Category: Basques in Idaho (page 1 of 2)

“The Time of the Lambing and Shearing” – A New Exhibit at the Basque Museum & Cultural Center in Boise

If you’re near Boise this week, check out the opening of what promises to be a fascinating new exhibit, “The Time of Lambing and Shearing,” at the Basque Museum & Cultural Center. The opening and reception take place on Thursday, February 23, at 6:00 pm.

The exhibit is based on the work of photojournalist Jan Boles, who in 1976 photographed the last lambing and shearing operations at the J.D. Aldecoa and Son, Inc ranch for a feature for the Idaho Free Press. Just recently, we posted a response to a reader’s query about native Basque breeds of sheep (see the post here) and it got us to thinking that there is a potentially a major narrative to be written about the role of sheep and sheepherding in forging the American West.  Lambing and shearing are two key cultural as well as practical events in the calendar of any sheepherding culture, bringing communities together. In the Basque case, such times would have represented a great example of auzolan. According to Wikipedia, the sheep-shearing feast is the setting for Act IV of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. And sixteenth-century English poet and farmer Thomas Tusser even created  a verse for the occasion:

Wife make us a dinner, spare flesh neither corne,
Make wafers and cakes, for our sheepe must be shorne,
At sheep shearing neighbors none other thing craue,
but good cheer and welcome, like neighbors to haue

Even if you can’t  make it to the opening tomorrow, this promises to be well worth a visit. We’re sure the exhibit will be yet another wonderful addition by the Basque Museum & Cultural Center to a greater understanding of the importance and contribution of Basques to this more general story.

It goes without saying that the seminal Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World, by William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao is  must read for anyone interested in the importance of the sheep industry to the Basque experience in the United States. For the Old World experience, check out Sandra Ott’s superb ethnography, The Circle of Mountains: A Basque Shepherding Community.

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!

 

 

 

CBS students presenting at the Galena Creek Visitor Center: Don’t miss out!

Join CBS students Amaia Iraizoz, Kerri Lesh and Edurne Arostegui at the Galena Creek Visitor Center (http://www.galenacreekvisitorcenter.org/) this Sunday, October 16, from 10-11AM,  as they present on various aspects of Basque migration, return and diaspora. The event is open to the public and will give attendees the chance to not only learn more about the Basques, but also get an inside look into three of the Center’s graduate students’ research.

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Arostegui will kick off the presentation, talking about Basque migration in general, but focusing on the Basque experience in the West and how they got there. Iraizoz will then speak about certain cases of return migration to the Aezkoa Valley, in Navarre. Lesh brings the presentation to the present, discussing aspects of cultural maintenance in the diaspora through Basque gastronomy. All three bring their expertise on these subjects, as they are pursuing them for the doctoral dissertations.

For more information, please visit: https://allevents.in/reno/the-history-and-culture-of-basque-sheepherders-in-the-great-basin/303664853352059

Boise and Bilbao: Two Boomtowns

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A recent report by the Idaho Statesman looks at the links between two boomtowns, Boise and Bilbao. The visit of a Basque delegation, led by Basque President Iñigo Urkullu, to Idaho last year enhanced the historic connection between the two regions. There have been economic ties between the city of Boise and the Basque Country since the nineteenth century, when the burgeoning sheep industry in Idaho increased the need for talented sheepherders from the Basque Country. A century later, these connections were still evident through cultural events such as the Basque Soccer Friendly and Jaialdi in 2016, celebrating the Basque heritage and culture. These events only served to take the exisitng economic and cultural exchange to new heights.
Bilbao. Pasarela del Campo de Volant’n o Zubizuri y las torres P

This year, a business delegation from the Basque province of Bizkaia visited Boise to renew the economic and cultural partnership between Boise and Bilbao. According to Asier Alea Castaños, General Manager of Trade Promotion for the Bizkaian Government, at present over a million people reside in Greater Bilbao with a GDP per capita reaching 122 percent of the European Union (EU) average. Bizkaia’s economic competitive advantage is backed by higher education institutions that rank higher than the rest of Europe in terms of research and development. And this Bizkaian economic and technological edge, coupled with the existing links between the two cities, provides the Boise business community with huge opportunities.
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Boise has itself experienced technological booms in recent years with high-tech projects such as Trailgead poised to attract investment from the Basque Country. With a cost of doing business only one-third of that in California or Washington, Boise can be an attractive investment option for Basque investors.

