Tag: Basque sheepherders (page 1 of 2)

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.

Some Basque-American traditions during the Holiday Season

With the holiday season here, most of you out there will know that this is a time typically embraced by Basque-Americans to have a good old time, Basque-style, with plenty of eating, drinking, dancing, and general bonhomie. One only need check out Astero to get a flavor of all the events going on during the holiday season, but it’s worth recalling that all these Christmas parties, the lunches and dinners, as well as the New Year’s celebrations, are rooted in a long tradition stretching back many years. This custom–which in academic terms we could say was based on a drive to cement community and cultural ties, to keep those bonds strong, and maintain and pass on traditions, often in the face of adverse wider social conditions–has in recent years changed significantly, but I think it’s interesting to consider how and why these gatherings came about.

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For those that could, Christmas was one of the few opportunities for Basque-Americans to let their hair down a little. Picture from the Jon Bilbao Basque Library.

As Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao point out in Amerikanuak (p. 386), such events were in former times typically less public than they are today. In their words, as regards the winter events (p. 388):

These Basque get-togethers all shared the characteristic of being closed ethnic affairs. With the exception of the Boise Sheepherders’ Ball, they were unheralded, inconspicuous events on the local social calendar. They were often held at some distance from the local population centers. None of this is surprising when we consider that the dates coincide with the periods of tension between the Basques and their neighbors … In such a climate, the Basques were not prone to display their ethnic identity publicly. If the Basque hotel and the private picnic or dance served as an ethnic refuge, where the immigrant could enjoy Basque cuisine, conversation, and company, he attempted in his dealings with the wider society to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Even the origins of the famed Sheepherders’ Ball, perhaps the most famous of all Basque winter social events, recall an altercation between different Basque insurance groups in the late 1920s. As John and Mark Bieter note in An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho (p. 100):

Both organizations scheduled Christmas dances for herders in town on the same night. The influential sheepman John Archabal mediated the controversy and convinced the two sides to organize one dance with a lamb auction for charity. Both parties agreed, and the annual Sheepherders’ Ball became a mainstay in Boise and, later, in other southern Idaho towns.

The Sheepherders’ Ball became known as an “apron and overalls” dance, because admission required sheepherder garb or traditional Basque costumes. Sometimes a stand was set up near the door, where any partygoers who arrived inappropriately dressed could buy jeans on the spot. Although it was reserved for Basques and their guests, the Sheepherders’ Ball attracted the attention of the general public. On December 19, 1936, the Boise Capitol News wrote: “Black-eyed sons and daughters of the Pyrenees danced their beloved ‘jota’ with snapping fingers and nimble feet Friday evening at the annual Sheepherders’ Ball held at Danceland, to the music of Benito Arrego’s accordion and pandareen.”

Nowadays, these holiday season get-togethers are more open affairs, with everyone welcome, as noted in our recent post on the Basque Ladies’ Lagunak Christmas Luncheon in Reno. But it’s good to see that this great tradition of holiday season lunches, dinners, and dances continues to bind the Basque-American community together.

Besides these events, there is also a tradition of Basque-American participation in Christmas parades, as Nancy Zubiri writes in her invaluable book, A Travel Guide to Basque America:

On Christmas Eve for several years local Basque Children traveled down the usually snow-lined main street of Gardnerville in  hay-wagons, displaying the Nativity scene, signing gabon kantak (Christmas carols) and playing instruments–an Old Country tradition. Their procession would end at the Overland, where they received gifts and [Elvira] Cenoz served them the traditional hot chocolate. But the custom ended when the number of children dwindled.

Nowadays, the Garnerville Basque Club, Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, usually takes part in the town’s annual festive Parade of Lights.

