Tag: basque books (page 1 of 6)

February 16, 2015: First edition of rare Basque manuscript discovered

Cover of Dotrina christiana (first edition, 1617), by Esteve Materra. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On February 16, 2015 it was announced that a unique first edition of Esteve Materra’s Doctrina Christiana (Christian Doctrine, Bordeaux, 1617) had been discovered in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark. The discovery was made by the Aziti Bihia linguists’ and philologists’ association, a group of doctoral students at the University of the Basque Country whose interests lay predominantly in historical linguistics linked to Basque philology. The young people involved in the find were Borja Ariztimuño, Dorota Krajewska, Urtzi Reguero, Ekaitz Santazilia, Oxel Uribe-Etxeberria, and Eneko Zuloaga.

Flyer to promote the official announcement of the find, February 16, 2015. From the Aziti Bihia website.

Doctrina Christiana was one of the first ever books published in Euskara, the Basque language, and is written in classical Lapurdian. Its author, Esteve Materra (or possibly Materre), was a Franciscan monk and abbot of the La Réole monastery in southwestern France when the book was first published, although by the time it went to a second edition (1623) he had moved to the Franciscan monastery in Toulouse. Although not a native Basque-speaker, Materra spent some time in Sara, Lapurdi, where he had been sent at the height of the Counter Reformation to bolster the rearguard action of the Roman Catholic Church, including in its Inquisition policy. In barely twelve months in the Basque Country he learned Basque, although the very clarity and perfection of the text makes the members of Aziti Bihia suspect that he may have received help in writing it. Masterra himself notes in the prologue to the book that he was aided by Axular. Pedro Axular (1556-1664) was the parish priest of Sara and author of the first great literary text in Basque, Guero (1643). Whatever the case, the book is an important work when it comes to understanding the historical development of written Basque.

The first edition of the work is relatively simple in appearance, as if written for children or young people, in question and answer style; by the second edition, however, an additional section had been added, specifically for seafarers, and the work as a whole was more serious in tone and longer. This is important because originally the Aziti Bihia group had been working on transcribing the second edition of 1623, a copy of which is housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, before stumbling across a reference to the earlier edition in Denmark.

For more information on the text itself (including transcriptions) click here at the Aziti Bihia website.

 

Some Basque Christmas customs from the Center’s books

Last year, we did a post on several end-of-year traditions in Basque culture and with the holiday season just around the corner, we thought it would be nice to share some other Basque Christmas customs as described in a few of the great books we publish.

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First let’s take a look at what Julio Caro Baroja, in his classic work The Basques, has to say about the holiday season in Basque culture, and particularly about traditional customs in the area between northern Gipuzkoa and Navarre:

The Christmas holidays show different characteristics according to the zones. The name Gabon, which is very widespread, seems to be a simple translation of Nochebuena (Christmas Eve). More interesting are the names Eguberriak (new days), which seems to allude to the days surrounding the winter solstice rather than to any Christian notion; xubilaro (season of the log), reported in Lower Navarre; and Olentzaro, typical of the northeast of Gipuzkoa and some towns of the Navarrese Bidasoa, which in another time belonged to the diocese of Baiona. The custom, very widespread through all the west and southern Europe, of putting a great log on the fire on Christmas Eve, a log whose ashes are believed to kill vermin, or that is only partly burned and kept to be put on the fire quickly in a storm, is the reason behind the Lower Navarrese name.

The name of Olentzaro is more enigmatic at first glance, but I believe I have shown that it can be translated as “time of the Os,” alluding to “Les O de Nöel” [a set of nine antiphonies all beginning with “o” —trans.], which were sung in different parts of France and for which the days around Christmas there were called les oleries. However, it is interesting to note that a mythical person bears the same name (which has variations in each place), a charcoal burner with reddish eyes, sometimes brutal and menacing, other times grotesque and drunk, who is said to come down the chimney of peasant homes bearing his sickle, to warm himself at the yule log, and who is represented by a child, a boy, or a rag doll that is traipsed around during the collection that takes place on Christmas Eve. This character appears in the songs as an ambassador, herald of the birth of Christ, but on the other hand is related to those that in different countries of Europe are said to come down to Earth around the winter solstice, completely unattached to any Christian idea.

