Category: Amerikanuak (page 1 of 2)

May 1850: The “French (or Basque) Revolution” in Murphys, California

This week’s Flashback Friday post is a little different, referring to events that took place throughout the month of May 1850 in what was known at the time as “Murphys Camp,” one of the sites of the original California Gold Rush. Today this is Murphys in Calaveras County, CA. In Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (pp.208-9), William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao recount the story of how, in this settlement at the heart of the Gold Rush, there was what was described at the time as a mini “French” (we should really say Basque) Revolution!

Historic view of Murphys Main Street, from the visitmurphys.com

Douglass and Bilbao observe that Basques from Iparralde formed a sizable part of population of Murphys, and one that was capable of collective action. They quote the German traveler Friedrich Gerstäcker, who visited the camp in May 1850 and reported on what he termed the French Revolution:

An immense number of French, a large part of them Basques, had likewise arrived in Murphys, and a great many French stores sprang up along with those of the Americans. . . . There were also Germans, Spaniards and Englishmen in Murphys, but the French outnumbered them by far, and in any case made up three-fourths of the entire population of this little mining town.

The Basques became incensed when,

a law was passed by the California legislature that a tax of twenty dollars per month would be levied on all foreign gold miners in the mines of California, and in case they did not want to pay that, or were not in a position to pay it, they should leave the mines at once. If, in spite of this, they were thereafter to be found at another mine also engaged in gold mining, this would then be considered a crime against the state and punished as such.

… Especially the French complained and argued profusely; declared the law infamous, and decided not pay a  penny. Among the Germans were some Alsatians who especially agreed with them, and the Basques brought forth rifles and shotguns, declaring that it would be best to place themselves in armed readiness from the very beginning, so as to win the respect of the Americans.

[The tents] surged with Frenchmen, and especially Basques . . . and [there were] mixed outbursts of anger, such as: Wicked!, Help!, Down with the Americans!

A rumor later spread that two Frenchmen and a German had been imprisoned at Sonora over the tax, and an armed mob marched on the camp , only to find out that it was not true. They disbanded, although not before almost hanging the rumormonger, and California’s “French” or “Basque” Revolution came to an end!

 

Basques in the United States: Add your personal tale to this ever expanding project

We here at the Center for Basques Studies are amazed by the amount of work that has gone into collecting the countless stories of Basque immigrants to the United States, and the results of this labor can be found in the three volumes, and counting, of Basques in the United States. Now it’s your turn to tell your story! Do you have a relative who migrated to the States? Perhaps you migrated here yourself! Have you taken a look at your own family members’ entries and found discrepancies or have additional information? We’d love your help, and it only takes a few minutes, here’s how:

First, visit our website: https://basquesintheus.blogs.unr.edu

There you will find links to add a new entry, correct an existing entry, or add to an existing entry. Today, we’re going to look at creating a new entry.

Once you click on the link, you will be lead to the following page:

As you can see, it’s a form where you can input all of the information you know. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the specifics! Fill in what you know.

Next, you will be asked to add more personal information about the family, work experience(s), and stories of your migrant. Once again, do the best you can!

Be sure to add a photo if you have one!

Lastly, you are required to include your own information so that we can reach out to you.

Once again, this is your chance to be part of this amazing project! Be sure to take a few minutes out of your busy day to preserve the history and memory of your family, believe me, it will be worth it. And keep in mind, we regularly post on individuals mentioned in this biographical encyclopedia. Who knows, you or your family members could be next!

Please contact us via replies (at the bottom of this page) if you need further assistance. We look forward to reading your stories!

Spring 2017 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series

This semester, like almost every semester, the CBS is holding a Seminar Series. Here’s a round-up of the lectures given thus far and a sneak peak of the coming presentations!

Professor Douglass kicked off the series with his paper entitled “Basques in Cuba,” based on his research and the conference held in Havana in 2015 entitled “Euskal Herria Mugaz Gaindi.” Douglass shared many anecdotes and the audience responded with many questions, carrying on the discussion well after the hour had quickly gone by.

