Month: July 2017 (page 2 of 2)

Reno Zazpiak Bat 50th Annual Basque Festival

This past weekend was the Reno Zazpiak Bat’s 50th Annual Basque Festival and it was packed with activities and Basque spirit. My weekend actually kicked off in Sparks, at the Thursday Night Marketplace event, which collaborated with Zazpiak Bat to have a Basque theme. Besides the farmer’s market, there was dancing by the Zazpiak Bat Basque Dancers and the public. Later in the evening, Errebal, a music group from the Basque Country, had their first performance. It was a great way to start the weekend!

Dancing in Sparks

Errebal

The official schedule of events began on Friday at the Santa Fe, with the President’s Dinner and subsequent performance by Errebal. After plentiful dining alongside merry Basques, Julen from Errebal helped us learn the different steps to euskal dantza. You could tell who had experience and who didn’t, although we all had fun! To end the night, Mercedes Mendive played the accordion accompanied by much dancing.

Aita Antton

Basque Mass

Winnemucca Dancers

Saturday’s events were held at Wingfield Park, by the Truckee river in Downtown Reno. Bright and early, Apaiza Aita Antton gave the mass. After a welcoming from the President of Zazpiak Bat, Joe Leonis, the Winnemucca Dancers performed, and it’s always a pleasure watching them. Throughout the day, there were different herri kirolak demonstrations, including harrijasotzaileak (weight lifters), aizkolariak (woodchoppers), and Txingas, a competition that was open to the public. There was dancing at all times, and of course, I can’t forget the food and drink. Accompanied by the warm weather, the festivities in the park made the day fly by.

 

But that wasn’t all. Saturday evening, Errebal had their final performance at Louis’ Basque Corner. It was packed! People danced, drank, and were merry! Overall, it was a great weekend and I can’t wait till next year!

July 13, 1955: Birth of pilotari Panpi Ladutxe

On July 13, 1955, one of the great characters in the modern age of pilota (also spelled pelota) was born in Azkaine, Lapurdi: Panpi Ladutxe (also spelled Pampi Laduche). The son of another famous pilotari or Basque handball player, Joseph Ladutxe, he began his career in the four-walled trinkete (closed court) version of the sport more common in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, where he was from, becoming world champion in this version at the tender age of 19. He later switched to the three-walled (open court) fronton variety more common in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country in his mid-20s, winning two doubles titles in 1987 and 1989, partnered by Joxean Tolosa.

Ladutxe stood out in many ways, being the first player from Iparralde to gain success in Hegoalde in the modern age. After retirement he went on to promote and develop the sport in and train fellow players from Iparralde, two of whom in particular–Sebastien Gonzalez and Yves Salaberri or “Xala”–went on to enjoy great success, following in his footsteps. He has also been a great showman away from the court, enjoying some success as a singer of traditional Basque songs both live and in the release of two records: Aitari (1995) and Chansons du Pays Basque (2002).

Highlights from the 54th National Basque Festival

Just in case anyone out there hasn’t seen this, we’re posting this charming video showcasing the music and dance of the 54th National Basque Festival that took place recently, June 30-July 2, in Elko. As you’ll see, a good time was evidently had by all!

The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca

Somebody recently mentioned to me that the Martin in Winnemucca is one of the oldest restaurants in Nevada, so I decided to look into it. In fact, according to http://www.onlyinyourstate.com, the Martin is the oldest in the state, opening in 1898. As they put it:

The Martin was established as a rooming house for area cattle ranchers in 1898. Today this beloved family-style Basque restaurant continues to draw travelers and townfolk alike. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s a bit of the restaurant’s history, according to the Martin Hotel’s website:

A lithograph dated 1881 shows a residence on this property.  Sometime between 1898 and 1908 Alfonso Pasquale opened the Roman Tavern and Restaurant here.  In 1913 Augustine A. Martin and Elisee Henri Martin, both of France, acquired this building and the business was named The Martin Hotel.  In 1920, after a fire, the building was reconstructed with twenty-five rooms.

