Tag: Basque Americans

July 22, 1860: Birth of Jean Pierre Goytino, founder of California’ko Eskual Herria

On July 22, 1860, Jean Pierre Goytino was born in the village of Ainhoa, Lapurdi. He went on to emigrate to the United States and found the weekly newspaper California’ko Eskual Herria in 1893.

Jean Pierre Goytino (1860-1920)

The son of a border guard, he was sent to seminary, and trained to be a teacher. In the 1880s, he took up public teaching positions in Lapurdi, but ran into trouble with school inspectors over his religious beliefs at a time when there was a growing tension in France between state and Church over the question of religious instruction in education. In the mid-1880s he emigrated to the United States and there, in Los Angeles, began working for a French-language newspaper, Le Progrès, aimed at the important Basque community in the city. He soon saw the need, however, for a Basque-language broadsheet aimed at this same community, following in the wake of the short-lived Escualdun Gaceta, published by LA-based lawyer Martin Biscailuz. The first edition of California’ko Eskual Herria appeared on July 15, 1893  (it was renamed Eskual Herria in 1897) and as well as Los Angeles, it had distributors in San Francisco, San Diego, and Mexico City. At its creation, the Los Angeles Herald wrote: “Mr J.P. Goytino, editor of Le Progrès, has commenced the publication of a paper in the Basque tongue, called Eskual Herria. Those who can red it will undoubtedly find it pungent and interesting, as it is difficult for Mr. Goytino to be otherwise.”

It was published every Saturday and had subscribers throughout the American West, Latin America, and even back in the Basque Country. It ceased publication in 1898 and Goytino died in 1920.

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.

Longest-serving Stanford Provost John Etchemendy stands down

We’d like to take a moment and pay homage to a remarkable Basque-American, John Etchemendy. Yesterday was his last day as the longest-serving provost at Stanford University. Born in Reno, Nevada, he received his B.A. and M.A. at UNR before going on to earn his PhD in philosophy at Stanford. Before he became provost, he taught at both Princeton and Stanford.

Beyond his many achievements, Etchemendy was a supporter of Basque cultural studies at Stanford, and even attended some of the classes himself. Moreover, in 2008 he was instrumental in bringing the then Lehendakari or Basque president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, to Stanford to give a talk on the political situation in the Basque Country.

Etchemendy’s grandfather, Jean (John, but also nicknamed “Manex”) Etchemendy, was born in Arnegi, Lower Navarre, in 1884 and came to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century and married Basque-American Jeanne Trounday in Fresno in 1916. Although he began his new life as a sheepherder, in his grandson’s own words during an interview for Euskalkultura.com, he didn’t take too much to that life because of the solitude.  Instead, he went into the hotel business, buying in as a partner in the Overland Hotel in Garnerville in 1921. It was at the Overland that Jean and Jeanne’s children were raised, including John Etchemendy’s father Leon. Later, Leon would relocate to nearby Reno, where John was born in 1952.

We’re sure he’ll keep busy after this position and wish him luck!

Check out this great article about his legacy, published by Stanford news: http://news.stanford.edu/2017/01/24/provost-john-etchemendy-leaves-remarkable-legacy/

Information about Etchemendy’s Basque heritage was found in Basques in the United States. To learn more about your ancestors, be sure to check it out!

Support NABO through the Amazon Smile Progam


North American Basque Organizations has teamed up with the Amazon Smile program. Through this Amazon.com initiative, you can support NABO every time you shop, at no additional cost. Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase total, making it an easy way to contribute to NABO’s Educational Fund.


NABO Treasurer Marie Petracek has been at the center of this effort, which was recently published on NABO’s Astero News Bulletin (http://www.nabasque.org/astero_a11_43.html). All you have to do is visit https://smile.amazon.com/ and log in with your Amazon ID. Then select Educational Fund of North American Basque Organizations Inc. as your organization.

In NABO’s words: “Every little bit helps, and so we encourage you all to participate and thank you in advance for considering NABO when making future Amazon.com orders. Mila esker!”