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In Philippe Veyrin’s The Basques: of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and Their Traditionsmeanwhile, the focus shifts to Iparralde:

The Basques’ poetic repertoire is composed of a great number of lullabies and nursery rhymes, a mere handful of songs for different trades, and countless love songs and satires. Finally, a few songs of religious and moral inspiration seem to be in a less directly popular vein. One interesting category from a folkloric point of view—one that has its own flavor—is that of the aubades or “daybreak songs,” a tradition that has not been entirely lost. This genre is still performed in Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz), Ziburu (Ciboure), and Urruña (Urrugne) during the nights of Christmas and New Year’s Eve; in Larraine (Larrau) in Zuberoa on the last Saturday in January; and in many other villages for Candlemas. The theme is always developed in a similar way. There are a few traditional season’s greetings, such as:

Dios te salbe: ongi ethorri       God save you: welcome.
Gabon Jainkoak digula eta     May God grant us good night and
Urte onean sar gaizela            Grant us a good year.

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Wilhelm von Humboldt, who enjoyed a prolonged stay in the Durango area of Bizkaia, writes in his Selected Basque Writings: The Basques and Announcement of a Publication:

The love for the national customs and entertainment is so strong that only few of the many carpenters, that is, those that work far away, even if as far as twenty or twenty-five miles, fail to return to their place of birth for the sole purpose of dining with their wives, children, and friends on Christmas Eve and to fill the town with music for a part of the night.

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And in Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, avialable free to download here, our very own William Douglass and Joseba Zulaika include a description of coastal traditions in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, at this time of the year:

[The schoolchildren of the village] took with them bread baked on Christmas Eve. They cut a cross into each loaf with a knife. Each child then kissed the cross and recited an “Our Father.” The bread was broken into pieces, which were thrown into the sea, along with oil from the lamps of the hermitage of San Juan. In gratitude, the cofradía [fishermen’s brotherhood or association] sponsored a festival for the children on the feast day of Saint Andrew, at which time each child was given bread and cheese.

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Finally, let’s share some wonderful reminiscences about traditional Basque-American family life at this time of year, as recounted in the late Joan Errea’s evocative My Mama Marie:

In the autumn, when the sheep were trailed down toward the ranch, the herders would come for Thanksgiving, and again for Christmas, for the big feasts that we held. Of course, the fete would go on until early morning and then each sick man came around for a big plate of bahachuri sopa, or garlic soup, which was known to cure hangovers.

Each year at Christmas, every herder was given a present of two pairs of Levis or overalls, two shirts, four pairs of socks (although some never wore socks, preferring to wrap their feet in gunny sacks), two pairs of shoes, and a hand-knit sweater that Mama made during the course of the year.

Don’t forget, our Holiday Sale is still good through Tuesday, December 27 … 35% off book orders … don’t miss out!  Click here for details.

New books for Durangoko Azoka 2016

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Just a quick reminder to all our readers in the Basque Country who may be thinking of attending this year’s Azoka in Durango, the great book and record fair that turns into one huge celebration of Basque culture in general (with just a wee bit of good old-fashioned partying involved as well), this year’s publications by the Center will be at our stand. This is the 51st year of the Azoka, taking place this time round between December 2 and 6. For full details check out the official website: http://durangokoazoka.eus/eu/

New 2016 Releases

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Part of the Center’s Migration Studies Series, Basques in Cuba, edited by William A. Douglass, is an ambitious attempt on the part of a variety of scholars from different disciplines and countries to chart the impact of Basque immigration in Cuba, and the effect of this back in the Basque Country.

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The Basques by Jacques Allières, part of the prestigious Classic Series, is a work originally intended as an introduction to Basque history and culture, with a special focus on the Basque language, for a Francophone public. It is published here for the first time in English and serves as a unique perspective on the Basque Country by the renowned French linguist.

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Multilevel Governance and Regional Empowerment by Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka is a timely addition to the growing scholarship on the multiple layers of government within the European Union. In an age marked by the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, the movement in favor of a similar vote in Catalonia, and the Brexit referendum of 2016, this work reminds us of the importance of understanding such multiple power structures.