Boise has extensive business clusters in software, environmental technology, advanced energy, hi-tech manufacturing, hardware assembly, national call centers, and agricultural technology. And Boise’s comprehensive business cluster complements that of some of the main industries in and around Bilbao such as the aeronautic, automotive, electronic, information technology, energy, and maritime sectors. It would appear, then, that there are multiple opportunities for new links to be developed between these two Basque boomtowns.

Read the full article here.

The Center has published several books on the Basque economy. For a general introduction, see Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

Tow other works address innovation policies in the Basque Country:

Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera, free to download here.

And Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, available free to download here.

For some general historical background on the particular tax and finance system that so defines the particularity of the Basque Country, see Basque Fiscal Systems: History, Current Status, and Future Perspectives, edited by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga and Eduardo Alonso Olea.

Another key feature of the Basque economy in recent years has been its urban transformation. This process is examined in Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

And for a wonderful monograph of one of the most controversial economic issues in the Basque Country today, namely the plans for a new high-speed rail network to create a single interconnected “Basque city,” check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Isidro Madarieta, some “royal scale” bootlegging, and collective Basque gambling fever

Isidro Madarieta Erquiaga was born on Apr. 4, 1883, in Ispaster, Bizkaia. He arrived in New York City on Mar. 4, 1901 and went to Boise. He started working as a sheepherder and, in partnership with Antonio Ocamica (b. 1887 in Ispaster, d. 1975), became a sheep owner.

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Isidro Madarieta and his wife, Isidora Osa.

In the 1910s he went on to manage a Basque hotel on Main Street, Boise. In Jul. 1916 he was detained, along with Vicente Bilbao and R. B. Howard, accused of bootlegging liquor on a “royal scale.” They were ambushed near Orchard, ID with almost 1900 quarts of whiskey (Idaho Statesman, Sep. 1, 1916). In Dec. 1922 the sheriff searched his hotel and found drinks in the kitchen and bottles of scotch hidden under the snow on the roof of the building. He was very popular in the Basque community.

In the summer of 1917 he bet against Elías Gabica of Nampa in a horse race. Not being sure of victory, he had 2 racehorses brought in from Aguascalientes in Mexico. Madarieta won, due to the fact that, among other things, Gabica, seeing all the money in play, lost his nerve and at the last moment changed the jockey.

This was not the only race. In Oct. of that same year Madarieta was back competing, this time against Tomás Muruaga of Nampa. For the occasion he hired a horse named Little Fanny. Muruaga did the same with a horse by the name of Jupiter. The betting started 90 to 100 for Muruaga but it ended 1000 to 900 in Madarieta’s favor. In the Basque communities of Boise and Nampa there emerged what amounted to collective betting fever, so much so that the locals drained the banks, which were left without any bills, according to the local press.

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There were many Basque women among those who bet, hoping to buy a silk dress. In the end, Little Fanny won. One reporter emphasized that a certain Basque lady with her son in her arms was screaming herself hoarse “Gora Boise!” (Long live Boise!) (Idaho Statesman, Oct. 1917).

In 1930 Isidro was living in Boise (9th St., and before that he lived in Idaho St.). In Boise he married Isidora Osa (born in Ibarrangelua) on Jun. 25, 1910 and they had 5 children: Juana “Susy,” Luis, Regina, Margarita, and Ángel. In 1927 he applied for US citizenship. He died in Boise Jun. 25, 1946.

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

Alive-After-Five Festival on Basque Block, Boise, Idaho

Life-After-Five on Basque Block

The Basque Block in Boise Idaho will host the “Alive-After-Five” popular concert series this summer. The Alive-After-Five is a free event that opens to the public between 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM on Wednesdays. However, in the case of severe weather condition, the event will be relocated to the Liquid Lounge at 405 South 8th Street #100. In order to show their support, local businesses on the block have made some special preparations ahead of the events to welcome the anticipated gatherings. Annie Whitehead, manager at the Leku Ona restaurant, said: “We are super excited, and we’re going to have some beer kegs out here, we’re going to have a delicious buffet with chorizo, paella, some good foods like that so everyone can have time to stop and eat.” A Boise resident, Kara McGee, commented, “It will make this area more crowded, but I think it will be great for these businesses, I bet it will be terrific.”

