Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Not long ago, I read about a small group of Basque sheepherders who were recruited from Europe to tend sheep in Nevada. No one else in the USA wanted to do the work. They grew in number from 300'ish to several thousand and then petered off when they started to realize it did not make economic sense to leave their home country. This occurred during the early 1960's after Franco's reign ended in Spain. Today exists a thriving tight community of Basque descendants who gather once a year for a Basque festival/family reunion. I was so impressed as I learned more about this group and wondered about my "own people".

It all comes down to identity doesn't it ? We tend to manipulate our identity according to the circumstances in our environment. Call it a political/social/economic chameleon depending on one's situation. There is no denying that most immigrants experience a tremendous drive and thrust towards fitting into their newly adopted country. An incredible amount of energy on the psychological and physical levels are geared toward making it happen in their new environment. In that intense process, the children tend to lose sight of their beginnings - their roots. It may not be on a conscious level as their identity gets lost in the game of surviving.

At a recent dinner party attended by folks with connection to the former Dutch colonies, we agreed about the vast complexity our heritage entails. So many of us are able to lay claim to lineages derived from Dutch, Chinese, American, Swiss, Armenian, Spanish, Belgian, Portuguese, German, African, Arab, French, etc., etc. Because of this complexity it seems to be an everlasting question, who am I ?

There is debate about the term "melting pot" versus "salad bowl" versus "mosaic" - all labels and terms aimed at defining mixed blood and distinct ethnic groups. I don't get too hung up on terminology but documentation seems to demand a system of categorizing and labeling in order to make sense.  Some people have a very strong identity such as the Basque people.  It seems to be a primordial sense to know one belongs to a certain tribe... not surprising the contemporary explosion of social networks such as Facebook - we all want to be connected and moreover know where we belong.

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