Next up, Saranda Frommold, a PhD candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin,  shared her dissertation findings on “The Political Relations between Mexico and Spain regarding Basque Exile to Mexico (1977-2000).” She has spent three weeks at the Center, continuing her research. The presentation was thought-provoking and also ended in a lively question and answer session. Stay tuned for our interview with Saranda. We will miss her at the CBS.

Last week, I presented a paper entitled “Memoirs of Mobility and Place: Portrayals of Basque-American Identity,” written for a literature class, so a little out of my historical comfort zone. I must say, it went well, and I was excited to recommend Mountain City, by Gregory Martin, to most of my audience. It’s definitely a good read! I compared Martin’s portrayal of Basque communities in the West to that in Sweet Promised Land, Robert Laxalt’s famed memoir.

Next week, March 29 from 12:30-1:30, our Basque Librarian, Iñaki Arrieta Baro, will be presenting on “Bertsolaritza: Kultur Artea Network.” This will be a nice addition to our showcase on Bertsolaritza. Be sure to come visit and see the exhibit!

April 5 is sure to be a busy lecture day. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain, a PhD candidate here, will present on “Euzko-Gogoa: Gender and Nation,” as a part of her own dissertation research. Mikel Amuriza will then follow, giving a talk about tax systems. Mikel is a visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia, and will be with us for a few more months. We’ll be sure to post an interview soon!

Professor Ott will present on April 12, giving a talk on “German P.O.W.s in Post-War France,” part of her ongoing research on the topic. I’m sure it will be full of anecdotes and more!

Lastly, we have the pleasure to have Professor Boehm from the Anthropology department, as well as Women’s Studies and GRI, present on her recently published book. Her conference is entitled “Disappearance and Displacement in an Age of Deportation,” and I’m sure it will bring up many current events and a discussion of what is going on in the world around us.

Be sure to stop by from 12:30-1:30 on Wednesdays for our seminar series. Bring your own brown bag, sit back, and enjoy!

Conferencing on the East Coast with Amaia and Edurne

Last week, from the 1st to the 7th, I had the pleasure of attending the Southern American Studies Biennial Conference “Migrations and Circulations” at the University of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA) with my colleague Amaia Iraizoz. We took advantage of our trip to the East Coast and visited Washington D.C. and New York City as well. So I’ve taken a moment to share some of our experiences with you, our loyal readers.

Richmond’s Capitol Building

After an early flight out to Richmond, VA, we took the chance to walk around the capital and enjoyed a delicious dinner. We were exhausted from the trip, but the warm weather really encouraged us to explore the city. I’ll be sure to return! The following day, after an hour-long bus ride, we arrived in Williamsburg, a beautiful colonial town, rich in history.

Downtown Williamsburg

Walking through the streets downtown, you feel immersed in the setting, especially since every building is well taken care of and as part of a living history museum of sorts, you bump into people dressed in 18th-century garb. However, we had a conference to attend, so that took us to the University of William and Mary.

Amaia presenting on her dissertation

At the start of my presentation

Like many East Coast colleges, the campus was full of brick buildings and spacious lawns. The event was held at the College of Education, which was conveniently located. The conference brought together a vast array of researchers, dealing with diverse topics. Amaia and I were a bit exotic in our research though, but those who attended our presentations were full of questions about Basque migration and what we do at the Center for Basque Studies. A side note: at the opening  reception, I was surprised to find guindillas, those delicious pickled peppers often served with pintxos or beans. As expected, I had more than just a few…

Conference Selfie

Blurry pic of a guindilla!

We took the train to D.C. where our host, Sam Zengotitabengoa, a member of our board, picked us up and took us on a tour of the town. We couldn’t have had a better guide! He told us about the Basque community on the East Coast and his upbringing there. We even visited the Gernikako Arbola that was planted last year. He also pointed out all the best places to visit and let us stay at his home. We hope to return the favor some day, Sam was amazing!

Representing Nevada!

Washington Monument Sunset

We spent the final two days in New York City. What an intense place! I’ve never felt like such a West-coaster till I visited this city. Everyone and everything seemed to be in movement around me! We had two intense days, seeing all of the sights, including biking around Central Park and going to the Top of the Rock. However, we were on a quest for Basques!

