Category: Basques in New Mexico

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!

The First Basque Thanksgiving

Acknowledging, slightly tongue-in-cheek, our “six degrees of separation” complex when it comes to all things Basque, today we’d like to share a story about the first feast of Thanksgiving by Europeans in what would eventually be the US, which, in the words of Steve Bass, “occurred on April 20, 1598 in the area of present day El Paso, Texas. The feast was led by the Basque Juan de Oñate during his expedition north from San Gerónimo, Mexico to colonize New Mexico.”

640px-new_mexico_san_juan_pueblo_donjuan_de_onate_first_govenor_of_new_spain

Statue of Juan de Oñate, Oñate Monument Center, Alcalde, NM. Picture by Advanced Source productions, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Surrounded by Basque relatives and friends, Oñate’s expedition set off in January 1598 and, after a grueling three-month journey at the point of which the colonizers were fast running out of food and water rations, they came across the Rio Grande, which offered abundant fresh water and game to replenish them. Hence, their first Thanksgiving feast.

506px-texas_historical_marker_for_don_juan_de_onate_and_el_paso_del_rio_norte

Texas Historical Marker for Don Juan De Oñate and El Paso Del Rio Norte. Photo by Pi3.124, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In Amerikanuak (p.78), William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao also observe that:

Unlike previous efforts, which were comprised largely of soldiers and missionaries, the Oñate force included colonists and livestiock. In this fashion Oñate introduced the first sheep flocks into what would later become territory of the United States (a fitting early forerunner of massive Basque involvement in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century development of the sheep industry of the American West).

Oñate’s expedition forged ahead, reaching the southern area of present-day Kansas, before returning, ultimately, to his home province of Nueva Vizcaya in present-day Mexico.

For a full description of this story, see Steve Bass, “Basques hold the First Thanksgiving in America ” Astero, at http://www.nabasque.org/Astero/thanksgiving.htm

Have a great Thanksgiving from everyone at the Center!

Tales from Basques in the United States: A mysterious death and a contested will

This week’s story, adapted from vol. 2 of Basques in the United States, takes us to Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1930s and the strange circumstances surrounding the death of Jean “John” Falxa.

plane-tree-337780_640

Born in Banka, Lower Navarre, in 1858, Jean Falxa came to the US in 1882. By the turn of the century, he was working as a successful sheepman in Lower Peñasco, NM. Then one day in June 1930, the body of the by now elderly recluse was found at his home, north of Roswell, NM, by Jessie Manel who used to visit the old man on frequent occasions. Given the reclusive nature of old Falxa, rumors obviously began to circulate about his death. Yet according to the local newspaper, the body “when found was lying under a large cottonwood tree near the Falxa home, face down. Officers who investigated the case today said that without question then old man had gone to sleep in the shade under the tree and had failed to awaken.” What’s more, “the officers declared that the theory of murder in connection with this case had no foundation in fact” and “tales of chickens missing from the farm and a general untidy condition indicating a struggle” were denied (Roswell Daily Record, 6/27/1930).

BUS cover

Falxa certainly left a considerable fortune: $25,000 in cash, bonds, and property, the inheritance of which would ultimately take a long time to resolve. He had two nephews in town: Pierre “Pete” Louissena and Gratian Iriart, and, it would seem, two different wills. In one, dated Jan. 1, 1899, everything was left to his sister, Marie, who still lived in Banka. She was represented by Louissena (who had hired a major law firm). The second will was dated Jan. 1, 1930, and in it, excepting for a small quantity set aside for his family members, everything else was left to Jessie Manel of Rosewell, the woman who had discovered the body. The latter will arrived in the mail while the court was examining the case. It had been witnessed by two Mexican nationals, but they could not be located by the authorities. This led Judge J. Frazier Lake to declare the first covenant valid, while the one presented by Miss Manel was rejected as false.

In the meantime, newspaper reports now acknowledged that, “Falxa had been dead for several days” prior to being found and that “the house showed that it had been ransacked” so that “there were circumstances indicating foul play but nothing was ever done about the matter” (Roswell Daily Record, 2/5/1931). To complicate matters, the final decision over the will also was subject to agreements between France and the US because Jean Falxa was a French citizen when he made the 1899 will, but he had been a US citizen since 1905 and was still so when he died.

The long process was not yet over. In May 1932, the Probate Court of Chaves Co., NM ran advertisements inserted by the administrator Pete Louissena, who had asked to terminate his duties and deliver the estate to the family. In the May 1932 advertisements the county requested the attendance of any person having any alternative claim on the decision on or before July 5 that same year. This date would appear to have passed without any such counter claim being presented.

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.