Christmas was also an occasion for family gatherings of course, as the stories collected in Portraits of Basques in the New World, edited by Richard W. Etulain and Jeronima Echeverria, testify to. For example, Ysidra Juanita “Jay” Arriola Uberuaga Hormaechea, born in Boise in 1908, recalled the holiday season of her youth (pp. 194-95):

We never knew what Christmas was until I was grown up, went to work, and earned some money. I brought in a fresh Christmas tree to our home at 310 Grove, in Boise. It was the first tree that our family ever had. Christmas day for us people was shared big suppers, dancing, and enjoying ourselves, in that way … Maybe, a little package for the kids. That was it … That’s the way it was when I was a girl.

Similarly, and in the Old Country tradition, Marjorie Archabal remembered (p. 91) Christmas Eve meals at which some thirty people gathered, women on one side of the table, men on the other, with the Archabal family patriarch and matriarch at the head. These meals took days to prepare, with the menu consisting of tongue, tripe, and codfish, among many other dishes. Meanwhile, growing up in a Basque home in northeastern Montana in the 1940s and 1950s, Rene Tihista recalled a blend of Basque and American traditions, with turkey making appearance at the family table (p. 121):

When I was a kid all the holiday gatherings with my uncles and cousins were held at our place. Mom raised a huge turkey for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Dad played the accordion and violin and sang Basque songs. Of course wine flowed freely during our get-togethers. I would sit on dad’s knee and sing “Uso Zuria,” a song he taught me about a white dove that travels to Spain. It was the only Basque song I knew, but it must have been a hit because the grown-ups made me sing it over and over.

And no doubt many of you out there, if you are part of a Basque-American family, will be enjoying similar kinds of celebrations this holiday season.

If you do have any stories you’d like to share with us about your own Basque-style holiday celebrations, we’d be pleased to hear from you!

 

 

 

A rumination on Basque animal breeds

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Basque Latxa sheep. Photo by Iñaki LLM, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We received an interesting question recently asking if there were any native Basque breeds of sheep and pigs in the US, and that got us thinking at the Center. It strikes me that, in the great Basque-American narrative of the sheepherders who developed the American West, very little, to my knowledge at least, has ever been written about the animals themselves: in other words, what breeds were favored, and why.

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A red-headed Latxa ram. Photo by Markel Olano, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So I turned first, and most obviously, to Amerikanuak by Bill Douglass and Jon Bilbao, the magnum opus of Basque-Americana. They reveal (p. 219) that, in the  1850s, “the degenerate quality of California sheep strains (the result of years of neglect during and after the secularization of the missions) supported the notion that California was not sheep country.” And although “California sheep were famed for their fecundity,” by the late 1850s, “sheep flocks were improved through importation of Australian stock and merino rams from Europe and the eastern United States. Once the breeds began to improve, it became obvious that in normal years sheep thrived in the California climate.”

It seems, then, that Merino sheep became an important part of the stock in the American West. As regards the Merino breed, though, this is not native to the Basque Country. Merinos most likely originated in North Africa before being introduced into the Iberian Peninsula in the 14th century, thereafter becoming the principal breed of Spain’s central meseta and, in time, being exported throughout Europe and beyond, including to Australia and the Americas.

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Churra ewes and lambs in the Spanish province of Segovia. Photo by Fernando García, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But could that original stock mentioned in Amerikanuak, which had so “degenerated” by the 1850s, have descended from the original Churra/Churro sheep introduced alongside Spanish imperial expansion?  Like the Merino, the Churra were associated with the dry central plains of Iberia, but in regard to the original question, they were and still are also herded in the Cuadrilla de Añana (Añanako kuadrilla in Basque), a district in southwestern Araba. We do know that these sheep were first imported into North America, via the aforementioned colonial expansion, in the 16th century. And that, through trade, they subsequently became an important part of the Navajo economy and culture. By the 20th century, however, Churra sheep felt out of favor–one presumes due to the preference for Merinos–and they all but died out in the US, except for recent efforts on the part of the Navajo to preserve the breed.