Rene Martin, Augustine and Elisee’s son, wrote in 1980, “My parents catered to the sheepmen and cattlemen.  Although they were not Basque, the sheepherders and stockmen  made the Martin their home when in town.  It was not unusual for a herder to come in from this long stay with the sheep, be paid off in full for his work and give the entire sum over to my father.  The herder would then stay at the hotel, eat in the restaurant, play cards, visit with friends and drink in the bar.  My father, keeping the account, would advance him pocket money when asked for and when the sheepherder’s money started to run out, father would tell them so and help them line up a new job.  Then off the sheepherder would go for another long stint with the sheep.”

During prohibition, the hotel and restaurant downstairs prospered while a speakeasy thrived in what is now the attic.  The story is told that when the revenuers found the whiskey, they dumped it all down Melarkey Street and people turned out with cups to sample it as it flowed by.

The Martin Hotel continued as a restaurant after Augustine Martin died.  It was owned and managed by Basque families stretching into the 1970’s; Yruetas, Bengoa, Bilboa, and Sil and Rosie Uriguen.

The Martin Hotel today is a internationally known Basque and American family style restaurant, still home to stockmen as well as a wonderful cross section of people from Winnemucca and around the world…and as always , “where friends gather”.

Now my point isn’t to make you hungry. Ever since moving to Reno, I have been struck by how so many people know about the Basques and frequent their establishments. Having grown up in California, I constantly had to explain my name, origin, etc. Here, everyone knows about Basques, loves picon punch, and has an opinion. When I visited Winnemucca for the Basque festival a few weeks ago, I was impressed by how many people from the greater community were part of the fun. So, besides recommending you to visit the Martin, this post is dedicated to the strength of Basque culture in Nevada!

Ogden’s Royal Hotel

The Basque Librarian recently shared an article with me about a unique hotel in Ogden (Utah), “Royal Hotel Served Basques and African Americans,” by Miriam B. Murphy. Published in the History Blazer in October 1996, it sheds light on the Basque community in Ogden and compelled me to look into it. I was surprised to find that the Royal Hotel is not mentioned in William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao’s Amerikanuak, Jeronima Echeverria’s Home Away from Home, or even Nancy Zubiri’s A Travel Guide to Basque America! However, all three books do mention the particular situation of Ogden in the Basque experience of the American West.

Douglass and Bilbao do refer to two hotels in the town, one French-Basque and the other Vizcayan. Ogden stands out as a site of transit for many Basques traveling West. It was there that “many Vizcayans changed to the spur line that curved northward into southern Idaho. Others continued on to northern and western Nevada and San Francisco” (373). The two hotels served these Basque migrants on their journeys and were centers of Basque community. According to Echeverria, “These Ogden ostatuak also became popular stopover spots for vacationing Great Basin Basques, places for local and regional Basque ranchers and sheepmen to conduct business, and the scene where young couples gathered with their families to conduct marriage ceremonies and the festivities afterward, as well as spend their honeymoon” (162). However, besides these remarks, Echeverria concludes that “No further information could be gleaned on these establishments” (162). It’s a good thing Murphy brought the Royal Hotel’s story to light!

Lastly, Zubiri mentions an amusing anecdote about the Basque community in Utah

…isolated within the vast Mormon population, the pockets of Basques in Ogden, in southeast Utah, and later in the Salt Lake City area developed almost unbeknownst to one another. When the current Basque club, based in Salt Lake City, filed its application with the state for incorporation in 1973, the group was surprised to learn that a Utah Basque club had previously existed in Ogden. “Nobody alive knew anything about it,” said Mary Gaztambide–not even the oldest Basques in the community. Her husband Jean kept a copy of the incorporation application of the earlier group, which had been filed in 1914! (465)

So without further ado, here’s the article from the Utah Division of State History’s website:

Hotel Served Basques and African Americans

ROYAL HOTEL SERVED BASQUES AND AFRICAN AMERICANS 
Miriam B. Murphy
History Blazer, October 1996