The Basque Block in Boise has been the site for several events in the city including the five-yearly event Basque Jaialdi, which is dubbed as the world’s biggest Basque festival.

For more information about the Alive-After-Five please visit the following websites:

http://www.aliveafterfive.com/index.html

http://kboi2.com/news/local/alive-after-five-kicks-off-wednesday-on-basque-block

Recent report on Basque-Americans causes much food for thought

In 1901 the renowned philosopher Miguel de Unamuno remarked before a crowd gathered to celebrate traditional Basque culture: “[T]hat language you speak, Basque people, that Euskara, will disappear with you, and this is of no importance as you too must disappear. Hurry up and kill it, bury it with honor, and speak Spanish.”

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Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) in 1912. Although he was a Basque-speaker and wrote his dissertation on the language, he later rejected Basque as a “serious obstacle to extending European culture in my country.” Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unamuno’s words, which centered on the language but which were also clearly aimed at Basque culture as a whole, have become synonymous in the Basque Country with a mindset that, at best, views Basque culture as anachronistic in–and at worst antithetical to–the so-called modern world. Indeed, such views, as Juan Madariaga Orbea demonstrates candidly in his prodigious Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language, were hardly new at the time and represented in many ways the culmination of a centuries-long tradition of claiming that Basque culture was in demise and would soon disappear.

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Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). Philosopher, linguist, educator, and diplomat, Humboldt visited the Basque Country and wrote at length about its culture and language. On the latter he wrote in 1801, a full one hundred years prior to Unamuno’s declaration above: “Basque will possibly have vanished from the list of living languages in less than a century.” Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If anything, Unamuno’s views marked the beginning of a new era, namely that coinciding with the threshold of the contemporary world as it crashed into the twentieth century, in which the Basque language and Basque culture more generally would come under the critical spotlight from supposedly more educated, erudite, and urbane elites. By the late twentieth century, so this view went, Basques were part of a disappearing world and their antiquated ways had no place in contemporary society. And this mantra–which to be clear is embraced by many Basques themselves, as well as outsiders sympathetic to Basque culture like Wilhelm von Humboldt (see his Selected Basque Writings)–has been applied to questioning anything from the potential for such a small language as Basque to actually survive in the modern world to the “parochial” selection policy of soccer club Athletic Bilbao and “outmoded” sports like Jai Alaia or zesta punta (on the latter see this report from a few years ago).

Which brings me in a slightly roundabout sort of way to an interesting report published recently in the Idaho Statesman about Basque-American identity. Eric Quitugua’s “Cultural identity fades among Idaho’s second-generation Basque immigrants,” is a thought-provoking article that I would encourage anyone with an interest in Basque-American culture to read. It charts the decline of the Basque sheep industry in Idaho and a waning interest on the part of new generations of Basque-Americans to maintain the Basque language.

This all got me to wondering whether this was another example, albeit transplanted across the Atlantic, of the glass-is-half-empty view of Basque culture. After all, the changing nature of the sheep industry and the loosening of specifically Basque ethnic ties to this lifestyle have been long recorded. Indeed, Peruvian herders are mentioned in the classic Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World by William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao, published for the first time in 1975. And isn’t it typical of such immigrant communities to relinquish their ties to the hard and grueling niche industries that brought them to the US in the first place, once they are more settled, have enjoyed greater educational possibilities, and are socially mobile? Don’t get me wrong, I fully acknowledge many of the sentiments expressed in the report, and it should come as no surprise to anyone with an interest in Basque-American identity to note that the same general theme has been explored on multiple occasions by by Bill Douglass.* Indeed, he also critically questions the staying power of Basque identity within the changing social and cultural framework of the American West.

But I think it is also worth noting the historical evidence for Basque cultural endurance. After all, this is a country of just 3 million people, less than a third of whom actually speak Basque, and it still exists and people still speak Basque today. Such resilience is expressed in the US today by numerous initiatives to promote Basque culture and maintain a sense of Basque-American identity on the part of both institutions and private individuals and groups, many of which you yourselves out there, possibly even reading this, are largely responsible for.