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Black-headed Manex sheep in Mendibe/Mendive, Lower Navarre. Photo by Harrieta171, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Otherwise, when it comes to other Basque breeds of sheep, I have been able to find no evidence of a US presence. The traditional sheepherding areas of the Far West, of course, are found in a landscape that lends itself more to Churra or Merino varieties, whereas the classic Basque sheep tend to be more mountain-dwelling breeds accustomed to wet, mild oceanic climates. These classic breeds include the Latxa/Lacha in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country and the Manex/Manech in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, both of which have black-headed and red-headed varieties. A slightly smaller relation of these breeds is the red-headed Sasi/Xaxi sheep (also known as “little” Manex or just “redhead”), which is able to survive in even harsher climes than its more well-known relatives.

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A Basco-béarnaise. Photo by Roland Darré, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If these are the so-called classic Basque breeds, there are others, which for want of a better expression we could term “borderland” breeds. These include the aforementioned Churra, which really originated much farther south than the Basque Country, but also the Basco-béarnaise in Iparralde and its relative, the Karrantza/Carranza breed (also found in black- and red-headed varieties), in Hegoalde.

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The Basque pig. Photo by Eponimm, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to all things porcine, there is a Basque breed par excellence, the Basque pig. In fact, in a previous post, we discussed how this breed had achieved the lofty AOC status in France. In researching for this post, I also came across a great article on the Baztan pig from Navarre, which unfortunately seems to have become extinct through crossbreeding with other varieties. For more detailed information on programs to preserve the Basque pig, download an article by M. Gómez Fernández on the breed here.

It goes without saying that if anyone out there does have more information on whether any Basque stock is being bred in the US, we’d love to hear from you.

And be sure to check out tomorrow’s post, on the Bilbao Mendi Film Festival, which will include among other things some beautiful images from a new documentary charting an attempt to recreate sheep transhumance in the Basque Country.

Note: Be sure to check out, too, the list of Basque breeds and cultivars here at Wikipedia. On a personal note, while my own outlook is admittedly quite ovine, our Basque Books Editor is a bovine enthusiast through and through. Not wanting to recreate the clashes between sheepherders and cattlemen of yesteryear, we coincide in a mutual admiration for goats; and I’d remind him that I did post on the native Basque cow, the Betizu, in a previous post here, as well as on Basque cattlemen here. I’m sure he remembers!

Note: Your Basque Books Editor does remember, of course, but he has spent way too much time on a horse behind a herd of fly ridden, stubborn, and dusty cattle to call himself a bovine “enthusiast”! Goats on the other hand …

 

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!

UNR Arboretum “Tree Talk” Series: Basque Aspen Art of the Sierra Nevada

Have you ever come across mysterious carvings on aspen trees while taking a hike or walk? You might be surprised to learn that these arboglyphs were made by Basque sheepherders during their long and lonely periods grazing sheep in the Sierra Nevada region. They carved their names and images with whatever tools they had at hand, leaving behind their mark on the American West.

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Next Tuesday, October 25, Jean Moore Earl will be giving a talk on the conservation effort she and her husband Phillip embarked upon to document these works of self-expression. They have preserved over 130 carvings through wax-on-muslin rubbings made from the images themselves. Many of the carvings are now lost due to the short life of aspens and fires, but the Earl’s work has helped to not only document this art but also give it meaning by trying to understand the Basque sheepherding world and experience.

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Jean and Phillip Earl are co-authors of Basque Aspen Art of the Sierra Nevada (2011), a beautiful book that reproduces their rubbings alongside a discussion of the carvings. Definitely worth checking out: http://basquebooks.myshopify.com/products/basque-aspen-art-of-the-sierra-nevada

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Photo credits: Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe:

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“Basque Aspen Art of the Sierra Nevada”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7:00 pm

Mackay Science, room 321UNR Campus

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If you’d like to know more about UNR’s Arboretum, visit: https://www.unr.edu/arboretum/news

Emotional Artzai Eguna held in Nafarroa

The 49th Artzai Eguna (Shepherds’ Day) of Nafarroa, was held yesterday, August 28, in Uharte Arakil; a day-long celebration of the shepherding world that includes gastronomic activities such as a cheese-making contest and that culminates in sheepdog trials in which the ability of shepherds and their dogs to herd sheep is tested. It was an emotional occasion in many ways.