Built in 1914 at 2522 Wall Avenue, Ogden, the Royal Hotel has filled a unique role in the city’s history. A modest three-story masonry building, the hotel originally provided housing for blue collar railroad workers and travelers. Shops, cafes, and offices filled the front spaces of the street floor, and modestly priced hotel rooms on the second and third floors accommodated the needs of local working men and minorities. The original owners were John H. Maitia and John Etcheverry. In 1935 Sam Maruri, a hotel tenant, acquired the Royal. He and his family, immigrants from Spain, catered to fellow Basques who worked for the sheep industry locally. For many years both the wool clip and lambs were shipped by wool buyers and meat packing houses from Ogden by rail.

After the Royal’s construction in 1914 the area around Union Station became a center
of commerce, entertainment, and lodging into the 1960s. Several other hotels were constructed around the same time, including the Healy and New Brigham hotels on Wall Avenue and the Marion, Windsor, and Helena hotels on 25th Street.

Directly behind the Royal Hotel a comparably sized brick structure was built sometime between 1920 and 1930. Its main purpose was for the playing of jai-alai, a very fast court game for two to four players who use a long basket strapped to the wrist to propel a ball against a wall. The Basque immigrants no doubt saw this game as an important part of their heritage. This building is the only known structure in the state built especially for jai-alai and one of few that embodies the culture of the state’s small Basque population. In the early 1940s large trucks took over the transportation of sheep, bypassing the Union Station area, and the hotel’s association with Basques came to an end.

On May 5, 1943, the Royal Hotel was sold to Leager V. Davis, an Ogden woman originally from Louisiana. She and her husband, Alonzo, wanted a place to accommodate members of the local African American community, primarily the porters and waiters working for the railroads. At that time there were few places where they could stay in Ogden because of segregation and the lack of equal housing opportunities. Other than the Porters and Waiters Club, the Royal was the only hotel designated for the black community. During World War II a basement room in the hotel served as an office for African American MPs.

Leager Davis was very active in Ogden’s black community. During her ownership of the Royal she served on the Board of Directors of the YWCA and the Comprehensive Health Planning Commission and as head of the governor’s Anti-Discrimination Board.

She was also active in the Ogden Chapter of the NAACP, the United Fund, the League of Women Voters, and the Democratic Women’s Club. The Royal Hotel hosted the meetings of many of these community organizations. The NAACP named an achievement award in Davis’s honor. She died in 1973.

The Royal Hotel was recently rehabilitated by Kier Corporation, and the jai-alai building now serves as a parking area for apartment tenants. The Royal is part of the Lower 25th Street Historic District and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Source: Nomination Form, Lower 25th Street Historic District, National Register files, Preservation Office, Utah Division of State History.

Although I couldn’t pinpoint any information on John H. Maitia and John Etcheverry, Sam Maruri does appear in Basques in the United States.  Originally from Amoroto (Bizkaia), he was born on February 6, 1894, and arrived in the US in 1912, at the tender age of 18. He initially went to Boise and married Josefa Osa, from Mutriku, and together they had three children. By 1917, he had moved to Utah to work as a miner, but this was short lived since, by 1920,  he was managing the hotel. As the article states, he bought the Royal in 1935 and ran it until 1940. He died in Ogden in 1974, having received citizenship in 1925.

Lastly, in an interesting turn of events, the Royal Hotel now provides low-income housing for the Ogden community. Read more at: http://fox13now.com/2015/10/25/historic-hotel-turned-housing-for-low-income-residents-in-ogden-gets-new-name-and-new-look/

Dr. Ott’s new book, Living with the Enemy

We’d like to congratulate Professor Ott for her new publication, Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration, and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948, published last month by Cambridge University Press. As many of you know, Dr. Ott is a leading expert on the Basques in Iparralde and has spent many years of research on the German occupation of France, specifically the Western Pyrenees. Combining ethnography and history, she brings out the complicated relationships between the occupiers and the occupied. For any of you who have taken her “War, Occupation, and Memory” class, you will remember how passionate she is and her ability to bring this period of history to light. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get a copy of this.

