Bakersfield, CA. The Department of Modern Languages and Literature at the University of California in Bakersfield now offers a class on Basque language and culture, where students will have the opportunity to get more acquainted with the Basque Country’s language, aspects of its literature, history, and its music. Teaching the course is Unai Nafarrete and classes are being offered on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:20-13:50.
This course has been a dream of the local Basque club for a long time, according to Steve Gamboa, Professor of Philosophy at CSUB, and one of the supporters of the initiative. “We have organized various events at CSUB related to Basque studies: we host an annual symposium on Basque Studies and in 2008 we held the Euskal Herria Mugaz Gaindi conference. But until this year we haven’t been able to offer a class on Basque Studies to our students, and with the budget cuts, it didn’t seem possible to hire anyone.”
Support from the Kern County Basque Club
This is when the local, Kern County Basque Club, got involved, “I started to talk to club members about the possibility of collaborating. The university created a visiting professor position and handled the visas, and the club provided the financial support. As part of the agreement, the professor also agreed to give Basque classes to members in the community,” Gamboa explained.
The university course enjoys an enrollment of 24 students; four of those are of Basque origin. The rest were attracted by this unique opportunity to study Basque and the Basque culture,” Steve said. Unai Nafarrate has bachelors in Basque Philology and taught a similar class last year at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
The Basque Studies Consortium
The Basque Studies section at the university is part of the Basque Studies Consortium, a group that aspires to promote such courses at US universities. Other consortium members include: Boise State University, the University of Nevada, Reno, Stanford University and UC Santa Barbara. “This year the consortium plans to launch an academic Basque Studies journal, complete with editorial board formed by members of the participating universities among others,” added Gamboa.
Among their immediate plans, Gamboa informed us that the next Annual Symposium of Basque Studies will take place on May 25th coinciding with the Bakersfield Basque club picnic (May 26-28, 2012). In addition to the academic events there will also be music and cultural activities. “We have invited singer Caroline Phillips, along with her husband, Mixel Ducau and their group Bidaia to give a concert. Caroline is originally from California, even though she lives in Iparralde,” Gamboa told us. “They will also give a concert in Stanford.”