The shepherding competition was won by 51-year-old Joxe Mari Ixtilart–who first competed in the event some 39 years ago–from Amaiur and his dog Lagun (the oldest dog in the competition at the age of 10), but the occasion was also marked by an emotional tribute to Ixtilart’s recently deceased mother: María Pilar Elizalde Jaimerena, the first woman to ever compete at these same championships.

There were also tributes for the recently deceased Benigno Mendia from Urdiain, a local man involved in many different cultural activities, including previous editions of the Artzai Eguna; and another award was given to Patxi Uriz from Gares, winner of a 2015 Goya Prize (the Spanish equivalent to the Oscars) for his documentary Hijos de la tierra (Sons of the Earth).

Read a full report on the day in Noticias de Navarra (in Spanish) here.

For more information on the event as a whole, click 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: A mysterious death and a contested will

This week’s story, adapted from vol. 2 of Basques in the United States, takes us to Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1930s and the strange circumstances surrounding the death of Jean “John” Falxa.

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Born in Banka, Lower Navarre, in 1858, Jean Falxa came to the US in 1882. By the turn of the century, he was working as a successful sheepman in Lower Peñasco, NM. Then one day in June 1930, the body of the by now elderly recluse was found at his home, north of Roswell, NM, by Jessie Manel who used to visit the old man on frequent occasions. Given the reclusive nature of old Falxa, rumors obviously began to circulate about his death. Yet according to the local newspaper, the body “when found was lying under a large cottonwood tree near the Falxa home, face down. Officers who investigated the case today said that without question then old man had gone to sleep in the shade under the tree and had failed to awaken.” What’s more, “the officers declared that the theory of murder in connection with this case had no foundation in fact” and “tales of chickens missing from the farm and a general untidy condition indicating a struggle” were denied (Roswell Daily Record, 6/27/1930).

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Falxa certainly left a considerable fortune: $25,000 in cash, bonds, and property, the inheritance of which would ultimately take a long time to resolve. He had two nephews in town: Pierre “Pete” Louissena and Gratian Iriart, and, it would seem, two different wills. In one, dated Jan. 1, 1899, everything was left to his sister, Marie, who still lived in Banka. She was represented by Louissena (who had hired a major law firm). The second will was dated Jan. 1, 1930, and in it, excepting for a small quantity set aside for his family members, everything else was left to Jessie Manel of Rosewell, the woman who had discovered the body. The latter will arrived in the mail while the court was examining the case. It had been witnessed by two Mexican nationals, but they could not be located by the authorities. This led Judge J. Frazier Lake to declare the first covenant valid, while the one presented by Miss Manel was rejected as false.

In the meantime, newspaper reports now acknowledged that, “Falxa had been dead for several days” prior to being found and that “the house showed that it had been ransacked” so that “there were circumstances indicating foul play but nothing was ever done about the matter” (Roswell Daily Record, 2/5/1931). To complicate matters, the final decision over the will also was subject to agreements between France and the US because Jean Falxa was a French citizen when he made the 1899 will, but he had been a US citizen since 1905 and was still so when he died.

The long process was not yet over. In May 1932, the Probate Court of Chaves Co., NM ran advertisements inserted by the administrator Pete Louissena, who had asked to terminate his duties and deliver the estate to the family. In the May 1932 advertisements the county requested the attendance of any person having any alternative claim on the decision on or before July 5 that same year. This date would appear to have passed without any such counter claim being presented.

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.

