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Nerea Mujika, Gerediaga: “We have started a project to bring a different Basque club every year to the Durango Book Fair”


Outside of the Landako pavilion site of the Durangoko Azoka
Outside of the Landako pavilion site of the Durangoko Azoka


The Durango Book and Music Fair is already here and will open its doors on Friday.  This year the fair, the meeting place for Basque culture, is celebrating its 50th anniversary of strong ties with the Diaspora.  Now, it is making plans to strengthen that relationship inviting a different Basque club to participate at the fair with its own stand every year.  This is a project was begun with the collaboration of the Basque Government that will begin this year with the Barcelona Basque club being the first to participate as Nerea Mujika, president of the Gerediaga Elkartea told 

Durango, Bizkaia.   The Durangoko Azoka book and music fair will open its doors this Friday, December 4 and will be visited by thousands from all over the Basque Country through December 8.  The Gerediaga Association has been organizing the event for half a century, which very early on turned into one of the essential events in the world of Basque culture.

During these 50 years, the Diaspora and the Basque club have also had a spot at the azoka: without going further, had a stand for several years (thanks to everyone who visited us!), Basque publishers form the US and Argentina have also presented their books….We spoke to Nerea Mujika, president of the Gerediaga Elkartea, to talk about that relationship over the years.

-Over the 50 years what was the relationship of the Durangoko Azoka with the Diaspora?  Was it productive?

We have always had a relationship with the Diaspora, especially with the University of Reno, (site of the Center for Basque Studies).  In the beginning this relationship didn’t include concrete activities, but it did include a constant exchange of information.  This relationship came to fruition in 2003 when Reno started having their own stand at the Azoka.

In addition, this year we have started a new project that has a direct effect on this relationship with the Diaspora.  Thanks to the Basque Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs, we have begun a project to invite a different Basque club every eyar to Durango with a stand.  This year, we will have members of the Barcelona Basque club with us.

-In this 50 years of life, the Diaspora is present in some of the highlights of the fair.  For example, Jon Bilbao, co-founder of the CBS in Reno, received the first Argizaiola in 1992, that would later be presented to his colleague Bill Douglass.

Knowing the work of Jon Bilbao, we saw that it was necessary to honor him.  We did that in 1992 presenting him an argizaiola (a traditional Basque candle), because from his “txoko” in Reno he was like a lighthouse in the dark of the night.  After paying tribute to him, we realized that there were many people among us that deserved to be thanked, and this is how the Argizaiola Award began.  That is why we can say that Jon Bilbao didn’t receive the Argizaiola, but that his was the beginning of this award.

The American Anthropologist, Bill Douglass (co-founder of the CBS in Reno) received the award 22 years later.  With this recognition we wanted to express we are not a quixotic, or idealistic people, like we hear every day, but rather that it is possible to carry out joint projects, and besides that it isn’t necessary to “always be Basque.”  That is, foreigners and Basques born abroad are also important pillars of our culture.  

-The publishers at the University of Reno and Ekin in Buenos Aires have participated in the fair.  Was it hard to bring these publishers from abroad?

Having thousands of kilometers between us doesn’t help, but thanks to the collaboration of the Elkar and Txalaparta publishing we have been able to have both of them in Durango.  For us, it was wonderful to open this path, and in the future we feel that it will be even more productive: because it will increase the amount of material edited by them, but also because it allows us to show the works from other places at Durango’s showcase.

-What other activates related to the Diaspora have happened in these 50 years?

With the talks, roundtables and exhibits that we organize in Durango we have tried to promote projects that are outside of the geographic confines of the Basque Country; Paris, Germany, Chile….Like we say, normally they aren’t big activities, but only a drop, small and constant.  "Ekinaren bidez egina" (done thanks to the effort).

Is the fair followed form the Diaspora?  To you have many visitor from the 8th province at the fair, or on its website?

To tell you the truth, we don’t count the foreign visitors that come to the azoka and it is difficult to measure the following that we have in the Diaspora.  In any event, the information on the website shows that the fair arouses interest outside of the Basque Country, for example has had more than 1,500 visits from Barcelona and Madrid since September. In addition, it has been visited by people in places like the US, the UK, Germany, and Mexico for example.

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