He’s the description from the publisher:

In post-liberation France, the French courts judged the cases of more than one hundred thousand people accused of aiding and abetting the enemy during the Second World War. In this fascinating book, Sandra Ott uncovers the hidden history of collaboration in the Pyrenean borderlands of the Basques and the Béarnais in southwestern France through nine stories of human folly, uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, desire, vengeance, duplicity, greed, self-interest, opportunism and betrayal. Covering both the occupation and liberation periods, she reveals how the book’s characters became involved with the occupiers for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to settle scores and to gain access to power, money and material rewards, to love, friendship, fear and desperation. These wartime lives and subsequent postwar reckonings provide us with a new lens through which to understand human behavior under the difficult conditions of occupation, and the subsequent search for retribution and justice.

  • Reconstructs the richness of wartime social life in nine narratives about ordinary but colorful individuals
  • Takes a unique ethnographic approach to the trial dossiers of suspected collaborators, appealing to anthropologists and historians alike
  • Detailed archival research reveals the role of German prisoners of war as insiders in a post-liberation court of justice, a phenomenon that has not been reported by other historians of the period

Reviews from the back cover text:

Sandra Ott, one of the leading experts on the history of the French Basques, offers an important and wonderfully readable study of the region during the Vichy Years. In Living with the Enemy, her ethnographic approach succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated “hidden” story of the German occupation and Vichy collaboration in the Basque country. Ott’s compelling narrative and thoughtful conclusions nuance what we know about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Vichy years.

  • John Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of History, Yale University.

A subtle and enthralling exploration of the myriad ways in which Germans and French were drawn together in complex webs of greed and vengeance, generosity and betrayal under the occupation. A magnificent contribution to the historiography.

  • Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History, Worcester College, Oxford

This engaging and important book sees the big questions of France in the Second World War (questions of occupation and collaboration) refracted through the lives of individuals in one particular, and particularly interesting, region. It will be of special interest to those who study twentieth-century France or the Second World War, but it deserves a wider readership as well because it lives up to Marc Bloch’s injunction that the historian should be like ogre in the fairy tale who finds his prey “by the smell of human flesh.”

  • Richard Vinen, Professor of History, King’s College London

If these reviews don’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will. Zorionak, Professor Ott!

July 7, 2008: Three Basque Caves Declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

On July 7, 2008, UNESCO declared three Basque caves–Santimamiñe in Bizkaia and Ekain and Altxerri in Gipuzkoa–to be World Heritage Sites. The Basque Country is at the epicenter of arguably the most important cave complex in Europe, an area framed by the world famous caves of Lascaux, Dordogne in southwestern France and Altamira, Cantabria, in northern Spain. Their designation as World Heritage Sites implied official international recognition for the cultural value of the cave art discovered in the three sites.

In order to preserve the cave art in these locations, they are, naturally, closed to the public. However, we can still get a flavor of what treasures lie deep within their walls. As regards Santimamiñe, one can undertake an amazing online virtual visit (click here to start) as well as view a great photo gallery of the cave and its surrounding area (click here to see).  And when it comes to Ekain, as well as the option of a virtual visit (click here to start), those of you lucky enough to actually set foot in the Basque Country (congratulations by the way, it will be an unforgettable experience!), a replica of the original site exists, Ekainberri, which offers a unique opportunity to experience what it must have been like to live deep underground. Click here to visit the Ekainberri website.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography, the only text in English that summarizes the key works of the most important Basque ethnographer of all time. Reflecting on the relationship between humans and animals, that intimate connection that underpins much of the cave art, Barandiarán observes (p. 148):

Among the species that inhabited the Basque Country during the Neolithic were cows, horses, deer, mountain goat, roebuck, chamois, wild boar, fox, mountain lion, the weasel, and the martin. Deer and especially wild boar were the animals most hunted by man.

Sheep already existed in Bizkaia, as we know from their remains in Santimamiñe; this is an indication that the practice of domesticating and using them had already reached this part of the Pyrenees.