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Iban Zaldua’s This Strange and Powerful Language is a must for anyone interested in a general and accessible introduction to Basque-language literature. Zaldua’s easy-to-follow and often humorous prose guides readers through the decisions that writers make to publish in the Basque language, while offering a general introduction to the major literary work in the language.

If you can’t make it to Durango, don’t forget that you can shop for all our books online here: http://basquebooks.myshopify.com/

Eat with Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway (seated left) in 1925 with the persons depicted in the novel The Sun Also Rises. The individuals depicted include Hemingway, Harold Loeb, Lady Duff Twysden; and Hadley Richardson, Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie. Original caption is “Ernest Hemingway with Lady Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Lonnie Schutte and three unidentified people at a cafe in Pamplona, Spain, during the Fiesta of San Fermin in July 1925.” Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, Boston, MA. In Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ernest Hemingway’s classic The Sun Also Rises, a work infused with references to the Basque Country and Basque culture, was first published on October 22, 1926. To celebrate this 90th anniversary, a new book has just been presented that celebrates Hemingway’s well-known love of all things gastronomic. The trilingual Comer con/Eat with/Manger avec Hemingway, by Javier Muñoz, traces Hemingway’s steps as portrayed in the autobiographical The Sun Also Rises. It serves as a tourist guide to the places Hemingway visited and includes 128 recipes of the local cuisine he tasted by 52 chefs from the Basque Country, Aragón, and La Rioja. Check out a brief report on the book presentation (in Spanish) below:

To find out more about the book click here:  http://eatwithhemingway.com/

October 10, 1799: Humboldt’s first visit to the Basque Country

On October 10, 1799 the renowned Prussian philosopher, linguist, and statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) set foot in the Basque Country for the first time. It was the beginning of an association with the Basque people, their land, their culture, and especially their language, which would demarcate much of his later thought on the relationship between language, culture, and identity.

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Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). Lithographic print by Franz Krüger. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Humboldt is a key figure in the academic study of language, in which he was among the first linguists to contend that languages are systems governed by specific rules, and is considered a forerunner of the linguistic relativity hypothesis (namely, that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ worldview). These ideas fitted in with his own thoughts on the nascent discipline of anthropology, which for him could only be understood in comparative terms. What’s more, in his later capacity as an educational administrator, he also devised a holistic concept of education that sought to ground students in both the sciences and the arts through a comprehensive general education: a system that survives to this day in many aspects of Western education.

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In the introduction to Humboldt’s Selected Basque Writings, Iñaki Zabaleta Gorrotxategi describes this first encounter between Humboldt and the Basques:

Humboldt’s first visit to the Basque Country lasted no more than one week: specifically, from October 10–18, 1799. This short stay was part of a longer “Spanish tour” that he took with his entire family, and that lasted more than seven months. It should be borne in mind that, by that time, the fundamental principles of his comparative anthropology had already been formulated, and that this is what led him to give tangible expression to his project by means of an extended trip through southern Europe. Humboldt’s initial plan was to visit Italy, but a variety of circumstances led him to design a new tour that mainly involved travel within Spain. It is important to note that Humboldt’s encounter with the Basques during this first trip was by no means accidental or undertaken as a result of some perceived external obligation. Instead, the visit had been carefully planned and eagerly anticipated by Humboldt. In fact, as part of his meticulous preparations for this trip in Paris, Humboldt developed a specific interest in the Basques, and especially in their language. This interest is reflected in a letter that he wrote to Schiller on April 26, 1799: “At the very least, one can safely say that it is the only country in Europe that has a genuinely original tongue. . . . And the grammar of this language is of supreme interest.” Some six months later, Humboldt set foot in the Basque Country for the first time and, despite the brevity of his visit, the land, and its people and their language, made a deep impression upon him. But the most important impact of his trip was that it led to Humboldt’s appreciation of the link between “human beings” and “human language” (that is, between nations and their respective languages) and to the beginnings of a reorientation of his anthropological research toward linguistic matters. On December 20, 1799, Humboldt wrote to the philologist Friedrich August Wolf from Madrid: “I think that, in the future, I am going to devote my energies even more exclusively to the study of language.”

