Category: nevada (page 2 of 3)

Basque bread, and some beloved neighbors, featured in the John Deere Furrow

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Abel making his delicious french fries for camp visitors.

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The famous bread oven.

Making bread at their Russell Valley, California, summer camp was quite the project for Abel and Judy Mendeguia. Abel, from Lesaka, was a sheepman for many years from northern Nevada to the Central Valley of California, and the couple’s summer camp was a hive of activity, especially on the days that Abel would bake bread using 50 lbs of flour for the sheepherder camps spread across the range. A story that is reported on in “For the Love of Bread: Part 1: Basque immigrants brought a taste of home with them to the American West” by Laura Read in a recent issue of John Deere’s The Furrow. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but a key part of it is Abel sticking his arm into the bread oven to gauge its temperature. I’m sure anyone who knows Abel can imagine this quite well!

The Mendeguias have been Reno residents for many years since retiring from the sheep business and they are some of the best neighbors anyone could ask for. Abel has volunteered many many years to helping out Reno 4-H sheep project children and they generally invite visiting USAC scholars from the Basque Country and elsewhere to the Russell Camp for a taste of Western life (and some of Abel’s famous fresh cut and made-on-the-spot french fries). His wife, Judy, was from the East and met Abel at a sheep camp on a visit to the West, and then became his lifetime partner.

Abel has an entry, along with thousands of other Basques who came to the US, in Basques in the United States, vol. 1, Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa.

Never a dull moment at the Mendeguias’ summer camp!

Reno Basque Festival This Weekend

 

The Zazpiak Bat Reno Basque Club will be hzazpiak bat logoosting its 49th–yes 49th!–Basque Festival this weekend.

The festival kicks off on Friday evening, July 15, at 7pm at Louis’ Basque Corner, with the main events taking place on Saturday, July 16 at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno from 10am-10pm. There will be Basque dancing by the local Zazpiak Bat dancers as well as the Irrintzi Dancers from Winnemucca, NV, a bota contest for the kids, rural sports exhibitions, and a txinga (weight carrying) contest that is open to the public. Live music will be provided by Mercedes Mendive, from Elko, NV, at the public dance from 6-9pm.

Food and drink will be available for purchase all day, along with items from various vendors. Everyone is welcomed to join in the fun. For more information check out Zazpiak Bat at Facebook.

 

Governor signs Basque Heritage and Culture Day Proclamation

5332b2937123fc47730b98c462c8bc33Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has officially declared June 29 as the day to celebrate “Basque Heritage and Culture in Nevada.”  As a part of this celebration, local performers and artists will perform Basque traditional dance and songs, representing Nevada at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to be held in Washington, D.C. from June 29 to July 4. See a report on this by the Elko Daily Free Press here.

To mark the event, an Elko native, Vince Juaristi, has written a series of wonderful articles, titled “Intertwined,” which explore the connections between Basque and American culture. If you haven’t already done so, you can read these articles here.

Anyone interested in Basque culture should check out Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, by William A. Douglass and Joseba Zulaika. As well as serving as a great general introduction to Basque culture, this work also includes the personal experiences and reflections of the two renowned authors.  The book is available free to download here.

 

Our newest edition to the CBS: Time to pass the torch

For the last year and a half, I have been the “newbie” PhD student at the Center for Basque Studies. Well, the time has come to pass the torch along, to someone who has lived in the Basque Country for quite a while. On behalf of the Center for Basque Studies, I would like to welcome our newest edition, Edurne Arostegui. In her own words:

“After six years living abroad in the Basque Country, I will return to the United States at the beginning of August. My plan is to spend the first couple of weeks planning my move to Reno while spending time with my parents in my home town, St. Helena, CA. I was very lucky to have received a travel stipend last year to spend a month at UNR, where I not only researched but got to know the professors, students, and staff. The library was truly wonderful, with everything you could imagine at hand. This experience encouraged me to apply for the PhD assistantship in order to focus on my studies.

