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Alex Mendizabal, ACE: “The ENE Award has been like a kiss to everyone working in Rome for the Basque culture”


Alex Mendizabal, member of the Associazione Culturale Euskara in Rome
Alex Mendizabal, member of the Associazione Culturale Euskara in Rome


The Associazione Culturale Euskara (ACE) began this year receiving in Pamplona the ENE award from Eusko Ikaskuntza, the Society of Basque Studies. The recognition made the club very happy and as Alex Mendizabal told, “The award was presented to the ACE, but it is for everyone who works on the Euskara platform, promoting the Basque culture in Rome in exchange for nothing.  Viviana, Roberta, Marcello, Maurizio, Dario….” “We should talk about the tremendous contribution that these non-Basque speakers make and the work they do for Euskera,” he said. 

Iruña-Pamplona, Navarre.   Alex Mendizabal will receive the ENE award this morning in Pamplona awarded to the ACE on December 3 by Eusko Ikaskuntza.  The award put the final touch on 2015 for the ACE, a year that has carried out a large number of activities and projects, “working for the love of Euskera, stealing hours in the night.”  It is the daily bread in the heart of Basque communities around the world.  Mendizabal responded in writing to some questions from

-There were changes in the ACE’s board last year.

The ACE changed its board and the person that coordinated the club for years, Viviana Tommasetti, became our new president.  ACE has carried out activities in favor of Basque since its inception in 2002, and has been the biggest supporter of the platform.  ACE participates on this platform along with the Department of Euskera at the University of Rome3 (previously with the UPTER University), the LIBE publisher at other branches that form,  They carry out joint projects like a dictionary, Euskanta, publications, translations and more.

-What activities would you highlight among those carried out by the ACE?

In December we celebrate a Basque Week that we call “Dicemb_E.H. Basco 2015 Euskal_Aztia.” There were food activities, a sagardo workshop (we made Basque style cider in Italy for the third year in a row), dance (with the Amets Bide group from Ordizia), literature, publications, film (we translated and subtitled the film Loreak into Italian), a photo exhibit by Asier Gogortza and other projects.  We also presented a Basque-Italian dictionary that can be consulted at It's the fruit of many years of work, with 15,000 entries and 20,000 translations, all online, free, constantly updated and perfected.  This as well as the Euskanta, project – six editions from 2010 to 2015, are also available online.  On the other hand LIBE publishing (Basque literature in Italian translated directly from Euskera) presented two new books: Lettere ad Ainhoa by Joseba Sarrionandia and Non Dire (Niente), by Xabier Erkizia, translated by the great Roberta Gozzi.

-What challenges are you facing now?

We have to take new steps in regards to membership participation.  It isn’t as easy as it seems and we have to constantly find new ones. This year we have proposed reinforcing the Basque Studies Program a the University of Rome3.  This is something that happens overnight as it requires long-term planning, both economically as in general.  LIBE publishing will continue proposing new titles of Basque literature in Italian, and will try to amplify its presence in literary circles; we have to flip the Basque-Italian dictionary and work on the Italian-Basque side.  In order to carry this out we will need means and will continue looking for them, from institutions as well as private sources.  In the area of communication, for example we have to get much better at it.  We know that culture in general, as well as the Basque culture, tends to become propaganda.  The same stuff appears once and again in the media and it is very difficult to make a niche.  We haven’t succeeded yet, and regarding that  I’m sure we’ve made mistakes, and so those are what we need to identify and remedy.

-Have you had difficulty with grants?  What has happened and how are you sitting this year?

The ACE has received support from the Directorate of the Basque Community Abroad in the Basque Government for many years and we are very grateful.  We know that there are cut backs, but we haven’t lacked funding.  In 2015, we receive 11,600 Euros.  We would also like to stress the help from HABE through the Euskara Munduan program.  HABE is always ready to help, they award the subsidies at the beginning of the year and they are always available for advice and support especially from Kinku Zinkunegi.  They have carried out “good practices,” and are an example for other entities.  On the other side of the balance and in regards to “bad practices” I would mention the Etxepare Basque Institute.

-What do you mean?

As I said before, the Department of Euskera is part of the platform.  It was created with the help of the Basque Government in 2005 and at that time, it was one of the few Basque departments in the world at the university level.  When UPTER had 152 students, many interesting projects and a comprehensive program, the powers that be at Etxepare decided to take away all our help arguing that Rome wasn’t interested. In the meantime, and over the last few years, we have created a new Department of Euskera at the University of Rome3, where university credit is awarded.  The LIBE publishing now has 6 books.  But the Etxepare Institute hasn’t given one Euro to either this year.

Etxepare created a lectureship in Bologna and Venice, but nobody knows how many students they have.  Nobody knows how many students they have in their entire network of lectureships.  And last year, they also funded a Basque teacher in Milan, that doesn’t know Basque but who puts together events on Basque culture.  They have taken away funding for those who carry out “good practices,” like Basque departments at UPTER and Rome3, and they have taken their support, along with all their funding arbitrarily to the north of Italy.  In our opinion these are “bad practices.”

There was no discussion or reflection from the Etxepare Institute and it is about time.  You have to require transparency.  As soon as possible.  In my opinion they have to change the root of its guidelines.

-What does the ENE award mean to the ACE and how was it received?

We were very happy to receive this award presented by such a prestigious entity like Eusko Ikaskuntza.  They awarded it to the Associazione Culturale Euskara, but we know that the award is really to the platform.  It was like a kiss for all of the people that work on it, most of the time totally for free (we talk about translators, web technicians, programmers, professors, designers…).  It is not an award that brings money along with it, but affection instead.  It is a lot.  Because all of these people that have been mentioned work for the love of Euskera, even at night.  Viviana, Roberta, Marcello, Maurizio, Dario, Aloña, Maider, Roberto, Michele, Marlene, Paola, Adriano, Maria Teresa, Annamaria…  and many, many more.  One day we should refer to the enormous contribution that these people make to our culture, these non-Basques that work in favor of Euskera.   

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