TELESFORO MONZON eLab / Euskal Herrigintza Laborategia

Workshop 2: Basque Country-USA Relations: Evolution and Future Prospects

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WORKSHOP 2: Basque Country-USA Relations: Evolution and Future Prospects

 March 2021 

Session I. March 2

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Session II. March 4




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P R E S E N T A T I O N:


As part of the strategic seminar “Euskal Herria–Basque Country Internationalization and Global Perspective” organized by the Telesforo Monzon eLab Laboratory of Ideas and the Sabino Arana Foundation, we organized a workshop on “Basque Country–USA Relations: Evolution and Future Prospects”. 

While it is difficult to corroborate with absolute certainty, according to several studies conducted over the years, it would appear that more than eight million people of Basque descent are scattered throughout the world. Many of them are unaware of their Basque origin and heritage.

This circumstance posits a human connection which merits improvement. What could we achieve if we educated, raised awareness, and engaged their passion and their wisdom to further enrich the Basque Country? To succeed in this objective, we must build bridges. Bridges between institutions, between companies, between non-profit organizations, cultural organizations, universities, dance, and other related cultural groups.

But while bridges are important, it is paramount that we build trust between people. Creating a foundation of trust among people of Basque origin around the world, we can construct authentic economic, cultural, social, and academic bridges, reaching beyond our long tradition of global connections.

The Basque diaspora in the USA is key to growing and enhancing the role of the Basque Country in the interconnected global community of the future. Basque diaspora communities from Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, or Chile can also play an important role in moving forward with this endeavor. At this point in time however, we have focused specifically on the United States Basque diaspora.

The purpose of this two-day virtual workshop was to discuss matters related to the opportunities and challenges of building bridges between the Basque Country and the USA diaspora.

More than 80 people registered and participated in this very fruitful seminar, and we received positive feedback. In this document we summarize the key ideas put forward and discussed by the participants. 

We would like to thank everyone who attended for their extremely generous participation and look forward to continuing this ongoing discussion.


• Although Basques have been present in America for centuries, the Basque Country as a nation came to the attention of American politics after the bombing of Gernika. Later, the Burgos trial triggered the involvement of the Basque diaspora in events occurring in the Basque Country.

• Diplomatic relationships with the UK and the USA started in modern history during WWII with the Basque Government of Agirre in exile; and this brought Basque politics to the Capitol.

• Since the Agirre Government, there have been diplomatic/paradiplomatic relations with the USA.

• The Basque diaspora developed into an organized community or society in the years following WWII.

• We have a strong legacy in the USA, all due to the hard work done by this Basque American diaspora.

• Recognition and acknowledgement should be given to those who go the extra-mile and ensure that Basqueness is a relevant part of the American way of doing things.

• The Basque diaspora is standing on the threshold of a defining moment that will be key to the survival of the Basque community in the United States.

• The challenge is to determine how being Basque fits into our current and future existence. We need to go beyond the things we do currently and identify new and meaningful ways to be Basque and engage other non-Basques.

• We are a community with many diasporas. In global societies, we need local answers.

• We Basques are not on the world map.

• We need to answer the question of where we are going because without a clear vision the community will disappear. We must go on this journey together or not at all.

• Who is Basque? The people born in the 7 provinces of course, but also the descendants of Basques, as well as the new Basques; those who want to be Basque.

• There is not one single identity. It is better to add than subtract. We need inclusion, not exclusion.

• People are falling in love with our language; throughout the ages, the Basque language has become a symbol of resilience and overcoming   adversity. It is the result of the efforts of civil society, and it is something to be proud of. Euskara is a treasure that we offer to the world. Our contribution to the biodiversity and cultural diversity of the planet is our language and our culture.

• Basque society is a progressive society, and we fight for rights and diversity. We Basques are on the right side of history, among those who want a more human world. Who is the Basque Cohen, Taylor, or Einstein? We are not celebrated, and we need to make ourselves more visible.

• We need to identify the features that make the Basque Country unique. Scotland and Ireland are both immediately recognizable from just a few characteristics. We Basques need something similar.

• The way to build bridges between us is to work together from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

• We must embrace multiple identities, take human values as a characteristic that identifies us as Basque. We need to add value to   these characteristics and make our achievements visible.

• Those who “feel Basque” usually have travelled and spent a decent amount of time in the Basque Country, they have made friends here, and they can see themselves on the streets of our cities. These are the people who feel connected to the homeland, and work to keep our presence in the lives of Basque and non-Basques in the USA.

• Encouraging the diaspora to visit their homeland is crucial and should be promoted. Everyone should have the opportunity to visit their homeland in their lifetime.

• Music/culture/sport/language are key to promoting a connection with the homeland. Encouraging youth from the diaspora to learn Basque is of paramount importance.