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I’m currently a PhD student at the University of the Basque Country but must work full-time, making it difficult for me to dedicate myself to my dissertation. After writing my master’s thesis on Basque stereotypes in Western literature, particularly the novels of Harry Sinclair Drago, I realized that I wanted to expand on the topic by broadening my scope to the creation of Basque-American identity. My research aims to understand how Basques were perceived by American communities in the West and the stereotypes and imagery associated with them. Once Basque-American identity was established, these same stereotypes were transformed to create positive markers of identity as well as providing a sense of belonging. Overall, my research will trace the experience of Basque migrants to the United States and the creation of an identity that differs from that of the homeland while maintaining links to its past.”

Congratulations, Edurne!  We can’t wait to have you in Reno!

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Erramun Borda, the “Dutch” Basque sheepherder, moonshiner, and tree carver

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Ramon “Dutch” Borda sitting and reading a book.

This week in our series of stories adapted from vol. 2 of  Basques in the United States we look at a man who had four names, about the same number of jobs, and, ultimately, seven kids. Welcome to the always lively world of Erramun “Dutch” Borda.

Erramun, aka Raymond, Ramon, or “Dutch” Borda was born Apr. 17, 1894 in Bidarrai, Lower Navarre. His mother, Marikita Etchelhar, had been born in Argentina. Besides Pierre, he had 2 other brothers, Guilen and Batita, who also came to Nevada to herd sheep. Their sister also came to the US. Borda was commonly known as “Dutch” (due to his affiliation with Minden, a German town, according to one source) but he wrote his name on aspen trees 3 different ways: Erramun, Ramon, and Raymond.

He emigrated to the US when he was 19, arriving in New York City and making his way across the country to Reno where his brother Pierre lived (in the Commercial Hotel). He began tending the sheep of his brother-in-law Uhalde, but soon had his own herd. In the next ten years he began many new adventures. He married Gorgonia Martinez from Iruñea-Pamplona and they had 4 children: Mary, Raymond, Helen, and Pete. He bought a ranch in Dayton, NV, and then he bought the East Fork Hotel in Gardnerville, NV from Charles Brown.

Those were the days of Prohibition and most Basque hotel owners in Nevada, more than 97 percent of them, ended up getting involved in Prohibition-related incidents at one time or another with the federal authorities. Some hotels were even shut down and their owners jailed. In April 1920 Raymond was arrested by federal agents when they discovered wort–the liquid extract from the mashing process involved in distilling beer and brandy–at his home. It was the second time that he had been caught breaking the law. He was released on bail and was tried in June of that year. In April 1921 he was arrested yet again for selling liquor to two clients in the hotel kitchen. He was brought before the magistrate who set bail at $500 with the obligation to report to the federal commissioner, Anna Warren, for preview. And on April 23, 1923 a federal judge ordered the closure of the hotel for 8 months. Two days later, in an event never clarified, someone fired 2 shots that hit the hotel office.

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Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a clandestine brewery during the Prohibition era. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In November of that year he was sentenced to 6 months for 3 counts related to the ban and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and a fine. While in prison in February 1924 he requested furlough to care for his lambs, and was granted permission. The costs of the probation officer were charged to Dutch’s account, and when the lambing season ended, he returned to the county jail to serve the rest of the sentence! Borda was a member of the Farmer’s Bank of Gardnerville, the Farm Bureau, and the Eagles Lodge. He had 7 children in total, and died on April 7, 1950.

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.

Elkokoak, an online exhibit about the Basques of Elko

“Elkokoak: The Basques of Elko” is the title of an online exhibit by the Virtual Humanities Center at Great Basin College showcasing archive materials about Basques in northeastern Nevada. The exhibit is timed to coincide with both  the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival “Innovation by Culture” tribute to Basque-Americans and the 2016 Elko National Basque Festival. Check out the exhibit here.

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It includes Elko Basque Stories, the oral histories of the Basque residents of Elko; Elko Basque Articles, a sampling of Basque-themed articles from the Northeastern Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, published by the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko; a link to the Great Basin Basque Dancers; Intertwined, a wonderful series of articles by Vince J. Juaristi (highly recommended if you haven’t already read them); a link to the 2016 National Basque Festival; and other Basque resources.

This is yet another inspired initiative to preserve Basque heritage in the United States and we at the Center encourage you all to take some time out and visit this great new online resource.