I’m thinking here obviously about our own Center and its special commitment to research and publishing, but also the great work being done in Basque Studies at Boise State University and the remarkable Boiseko Ikstola preschool. I’m also thinking about the tireless efforts of NABO, the North American Basque Organizations, and the Basque Museum and Cultural Center in Boise to perpetuate Basque culture and identity. I’m thinking of the global network of Basque Clubs as well as the university network of Basque language and culture readers and chairs in the US and beyond developed by the Etxepare Basque Institute, both sponsored by the Basque Government. And I’m thinking of other initiatives at a more private, even personal level, like Buber’s Basque Page (surely a historic institution in itself by now?) and the National Basque Festival in Elko, Nevada, celebrating 53 years this year! This year, too, is particularly special because as I’m sure you’ll all know by now, Basque culture will be front and center at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. And of course there are many, many more people, places, and events I could mention. My point is that, in the great scheme of things, it would seem to me that serious conscious efforts have and are being made to not only maintain Basque-American identity but also adapt it to the context of an ever-changing world. And by way of a counterpoint to the abovementioned report, check out the following article: “‘Ni Boisekoa naiz’: Keeping Basque alive in Idaho.”

One of the great benefits of being a small culture is that you typically know a lot more about your bigger and more powerful neighbors than they will ever know about you; and smaller cultures are sometimes much better adapted to withstanding the bad times and responding to changes in their circumstances creatively, having had to do so constantly throughout their history just to survive. Bigger cultures, in contrast, having enjoyed the reins of power, find it awfully difficult to cope when things don’t quite go their way and if they didn’t already know, they should take heed from Shelley’s warning, in his timeless “Ozymandias,” that even they may be susceptible to disappearing without trace.

So here’s to speaking Basque, Athletic Bilbao’s recruitment policy, zesta punta, and every other expression of Basque cultural identity! If I started with some words by Unamuno, a Basque, who believed that Basque culture would eventually die out, I’ll end with a thought by Mark Kurlansky, a New Yorker, who thinks quite the opposite. Perhaps, he speculates, in a thousand years, “relative newcomers” like the French and Spanish, won’t be around,.

But the Basques will still be there, playing strange sports, speaking a language of ks and xs that no one else understands, naming their houses and facing them toward the eastern sunrise in a land of legends, on steep green mountains by a cobalt sea–still surviving, enduring by the grace of what Juan San Martin called Euskaldun bizi nahia, the will to live like a Basque.

*See in particular “Basque Ethnic Resurgence: Consolidation or Crisis of Heritage,” paper presented to the American Association of Anthropology. San Francisco (1992); “Basque-American Identity: Past Perspectives and Future Prospects,” in Change in the American West: Exploring the Human Dimension, ed. Stephen Tchudi (Reno: Nevada Humanities Committee and University of Nevada Press, 1996); and “Creating the New Basque Diaspora,” in Basque Politics and Nationalism on the Eve of the Millennium, ed. William A. Douglass, Carmelo Urza, Linda White, and Joseba Zulaika (Reno:  Basque Studies Program, University of Nevada, Reno, 1999).

Tales from Basques in the United States: If you ever needed reminding that Basques had a reputation for working hard…

Today’s story in our series of tales from Basques in the United States is adapted from vol. 1 and concerns the amazing feat of record-breaking Antonio Malasechevarria, brother of the more tragic “Txomin” covered in a previous post.

Jan eta lo, potolo (“The Devil makes work for idle hands,” literally: “Just eating and sleeping makes you fat”)

 Lan onak, uzta ona (“Good work, good harvest”)

Gus Bundy.

Long, lonely days on remote mountains were the norm for newly arrived Basque sheepherders. Photo courtesy of Gus Bundy, from the Basque Archive.