Bikes in Central Park

Top of the Rock

We visited the Delegation of the Basque Country in the United States, and were warmly welcomed by Ander Caballero (the delegate), Unai Telleria (economic development officer), and Felipe Victoria (institutional affairs officer). They wanted to know more about our research and then told us a bit about what they do in New York. We spent quite a bit of time with them and learned more about the delegation’s mission.

Inside the office with the Lehendakari

Unexpectedly, but a testament to Basques around the world, we bumped into Francisco’s Centro Vasco in downtown Manhattan. It’s a shame it was closed, but we’ll be back next time. Unfortunately, the New York Euskal Etxea was also closed, so that’s on our list as well.

Next time Francisco’s!

As you can imagine, we returned to Reno exhausted, but we’re back in action at the Center. We had an intense trip, but it was worth every moment. Till the next conference!

“Basques in Cuba” : William A. Douglass to lecture at the CBS

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 22, from 12:30-1:30, Professor Emeritus William A. Douglass will give a lecture on “Basques in Cuba” at the Center for Basque Studies. He will inaugurate the Spring 2017 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series the Center organizes, presenting on a topic explored in Basques in Cuba, a collection of articles edited by Professor Douglass and published after the eleventh international ‘Euskal Herria Mugaz Gaindi” Congress held in Havana, Cuba in 2015. Here’s a brief description of the volume:

Taking as their inspiration and cue Jon Bilbao’s book Vascos en Cuba, 1492–1511, the authors of this book, a collection of international academics, take up the subject of the involvement of the Basque people in Cuba from a variety of viewpoints and analytical and theoretical perspectives. The Basque Country has had a long and varied relationship with Cuba, its people, and its history. The chapters in this volume trace that connection based on diverse topics and viewpoints: the representations of Basques in classic Cuban poetry and Cuba as a topic in the nineteenth-century Basque novel; the involvement of Basques in the African slave trade, the role of the Tree in Gernika in Cuba’s Templete monument, the service of Basque parliamentarians and soldiers in Spain’s former colony, and the politics of Basque priests on the island are all treated, as well as much more. There are also chapters that consider the involvement of Basques regionally, in places such as Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, Vueltabajo, and Havana. Edited by renowned Basque scholar William A. Douglass, this volume provides an important contribution in reclaiming a mostly neglected history. (from the back cover)

Be sure to attend if you happen to find yourself in Reno, and stay tuned for the seminar series schedule, you won’t want to miss out!

Elko publication sheds light on Basques’ contributions

The Elko Daily Free Press is celebrating the city’s centennial in its series Elko 100, “The people who helped make Elko what it is today”, written by Toni R. Milano.  It goes without saying that a few Basques are on that list. Here’s a recap with links to all of the articles:

Stockmen’s in Elko

First off, we have the stories of Dan Bilbao Sr. and Jr., of Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino.  Daniel Bilbao Sr. was born in 1902 in Errigoiti (Bizkaia). He immigrated in 1914 to Mountain Home and then to Boise, where he owned a restaurant on 1916 N. 9th St.  By 1952, he bought Stockmen’s with two partners, and eventually bought them out. His son took over in 1974. To learn more, check out the article on them.

Anacabe Family

Elko’s General Merchandise

Next up is the Anacabe family, owners of Elko’s General Merchandise, the go-to place for Basque sheepherders in Elko. Joe Anacabe was born in 1883 in Berriatua (Bizkaia) and immigrated to the United States in 1901. He spent time in Idaho and Northern Nevada as a sheepherder before opening his first store in 1924. He had a son, Frank, with his first wife Fabiana Guenaga (born in Ondarroa). They briefly moved back to Bizkaia, but then returned to the States, spending some time in Berkeley. General Merchandise was opened in 1936, the place to shop in those days. He was widowed in 1952, but remarried to Margarita Olabe, also from Bizkaia. They had a daughter, Anita, who still runs the store. The Anacabe family must have so many stories to tell! Check them out here.