Tales from Basques in the United States: Isidro Madarieta, some “royal scale” bootlegging, and collective Basque gambling fever

Isidro Madarieta Erquiaga was born on Apr. 4, 1883, in Ispaster, Bizkaia. He arrived in New York City on Mar. 4, 1901 and went to Boise. He started working as a sheepherder and, in partnership with Antonio Ocamica (b. 1887 in Ispaster, d. 1975), became a sheep owner.

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Isidro Madarieta and his wife, Isidora Osa.

In the 1910s he went on to manage a Basque hotel on Main Street, Boise. In Jul. 1916 he was detained, along with Vicente Bilbao and R. B. Howard, accused of bootlegging liquor on a “royal scale.” They were ambushed near Orchard, ID with almost 1900 quarts of whiskey (Idaho Statesman, Sep. 1, 1916). In Dec. 1922 the sheriff searched his hotel and found drinks in the kitchen and bottles of scotch hidden under the snow on the roof of the building. He was very popular in the Basque community.

In the summer of 1917 he bet against Elías Gabica of Nampa in a horse race. Not being sure of victory, he had 2 racehorses brought in from Aguascalientes in Mexico. Madarieta won, due to the fact that, among other things, Gabica, seeing all the money in play, lost his nerve and at the last moment changed the jockey.

This was not the only race. In Oct. of that same year Madarieta was back competing, this time against Tomás Muruaga of Nampa. For the occasion he hired a horse named Little Fanny. Muruaga did the same with a horse by the name of Jupiter. The betting started 90 to 100 for Muruaga but it ended 1000 to 900 in Madarieta’s favor. In the Basque communities of Boise and Nampa there emerged what amounted to collective betting fever, so much so that the locals drained the banks, which were left without any bills, according to the local press.

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There were many Basque women among those who bet, hoping to buy a silk dress. In the end, Little Fanny won. One reporter emphasized that a certain Basque lady with her son in her arms was screaming herself hoarse “Gora Boise!” (Long live Boise!) (Idaho Statesman, Oct. 1917).

In 1930 Isidro was living in Boise (9th St., and before that he lived in Idaho St.). In Boise he married Isidora Osa (born in Ibarrangelua) on Jun. 25, 1910 and they had 5 children: Juana “Susy,” Luis, Regina, Margarita, and Ángel. In 1927 he applied for US citizenship. He died in Boise Jun. 25, 1946.

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.

Reno Exhibit Focuses on Basque arborglyph, reception this Friday, June 10

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Sheepherders took many subjects, including, of course, women who were very scarce in summer pastures!

Basque aspen art, or arborglyphs, are the subject of an exciting new exhibit at Reno’s Ranch San Rafael Regional Park, “Mountain Picassos: Basque Arborglyphs of the Great Basin.” The exhibit is on display from now through August 1, 2016 daily from 8a-6p. Join us Friday June 10, 2016 at 6pm for a reception to meet Jean and Phillip Earl.

“Mountain Picassos” are an array of Basque tree carvings, or “arborglyphs,” which have long been of interest to historians, Basque scholars, foresters, and hikers. These carvings have been extensively documented in Nevada and California with photographs and through cultural asset mapping by, among others, good friend of the Center Joxe Mallea, who has written a classic on the subject Speaking through the Aspens, published by the University of Nevada Press.

For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures, along with names, dates, and sayings, were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century. Jean Earl evolved a unique method of preserving the carvings using canvas and artists’ wax to create rubbings, two-dimensional representations of the carvings that are works of art themselves, eventually assembling over 130 wax-on-muslin rubbings made directly from the carvings. The Earl’s have also published a book on the subject with beautiful prints, Basque Aspen Art of the Sierra Nevada.

Mountain Picassos explores the unexpected intersection of art, culture, and nature. This exhibit comprises 26 of these rubbings—along with text panels, contextual photographs, and streaming video. It provides a rare opportunity to see some of the intimate personal images inscribed by Basque sheepherders in the aspen groves of the Great Basin during the first half of the 20th century.

 

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