Born Apr. 22, 1890 in Gizaburuaga, Bizkaia, he arrived in New York City in 1910 and went straight to Winnemucca, NV, to meet up with his brother, Juan, who was working in Paradise Valley. He became a sheepherder and, after stints in Humboldt Co., NV, he ended up working for Jay H. Dobbins in southern Idaho and Oregon. In 1918 the media reported that he had broken a record that was difficult to match: He had worked a straight 38 months and 5 days or 3 years, 2 months, and 5 days, without taking a single day off! What’s more, he didn’t receive a single penny for any of this mammoth work shift until it was over, and he went into a town only when passing through. In the end, he received a check for $2,018. Antonio was one of the five “Bascos” contracted by Dobbins in the spring of 1915. Another compatriot, José Arriaga, had also worked 2 years straight without rest (Oregonian, Jul. 7, 1918).

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

Tales from Basques in the United States: The importance of Basque women in the world of boardinghouses

Although the sheepherder is often regarded as the iconic personification of Basque immigrants in the West, it is worth remembering that the Basque boardinghouse–perhaps the quintessential institution serving as the foundation of Basque social networks–would have been nothing without the many women who made the long trip across the Atlantic, sometimes (as we can see below) at a very young age, to work in this key institution and set an example of what hard work, effort, and dedication really meant. As Monique Laxalt recalls of her own grandmother, who ran a Basque boardinghouse in Carson City, NV, in the wonderfully evocative The Deep Blue Memory: “for eighteen hours a day, she cooked, cleaned, and washed.”

Today, then, in our continuing series of stories from Basques in the United States, this time adapted from volume 1, we celebrate two Basque women who forged new lives for themselves in the US by starting out in the tough, and sometimes uncompromising, world of the Basque boardinghouse.

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Anastasia Arriandiaga Gamecho Arteaga.

Anastasia “Ana” Arriandiaga Gamecho Arteaga was born in 1892 in Elantxobe, Bizkaia. She arrived in New York in 1907 and went to Boise where her sister Escolastica (b. ca 1890) lived. Ana was 14 when her parents sent her to Boise to serve as a maid in Benito Arego’s boardinghouse. They had reached an agreement with Arego (b. 1872), who was also from Elantxobe, whereby she would be paid $5 a month to meet the expenses of the trip ($150) that he had covered. The working conditions were harsh and furthermore, as Ana told her sister, she was treated badly. As a result, the girl’s brother-in-law, José or “Joe” Alastra (b. 1871, and who owned the Howell Spring Valley Ranch), met with Arego to try and reach an agreement that would allow Ana to quit the job, but Arego refused and the case ended up in court. The young woman feared that such a scandal would harm her parents, but in the end the court ruled that she should be allowed to leave her work, after the amount owed Arego was paid in full (Idaho Statesman, Nov. 1908). On Dec. 24, 1909 she married Marcelino Aldecoa (born in Natxitua, Ea, Biz. in 1886) in Boise, and they had 5 children: Luis, Fermín, Domingo, Alfonso, and Carmen who were all born in Boise.

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Luciana Celestina Aboitiz Goitia (Lucy Garatea).

Our second story concerns Luciana Celestina “Lucy” Aboitiz Goitia. Born in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, in 1905, she arrived in New York in 1920 and traveled with an uncle, Ignacio Barandica (b. 1892 in Muxika, Biz.), and a cousin, Visitación Arriaga, to Boise, ID. Their reference was another uncle, Francisco Aguirre “Zapatero” (b. 1878 in Segura, Gipuzkoa), who was married to Gabina Goitia (b. 1890, in Lekeitio), her mother’s sister, who managed the Star Hotel in Boise. For a while she worked in her uncle and aunt’s hotel as a maid. She did everything: cleaning, laundry, ironing, as well as taking care of her little cousins. Her work paid for her room and board and the passage.

This was part of a deeply rooted practice in the Basque Country, the so-called morroiak (live-in menial workers). Large families saved themselves having to feed their sons and daughters by sending them to the homes of relatives or neighbors, through the custom of tripa truke (food for work). And this practice was transferred to the US. Sometimes, the sheepherders who lodged in the boardinghouse also asked her to wash and take care of their clothes while they were in the mountains with the sheep. That was the only money earned that she was able to keep for herself. She had only 2 free hours a week, on Sundays. That’s when she would get together with Felisa Gamecho Achabal. Young Basque men invited her to the movies, to dinner at some Chinese restaurant, or to dance at the Anduiza Boardinghouse.

