Tag: history (page 1 of 5)

June 4, 1873: Basque rebel priest’s squad of soldiers execute 37 border guards

On June 4, 1873, a squad of volunteer soldiers, under the command of the rebel priest Manuel Santa Cruz Loidi (pictured above), executed 37 border guards on the Endarlatza bridge between Gipuzkoa and Navarre during the Carlist War of 1872-1876. From that moment on the civil and military authorities in Gipuzkoa held annual remembrance services for those executed until the entry of Carlist forces into the province during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, when the service was suspended (despite the fact that during the nineteenth-century war Santa Cruz himself had been condemned to death on account of his sanguinary exploits by the very Carlist forces he purported to support). During that same Carlist War Sant Cruz’s squad carried a black flag with a skull and the inscription “Battle to the Death.”

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos(Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 193.

The Carlist Wars are discussed in Cameron Watson’s Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present, available free to download here.

May 1850: The “French (or Basque) Revolution” in Murphys, California

This week’s Flashback Friday post is a little different, referring to events that took place throughout the month of May 1850 in what was known at the time as “Murphys Camp,” one of the sites of the original California Gold Rush. Today this is Murphys in Calaveras County, CA. In Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World (pp.208-9), William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao recount the story of how, in this settlement at the heart of the Gold Rush, there was what was described at the time as a mini “French” (we should really say Basque) Revolution!

Historic view of Murphys Main Street, from the visitmurphys.com

Douglass and Bilbao observe that Basques from Iparralde formed a sizable part of population of Murphys, and one that was capable of collective action. They quote the German traveler Friedrich Gerstäcker, who visited the camp in May 1850 and reported on what he termed the French Revolution:

An immense number of French, a large part of them Basques, had likewise arrived in Murphys, and a great many French stores sprang up along with those of the Americans. . . . There were also Germans, Spaniards and Englishmen in Murphys, but the French outnumbered them by far, and in any case made up three-fourths of the entire population of this little mining town.

The Basques became incensed when,

a law was passed by the California legislature that a tax of twenty dollars per month would be levied on all foreign gold miners in the mines of California, and in case they did not want to pay that, or were not in a position to pay it, they should leave the mines at once. If, in spite of this, they were thereafter to be found at another mine also engaged in gold mining, this would then be considered a crime against the state and punished as such.

… Especially the French complained and argued profusely; declared the law infamous, and decided not pay a  penny. Among the Germans were some Alsatians who especially agreed with them, and the Basques brought forth rifles and shotguns, declaring that it would be best to place themselves in armed readiness from the very beginning, so as to win the respect of the Americans.

[The tents] surged with Frenchmen, and especially Basques . . . and [there were] mixed outbursts of anger, such as: Wicked!, Help!, Down with the Americans!

A rumor later spread that two Frenchmen and a German had been imprisoned at Sonora over the tax, and an armed mob marched on the camp , only to find out that it was not true. They disbanded, although not before almost hanging the rumormonger, and California’s “French” or “Basque” Revolution came to an end!

 

July 6, 1808: The Baiona Statute and the brief rule of Joseph I

On July 6, 1808, Baiona (Bayonne) in Lapurdi assumed center-stage once more in the dramatic events unfolding in Napoleonic Europe when the Baiona Statute was officially approved, paving the way for Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, to become Joseph I of Spain.

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Joseph Bonarparte, the brief Joseph I of Spain (1808-1813). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This agreement formed part of a wider strategy on the part of Napoleon to control Spain as yet another part of his satellite outposts in his enduring (and almost successful) quest to rule Europe as a whole. For the background context to these events, and the later consequences of Napoleon’s Iberian adventures, see an earlier post we did here.

In 1808 the Spanish Kingdom was officially in an alliance with the French Empire, but following the abdication of Charles IV of Spain and the brief rule of his son Ferdinand VII, Napoleon sought to install his brother on the Spanish throne as the best means of controlling the country.

In order to demonstrate that this was fully compliant with a due legal process, however, Napoleon convened a meeting of Spanish notables in Baiona to draft and approve the constitutional basis for the new regime. The resultant so-called Baiona Statute was duly approved on July 6 and promulgated on July 8. In effect, though, Joseph was a puppet ruler, with most decisions regarding Spain being taken by Napoleon and his military staff.

Joseph I of Spain abdicated after the French loss at the Battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1813. As Philippe Veyrin notes in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and Their Traditions,

in June 1813, the loss of the battle of Vitoria-Gasteiz obliged the French armies to fall back on our frontier. King Joseph was responsible for the defeat. He took refuge in a house in Senpere—Suhastia in the Elbarron (Helbarron) district—where, on July 11, he received the Emperor’s emissary bringing him notification that he had been stripped of his command, which was handed over to Marshal Soult, who turned up the very next day and took over straightaway.

