“Every 5 years there is a Basque festival in Idaho. Idaho is the second largest concentration of Basques in the world outside of the Basque country because the terrain in Idaho and the surrounding areas is the most similar to Spain as a whole, like having very good soil and being pretty flat with some mountains, and you can go fishing there and there is a lot of room for cattle. The Basque festival is in Boise, and they have a lot of food and street fare, and tapas which are small dishes which are traditional to the Basque heritage. They also have a strongman competition (a traditional Basque sport) where people see who can lift the largest boulder. They have traditional Basque dancing and a pelota [ball] game where you hit a ball against a wall, kind of similar to racquetball. There is lots of paella and there are drinks called ‘Calimochos’ which is Coca-Cola with red wine, which is a traditional Spanish drink and everyone drinks those.”
OA is a 21-year-old American student at USC. She grew up in Washington. Her family is of Basque heritage, so I asked her about any Basque specific traditions she has, since the Basque people are from a very small region in Northern Spain/Southern France. She told me about a Basque festival her family goes to in Idaho.
Festivals are a unique expression of cultural heritage because they can bring together people from a wide area in celebration of one specific thing, in this case Basque people celebrating and honoring their culture. Since it only happens every 5 years, it makes it even more special, and the people can honor their ancestors by partaking in the things they did traditionally. The geographical location of the Basque country in Europe explains why some of their traditions are similar to others in nearby countries, like tapas and pelota which are both Spanish words. But even with these similarities, this festival and these people are incredibly unique. It is special too that there is a huge community of Basque people who all live in a common area that represents their homeland in the way it is geographically similar to where they came from. These continued connections with the past can give people a sense of identity that are derived from the community they are in.