Category: Basques in the U.S. (page 2 of 13)

Trout, Trixitixa, and Song: Being Basque in the Big Horns

Harri Mutil high in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming

It was your Basque Book Editor’s absolute honor to be able to attend the 2017 NABO Convention and Basque Festival in Buffalo, Wyoming this. On the Monday following the festival, being a thousand miles from home, I also took advantage of the moment to attend the Basque Sheepherder’s Barbecue held the day after in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. The Big Horn Mountains are absolutely beautiful and it was so great to be able to meet and talk to so many Basques from sheep raising and ranching backgrounds similar to my own but in the lush green of northeastern Wyoming rather than the stark yellow and russets of Nevada.

In the morning carloads of attendees were carted off to local creeks and streams to make the best of the day: cast iron deep fried trout painstakingly prepared along with lukainka sausages by the dozens and side dishes lovingly made and brought to share. Children ran and played and oldsters held down their camp chairs and swapped stories old and new.

Basque performers Errabal, who had been wowing us all weekend, set up on log stumps and started to play and soon Jesus Goñi sang some bertsos for the crowd.

As I would depart straight for Reno early the next morning, I set up my tent and camped at the site and got to the visit with the owners of this little piece of ground. They told me about what they called a “sheepherder’s monument” out on a high ridge a few miles down the road and so I drove down to visit it as the sun set. I climbed up to a giant harri mutil (read another post about these here) on the mountainside and stood and watch the sun set west. It was a lonely life for those early sheepherders whether in the mountains of Wyoming or Nevada, but with communities like the one I had the privilege to visit, it must have made the solitude all that much more bearable for those boys turning into men and men missing families and loved ones in the old country.

A Basque community, like any other immigrant community, changes in the United States, integrates and also makes new traditions all of their own. This post is the first of a series I am planning to write on the events of the Basque festival in Buffalo, so please keep checking back often! Anyone interested in Basques in Buffalo, and the experience of Basques in the West, should definitely check out Buffalotarrak!

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!

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!

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/

The Comforts of Home: A Basque Sheep Camp

The Basque Library has set up a new exhibit at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center.

From June 20 to August 10, 2017, The Comforts of Home: A Basque Sheep Camp showcases Dominique Laxalt’s sheep camp from Marlette Lake. Dominique purchased over a hundred acres of grazing lands high in the Sierras in the early part of the twentieth century, two thousand feet above the eastern shores of Lake Tahoe. Dominique herded sheep in the mountains above Carson City, Nevada, for decades, operating out of his base camp at Marlette. He took his sons with him and this made an indelible impression especially on Robert Laxalt, who later wrote of those experiences in Sweet Promised Land.

The materials from the camp were boxed up and in storage for decades. Upon the closing of the offices they were stored in, these items were found and donated to the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

Preparing a camp for themselves, the sheepherder had to be a jack-of-all-trades. Setting up the tent, hunting and fishing for food, cooking, and keeping track of supplies were the domestic side of their time outside tending the flock. All they had to survive on for many weeks at a time were the supplies they carried with them. Pack mules or horses carried the building blocks of creature comforts. As time went on, they would be resupplied by the ranch managers or owners. Early on this would be with other pack animals, then wagons, and finally trucks. Improvised fishing poles from branches, pot racks from belts, and improvised gadgets were all pressed into service. Not just double duty, many of the materials they carried had to be multifunctional.

Alone for weeks at a time, Basque sheepherders sometimes only had their horses, dogs, and sheep to talk and took to leaving tree carvings to express themselves. Aspen trees scarred up beautifully to leave a lingering glimpse into their thoughts. Women, animals, home, their names, and dates, all feature as themes in the carvings. This art emerged from solitude is wonderfully showcased by the Mountain Picasso: Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin exhibit, also at the Sparks Museum. Sponsored by the Nevada Arts Commission and the Nevada Historical Society, this exhibit is curated by Jean and Phillip Earl, a couple that has been collecting tree carvings for 50 years.

On June 30,  the museum is holding a reception for the Basque exhibits on display. You are all invited to enjoy refreshments from 4 to 6 p.m.

Post by Shannon Sisco and Iñaki Arrieta Baro.

Lagunak Tour

Today, a small group of Basque-Americans will leave to the Basque Country to reconnect with their roots. I recently spoke to Florence Larraneta Frye, who organizes the Basque Women’s Luncheon I wrote about a few months back, about the trip.  Each laguna (friend) first had a family tree put together by Lisa Corcostegui (check out her website), and the itinerary was then designed around it. They will travel to their ancestral homes to visit their roots from the source. As Frye noted, “They see, and know they are indeed Basque, with pride that they can validate.”
The tour itself is composed of all things Basque, flexible within the 10 days they’ll be abroad on this intensely personal trip. Frye commented on the initiative:
As our Lagunak luncheon grew in size, it was not surprising to me that I realized how comfortable and bonded these women were–almost like joining a family reunion of relatives for the first time.  The noise and chatter was deafening, a Basque tradition I remember always, when Basques meet Basques!

I also sadly noticed some women feel only slightly Basque and not worthy to even to come to our luncheon as they are, say, 1/8th Basque… but all women of Basque decent are welcome to our luncheon.  We have name tags, they write their names, and also their Basque names, they always know that, and feel a great sense of pride for their Basque (grandfather, etc) name. We are a very proud culture, our blood line is diluting, and will be more so as time goes on…this diaspora is “falling between the cracks.”