• Strengthening personal and family relationships between young members of the Basque diaspora in the USA and Basque youth, is one of the most strategic decisions we can take to improve our international presence in the future.

• We need to facilitate close contacts and experiences for young people from both sides to create ties of friendship that can last a lifetime. We should establish programs to help create those links.

• We need to open our doors to the future. One way we can do this is by opening our doors and our families to young people from the diaspora who want to experience and learn from the Basque way of life in the Basque Country.

• This should be a collective project where institutions, families, participants, local organizations, etc play a key role. Together we can offer a long-term and attractive program, always with an eye to the future.

• Perhaps it is not something that is evident today, but we can be certain that wherever they are and whatever they are doing, young people participating in such a program will be actively in favor of the Basque Country and its culture in the future.

• The diaspora can influence investment in the homeland.

• It would be advantageous to have offices in strategic places endorsed by private organizations to strengthen the existing ties between Euskal Herria and the USA, and to promote the Basque brand.

• Having a newspaper for the diaspora is very useful.

• We shouldn’t forget the Irish in our work in America.

• How we work together to stay relevant in a globalized world is the key.

• One way to continue growing our brand is leveraging our engagement opportunities and brand recognition. Both professional and amateur sportspeople are uniquely positioned to do this.

• Sports are part of our identity, and we should bear that in mind and promote it.

• The documentary about Ander Egiluz, from Idaho, was an enormous success. The reason for its success is that we have uniquely charming community-based stories to share.

• John Rahm speaking Euskara on tv made members of the Basque diaspora cry with pride.

• The more we remain relevant to the sports market, the greater our impact will be, we need to be strategic about this.

• Using sport to engage youth is crucial, not only for the Basque diaspora but also Americans in general.

• We need to find ways to engage the Basque community and the broader American community, around and through sport.

• We need to identify allies to extend our work, e.g., in the area of professional soccer.

• We should grasp the opportunities presented by the American west coast.  We share historical ties with this entrepreneurial region with global connections, and we should leverage those ties to develop economic and cultural links with other regions such as Asia.

• We need to raise awareness of our technological capacity and focus on the American west coast. A link between our two entrepreneurial regions  could become a platform to connect with Asia.

We could establish links with academic and research institutions, as well as companies.

• Knowledge is the only tool we need to build our future. Without knowledge, there is no innovation, not in industry nor in society. If we want to be innovative, if we want to achieve something new, something different, creating and managing knowledge is the key.

• We should create a network—the Basque Academic Diaspora—where academics or researchers who identify as Basque or “feel Basque”, or those who are conducting research related to the Basque country, could participate by linking their research and academic activity, categorized by theme, location of research, etc.

• Such a network will facilitate the growth of our knowledge base with input from our diaspora anywhere in the world.

• We should identify and promote our legacy of knowledge scattered all over the globe, gather it together in the Basque Academic Diaspora, and build new ways of connecting with benefits for all participants.

• We should create an entity, or use an existing one, responsible for coordinating the connections which facilitate the creation and promotion of knowledge on an international scale. This would be for the benefit of Basque Academics and the Basque Country. This entity should be supported by the University of the Basque Country and the Basque Government, at the very minimum.

• This academic community of the Basque diaspora can be a tool for promoting the Basque Country and strengthening its international reputation, by working together with universities interested in academic exchange programs, collaborative research and Basque studies.

• We could develop the concept of a Transoceanic Campus to build strong relationships between universities all over the world. The Basque Government could promote this idea.

• To effectively develop the concept of the Transoceanic Campus with American universities, we need to establish closer relationships among academic staff and offer a user-friendly framework for exchange programs.

• We should promote Global Education, Global Research Cooperation, Global Experiential Learning, International visibility, etc.

• The political influence of the Basque Country will be achieved through advocacy, business, and culture.

• When we think about lending visibility to Basqueness, a Basque delegation must be based in Washington DC. To be able to present Basque priorities on Capitol Hill, we need a Basque ambassador registered in the foreign register act, with cultural and economic involvement. This governmental role is important.

• We also need a non-governmental Basque presence. This should take the form of a 5OAC3 and a 5OAC4 (501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization and a 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax-exempt organization for lobbying and advocacy at Capitol Hill level).

• We have the North American Basque Organization (NABO) in the traditional cultural space, but we also need a Basque American Society linked to business, the arts, etc., and to connect us to the USA.

• Having a USA-Basque Chamber of Commerce would prove conducive to building business connections and could function as the voice of Basque business.

• A Basque Caucus that includes Basque members of the diaspora would also be a valuable asset.

• Basqueness is stronger in the first generation, and this is handed down to the next. In subsequent generations however, the connections become more tenuous, and it is important that we work on that.

• There are many officials with Basque surnames that need to discover their Basqueness. Americans place importance on discovering their roots and we should tap into that.