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Constancia Bengoechea and the only house in the US whose address was written out in Basque on the front door (probably)

This week’s story from Basques in the United States, adapted from volume 1, is about the only house in the US (probably) whose address was written out in Basque on the front door… and yet another remarkable Basque women who lived there: Constancia Bengoechea (also spelled Bengochea).

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A photo of Constancia taken on her wedding day in 1916.

Born in 1895 in Nabarniz, Bizkaia, Constancia married Daniel “Dan” Gabica of Ereño, Biz. (b. 1883) in 1916, before coming to the US in December 1918 with their daughter, Felicia, born that same year. Dan had first come to the US in 1910. She arrived at Rock Creek Ranch near Orovada, Humboldt Co., NV, owned by Dan, in the dead of winter. The temperature was below zero and the ranch house was still not finished, the windows covered with blankets in an attempt to keep out the freezing cold. “Nora etor naz ni, ba?” (Where on earth have I come?) she would say and right then and there Constancia vowed never to go short of money again. But after WWI the armed forces quit buying lamb meat and wool and prices plummeted, with the result that the couple lost all their sheep.

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The Winnemucca Hotel, where Constancia worked for over forty years. Picture by Finetooth, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This setback didn’t deter them, however, and following the births of Raymond (b. 1921), Joe (b. 1923, killed in WWII in 1944), Dan Jr. (b. 1925), and Mary (b. 1927), by the 1930s Dan was one of the most prosperous sheepmen in Northern Nevada, working in Rebel Creek, Humboldt Co. In 1931 he joined the board of directors of Humboldt Co. Farm Center. The couple then moved into the hotel business, running a motel on East Winnemucca Blvd. in Winnemucca. Life for Constancia was work and more work; then, after a few hours of rest, back to more work. Dan died in 1960, and Constancia went on to work at the famous Winnemucca Hotel for over forty years, always with a smile on her face. Felicia also worked alongside her mother for many years in the 60s and 70s.

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“Beŕeun da Oguei, Ekera Binemuḱa Zeraitz”** (Two Hundred Twenty, East Winnemucca Boulevard). Photo by Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe.

Famously, Constancia owned a house on main street in Winnemucca, the only house (probably) in the US that had the address written entirely in Basque, mixing Iparralde and Bizkaian dialects. She died a centenarian in 1995 in Winnemucca (or “Binemuka” as she would say all her life).

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.

**The rendering of the address in Basque is the best we could make out from the photo. If it was spelled any differently, just let us know and we’ll change it accordingly.

Tastemade channel celebrates the picon punch at JTs in Gardnernville

Tastemade channel has celebrated the famous (at least at US West Basque restaurants) picon punch in a new video. The video, posted below, will no doubt surprise some picon aficionados, but the whole video was filmed at the JT in Gardnerville and gives some publicity to a drink that most visitors to US Basque restaurants have tried if they have tried anything at all.

Center featured in KNPB’s Arteffects

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The National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder, Rancho San Rafael, Reno, NV.

Episode 113 of KNPB‘s show Arteffects, which aired on April 29, included a feature on Basque art with the Center’s own Joseba Zulaika speaking about Basque immigration, Nestor Basterretxea’s Monument to the Basque Sheepherder in Reno’s San Rafael Park and Orreaga in the UNR library (be sure to check out the blog tomorrow, Friday, May 6, for a feature on Basterretxea), the history and development of the CBS as well as the arborglyphs or tree carvings made by Basque sheepherders and the importance of art in the Basque Country in general as a key part of its cultural legacy. The show also featured Kelly Reis, Executive Director of the Sparks Museum & Cultural Center, discussing the temporary exhibit titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Basques,” covered in an earlier post.

Check out the show (with the report on Basque art at approx. 19m 30s) here.

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Basque tree carvings.

If you’re interested in Basque art, check out Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray.

See also Speaking Through the Aspens:  Basque Tree Carvings in California and Nevada, by Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe. And check out Joxe’s site dedicated to this fascinating piece of Basque-American social and cultural history here.