Humboldt’s Basque experiences are documented in detail in his highly evocative Selected Basque Writings: The Basques and Announcement of a Publication. If you are interested in Basque history and culture, do check out this book. Humboldt’s fine eye for detail, coupled with a lively writing style, makes this work a wonderfully stimulating account of not just Basque culture a s whole, but also many individual Basques, on the cusp of a social transformation into the modern era: it is, arguably, one of the most important documentary accounts of Basques.

New Books! The landscape of Basque literature and the Basque Country’s place in the European Union

The publishing season is heating up and Center is proud to announce the addition of 2 new books to our great line up of titles available!

 

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This Strange and Powerful Language, by Iban Zaldua

$20.00 ISBN 978-1-935709-70-1

“This mysterious language, it is very strange, very powerful,” This is how critic George Steiner responded when asked about the survival of the Basque language. Basque is a language isolate, related to none other. It is therefore understandable that Basque literature is mostly unknown, even though much of it is now available in Spanish and English translations. In This Strange and Powerful Language: Eleven Crucial Decisions a Basque Writer Is Obliged to Face, Basque novelist and essayist Iban Zaldua set himself the task of providing a guide for outsiders to contemporary Basque authors.

His concise and readable guide was winner of the 2015 Euskadi Prize, the highest literary honor in the Basque Country. This Strange and Powerful Language is a non-academic work designed for students, teachers, and the general reader. Steiner argued that, while Basque was mysterious and ancient, it was also unimportant— a minor language incapable of supporting a body of literature. Zaldua shows that the truth is just the opposite. Moreover, by choosing to write in Basque, authors inevitably face intriguing literary and political questions of subject matter, point of view, and audience.

As Basque is an isolated language, related to no other in Europe, it is understandable that Basque writers are completely unknown to most readers. Novelist and essayist Iban Zaldua has set himself the task of providing a guide for outsiders to contemporary Basque literature, much of it now available in Spanish and English translation. This Strange and Powerful Language, winner of the 2015 Euskadi Prize for essay, is a non-academic work designed for students, teachers, and the general reader. The title comes from the abovementioned quotation from critic George Steiner.

Zaldua surveys the field of 20th and 21st century writers in Basque, including such acclaimed authors as Gabriel Aresti, Bernardo Atxaga, and Kirmen Uribe, to show that the opposite is true. Moreover, Zaldua demonstrates that by choosing to write in Basque, these writers inevitably faced other dilemmas of audience, subject matter, and style. His witty and intriguing overview shows that Basque is not, as Uribe once described it: “too old, too small perhaps.”  Instead, Zaldua states that a “language like ours presumes a point of difference, and possessing such a differential quality confers a positional, if minor, fleeting, and postcolonial value at the international fair of contemporary literature.” Basque authors, he shows, have earned their place in contemporary European literature; Zaldua’s guidebook will lead the curious reader to explore new writers.

Novelist and critic Iban Zaldua was born in Donostia-San Sebastian in 1966. His previous fiction titles include: Ipuin euskaldunak (Basque Stories, co-authored with Gerardo Markuleta); Gezurrak, gezurrak , gezurrak (Lies , lies, lies); Traizioak (Betrayals) and La isla de los antropólogos y otros relatos (Island of Anthropologists and Other Stories). In 2006 he won the top honor for Basque authors, the Euskadi Prize, for Etorkizuna: hamabost ipuin ia politiko (The Future: Fifteen Almost Political Stories). He is a regular contributor to newspapers and other media in the Basque Country. He currently lives in Vitoria-Gasteiz and is Professor of Economic History at the University of the Basque Country.

Check out a short review of the work at Buber’s Basque Page here.

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Multilevel Governance and Regional Empowerment: The Basque Country in the European Union

$29.95 ISBN 978-1-935709-71-8

How does being part of Europe affect a region, and how does a region adapt to European integration? With the startling vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union – “Brexit” – these academic questions take on real world implications. Borońska-Hryniewiecka focuses on one of Europe’s most fascinating regions – the Basque Country – and its political, economic, and cultural evolution within the structures of the European Union.