What a life changing gift for many that only felt Basque because someone told them, now they have a picture in their minds and know they are indeed Basque. This first tour will be an experiment of what we will change in the future for our ladies.  My friends from Euskadi make me feel like I belong, and I hope to accomplish this for my lagunak.

We look forward to hearing more about the trip. Sorte eta bidaia on!

 

Winnemucca Basque Festival

Continuing on our summer Basque Festival tour of the West, some of us at the CBS and Jon Bilbao Basque Library had the chance to visit Winnemucca and attend its 39th Annual Basque Festival. Once again, we got up early (but thankfully not as early as the weekend before) and set off east toward Winnemucca. On the way there, we had a lovely breakfast in Lovelock!

Cowpoke Cafe in Lovelock

Mmm…breakfast

Once in Winnemucca, we watched the Basque Festival Parade. Many of the dance groups and clubs had floats parade down Winnemucca Blvd. The local fire and police department were also present. It seemed as if all of the town had gone out to watch the parade, and the children were giddy with excitement over the candy being thrown to them from all of the participants.

Parade

More parading!

Next up, we headed to the convention center. Right outside, on the Nixon Lawn, festival goers had set up for the picnic, and everywhere you looked, you could see young boys and girls dressed in their traditional outfits ready to have fun.

Txiki dancers

Inside the convention center, everyone was buying tickets for the lunch and merriment. The Boise Basque Museum had set up a table with various gift items and souvenirs. Our Basque Books Editor was also present with a display of our many publications and eager buyers.

Inside the Convention Center

Our Basque Books Editor!

Before the eating began, the national anthems were sung and dance performances kicked off the event. Throughout the day, various groups danced and competitions were held. Among them, dance-offs and weight lifting competitions. A professional wood chopping display was the highlight for me. Stephanie Braña did a great job! To learn more about her, see the following article in Euskal Kazeta.

Dantzaris

Wood-chopping

Lunch was delicious! We had salad, beans, lamb stew, and steak, accompanied by wine and bread. Hats off to the cooks! We then had the chance to watch more performances but left before the concerts began. Too bad we couldn’t stick around!

Lunch!

Once again, these Basque festivals and picnics do not disappoint! Not only was it a lovely day in the sun, but we were surrounded by fun people and entertainment. Can’t wait till the next one!

Nothing like the Nevada views

Photo credits: Edurne Arostegui, Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, and Irati Urkitza.

Join us in celebrating A Man Called Aita

We are so happy to announce the publication of Joan Errea’s A Man Called Aita. These stories, told in rhyming verse, tell an extraordinarily deep, complex, and moving story about being Basque in the U.S. West and what it was like to grow up on a ranch on the frontier. They tell the story of the life of Joan’s father, aita in Basque, Arnaud Paris, who originally came from Iparralde and herded sheep in Wyoming before venturing out on his own to ranch in Central Eastern and Northern Nevada for many years. There is so much to say about this little book, a true gem of Western Americana, much of it ably done so in Pello Salaburu’s masterful introduction.

“This book narrating the story of Marie’s life is captivating, moving, and very attractive in its simplicity. It shows how wonderful the relationship between the father and daughters was, that Arnaud was a warm man, and that they loved each other a lot and were very close. For Joan, her aita was a role model and a point of reference.”

Here, from A Main Called Aita is the title poem, which says much more than I can:

A Man Called Aita

With a brand new dream, a clarinet, and his suitcase in his hand.

The young Basque came to write his name in the history of this land.

Perhaps he was never famous but the world was a better place.

For the Basque who came and brought with him the faith of his proud race.

In the mountains of Wyoming where he first came to herd sheep,

How bitter were his lessons, how lonely was his sleep!

How many times he lay awake and looked up at starry skies,

Unable to see their beauty for the tears that filled his eyes.

How unbearably cold and lonely it must have been at times,

As he sat upon some windswept hill and wrote his songs and rhymes.

For the young man was a poet, a Basque “Bertzolari”;

And in later years he’d sing his songs to my brothers and to me!

With two dogs for companions, he spent six long years there.

He guarded all the lambs and sheep entrusted to his care.

He loved to dance, he loved to sing; to learn was a burning need;

For the greatest pleasure of his life was a good book he could read.

One day in his quest for books he found a copy of the Constitution.

And he quickly learned of the laws and rules that governed this great Nation.

He left Wyoming for Nevada, where his brother found them jobs;

And the two of them together, tended to the woolly “mobs.”

Now times were hard upon the land and wages seldom came.

Herders were sometimes paid in sheep; mostly the old and lame.

It was so, they built their own herds up and ran them on “tramp” ground.

It was hit and run, first come first served, there was no BLM around.

The grass was there and it was free, but the sheepmen fought each other.

It often came to troubled times with brother against brother.

And so it came to pass with them and bitter words were spoken;

Words that could never be recalled, so the partnership was broken.

The love between them still ran deep but forgiveness had been frozen.

They drifted apart and went their ways on the paths that each had chosen.

And each young man in his own way left his mark upon the land.

So my Father came to live his dream with his suitcase in his hand.

He labored well, and built his dream; he married sweet “Marie.”

He was always known as “Aita” by my brothers and by me.

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!

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