Category: Basques in Wyoming

CBS Event: Literatura eta Musika with David Romtvedt

Do you have an interest in the Basque Diaspora and enjoy good music? If so, the CBS and the Jon Bilbao Basque Library is pleased to invite you to Literatura eta Musika featuring CBS author and accordionist David Romtvedt on March 11-12 at 4 p.m. in UNR’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center Rotunda.

David and Caitlin

On March 11, David will be reading from his book Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming. This book is a collection of personal essays written by and about the Basques of Buffalo. These stories illuminate the experiences of the Basques in Wyoming and tie into the broader theme of the Basque diaspora in the American West.

On March 12, David will be reading from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space. In this historical fiction piece, David explores the experiences of Zelestina, a 16 year-old Basque girl in northern Wyoming. Inspired by the real life experiences of two Basque women, the character of Zelestina departs from the stereotype of the Basque immigrant as a lonely sheepherder.

After each talk, David will perform on the accordion and will be accompanied by his daughter, Caitlin Belem Romtvedt, an accomplished musician who specializes in “Brazilian and Cuban music, and old-style swing, blues, and jazz”. After the lecture on March 12 only, Elko-based Basque accordionist Mercedes Mendive will join the duo.

Mercedes Mendive

Admission is free! We hope to see you there!

Interview with CBS author David Romtvedt

David Romtvedt, author of the novel Zelestina Urza in Outer Space, was interviewed by Ander Egiluz Beramendi for our friends at


In the interview, David explains how, through the figure of the novel’s central protagonist, Zelestina Urza, he wanted to portray not just the multiple textures making up an individual’s life and how we as humans can be so touched by personal interaction with someone else, but also more broadly numerous other threads, some intrinsic to Basque culture and history, others concerning American and in particular Western history, and still others more reflective of the human experience as a whole.

Read the full interview here.

Check out another of David’s books published by the Center and coedited with Dollie Iberlin: Buffalotarrak: An Anthology of the Basques of Buffalo, Wyoming

The ethnic bonding of Basque immigrant workers in the American West

In my paper for the recent 50th Conference of the Western Literature Association in Reno, under the title “From ‘Black Bascos’ to ‘White’ Subjects: Basque Sheepherders and Racial Narratives in the American West,” I explored how Basque immigrants learned their place in the new country. From experiencing exclusion and discrimination to an assimilation and legitimization process between the interwar and post-WWII periods, Basque ranch workers in the sheep business consciously pursued adaptive strategies that emphasized their identity with the Anglo-population. In this paper (part of my present doctoral dissertation that I will complete next Spring 2016), I analyzed how the increasing importance of race became a crucial element in the transformation and consolidation of the Basque immigrant community in the West.

You can follow my research on Academia and LinkedIn.


A Basque sheepherder. Dangberg Ranch, Douglas County, Nevada. 1940. Source: Library of Congress



David Romtvedt reads from Zelestina in Outer Space

Wednesday, August 26: David Romtvedt will read from his latest novel, Zelestina Urza in Outer Space. at Cody Library, Wyoming.


Romtvedt, who is an accomplished accordion player, will be joined by his daughter violinist Caitlin Belem. They will perform Basque music following the reading today. The free program starts at 6:30 p.m. Click here for more information about the event.

In the novel, Romtvedt tells an absorbing tale about a Basque woman from Iparralde who settles in a small Wyoming town. The life of Zelestina Urza intertwines with that of Yellow Bird Daughter, a dispossessed Cheyenne Arapaho. The plain-speaking, at times argumentative narrator who reconstructs their story takes the reader on a journey from Zelestine’s birthplace in Arnegi to the far reaches of the American West. In an engaging conversation with the reader, the narrator poses many questions about life, death, and the after-life and explores the human experience through a multi-ethnic lens with a Basque focus.

“Like his music, Romtvedt’s novel is full of magical invention, driving emotion, and sustained notes of grace–an intimate and adventurous journey defined by dislocation, violence, and redemption.”  –Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men.