Past scholarship on the politics and economics of the Basque Country has mostly focused on issues such as nationalism, ethnic identity, or the problems of terrorism. Until now, there has been no full-length study of the development of Basque economic or political positions within European power structures. What is the effect of European integration on regions and their interests? Does the multi-level structure of the European Union empower or dis-empower regional actors? How does it affect their goals and strategies? To this end, the book provides a broad conceptualization of the notion of “regional empowerment”, presents and explains its different types, and tests them empirically in the context of Basque involvement in European affairs. The questions are not as much of particular policies and their results, but rather how policies are chosen and implemented. Studying “the Basque road to Brussels” and its real-world results helps our understanding of other fissures in the European Union, and problems of autonomy and self-determination worldwide.

This inter-disciplinary work bridges political, economic, and legal dimensions of regional participation in EU policy. The audience for this book includes both academia and the workplace: scholars and students in political science, as well as lawyers, economists, and policymakers, in the United States and Europe.

Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka (PhD) is a senior research fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs based in Warsaw and a lecturer at the University of Wrocław. Early in her academic career she became intrigued by the Basque Country, seeing it as a prism for understanding questions of ethnicity, autonomy, and political structures. She explored the role of the regions in the EU as a visiting fellow at the University of Deusto in Bilbao (2010), and a Jean Monnet Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence (2012/2013).

SHOP FOR BASQUE BOOKS HERE

July 29, 1940: British government agrees to back Basque independence in event of Spanish support for Hitler

The tumultuous period between the end of the Spanish Civil War in April 1939 and the outbreak of World War II in September that same year marked a critical time in Basque history. Basques exiles who had fled into France and beyond during and after the Spanish Civil War suddenly found themselves once more prey to the advance of Fascism.

Following the fall of Poland in 1939,  Hitler’s forces swept north and westward in the spring of 1940, taking Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and, finally, France, with Paris falling to the Germans on June 14. In the less than a year most of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis. Only the United Kingdom held out.

The charismatic leader of the Basque government-in-exile, Jose Antonio Agirre, had gotten caught up in these events and had been forced underground–ultimately in of all places, Berlin–into an incognito existence as he sought an escape from the Fascist clutches (on this, if you haven’t already done so, check out his riveting memoir Escape via Berlin: Eluding Franco in Hitler’s Europe). In his absence, the Basque government-in-exile was replaced by a Basque National Council, headed by Manuel Irujo and based in London.

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Manuel Irujo, Jose Antonio Agirre, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, London, 1945.

It is during that time, in the interesting period before Agirre’s reappearance in October 1941, that the Basque National Council carried out a series of negotiations, most notably with both the British government and the representatives of Free France (effectively the exiled democratic French government) led by Charles de Gaulle. Most famously, perhaps, these negotiations resulted in the creation of the Gernika Battalion, made up of Basque exiles, which fought with distinction with the French army in defeating the Germans in 1945 (the story of which we covered in a previous post here).

Less well known, certainly, was a fascinating agreement brokered by the Basque National Council in London. Xabier Irujo picks up the story in his Expelled from the Motherland (p. 17):

In less than a month the Basque National Council and the British government had made their first agreement on military collaboration. Robert J. G. Boothby, representing the British government, and Jose Ignacio Lizaso, representing the Basque National Council, signed the first agreement on July 29, 1940, which spelled out that the British government was committed to defending the independence of the Basque Country if the Spanish government went to war on the side of the Axis powers.

Ultimately, and despite plenty of willing on the part of Franco, Spain did not enter the war on the side of Hitler and this agreement was never implemented; yet another example of one of those twists of fate around which history revolves.

If you’re interested in this topic, as well as the abovementioned works, see also War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott, available free to download here; and, for more general background, Modern Basque History, by Cameron Watson, available free to download here.

 

Experts gather to discuss Basque Academic Diaspora

On July 12 the University of the Basque Country held the First Symposium on the Basque Academic Diaspora at its campus in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Quoting the organizers’ own introduction:

This 1st Symposium on the Basque Academic Diaspora is devised as a starting point to lay the foundations  of an international network of academics and researchers, with Basque descent or ties with  the Basque Country, dispersed all over the world. The network aims to stay in tune with the  roots that define their members, foster and consolidate future partnerships for mutual benefit, in terms of knowledge and sense of belonging. It will be the opportunity to identify the research, intellectual and cultural activity  scattered internationally and link  it to its roots in the Basque Country.

