Future of Women's Basque Pelota in N.A.B.O. (North American Basque Organization)
One of the goals of the Euskal Pilota Txapelketa is to encourage the playing of Basque pelota amongst women, especially in the Diaspora. Basque Americans Evelyne Garat of San Francisco, California and Candida Echeverria of Chino, California played in the tournament’s opening game of Women’s Paleta Goma against the Euskal Herria team. This was their very first time participating in an multi-entity tournament.
Both first generation Basque Americans expressed a great appreciation of being able to participate in this tournament. In reference to the opening game against Euskal Herria, Candida Echeverria noted that “The game was competitive and the players from Euskal Herria are solid.” Evelyne Garat recently traveled to the Basque Country and had the opportunity to prepare for the tournament in Durango, Bizkaia where she met other players from Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. She stressed the importance of these country exchanges in order to keep interest in the game amongst women, “Having the opportunity to travel to Mexico, Venezuela, or Euskal Herria sparks interest and gives young players something to work towards.”
However, gaining the necessary skills for Paleta Goma amongst women in the United States is not easy. Candida Echeverria told EuskoSare, “In general, it’s a tough sport for women because it’s a heavy pala and a heavy ball. In addition, if younger women don’t see it being played, they won’t continue it. Tournaments like these are ideal.” Candida was always very athletic but did not start playing Paleta Goma until after she completed her studies at the university.
Basque centers and clubs throughout the United States struggle keeping up with Basque traditions with all the competing American activities that are offered to young children today. As Evelyne Garat stated, “Kids these days participate in many other competing sports such as soccer, baseball, and basketball. These take up most of their time. It’s up to their parents to bring them here to play pilota.” As a participant and organizer of this tournament, Evelyne encourages young boys and girls to participate in the procession of holding entity signs beside players prior to each game in an effort to instill excitement for the sport.
The “Pilota Mundials,” a world championship tournament amongst numerous countries is held every four years. Candida mentioned, “I think the Pilota Mundials are great. Unfortunately, Women’s Paleta Goma is not a specialty played in the Mundials as they only offer the specialty of Frontenis and Baleen (Paleta Argentina) for women. In any case, I think it’s a great game and all of these types of tournaments are great. If kids can see it being played by their own local players, they’ll keep it going. That’s the best chance that it will have at surviving.”