, July 29. He spoke at a reception hosted by the Basque government of Spain in which Basque Museum Director Patty Miller was honored with the Lagun Onari award, given for significant contributions to Basque history and culture.
Lopez was elected Lehendakari, or president, of the Basque government, in March 2009. At the reception, Lopez recognized the efforts of the Basque community in the United States to maintain the Basque culture over the years.
“The Basque identity is one whose roots extend throughout the world and has settled in different societies,” noted Lopez. “It represents a richness that all Basques should preserve and support. That is why we owe a great debt to those here who make the great effort to keep alive the flame that illuminates all Basques in different places in the world.”
The Oinkari dancers, the Bihotzetik Choir and soprano Amaya Arberas performed at the elegant event hosted by the Basque government at the Boise Center. Local Ysabel Bilbao emceed the event.
Miller emphasized that all the work she has completed at the museum has been the effort of many people.
To show how many Basques work to promote the culture, she asked for a show of hands from anyone who is “a member of a club, a choir or a sports group, or plays in a mus tournament or cook dinners for clubs, wherever this may be in the country.” She also asked about anyone who had volunteered for a Basque organization. A majority of the 400 to 500 people in the room raised their hands.
“Boise is a magical place for Basques to thrive because no matter what project you might be working on, there are always extra hands to help you do whatever you need,” said Miller. The museum director also thanked the Basque government for its financial support for the exhibit “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques,” noting that “the ability to have an exhibit in New York, at Ellis Island, was an incredible dream for us.”
During the event, Lopez announced to the crowd that the Basque government television station EITB has signed an agreement to televise its programs in California, Idaho and Nevada, which brought a round of applause. Other news that pleased many in the crowd was Lopez’ announcement that Boise’s Oinkari dancers will accompany Basque government officials when they make an upcoming trip to China.
Tomorrow Lopez will hold a press conference with Boise State officials, to sign an agreement with the university supporting its Basque Studies program.
Boise is the last stop for Lopez on a trip that included a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he signed an agreement with U.C. Berkeley and discussed a future agreement with Stanford University for joint research and exchange programs. He also spoke at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco.
He also visited Reno, where he presented a Lagun Onari award to the State of Nevada for its contribution over the years to the Basque culture, accepted by Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki. There, Lopez signed an agreement between the Basque government and the University of Nevada Reno to continue supporting research by the university’s Center for Basque Studies.