Sign up today! 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, the Woman Sheepherder

Welcome to another post about the (sometimes extraordinary) lives of ordinary Basques who came to the United States in search of a new and hopefully better life. These are all stories adapted from our 2-volume work, Basques in the United States, with principal research by Koldo San Sebastián, and with the assistance of Argitxu Camus-Etxekopar, Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, Jone Laka, and José Luis Madarieta and more.

Today we’re going to recall the remarkable life of Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, who we honor as a pioneering woman sheepherder (adapted from vol. 1 of Basques in the United States).


Juanita Mendiola Gabiola. A true pioneer.

Born Jun. 24 1901 on the Ziortza-Beitze baserri (farmstead) in Ziortza-Bolibar, Bizkaia, as a child Juanita Mendiola Gabiola went to live on the Karrietorre baserri in Markina. She married Cipriano Barrutia (b. 1891) of the Patrokua baserri in Xemein, Bizkaia–who had first emigrated to the US in 1911–in 1921 and that same year they traveled across the Atlantic to start their new life together. They arrived in Mountain Home, Idaho and she worked alongside her husband, for the Gandiaga Sheep Company, in the desert and the mountains herding sheep and cooking. Although the majority of sheepherders’ wives stayed in town while their menfolk were up in the mountains, Juanita wanted to accompany her partner and husband. Her first month in Idaho she spent on horseback, trailing sheep, and spending nights in a sleeping bag under the stars. Her first home was a sheepherder’s tent, and this lifestyle lasted six years. Indeed, the couple’s successful partnership meant that in 1927 Cipriano was able to launch his own business, the Yuba Sheep Company.

Gus Bundy.

Women were no strangers to life in the sheep camps. Photo by Gus Bundy. Photo from Jon Bilbao Basque Library Archive.

Juanita adjusted well to the new and very different lifestyle in the desert, where she gave birth to their 5 children (although 2 died at birth). Ralph was born in 1929, John in 1931, and Richard or “Dick” in 1935. When the 3 children came of school age, they rented a house in Mountain Home and she stayed in town with them. The couple established a ranch, where they spent summers and a lot of the year with the sheep, and Juanita acquired US citizenship in 1938. When it came to life outside work, she used to visit the Bengoechea Hotel in Mountain Home to socialize with other Basque women. Cipriano died in 1966 and Juanita continued on, active as always, and competing in several contests for seniors. At age 92 she participated in the Third Age Olympic Games in Boise, Idaho and won several races. In 2001 she was still living alone on her ranch, caring for animals, and was very interested in politics and the Church. She died a centenarian on Oct. 1, 2001.

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.

John Huarte: The Bounding Basque from Sunny California

With the little matter of Superbowl 50 just around the corner, and seeking to prove that there really is a Basque history of the world* or “six degrees (or less) of Basque,”** it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a Basque-themed post to coincide with this weekend’s big game. Welcome to the life and times of John Huarte, “that bounding Basque from sunny California,” according to Joe Doyle’s article here.

Huarte was born in 1944 in Anaheim, CA, where his Basque family ran a citrus farm. His father, Joseph, had played some pro baseball in the 1920s, but John gravitated toward the gridiron instead. He played college football for Notre Dame, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and is best remembered for winning the Heisman Trophy in 1964, somewhat against all odds as explained here.

Huarte later turned pro. A second-round draft selection for the New York Jets in 1965, he subsequently moved on to Boston, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Chicago in the NFL, and enjoyed two more years with Memphis in the WFL prior to retiring in 1975. He then began his own highly-successful tile business, Arizona Tile, that specialized in tile, marble, and granite countertops, and became the largest importer of granite in North America.

In 2005, John was deservedly inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.

*Just in case some you don’t know, I’m referring here to Mark Kurlansky’s great The Basque History of the World (see here).

**The six degrees of separation (or Kevin Bacon) theory.

A Visit to Basque Summit


Basque Summit shows many signs of recent use, but not much information about its past.