Alice Goicoechea

Alice Goicoechea was born in 1926 on the Diamond A Ranch, to parents Benito and Daniela Larios. She moved to Elko to work for her aunt and uncle at the Star Hotel, and later met Elias Goicoechea, whom she married and had 4 children. She was quite involved in the community and an inspiration to many. To learn more, visit the article on her life.

The Star Hotel

Anyone who’s been to Elko has probably eaten or had a picon punch at the Star Hotel. Pedro Jauregui Gomeza was born in 1880 in Muxika (Bizkaia). At age 18, he immigrated to California, working as a sheepherder. By 1908, he was in Elko and in 1910 he opened the Star Hotel, with his wife Matilde Eizaguirre, who had worked with him at the Telescope Hotel. They had many businesses together, selling and re-purchasing the Star throughout their career. Check out their impact on Elko here.

Jesús “Jess” Lopategui

Jess Lopategi Laucirica was born in Muxika (Bizkaia) in 1938, and arrived in Elko in 1957 and worked as a sheepherder. He married Denise Arregui in 1967 and worked at his in-law’s blacksmith shop. He was and is very involved in the Basque community in Elko, including starting its club and broadcasting a radio show in Euskera. Check out his ELKO 100 post here, and to learn more about him, listen to his interview for Ondare Bizia.

Ramon Zugazaga (Image from the documentary Amerikanuak)

Ramon Zugazaga, born in Gernika (Bizkaia) in 1946, started out as a sheepherder and even worked for Elias Goicoechea at the Holland Ranch (See post above on Alice Goicoechea). However, his heart was in the restaurant business so he opened the Biltoki in 1983. His other love is soccer, and he coached the Elko Indar Futbol Club for years. Although he’s retired now, he is actively involved in the Basque community in Elko. Read more here, and check out his interview for Ondare Bizia.

Barbara Errecart

Last, but not least, we have Barbara Errecart. Born in Utah, her family moved to Elko when she was quite young. In 1958 she married Jack Errecart, a Basque immigrant from Donibane Garazi (Nafarroa Beherea). After working as a sheepherder for some years, he bought the Silver Dollar Bar and then opened the Clifton Bar and Hotel, where the couple both worked. Barbara Errecart embraced Basque culture and even took up Basque dancing. Learn more in her article.

To learn more about Basques in the United States, be sure to check out the three volume Basques in the United States. Who knows, you may find your own family in there!

Iker Saitua – Life after a Ph.D. in Basque Studies

Iker Saitua received his Ph.D. in Basque Studies here at the CBS last spring, so we’ve decided to catch up with him and see where life takes you after doctoral studies. His dissertation, “Sagebrush Laborers: Basque Immigrants in Nevada’s Sheep Industry, International Dimensions, and the Making of an Agricultural Workforce, 1880-1954,” explores the ways in which the Basque labor force in Nevada evolved from an object of discrimination into a stereotyped prized sheepherder. It then turns to the immigration policies that allowed Basques to continue supplying the labor force, even after the 1924 Immigration Act, through an analysis of U.S.-Spanish relations during the beginning of the Cold War. Impressive indeed and worth reading every bit! But for now, let’s turn to Dr. Saitua…

  1. What have you been up to since graduation?

Keeping busy. After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2016, I returned to the Basque Country. Having returned home, I presented my dissertation at the University of the Basque Country, getting a second Ph.D. that received summa cum laude honors in History. While looking for an academic position, I am currently finishing a Master’s Degree in Education at the International University of La Rioja. Concurrently, I am revising my dissertation into a book manuscript. During this time, I have also attended various courses and workshops, including the training course for “Teaching of the Basque Language Abroad,” jointly organized by the University of the Basque Country and the Etxepare Basque Institute. I have also acted as an assessor for the interdisciplinary scholarly journal Sancho el Sabio. Revista de cultura e investigación vasca, among other things.