 

Two Basque Saints Remembered This Week

Today, July 7, as I’m sure many of you are aware, is Saint Fermin’s Day, after which the world famous festival in Iruñea-Pamplona, Nafarroa is named. But did you also know that July 4 this year was a holiday in Bizkaia, on the occasion of the feast day of the province’s first saint, Balentin Berriotxoa (also spelled Berrio-Otxoa)? Today we thought we’d take a quick look at the individuals behind these two holidays.

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Saint Balentin Berriotxoa. Image by vinhanonline.com, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Balentin Faustino Berriotxoa Arizti was born in Elorrio, Bizkaia, in 1827. At age 18 he entered the Logroño Seminary but after three years, lacking the necessary funds to continue his studies, he returned home to Elorrio where he worked as a carpenter with his father. Finally, though, in 1851 he was ordained a priest and became a well-known figure in his local area.

His real vocation, however, was to be a missionary and to that end in 1854 he joined the Dominican Order. It is around this time that he is reputed to have said, half in jest, that he would eventually become Bizkaia’s first saint. In 1857, he was sent to Asia to work as a missionary, arriving first in Manila. There he set about studying Vietnamese as his final destination was to be Tonkin, in what is today the northern part of Vietnam.

When he arrived there in 1858, Emperor Tự Đức of Vietnam was sanctioning a particularly bloody persecution of all foreign missionaries, with no quarter offered. This was due to a general suspicion of foreigners that stemmed from previous foreign efforts to depose his father as king. The result was that Berriotxoa often had to carry out his parish duties among the converts in his charge under cover of darkness and away from any official eyes. As timed passed, though, so this was increasingly difficult. The emperor issued a decree to destroy the Christian community in the country and in 1861 Berriotxoa was arrested and, following a trial, he was sentenced to death. On November 1, 1861, he was beheaded. His remains were eventually transferred back to Elorrio, where they are kept in the parish church.

Berriotxoa was beatified in 1905, along with the other so-called Vietnamese Martyrs, and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988, making him the first Bizkaian-born saint. July 4 is an annual holiday in Elorrio in honor of Berriotxoa that is also occasionally observed in Bizkaia as a whole. One can also visit the Balentin Berriotxoa Museum in Elorrio.

Saint Fermin of Amiens, meanwhile, was born in Iruñea-Pamplona (Pompaelo in Latin) c.272, reputedly the son of a pagan Roman of senatorial rank, who converted to Christianity. At age 18 he was sent to Toulouse (Tolosa in Occitan) in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis, where he was ordained. Thereafter, following an initial period preaching the gospel in Nafarroa he was sent to Gaul as a missionary, settling in Amiens, and becoming a bishop at the age of 24. Yet there was still much hostility to Christianity among the Gaulish tribes. As a consequence, Fermin was arrested and because he refused to give up his faith he was beheaded on September 25, 303.

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The decapitation of Saint Fermin, as depicted in the Orreaga-Roncesvalles Church, Nafarroa. Photo by Rowanwindwhistler, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After certain relics of Saint Fermin were brought back to Iruñea-Pamplona in the late 12th century, annual celebrations in his honor gradually took on more importance. Two such festivals are currently held in the city: the famous festival in July of course, and San Fermin Txikito or San Fermin Txiki (Little Saint Fermin) in the Old Quarter of the city, every September 25.  The town of Lesaka in northern Nafarroa also celebrates the July date and Fermin is, likewise, still honored in Amiens as well. Check out this interesting article on the origins of Saint Fermin.

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Gregorio de Ajuria’s Role in Nineteenth-Century Mexican History

Today’s story from our series of snapshot biographies of immigrant Basques in the US is taken from vol. 1 of Basques in the United States. It would be misleading to call this a minor anecdote in the history of Basque immigration in the US; we think this more approximates a significant slice of US and Mexican political and economic history in the nineteenth century, in which our Basque immigrant to the US took a center-stage role.

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Rafaela Cota de Temple, Gregorio de Ajuria, and Jonathan Temple, c. 1855

Born in Bilbao in 1818, Gregorio (Francisco Lorenzo) de Ajuria Arria emigrated first to Mexico in 1838 and then later to California in 1845, living initially in Monterey and later in LA, where he set up as a successful merchant. It was there, too, that he met and married California-born Francisca Borja de Jesus Temple in the City of Angels in 1848. This alone could have served as the basis for our story today, with de Ajuria becoming a key figure in the early development of LA, but we’re going to focus on another side of his own fascinating story.