In Feb. 1922, Felisa and Lucy, along with Julia Lizundia (from Mendata, Biz., who later married Cipriano Barroetabeña, b. 1899, from Markina-Xemein, Biz.) and Maria Uberuaga (b. 1883, Lekeitio) participated in a festival organized by the Americanization School of Boise. They danced the jota and the porrulsalda accompanied by Julián Ecenarro (b. 1897, in Abadiño, Biz.) on guitar and Miss Lizundia on the pandero or Basque tambourine (Idaho Statesman, Feb. 19, 1922). One day, one of the young men, Esteban Garatea (b. 1895) from Nabarniz, invited her to the movies and Lucy no longer wanted to date anyone else.

They married Feb. 3, 1923, and for their honeymoon, they went to Nampa, ID in a taxi cab, spending the night at the famous Dewey Hotel. Esteban bought Lucy her wedding gown, shoes, and, what’s more, he had to pay her uncle the expenses of her trip and her room and board for the last 2 and a half years … as if Luciana had done no work! Ultimately, this sort of “buy-out clause” came to an end at some point by ruling of the state courts. The newlyweds settled down in Barber, CA, where Esteban had a job in a sawmill. They had 4 children, and life was good to them. In Aug. 1935, along with other families, they moved to Emmett, ID., but in Nov. that same year Esteban died from a work-related accident.

In 1940, together with Cipri Barroetabeña and Julia Lizundia (with whom she maintained an old friendship), Jon Bilbao (b. 1914, Cayey, Puerto Rico), the subdelegate of the Basque government-in-exile in Idaho and future co-founder of the Basque Studies Program at UNR, and José Villanueva (b. 1895, Greater Bilbao) and his wife María Teresa López (b. 1905, also from Lekeitio), formed the first group of Basque dancers in Idaho, in Emmett. Lucy had danced with the Lekeitio batzoki dance group in her youth and she was a good dantzari (dancer) as she showed whenever she had an opportunity. She lived in Emmett until 1948, when she moved to Burns, OR, after she bought the Plaza Hotel. She ran this ostatu (boardinghouse) there for 17 years, when she sold it to Bernardo and Maite Andueza in 1965 and returned to Boise. In Aug. 2009, she went to live in a residence. In 2010 she was a centenarian, thus becoming the amuma (grandmother) of Idaho. She died Nov. 15 of that year.

If you’re interested in these stories and you haven’t already done so, check out Jeri Echeverria’s delightful Home Away from Home: A History of Basque Boardinghouses. See, too, Robert Laxalt’s classic The Basque Hotel.

We intend for Basques in the United States to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Two Lessons Learned in the New World

Today in our survey of stories adapted from Basques in the United States, we look at a couple of invaluable lessons learned by Basques newly arrived in the US.

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Gold prospector. Pen and ink illustration by Tony Oliver, Denver, CO, based on original photograph. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

First of all, there’s the story of (Juan) Pablo Aramburu, born July 23, 1902 in Aulesti, Bizkaia, who arrived in the US in 1920. He worked as a sheepherder in Emmett, Idaho for Andy Little. One day while keeping watch on his herd near Idaho City, he saw a group of people prospecting on his boss’s property. He informed Old Little; “There are some men prospecting on your land; you want me to kick them out?” The boss calmed him: “When they find something, then we kick them out!”

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Eusebio Asla

Nest up is the tale of Eusebio Asla, born on Feb. 26, 1928 in Arrieta, Bizkaia. After an eventful early life, which included a stint in the Spanish navy (during which time he once served General Dwight D. Eisenhower dinner), he came to the US in 1952 to visit his uncle Doroteo and brother Jess, who lived in Mountain Home, Idaho. He traveled by ship to New Orleans and rode a Greyhound Bus with a little piece of paper indicating his destination, Mountain Home. He loved telling the story of his arrival at Mountain Home bus station, where he hailed a cab to take him to the Basque boardinghouse in town. After loading his suitcase and getting into the car, the cab driver did a u-turn in the road, stopped abruptly on the other side of the street, and announced “we’re here.” The $5 charge to cross the street was a “welcome to the US” moment!

We intend for this work to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

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