  1. Have you published any articles?

Yes. My article “Becoming Herders: Basque Immigration, Labor, and Settlement in Nevada, 1880-1910” has been recently published in the journal Montana: The Magazine of Western History (Vol. 66, No. 4, Winter 2016). Please see the following link: https://mhs.mt.gov/pubs/magazine/Current-Issue). Also, I am pleased to announce that the Montana Talking Book Library (a regional library of the National Library Service for the blind and physically handicapped) is recording this article for its collection. Besides this, some of my latest articles on Basque immigration in the American West will be published soon in various peer-reviewed journals. Coming soon!

  1. Do you have any new research interests?

Lately, I have become increasingly interested in the pedagogy of teaching history and social sciences. Besides that, I continue with my research in western, labor, social, legal, and environmental history of the Basques and sheep grazing in the Far West.

  1. What do you do to keep busy?

I keep busy writing history articles, researching, and reading new publications on the North American West.

  1. What do you miss the most from the U.S.?

Lots of things. I miss my colleagues and friends there. I miss those midday coffee breaks with other grad students. I miss those family gatherings too. And of course, Reno, Nevada, and the Great Basin! I miss the West and its wide open spaces.

  1. What is it that you were most excited to return to once back in the Basque Country?

Family and friends. Glad to be back home among them.


As you can see, Iker doesn’t seem to have taken a chance to take a breath post-Ph.D! I must say I look forward to reading his upcoming work and wish him the best. He may miss the West, but I’m sure the West misses him too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montevideo’s Euskara Eguna: An overview of the celebrations

As you may have read in our post on the Day of the Basque Language, celebrations were held around the world. Our professor Xabier Irujo took part in the festivities that took place in Montevideo, Uruguay, so we’ve decided to share the jam-packed schedule of events. The way the Basque community in Uruguay was able to organize and observe the event sets a high bar for us all!

The Euskara Eguna (Day of the Basque Language) celebrations organized by the Euskal Erria Society of Montevideo began with the re-inauguration on December 2, 2016, of the Plaza Jesús de Galíndez. Attendees, including Agurtzane Aguado, president of the Society, unveiled a plaque in honor of Galíndez, an exiled Basque nationalist, who was a victim of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and was assassinated in 1956.

On the 3rd, an act commemorating the bombing of Gernika took place in the city’s Plaza Gernika. A lecture was given by Dr. Xabier Irujo, director of the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, while the txistulari Aitor Ormaetxe from Mar de Plata and the dantzari Martin Mendiola also performed. The event was closed with a concert by the Voces de la Plaza de Montevideo choir.

 

That evening, a meeting of three Basque-American publishers, Euskal Erria of Montevideo, Ekin of Buenos Aires, and the CBS Press in Reno was held at the headquarters of the Euskal Erria Society. There were book presentations of the many publications that came out in 2016. Dr. Irujo presented the ten titles that the CBS Press had published last year, including Basques in Cuba edited by William Douglass, which is a tribute to the book that Jon Bilbao published with Ekin in 1958. With the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the CBS Press also published a bilingual edition of Macbeth, which was translated for the first time into Basque by Bingen Ametzaga in 1942, although this translation had remained unpublished until now. Ekin of Buenos Aires published four books in 2016: La Odisea de Xabiertxo by Koldo Ordozgoiti, Historia de Radio Euskadi by Leyre Arrieta, Contraviaje by Arantzazu Ametzaga, and Diasporako Bertsoak by Asier Barandiaran. These four authors offered a presentation of their works the same day, December 3, at the Durango Book Fair in the Basque Country. The Euskal Erria publishing house produced three works in 2016: William MacAlevey’s The Rise of Legal Professions in Bilbao, José Luis de la Lombana by Iñaki Anasagasti and Josu Erkoreka, and, lastly, Ecos Vascos del Uruguay, a selection of Basque-Uruguayan inspired poems by the former Minister of the Interior and Defense of Uruguay, Raul Iturria.

There were hundreds of attendees who enjoyed a traditional roast (asado con cuero) and a recitation of poems from Iturria’s anthology of poetry.

 

 

 On Monday, December 5, during the afternoon,  Dr. Irujo gave another lecture at the CLAEH University’s headquarters, during which he spoke about the episodes of genocide that struck Basque soil between 1936 and 1945.