• We should encourage lawmakers to come to the Basque Country. There is an entire infrastructure dedicated to that in Israel.

• We need a think tank as an intellectual pilar. Promoting scholarships would make a lot of sense.

• We should ensure permanent engagement with both Democrats and Republicans.


Session I: March 2 (17:00-19:00 CET)

Mikel Burzako

Mikel Burzako is Member of the National Committee (EBB) of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) since 2016  in charge of Foreign Affairs, and Chief Executive Officer of the European Institute of Democrats since 2019, as well as Member of its Board since 2017. Before this appointment, he was the Representative of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in Spain and Portugal, Director of Coordination in the Presidency of the Basque Government, and earlier Director for Foreign Affairs and Director for Development. He lived for seven years in Chile where was Head and Director of the Basque-Chile Foundation for Development. Mikel Burzako received his degree in economic science and business administration from the University of Deusto and has done several training programs internationally.

Urko Aiartza Azurtza

Urko Aiartza Azurtza is the director of the Telesforo Monzon eLab, a laboratory of ideas for state-building, and the Olaso Dorrea Foundation. He served as Senator in the Madrid Senate (2011-2015) and served as Spokesperson in the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Iberoamerican, and Standing Senate Committees. Since 2017, he is a Senior Adviser of the European Institute of Peace (EIP) in Brussels as well as counsel of a variety of international organizations working in a variety of places like Colombia, Moldova, Ukraine, or Ethiopia. He received his degree in law from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and a Master in Conflictology from the Universitat Oberta de Catalonia (UOC). Currently, he is a member of the Gipuzkoa Bar and runs a law firm in Donostia. 

Xabier Irujo

Born in exile, Xabier Irujo is the director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR), where he is a professor of genocide studies. He has published on issues related to Basque history and politics and has specialized along with his career in genocide studies with a focus on physical and cultural extermination. He holds three master’s degrees in linguistics, history, and philosophy and has two Ph. Ds in history and philosophy. Irujo has lectured in nearly 100 American and European universities and academic or cultural institutions (typically governments, parliaments, museums, and libraries.)

Máirtín ó Muilleoir

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is an Irish SF politician, author, publisher, and businessman, who served as the 58th Lord mayor of Belfast (2013–14). He is a former Member of the Legislative Assembly of the North of Ireland and was appointed Minister of Finance in the Northern Ireland Executive. In 1997, Ó Muilleoir became part-owner of the Andersonstown News, which subsequently purchased the New York-based Irish Echo. A fluent Irish speaker, he has a deep interest in Irish and American links.

Jean Flesher

Jean Flesher is a home builder and remodeler. He is co-owner of French Maison LLC imports and Euskal Mubleak. He is a NABO delegate from the Basque Club of Utah and the North American Advisor for the World Congress of Basque Entities. He is the leader of the Jean Flesher Orchestra and Amerikanuak. He received the NABO Bizi Emankorra award (2017), and was co-founder of the Ipar Ameriketako Euskal Dantzarien Biltzarra (1987). Jean Flesher has been involved for decades in the promotion of Basque culture, dance, and music all around the West. 

Iñaki Goirizelaia Ordorika

Iñaki Goirizelaia (Ph.D.) is a full professor of Telecommunication Engineering at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in the Department of Communication Engineering. He is the former President of the University of the Basque Country (2009–2017). Previously, he was Vice-President of the Campus of Biscay of the same university. He is the founder of the .eus Foundation which was created, once ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approved the .eus domain, to promote and provide the backbone to the Basque language and culture community on the Internet. He has been visiting fellow at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Eloise Garmendia Bieter at Boise State University (BSU). 

Argia Beristain

Argia Beristain is the Associate Vice President for Development at Boise State University. As a fundraising professional, Argia has leveraged those skills to support the Basque American diaspora throughout her life. This includes co-founding the Washington, DC Euskal Etxea in 2006 and working to make the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s presentation of Basque Culture in 2016 a reality. Argia is also an adjunct faculty member in the Basque Studies program at Boise State. In 2015, she was the Event Director of the Basque Soccer Friendly that brought Athletic Club Bilbao to Boise, Idaho during Jaialdi as a fundraiser for the Basque Studies Program. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Women Studies from the University of Washington and a Master Certificate in Basque Studies from the University of the Basque Country.