From the Backlist: Hollywood and I and Mad City

In a literary world that tends to define Basque literature very much by place–most Basque authors come from the Basque Country, live and work there, and typically center their stories on events in that particular corner of the world–Javi Cillero stands out as a completely distinct voice. His own personal experience of detachment, displacement even, from the Basque Country, and especially that of living for many years in the United States, infuses his work to such an extent that it might almost be more accurate to describe him as an American author; or at least as a keen and informed observer of popular American culture, an outsider whose external gaze tells us a great deal about life on the inside.

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In Hollywood and I and Mad City, two works first first published in Basque and collected here in one volume, we are treated to a sharp, quirky, and eclectic blend of short stories that ooze with Americana and emblematic sites of memory in the American West: from Alcatraz and Chinatown to Virginia City, Pyramid Lake, and the Nevada desert. This is a world of dive bars and Mack trucks, casino lights, bank robbers, private detectives, and mobsters; but also of Basque and Native Americans, sheepherders and cowboys, and even college professors and students.

Check out the following excerpt from the book:

The Silver Legacy hotel-casino tower stood tall and proud in the middle of downtown Reno. There was a giant dome on the back of the building, something like a space station. Inside there was a fake starry sky, and under the sky there was a large mine wheel. Hundreds of lasers started twinkling in that sky, accompanied by music by Tchaikovsky.

Near the huge mine wheel there was a wide open area. There were souvenir shops, restaurants open twenty-four hours a day, and slot machines on either side of something like an avenue. And, unexpectedly, the Silver Legacy bar next to a row of slot machines.

As usual, it was full of people. Waiters were going here and there carrying pints of reds, porters, and lagers. The musicians were taking a break, and the people in the bar’s voices easily drowned out the television’s weak sound.

A Czech girl and the Spanish teacher were sitting in one corner. They were silent, each of them looking at their own glasses of beer. The Czech girl poured a little more for the Spanish teacher. He thanked her with a hand gesture.

Here we are, like two Hitchcock characters. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in that old movie Notorious. “Officer Devlin? I’ve got a job for you.” OK, I know, I know: too many movie references for a single night. What can I do about it? Hollywood made me, to paraphrase Graham Greene. Hollywood’s influence is so big in our education that when two friends get together now they could easily be acting out a scene from a movie. We don’t mean to. It’s our only reference. In fact, it’s wiped out family, school, and church references. Young people only pay attention to the images and roles they adopt from screens. And people who aren’t so young, too. It’s impossible to count all the men who wander around like poor wretches from Woody Allen movies without knowing what they’re doing.

The Spanish teacher had gold-framed glasses. They slipped down his nose as he spoke. He had to put them back in their place with his index finger time and again. The Czech girl took that gesture to be an invitation to say something.

“Thanks for helping me present my project. I didn’t think the university press was going to be so interested in heterodox Basque women.”

“We work with all types of subjects. In fact, we’re about to bring out a book by a Japanese writer about Ozu’s movies. It would be good for you to publish the book in Reno. When it comes down to it, the States is the only place where work like that is done. The editor’s told me the book looks very good; it’s very appropriate. And here I am, ready to lend a hand. You know, Officer Devlin’s hand . . . Hey, why don’t you stay a few more days? You’ll be able to make good use of your stay if you come to the Basque Library.”

A big man who’d come to listen to a country group came up to them to take a chair. He picked it up by its wooden back with confidence, master in his own land. The Spanish teacher looked at him with contempt when he turned away.

“And I’ll show you around. Lake Tahoe, for instance. It’s where they shot The Godfather. You know, Al Pacino: ‘My father taught me a lot of things in this room. He taught me to keep my friends close and my enemies even closer.’ I’ve got my Toyota here in the casino lot.”

“Do you have classes tomorrow?”

“I only teach Spanish classes once a week. Hefty nineteenth-century novels, Galdós and Clarín. I spend most of my time in the casinos. I’m putting together a book about Old West mythology. I don’t think America’s final frontier is the Pacific; it’s the Nevada casinos. It’s here that men and slot machines come face to face. Like in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral . . .”

Anyone interested in contemporary urban Western storytelling, with particular reference to Reno, Northern Nevada, and California, will enjoy this book. This is classic Americana with a Basque twist!

Shop for the book here.

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