The celebrations culminated at the Parliament’s House of Representatives with an homage to the reception on October 8, 1941 that said House made to the Lehendakari Jose Antonio Agirre. The Deputy of the Partido Nacional, Pablo Iturralde, promoter of the tribute, spoke first, referring to the speech that the lehendakari offered before the House of Representatives. He ended by saying: “Today we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the episode that for both Agirre and the Uruguayan Basque community was so significant and moving, because in our country and especially in this House, the national representatives of that moment had the courage to contradict the powerful voice of international fascism that slandered the Basque people with impunity, even accusing them of the genocide in the town of Gernika that they themselves had bombarded with unknown brutality. That is why the descendants of those immigrants today have appealed to us so that, making use of the representation that Uruguayan citizens have conferred upon us, we pay homage to those men who in such dignified fashion came before us.”

 

After Deputy Iturralde’s speech, the president of the Basque Parliament Bakartxo Tejería’s message was viewed on screen, which made reference to the message that Lehendakari Agirre made to the Uruguayan Parliament. Afterward, the Deputy of the Frente Amplio Party Jorge Pozzi, who is of Basque descent, spoke about his spiritual connection to the Basque world and culture. He was followed by Germán Cardoso of the Partido Colorado, Daniel Radio of the Partido Independiente, José Luis Hernández of the Movimiento de Participación Popular (Frente Amplio), and, finally, José Arocena of the Partido Nacional. All of them referred to the noble and hardworking spirit of the Basques and the contribution that these people had made to the culture and history of the country, as well as to the desire for the independence of the Basque people. The MPP representative made public his support for the struggle for recognition of the Basque nation’s right to self-determination.

At the end of the session, which turned out to be very emotional and warm-spirited, the attendees went to the Acuña Figueroa of the legislative palace where the representative of the Euskal Erria publishing house, Mr. Alberto Irigoyen, and the President of the Parliament, Gerardo Amarilla, intervened. A facsimile of Lehendakari Agirre’s diary was given to the latter, as well as a copy of the history of the Euskal Erria Society and a history book on the Basque government-in-exile. The president of the Euskal Erria Society, Agurtzane Aguado, said that there are many Uruguayan figures who have referred to the contribution of the Basques to Uruguay, and recalled the words that Dr. Alberto Guani, President of the Supreme Court of Uruguay in 1941, said of the honor given by that institution to the Lehendakari Agirre: “For the first time in the history of the High Court of Uruguay, a meeting of this nature has been held in honor of a politician; And this has been so because when humanity fights a decisive battle between freedom and slavery, perversion and honesty, justice cannot remain blind to the drama and has the duty to put the sword that it carries as a symbol for the service of human dignity, represented by men like Mr. Agirre, defeated in the first part of the battle in which the forces of good triumphed.” Dr. Irujo closed the act by referring to the deep gratitude of all exiled Basques and immigrants to the American nations that provided asylum to these people when they suffered persecution and oppression in a war-torn Europe. Finally, the choir Voices of the Plaza concluded by singing “Agur Jaunak.”

 

500 Posts! What a pleasure to reach this milestone of sharing!

Yesterday witnessed the 500th post on the Center’s blog! And we think it entirely appropriate that we mark the occasion with a post looking toward the future of Basque Studies, with a roundup of what our young scholars here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies have been doing and hope to do in the future. Particularly exciting for us is the eclectic nature of our graduate students, who hail from all over the world. With such talented and committed young people, Basque Studies has a bright future!

Just like reaching the summit at Anboto, our CBS blog has reached a milestone, but we will continue to climb beyond

In honor of our milestone, today we are looking back, first at the posts that have most engaged you, our readers, over the past couple of years:

 

1. Our most read post, by a fairly long way, is the tragic case of Basque sheepherder Txomin Malasechevarria. This is a cautionary tale about just how hard it was for some people to cope with the extreme solitude of life in the mountains, the psychological effects of this loneliness, and the devastating effects this could have on not just their own lives but also those around them. There are no “winners” in this immigrant story. Check out the post here.