Xabier Berrueta

Xabier Berrueta is the President of the United States Federation of Pelota. Son of Immigrant Parents from the Baztan Valley of Nafarroa, he first learned his mother tongue of Euskera while being raised on the edge of Chinatown and North Beach in San Francisco. It would be not until he was 4 years old that English was introduced to be followed up by Castilian-Spanish at eight and French much later while at UC Davis. He studied at the George Washington University, School of Business, and the University of California. The love and spirit for the sport have been embedded since even before birth. Aitatxi Manuel, notorious for knowing to wager against the priests of the Baztan Valley, in a match of pilota would outright win with Aitatxi taking home the offertory collection as a means to help feed the seven kids waiting at home. Needless to say, the Berruetas joined the Medicis as marked adversaries of the Holy See. This passion for the sport of pilota has expanded beyond the rural communities of Euskal Herria and quite frankly across six continents. What started with Aitatxi will and has continued to inspire an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and imprint of Basqueness in the World. He has been Director of Competition (Basque Pelota) at the Lima 2019 Pan Am Games and Director of the Basque Cultural Center (San Francisco). He runs a linguistic agency.

Session II: March 4 (17:00-19:00 CET)

Joan José Ibarretxe Martuartu

Juan José Ibarretxe Markuartu is the former president of the Basque Autonomous Community (1999-2009) Currently he is President of the Agirre Lehendakaria Fundazioa (ALF) and director of the Agirre Lehendakari Center (ALC) until 2020, as well as Professor of Economics in the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico. He was previously Vice- Lehendakari and Mayor of his birthplace, Llodio. After his time in politics, he focused on the academic area, founding the  Agirre Lehendakari Center and obtaining his doctorate from the UPV/ EHU in 2010. 

Kirmen Uribe

Kirmen Uribe is a Basque writer and did his graduate studies in Comparative Literature in Trento, Italy. He won his first literary award, in 1995, when he was in prison for resisting the military draft (since he didn’t care to participate in the then-obligatory service); In 2008 he received the Critics’ Prize for his novel Bilbao– New York–Bilbao wrote in Basque, and in October of 2009 he was awarded the Spanish Literature Prize, for the same work.

Herman Uscategui

Herman Uscategui is the Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Business Development at Cortex (United States). Herman also serves as a senior advisor for Zunum Aero (United States). Before his current roles, Herman held various executive positions at Starbucks Coffee Company, including director of Global Strategy -Strategic Alliances. Before joining Starbucks, Herman was director for  Worldwide Projects at Westin Hotels & Resorts corporate offices in Seattle, WA. He started his business career in Tokyo, Japan with Aoki Corporation. Herman has been involved in international projects across four continents and has lived in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the US. He received a Master in Engineering from Saitama University/the University of Tokyo and is a Ph.D. scholar from the University of Tokyo in Japan. He also holds a Master in Science of Economics from Temple University in Japan and is fluent in several languages. Herman is the chair of the board of One World Now! a non-profit organization based in Seattle dedicated to youth leadership development and after-school critical language straining (Arabic and Chinese) for underserved high school students. Herman is an active member of the Socrates Society in the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado. He is a former member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Japan America Society. Herman belongs also to the International Advisory Board of ESADE in Barcelona, Spain.

Rafael Anchía

Rafael Anchía is currently serving his nineth term in the Texas Legislature and represents a western corridor of Dallas County. Rep. Anchía currently serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development. He also serves as a member of the Energy Resources Committee and the House Administration Committee. 

From 2011-2015, he served in President Barack Obama’s administration as an appointee to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, which advises the White House and U.S. Trade Representative on trade and investment agreements. He has dedicated his public service to fighting for civil rights, public education, protecting the environment, and improving access to health care for women and children. Rep. Anchía is a co-founder and Managing Director in the global investment firm Civitas Capital Group; he also serves as Of Counsel at the largest law firm in Dallas, Haynes, and Boone, where he represents financial institutions and public and private funds. 

Marian Elorza

Marian Elorza’ s entire professional experience has been focused on international relations. She started in her position as external action specialist at the Basque Delegation to the EU. From March 1999 to May 2009 she was Director for Internationalisation at the Basque Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. Since December 2012 she holds a position of Secretary General for External Affairs of the Basque Government.

As General Secretary, she is responsible for the Euskadi Basque Country Internationalisation Framework Strategy. Marián Elorza has a degree in Economics and Business, by University of the Basque Country, and a Master Degree in European Studies by the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), and a Master in Advanced European Studies at Nancy European University Centre (France).

Mireia Zarate

Mireia Zarate is the President of the Sabino Arana Foundation and a member of the National Committee (EBB) of the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV). She served as a councilor in the Zamudio city council and as a member of the Basque Autonomous Parliament from 2011 to 2015. She holds a Degree in Business Administration and Management from the Basque University (UPV/EHU) and a Master’s Degree in Account Auditing from Deusto University.

Iratxe Esnaola Arribillaga

Iratxe Esnaola is the President of the Olaso Dorrea Foundation and a member of its TM eLab laboratory of ideas. Professor at the Deusto Business School, since 2016, she is also its Vice-Secretary. Previously she was the Director of the Basque .eus Foundation. Doctor of Education from Deusto University, she holds a Degree in Computer Engineering from the same university.