The William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies was well represented at the event. Bill Douglass himself gave the keynote lecture, “Configuring an International Scholarly Network of Basque Diaspora Specialists,” and Xabier Irujo spoke about  “Basque Bibliographic Production.”

See full details of the symposium here.

A tale about “Tales from Basques in the United States

Over the past few months we have been featuring selected stories the monumental 2-volume work, Basques in the United States with principal research by Koldo San Sebastián, with the assistance of Argitxu Camus-Etxekopar, Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, Jone Laka, and José Luis Madarieta and more. On the dual occasion of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, celebrating Basque culture in all its forms, and the impending publication of an additional volume of Basques in the United States, we’d like to take some time out to recap some of the amazing stories we’ve come across these past few months.

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As we mentioned at the outset, we always intended for this groundbreaking work to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we wanted 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. In that regard, we’d first and foremost like to thank each and every one of you there who have commented on the posts, either on the blog itself or via our facebook page.

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What’s been really interesting to see, we think, is the extraordinary variety of individual life stories we’ve been able to share; so for every tale of immigrant success, as in the cases of Jean Etchebarren and Santiago Arrillaga, there have been more sobering accounts, as for example in the stories of Txomin Malasechevarria or Domingo Aldecoa. We have been treated to uplifting stories, like that of the woman sheepherder Juanita Mendiola Gabiola, and other tales of resilience and drive, as in those of the women of the Basque boardinghouses. We’ve met Basque moonshiners, bootleggers, and outright scammers; but whatever they put their hand to, Basques certainly earned a reputation for hard work, as recalled in the truly extraordinary case of Antonio Malasechevarria. And if all that were not enough, Basques were even responsible for saving the Paiute cutthroat trout!

So here’s to all those Basques that in their own way contributed to what is the life story of the United States itself. We’re going to be scaling down on the frequency of these posts for a while, just until we can adapt some of the tales from the forthcoming volume 3 of the work. But you can be sure there are plenty more surprises in store from this new batch of anecdotes!

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. We’d encourage you to share your own family stories with us, by clicking here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

Tales from Basques in the United States: The importance of Basque women in the world of boardinghouses

Although the sheepherder is often regarded as the iconic personification of Basque immigrants in the West, it is worth remembering that the Basque boardinghouse–perhaps the quintessential institution serving as the foundation of Basque social networks–would have been nothing without the many women who made the long trip across the Atlantic, sometimes (as we can see below) at a very young age, to work in this key institution and set an example of what hard work, effort, and dedication really meant. As Monique Laxalt recalls of her own grandmother, who ran a Basque boardinghouse in Carson City, NV, in the wonderfully evocative The Deep Blue Memory: “for eighteen hours a day, she cooked, cleaned, and washed.”

Today, then, in our continuing series of stories from Basques in the United States, this time adapted from volume 1, we celebrate two Basque women who forged new lives for themselves in the US by starting out in the tough, and sometimes uncompromising, world of the Basque boardinghouse.

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Anastasia Arriandiaga Gamecho Arteaga.

Anastasia “Ana” Arriandiaga Gamecho Arteaga was born in 1892 in Elantxobe, Bizkaia. She arrived in New York in 1907 and went to Boise where her sister Escolastica (b. ca 1890) lived. Ana was 14 when her parents sent her to Boise to serve as a maid in Benito Arego’s boardinghouse. They had reached an agreement with Arego (b. 1872), who was also from Elantxobe, whereby she would be paid $5 a month to meet the expenses of the trip ($150) that he had covered. The working conditions were harsh and furthermore, as Ana told her sister, she was treated badly. As a result, the girl’s brother-in-law, José or “Joe” Alastra (b. 1871, and who owned the Howell Spring Valley Ranch), met with Arego to try and reach an agreement that would allow Ana to quit the job, but Arego refused and the case ended up in court. The young woman feared that such a scandal would harm her parents, but in the end the court ruled that she should be allowed to leave her work, after the amount owed Arego was paid in full (Idaho Statesman, Nov. 1908). On Dec. 24, 1909 she married Marcelino Aldecoa (born in Natxitua, Ea, Biz. in 1886) in Boise, and they had 5 children: Luis, Fermín, Domingo, Alfonso, and Carmen who were all born in Boise.