*Images

Top: A horse depicted in Santimamiñe, image by ETOR Entziklopedia, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom: The neck and head of a saiga antelope looking left. A bit more to the right is the beginning outline of another antelope and its horn. Image by GipuzkoaKultura, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

Harri mutil, an elephant, and “that was good sheep country”

This past spring your Basque Books Editor had the chance to climb Elephant Mountain, in the far northwestern corner of the Black Rock Wilderness Area, about 7 hours north of Reno by car. This wild and remote mountain, really just a foothill outcropping of the larger Black Rock Range, gets its name from its appearance, of being a elephant charging up the desert. Growing up in this corner of Northern Nevada I spent many days dreaming about that mountain, which in addition to it’s distinctive, imagination-shaping form also served as the edge of the horizon, so, as it were for a young boy riding a horse, it was the very edge of the world.

Elephant Mountain, seen from Leonard Creek Road near the intersection with Pearl Camp Road in northern Nevada

But it wasn’t until a recent weekend that I had the chance to actually scramble up it. On a overcast day we drove south and climbed up along one of its ears. We stopped for lunch in the saddle where ear turns into head and then continued upward. It was a short, steep climb until nearing the top it rounded out and the vast expanse of desert and mountain range after mountain range opened up before us. Loving to explore in the desert moutains, the expanse did not surprise me, but the presence of what was most likely a harri mutil (“stone boy”) did. On the crest, looking generally northward toward the Pine Forest Mountains and eastward toward the Jackson Mountains, and with the full sweep of the desert at its feet, was a large stone marker or, according to Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe in Speaking through Aspens, a “sheepherder’s monument.” These large stone cairns were made by the sheepherders to demarcate ranges, but may have had other uses as well.

The stone marker, looking west toward the Black Rock Mountains proper

The hiking crew, celebrating from where we have come and where we are going!

It was such a pleasure to find this marker, here at the edge of what was once my world, showing what went beyond. I recently had the opportunity to make an oral history interview with Frank Bidart (only 94 years young!) who also grew up in this area when they still ran sheep, and he had told me about trailing sheep down across the desert “almost to Lovelock” in the winter. They would have trailed them just below, maybe across, where I stood. “That was good sheep country,” he had said. Maybe he had climbed here and added his own stones to this harri mutil; maybe he had, as a young man, dreamed about what went beyond it.

New figures just released on Basque-speaking population in the Basque Country

Street sign in Basque in Iparralde. Image by Lucyin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a press conference organized today, July 5, in Baiona (Lapurdi) by the Basque government, the Navarrese Institute of Basque (part of the Navarrese government), and the Public Office for Basque in Iparralde, the findings of the Sixth Sociolinguistic Survey (2016) were announced. These are surveys carried out every five years to gauge the health of Basque and serve as a basis for pro-Basque initiatives in education as well in wider society as a whole.

Sign in Basque and Spanish signaling the Trail to Santiago, Barakaldo, Bizkaia. Image by Tuc Negre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Taking into account the whole Basque Country in Spain and France, 28.4% of the population aged 16 or over can speak Basque, and a further 16.4% are passive Basque speakers (in other words, people able to understand Basque, without being able to fully communicate in the language). Compared to the findings of the first survey, which was organized twenty-five years ago, approximately 223,000 more people speak Basque today. The largest percentage of Basque speakers is to be found among young people aged 16-24 (55.4% of whom speak the language), whereas the lowest percentage of Basque speakers is now to be found among those aged 65 or older (20.4%).

Among the major findings are the following points:

According to the findings of the 1991 survey, 22.3% of the population spoke Basque, so these latest data demonstrate an approximately 6% growth rate in the last 25 years. The driving force behind this change is clearly that of young people, who now occupy the largest percentage of Basque speakers; in contrast to 25 years ago when older people enjoyed a greater prominence among the total percentage of Basque speakers.

As regards Basque-language use (in contrast to mere knowledge of the language), 25.7% of the total population speak Basque in one way or another (10.3% more typically than Spanish or French; 6.2% about equally as those two languages; and 9.2% in less of a way than the two other languages). Moreover, a further 5.2% of the total population speak Basque “a little,” that is, in a residual way.

