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Ann Erreca: “It has been incredible; I will never forget the visit to Kanala, where my family came from”


Ann Erreca last Sunday in Gernika in front of the Tree of Gernika (
Ann Erreca last Sunday in Gernika in front of the Tree of Gernika (


Born in the rural California in Los Banos, in the middle of cowboy country, farms and ranches, Ann Erreca is a teacher, reading specialist, who works with kids with reading difficulties, something that 5% of the students in California face. But Ann Erreca is also a Californian Basque, third generation, who was raised and educated in California at the heart of a Basque family and the activities of the Los Banos Basque Club, where she has served as dance director for the last 20 years.

Joseba Etxarri.  We started our conversation with Ann Artadi Erreca nearly two months ago, in her hometown of Los Banos.  We asked her about her job as a specialized teacher, trained in supporting students with reading difficulties.  After that, last Sunday, we talked again, but this time far from her birthplace, California, this time at her European home, on her first trip ever to the Basque Country. 

-In California you help students who have a hard time learning how to read.  

-Five percent of the student body faces these problems.  My job is to identify and evaluate each case and come up with solutions.  First of all, the classroom teacher is always the first to realize that something is going on.  They talk about various subjects in class and realize that there is a problem.  In the US we have “Student Study Teams,” or groups that when the teacher observes and spots irregularities they can be discused and, if necessary, be treated with the involvement of parents and specialists. 

-What kind of treatment do they receive?   

-Each case is different.  The teacher can explain a subject in general to the class and then, in groups or individually, return to it.  Or they can provide information prior to presenting it in general…Interventions can also have something to do with behavior, reading, math, each of which is attack in a different way.  My specialty is with reading problems. The classroom teacher always plays a key role, but of course, each child is different, with different needs, that have to be paid attention to depending on them. 

-Do they usually overcome these problems? 

­-Many names of students come who have completed their studies and have graduated from Hign School come to my mind.  Children with special needs are perfectly capable of finishing their studies.  The key is early detection.  On the other hand, in an environment like the one we live in in California, we have for example, a very high incidence of students that enter school with no knowledge of the English language.  They are children of immigrants whose first language is something else; in our case it is frequently Spanish or Portuguese.  We have students with eight different mother tongues in my school. 

-What is the percentage of students in this situation? 

-In Los Banos, as in the entire area, it is very high.  Students with English as their first language are the minority in some schools.  The percentage of those that are called “English Learners,” those that study English, is above 50%.  It can take several years to become proficient.  California had five different levels of proficiency in regards to English language knowledge, which at this time has been reduced to three. 

-You have now been in Euskadi for a while, on your first trip to the land of your ancestors.  

-I am a third generation Basque-American.  My family comes from different places in Bizkaia.  In Los Banos, I married another Californian, whose family is originally from Aldude in Iparralde.  In general Basque has been very present in my life.  My grandmother, Elena Talbott, was a pioneer in Los Banos in regards to the teaching fo Basque dance.  Her mother was born in Euskadi and the weekly tradition of dancing was maintained thanks to her.  They founded the Basque club fifty years ago and every Sunday we used to eat at the Basque restaurant in Los Banos and we had dance practice.  I grew up like that; it is what I have always known. 

-In Donostia you participated in the Basque Government’s Gaztemundu program for Dance Directors in the Diaspora. 

-Yes, I was lucky.  I was very excited to come and this is my first trip to Europe and the Basque Country.  The course was amazing, its coordinator, teachers were all first rate and I would like to thank them for this wonderful opportunity to learn what, of course, later I will apply and teach when I get back home to the Los Banos dance group. 

-You have been the dance director for 20 years in your club. 

-I’m following the footsteps of my grandmother and I have the invaluable help of two of my cousins.  We have 60 dantzaris in Los Banos, kids from the ages of 4 to 18 or 19 years old.  Then they go to University and unfortunately, they go to live elsewhere and they don’t come back.  My idea is to instill into them the love that I feel for dance and our traditions.  I would like for someone to replace me at some point, so that this will continue.  

-Last Sunday you visited Kanala, Bizkaia where your family home is, and the place from where they left for California.  

-That was overwhelming. I greeted and hugged Maria Angeles (Artadi) Zuazo.  We hugged for a long time.  There are no words to describe the feeling that came over me.  It was an amazing experience.  Maria Angeles is my father’s cousin and she greeted me with open arms, as did her daughters, Gema and Imelda.  It was just wonderful, having that experience in the family house...Everything landed just where it needed to be and happened in the way it was supposed to..  I will never, never forget it.


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