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Kern County Basque Festival Keeps Tradition and Culture Alive (from


The Kern County Basque Club is the second largest Basque Club in the United States and Bakersfield has one of the most visible Basque populations in America.


Corey O'Leary, 23ABC / Bakersfield, California. The Basque Festival is all about celebrating the Basque culture. That's why the Kern County Basque Club has invited professional handball players from the Basque region to come to Bakersfield and show off their skills.

“I've been playing since I was very little. My dad played in the Basque Country and then he came to California to play at a festival. So I've been playing since I was little since he taught me,” said local handball player Asier De Luz.

Asier played with local players before the professionals, and has played handball at the Basque Festival since he was ten.

“Typically there’s one bounce, you can hit it without the bounce but after the one bounce, if it bounces twice then that means a point for the other team. You have to hit it before the black line and keep it in between the redline on this side,” explained De Luz

“Everything is very positive, I think that the experience is unique in my life,” Bikunna said.

While handball is played in many different countries, the Basque region has an aspect that’s unique only to them.

“Well I think that what makes them so different is the language, it is a completely unique language in the sense that it has no known relatives, it is an isolate, it’s structure and its grammar fundamentally. It is a distinct language from any of the other Indo-European languages. It's kind of a mystery,” Steve Gamboa, Co-director of the CSUB Institute fo Basque Studies, told me.

To teach and preserve this culture, Steve helped start the Institute for Basque Studies at CSUB and brought in Basque native and academic Iker Arranz.

I had Bakersfield in my mind because I knew Steve tried for decades to build up something and the diaspora community out here is a very large one and deserves something stable,” Arranz said.

The institute teaches the Basque language.

“I tried to break down the myth that basque is a very difficult language. it is different, certainly, but it is another language and it can be learned at the same pace,” Arranz said.

Festivals like the one in Kern County help preserve the unique culture of the Basque Country.

“Picnics have been key in the movement to keep this culture alive especially here in this part of the world,” said Arranz.

“Kern County is the second largest basque club in the United States. We have a large Basque population here in Kern county, we are very rooted in this community,” Louis Iturriria, President of the Kern County Basque Club, told me.

Part of preserving this tradition is passing it down to younger generations.

“We are very fortunate that our youth is still doing that, a lot of the cultures the youth don’t care anymore about the traditions, but ours do, you will see it with all the kids that are dancing,” Marriane Laxague said.

“Nowadays there are not too many young players that play handball and so I feel like when I do play, I'm keeping the culture alive and my family plays and it just feels right for me,” De Luz said.

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