Approaching Basque Summit along Topia Creek at the end of a long Nevada summer day.

When I am not being a Basque books editor, one of my favorite activities is exploring little known and out-of-the-way places in the great state of Nevada that we call home. On one of these recent trips, to the Desatoya Mountains west of Fallon in central Nevada, I was browsing the Nevada Gazetteer when I stumbled across a familiar place name: Basque Summit. Curiosity being what it is, I decided that we had to visit this place. We set up our camp in a little meadow well below the summit and walked up the road toward the summit in the growing shadows of an early summer Nevada evening, surrounded by sagebrush and juniper covered peaks away. The road we were on had once followed the Pony Express Trail as it made its way across almost innumerable Nevada mountain ranges arranged running north and south like an armada amassing to sail north to the pole.

We arrived at the summit at sunset, surrounded by juniper-covered hills and with a stock pen and loading chute. A typical Nevada place, more inclined toward production than toward tourism. I wondered why it had been called Basque Summit. Due to sheepherders, certainly, but why the generic Basque, instead of the name of someone specific? Was this the only place where Basques congregated in these mountains? Was it the only place where sheep were allowed? Was the name a sign of conflict, or of peaceful relations between neighbors? Or something else altogether?

When I returned to the office I tried to learn something more about this place, but, again like so many places in Nevada and the West in general, its name refused to give up much about its history and so much is left to the imagination. The only information of any kind I could find was in Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe’s Speaking through the Aspens where he writes:

The headwaters of Edwards Creek and Topia Canyon in the Desatoya Range are known as “Basque Summit,” which suggests intense sheepherding activities in the past. Lack of aspens is the chief reason little carved evidence of sheepherders remains. The groves now standing are in poor shape because of canker, drought, or other causes, taking a severe toll on the arborglyphs. In both mountain ranges [referencing the Desatoyas and the neighboring Clan Alpine Mountains] most dates begin in the 1920s and multiply in the following decade.

Not much information to go on, but he does also write, very interestingly,

Traversing Basque Summit from north to south, a side jeep road takes you to Billy Canyon. Here the trees are hemmed in by mountains and have survived the wind, which explains the older carved dates. One of the oldest carvings anywhere is here, dated 1872, but it is not totally clear.

So, while I may not have learned much about Basque Summit, I have found more fodder for further explorations!

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Yolande Betbeze Fox

The outspoken beauty queen, Yolande “Bebe” Betbeze Fox: Born into a Basque family in 1928 in Mobile, Alabama, she was crowned Miss America in 1951, although she had trained as an opera singer.


Yolande Betbeze Fox. World Telegram photo by Dick DeMarsico, via Wikimedia Commons

“Right after her victory, though,” as Sally Pearsall Ericosn writes in a fascinating article, “Fox was informed by representatives of sponsor Catalina Swimwear that she was expected to wear Catalina bathing suits during her appearances around the country. She refused. ‘I’m not a model. I’m an opera singer,’ she told them.” And her stance was pivotal in shifting pageant values, to some extent, more toward other personal qualities, such as intellect, more than just beauty alone.

Through the 1950s, “the Basque spitfire,” as she was known, went on to travel the world, making personal appearances, as well as singing opera and studying philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She married movie magnate Matthew Fox, the former president of Universal Pictures, in 1954, and they had one daughter, Yolande “Dolly” Fox Campbell. She later became involved in the civil rights and feminist movements and disassociated herself from the Miss America pageant because of its lack of diversity. After her husband’s death, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she became a prominent society hostess. She was in a relationship with Cherif Guellal, an Algerian businessman and diplomat who had fought in the Algerian independence movement, with whom she led an active social life among the intellectual and social elite of the US capital, until his death in 2009. She has donated most of her pageant memorabilia to the Smithsonian Institution and hopes one day to publish an autobiography of her remarkable life story.

Check out another article on Yolande Betbeze Fox by Rachel Sinclair here.