Throughout the Spanish Empire of the 16th-19th centuries, immigrants from the same regional, cultural or national origin tended to create associations of their own in most of the cities and ports in which these immigrant groups had formed colonies. One of the distinctive features of these institutions is that almost all of them were linked to the Catholic Church, usually in the form of religious confraternities or brotherhoods under the name or protection of a particular saint or devotion linked to their places of origin. Before the creation of the modern day meaning of nation and ethnicity, these immigrant communities were primarily based on the medieval concept of nation which is deeply ingrained with Catholicism in the case of the Basque territories. In this article, using the Basque case we will attempt to: a) present a general view of the creation, evolution and common features of these institutions; b) describe their principal activities and aims, namely to protect and promote mutual aid among members, as well as to protect the distinctiveness of their cultural heritage and the attachment to the land they or their ancestors came from; c) understand the role these institutions played as gateways to better integrate their members and co-nationals into host societies; and d) contextualize the terms and definitions frequently used to describe the behavior of immigrant communities within the character of European and American societies in the modern era.

About the Author

Alberto Angulo Morales is currently a Full Professor of Early Modern History of the Department of Medieval, Early Modern and American History at the University of the Basque Country since 1996. From this date he has published on a wide range of subjects, including the history of Basque custom system, Basque migratory patterns and ways of institutionalization during the Early Modern period and lately the implementation of Basque merchant networks in Europe and the Americas during the same period, and more specifically during the 18th century. He is originally from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country.

Oscar Alvarez Gila is currently a Full Professor of History of America of the Department of Medieval, Early Modern and American History at the University of the Basque Country. His main research has been centered on the study of the Basque diaspora to the Americas, mainly to Latin America, during the 19th-20th centuries, from a wide variety of perspectives (ethnic institutions, education, religion, popular culture, identity, and lately the image and stereotype constructed around the Basque immigrants in the host countries. Also, he has been involved in research about the historical and present-day links between environmental/climate changes and migration. He has been a visiting scholar in the universities of Oxford (UK), Reno-Nevada (USA) and Columbus State (USA).