 

2. Next, we have a happier tale that celebrates the key role played by women in maintaining the foundations of Basque communities, through their work in Basque boardinghouses, part of the Basque immigrant experience in the United States.  Check out the post here.

 

3. Then we come to what was, for us at the time, a bit of a surprise, pleasant though it was! It’s a post reporting where the Basque Country ranks in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) league tables. The HDI is a United Nations statistical rating based on life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators that are used to measure human development. In short, it’s a means of measuring the health of a nation. Check out the post here.

 

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4.Coming in at number four is a post that continues to rise steadily in the rankings. It’s our post on the classic Basque song “Txoria txori” (The bird is a bird), a pivotal work in the Basque songbook that touches on quintessential themes in Basque culture, sung by folk, rock, and pop singers alike as well as sports fans and even reworked into an orchestral piece. Check out the post here.

5. Last in our top 5 is a post on the remarkable life and work of Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the woman sheepherder who was winning races, age 92, at the Third Age Olympics and died a centenarian. Check out the post here.

And then, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our personal favorites over the years!

  • One of our favorite pieces of writing was this “post within a post,” if you will, dated June 8, 2015, a review of one our most cherished books, My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, which in its focus on the introduction to the work goes beyond mere review to actually engage with and write about the landscape that serves as the backdrop to the book. Check out the post here.
  • Who doesn’t like chocolate? We certainly do! And we like it so much, we wrote a post about it! Check out our rambling thoughts on Basque chocolate, culture, and history in this post, dating from November 2, 2015.

  • One of our most transcendent posts, dated February 12, 2016, concerns what came to be known as the infamous 1911 “Last Massacre” in Western Folklore. This was a major incident in the history of the American West in which Basques featured prominently and serves as proof, if needed, of how the Basque immigrant experience is an essential part of the fabric of this history. Check out the post here.

  • In another post that takes landscape as its primary focus, dated February 24, 2016, we explore how another Basque Country was “imagined” thousands of miles away from home in the remote Nevada mountains. For a great piece of original writing on the Basque experience in the American West check out the post here.

  • We’re especially proud at the Center to try whenever possible to emphasize the role of women in Basque culture and history. This post from March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, served as a roundup of some of the many posts we had published in this regard.  Keep checking in with the blog because this year we will be doing special posts throughout the month of March to celebrate women’s history month.

  • A relatively recent post, dated December 12, 2016, and one that is dear to our hearts emerged out of a reader’s inquiry about native Basque sheep and pig breeds. It got us thinking so much that we wrote a post about it. Check it out here.

Thanks so much for reading and here’s to another 500 and more. It is all because of you, dear readers, so eskerrik asko once again for engaging with us and for sharing our love of Basqueness!

Some Basque-American traditions during the Holiday Season

With the holiday season here, most of you out there will know that this is a time typically embraced by Basque-Americans to have a good old time, Basque-style, with plenty of eating, drinking, dancing, and general bonhomie. One only need check out Astero to get a flavor of all the events going on during the holiday season, but it’s worth recalling that all these Christmas parties, the lunches and dinners, as well as the New Year’s celebrations, are rooted in a long tradition stretching back many years. This custom–which in academic terms we could say was based on a drive to cement community and cultural ties, to keep those bonds strong, and maintain and pass on traditions, often in the face of adverse wider social conditions–has in recent years changed significantly, but I think it’s interesting to consider how and why these gatherings came about.

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For those that could, Christmas was one of the few opportunities for Basque-Americans to let their hair down a little. Picture from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

As Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao point out in Amerikanuak (p. 386), such events were in former times typically less public than they are today. In their words, as regards the winter events (p. 388):

These Basque get-togethers all shared the characteristic of being closed ethnic affairs. With the exception of the Boise Sheepherders’ Ball, they were unheralded, inconspicuous events on the local social calendar. They were often held at some distance from the local population centers. None of this is surprising when we consider that the dates coincide with the periods of tension between the Basques and their neighbors … In such a climate, the Basques were not prone to display their ethnic identity publicly. If the Basque hotel and the private picnic or dance served as an ethnic refuge, where the immigrant could enjoy Basque cuisine, conversation, and company, he attempted in his dealings with the wider society to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Even the origins of the famed Sheepherders’ Ball, perhaps the most famous of all Basque winter social events, recall an altercation between different Basque insurance groups in the late 1920s. As John and Mark Bieter note in An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho (p. 100):