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Luciana Celestina Aboitiz Goitia (Lucy Garatea).

Our second story concerns Luciana Celestina “Lucy” Aboitiz Goitia. Born in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, in 1905, she arrived in New York in 1920 and traveled with an uncle, Ignacio Barandica (b. 1892 in Muxika, Biz.), and a cousin, Visitación Arriaga, to Boise, ID. Their reference was another uncle, Francisco Aguirre “Zapatero” (b. 1878 in Segura, Gipuzkoa), who was married to Gabina Goitia (b. 1890, in Lekeitio), her mother’s sister, who managed the Star Hotel in Boise. For a while she worked in her uncle and aunt’s hotel as a maid. She did everything: cleaning, laundry, ironing, as well as taking care of her little cousins. Her work paid for her room and board and the passage.

This was part of a deeply rooted practice in the Basque Country, the so-called morroiak (live-in menial workers). Large families saved themselves having to feed their sons and daughters by sending them to the homes of relatives or neighbors, through the custom of tripa truke (food for work). And this practice was transferred to the US. Sometimes, the sheepherders who lodged in the boardinghouse also asked her to wash and take care of their clothes while they were in the mountains with the sheep. That was the only money earned that she was able to keep for herself. She had only 2 free hours a week, on Sundays. That’s when she would get together with Felisa Gamecho Achabal. Young Basque men invited her to the movies, to dinner at some Chinese restaurant, or to dance at the Anduiza Boardinghouse.

In Feb. 1922, Felisa and Lucy, along with Julia Lizundia (from Mendata, Biz., who later married Cipriano Barroetabeña, b. 1899, from Markina-Xemein, Biz.) and Maria Uberuaga (b. 1883, Lekeitio) participated in a festival organized by the Americanization School of Boise. They danced the jota and the porrulsalda accompanied by Julián Ecenarro (b. 1897, in Abadiño, Biz.) on guitar and Miss Lizundia on the pandero or Basque tambourine (Idaho Statesman, Feb. 19, 1922). One day, one of the young men, Esteban Garatea (b. 1895) from Nabarniz, invited her to the movies and Lucy no longer wanted to date anyone else.

They married Feb. 3, 1923, and for their honeymoon, they went to Nampa, ID in a taxi cab, spending the night at the famous Dewey Hotel. Esteban bought Lucy her wedding gown, shoes, and, what’s more, he had to pay her uncle the expenses of her trip and her room and board for the last 2 and a half years … as if Luciana had done no work! Ultimately, this sort of “buy-out clause” came to an end at some point by ruling of the state courts. The newlyweds settled down in Barber, CA, where Esteban had a job in a sawmill. They had 4 children, and life was good to them. In Aug. 1935, along with other families, they moved to Emmett, ID., but in Nov. that same year Esteban died from a work-related accident.

In 1940, together with Cipri Barroetabeña and Julia Lizundia (with whom she maintained an old friendship), Jon Bilbao (b. 1914, Cayey, Puerto Rico), the subdelegate of the Basque government-in-exile in Idaho and future co-founder of the Basque Studies Program at UNR, and José Villanueva (b. 1895, Greater Bilbao) and his wife María Teresa López (b. 1905, also from Lekeitio), formed the first group of Basque dancers in Idaho, in Emmett. Lucy had danced with the Lekeitio batzoki dance group in her youth and she was a good dantzari (dancer) as she showed whenever she had an opportunity. She lived in Emmett until 1948, when she moved to Burns, OR, after she bought the Plaza Hotel. She ran this ostatu (boardinghouse) there for 17 years, when she sold it to Bernardo and Maite Andueza in 1965 and returned to Boise. In Aug. 2009, she went to live in a residence. In 2010 she was a centenarian, thus becoming the amuma (grandmother) of Idaho. She died Nov. 15 of that year.

If you’re interested in these stories and you haven’t already done so, check out Jeri Echeverria’s delightful Home Away from Home: A History of Basque Boardinghouses. See, too, Robert Laxalt’s classic The Basque Hotel.

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.

 

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