In terms of transmission, where both parents are Basque speakers, in 93% of cases they only speak to their children in Basque, and in 7% of cases, in Basque and Spanish or French. When just one parent is a Basque speaker, in 83% of cases parents speak to their children in Basque and Spanish or French; and in 17% of cases just in Spanish or French.

And when it comes to attitudes toward Basque, 55.8% of all people aged 16 or over is in favor of pro-Basque language initiatives; 28.2% is neither for or against such initiatives; and 16% is against any such initiatives. Moreover, 85.5% of people aged 16 or over believe that in the future everyone should speak Basque and either Spanish or French in the Basque Country, while 9.2% think that just Basque should be spoken, and 4.1% would prefer that just Spanish or French was spoken.

Finally, with regard to primary and secdondary education, 57.6% of the population favor complete immersion in the Basque language for their children (Basque as the vehicular language with Spanish or French as subjects), while 23.7% favor a bilingual model (equal teaching hours devoted to Basque and Spanish or French).

Check out Basque Sociolinguistics: Language, Society, and Culture, by Estibaliz Amorrortu, free to download here.

See, too, The Challenge of a Bilingual Society in the Basque Country, edited by Pello Salaburu and Xabier Alberdi.

 

 

 

 

Elephants in the Casino: John Ascuaga’s Nugget

For those of you in the Reno area, you should check out the Special Collections exhibit “Elephants in the Casino: John Ascuaga’s Nugget” on the third floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, open until July 28. As they put it:

Explore the history and legacy of John Ascuaga’s Nugget through the decades. View the Nugget’s transformation beginning with Dick Graves’ modest 1955 Sparks coffee shop, to the expanded casino-resort built and run by Ascuaga and his family for more than 50 years. The exhibit highlight materials from the newly available John Ascuaga’s Nugget Records.

 

John Ascuaga was born in Idaho to Jose, from Orozko, and Maria. His father had immigrated in 1914, followed by his wife. John and his twin sister Rose followed the older siblings Carmen and Frank. John entered the army and then received his Bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Idaho and then an additional degree in hotel and restaurant management from Washington State University.

John Ascuaga

After graduating from college, he moved to Sparks. It was at the Nugget’s Steak House that John met Rose Ardans, his future wife. They purchased and ran the Nugget Hotel and Casino from 1960 onward, along with their children. John had initially worked for Dick Graves in Idaho and followed him to Nevada. When Graves hoped to retire, John, at 34 years old, purchased the Nugget for $3,775,000, paying off the debt in seven years.  The Ascuagas truly made their way from the bottom up.

 

Michonne Ascuaga

Michonne R. Ascuaga, prominent member of Northern Nevada gaming family

Another prominent Ascuaga is Michonne, John’s daughter. She originally started working at age 13 as a front-desk clerk and continued to work her way up the family business, in the cage and credit arena as well as in marketing and sales for the casino, before becoming CEO in 1997–and only the second woman to run a major resort in Nevada–until its sale to Global Gaming & Hospitality in 2013. Together with her brother, Chief Operating Officer Stephen Ascuaga, she subsequently also served in an advisory role after the Nugget’s sale.

She is a graduate of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, and earned an MBA degree from Stanford University. She has served on several boards, including the Santa Clara University Board of Regents, the Sierra Arts Foundation, the Nevada Women’s Fund, and the Forum for a Common Agenda, as well as the  Washoe K-12 Education Foundation.  She has also been chair of our Advisory Board since 2009.

In her own words, “When you live in a place and realize you’re going to live in a place for the rest of your life, you want to see things prosper and improve . . . When I see where I can help, I get involved” (quoted in “Women we love” by Carli Cutchin, Deidre Pike, and Adrienne Rice, for the Reno News & Review).

For more on John Ascuaga, see: Voices from Basque America and “Hard Work and Family Key to John Ascuaga’s Nugget” by Colleen Schreiber.

 

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