Both organizations scheduled Christmas dances for herders in town on the same night. The influential sheepman John Archabal mediated the controversy and convinced the two sides to organize one dance with a lamb auction for charity. Both parties agreed, and the annual Sheepherders’ Ball became a mainstay in Boise and, later, in other southern Idaho towns.

The Sheepherders’ Ball became known as an “apron and overalls” dance, because admission required sheepherder garb or traditional Basque costumes. Sometimes a stand was set up near the door, where any partygoers who arrived inappropriately dressed could buy jeans on the spot. Although it was reserved for Basques and their guests, the Sheepherders’ Ball attracted the attention of the general public. On December 19, 1936, the Boise Capitol News wrote: “Black-eyed sons and daughters of the Pyrenees danced their beloved ‘jota’ with snapping fingers and nimble feet Friday evening at the annual Sheepherders’ Ball held at Danceland, to the music of Benito Arrego’s accordion and pandareen.”

Nowadays, these holiday season get-togethers are more open affairs, with everyone welcome, as noted in our recent post on the Basque Ladies’ Lagunak Christmas Luncheon in Reno. But it’s good to see that this great tradition of holiday season lunches, dinners, and dances continues to bind the Basque-American community together.

Besides these events, there is also a tradition of Basque-American participation in Christmas parades, as Nancy Zubiri writes in her invaluable book, A Travel Guide to Basque America:

On Christmas Eve for several years local Basque Children traveled down the usually snow-lined main street of Gardnerville in  hay-wagons, displaying the Nativity scene, signing gabon kantak (Christmas carols) and playing instruments–an Old Country tradition. Their procession would end at the Overland, where they received gifts and [Elvira] Cenoz served them the traditional hot chocolate. But the custom ended when the number of children dwindled.

Nowadays, the Garnerville Basque Club, Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, usually takes part in the town’s annual festive Parade of Lights.

Christmas was also an occasion for family gatherings of course, as the stories collected in Portraits of Basques in the New World, edited by Richard W. Etulain and Jeronima Echeverria, testify to. For example, Ysidra Juanita “Jay” Arriola Uberuaga Hormaechea, born in Boise in 1908, recalled the holiday season of her youth (pp. 194-95):

We never knew what Christmas was until I was grown up, went to work, and earned some money. I brought in a fresh Christmas tree to our home at 310 Grove, in Boise. It was the first tree that our family ever had. Christmas day for us people was shared big suppers, dancing, and enjoying ourselves, in that way … Maybe, a little package for the kids. That was it … That’s the way it was when I was a girl.

Similarly, and in the Old Country tradition, Marjorie Archabal remembered (p. 91) Christmas Eve meals at which some thirty people gathered, women on one side of the table, men on the other, with the Archabal family patriarch and matriarch at the head. These meals took days to prepare, with the menu consisting of tongue, tripe, and codfish, among many other dishes. Meanwhile, growing up in a Basque home in northeastern Montana in the 1940s and 1950s, Rene Tihista recalled a blend of Basque and American traditions, with turkey making appearance at the family table (p. 121):

When I was a kid all the holiday gatherings with my uncles and cousins were held at our place. Mom raised a huge turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Dad played the accordion and violin and sang Basque songs. Of course wine flowed freely during our get-togethers. I would sit on dad’s knee and sing “Uso Zuria,” a song he taught me about a white dove that travels to Spain. It was the only Basque song I knew, but it must have been a hit because the grown-ups made me sing it over and over.

And no doubt many of you out there, if you are part of a Basque-American family, will be enjoying similar kinds of celebrations this holiday season.

If you do have any stories you’d like to share with us about your own Basque-style holiday celebrations, we’d be pleased to hear from you!

 

 

 

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