Francisca was the daughter of Jonathan Temple (1796-1866), the first member of the Temple and Workman families to live in LA and after whom present-day Temple Street in the city is named. He had left his native Reading, MA, sometime in the first half of the 1820s and relocated to Hawaii, which had, in 1819, been opened up to American missionaries and merchants from Massachusetts. Temple’s stay in the Islands as a merchant was brief, however, and in 1827 he moved to California, arriving in San Diego that summer. The following year he became the second American or European (after Joseph Chapman) to settle in LA and opened the pueblo’s first store. Temple’s success in LA was rapid and he became the owner of a significant section of the pueblo that would later become downtown LA and what is now the site of City Hall. He also owned the 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos, encompassing most of Long Beach and surrounding areas, and amassed other significant landholdings. Intriguingly, however, through his contact with de Ajuria, Temple would also lease the national mint of the Republic of Mexico, which he obtained in 1856. The story melds with a larger one of the seemingly annual parade of revolutionary movements and political and military strife that engulfed Mexico in that period; and interestingly for our purposes here, it directly involves Temple’s son-in-law, Gregorio de Ajuria.

Temple and his wife, Rafaela Cota, a Santa Barbara native, had one child, Francisca (b. 1831), who, as noted, married Gregorio, an up-and-coming merchant with many contacts in Mexico, in 1848. While the couple remained in LA, living with the Temples through at least the 1850 census (actually taken in early 1851), the de Ajurias moved to Mexico City and then relocated to NYC and Paris several times over the years. They had five children and de Ajuria’s personal wealth, estimated be $10,000 in the 1860 census, was not insignificant.

Indeed, it was his financial position that brought him into contact with Ignacio Comonfort, a military officer and politician from Puebla, Mexico, who had designs on the presidency of the Republic of Mexico. Comonfort was a military commander in the state of Guerrero in the 1830s who was elected to the Mexican Congress in 1842 and 1846, though both times the body was dissolved by the federal government. After fighting against the US in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), Comonfort was elected as a senator and appointed the customs administrator for Acapulco. In 1854, he joined the Revolution of Ayutla, an attempt by Juan Álvarez to unseat Gen. Antonio de Santa Anna as president of Mexico. Comonfort traveled to SF and then NYC seeking funds for the revolution and had little luck until he landed in the latter and met with de Ajuria.

De Ajuria was not only a friend of Álvarez but his mercantile company had an office in Acapulco when Comonfort was the city’s administrator (incidentally, Jonathan Temple also held significant land interests between Acapulco and Mazatlán, perhaps due to the assistance of his son-in-law). For a loan of 60,000 pesos, which came in the form of cash and weapons, de Ajuria was promised 250,000 pesos in return if the revolution was a success. With the cache of weapons that Comonfort obtained, thanks to de Ajuria, the revolt moved forward and Santa Anna resigned his office in early Aug. 1855. Álvarez then assumed the presidency of Mexico and Comonfort became the Minister of War, though within months Álvarez resigned and Comonfort took his place as the leader of the country.

Upon assuming power, Comonfort issued a manifesto the Mexican nation noting that, among the debts that had been contracted in service to the revolution, the first repayment was to be sent to D. Gregorio de Ajuria, who had provided funds for the revolutionary movement in the South. While it is true that this business had been significantly beneficial to the lender, Comonfort noted, it was important to underscore the fact that, without the assistance he provided, it would have been impossible to sustain the revolution, which was in immediate danger of losing capital. Comonfort, however, went on to state that while he was on principle opposed to leasing the country’s mint, the government lacked the funds to manage it itself, and had succumbed in this case, as in some others, to the law of imperative necessity.

The “imperative necessity” was arranging for Jonathan Temple to assume the lease by a cash payment, said to have been $500,000, an enormous sum for the era, especially from a small-town merchant. There was a precedent, however, because from 1847 on the Mexico City mint had been leased to foreigners. as a result, in addition to the advance payment, de Ajuria (and, perhaps, Temple) made loans of almost $270,000 in 1856 to the government. Temple’s lease of the mint was on a 10- year contract and was managed initially by Alejandro Bellangé, another supporter of the Alvarez-Comonfort coup, and then by José Mendizabal. Ultimately, Comonfort was unseated in yet another revolt in early 1858 and fled to the US (he did, though, return to Mexico as a general in the fight against the French invasion and died in the fall of 1863).

Meanwhile, de Ajuria also became an exile in Paris, where he died in 1864. Although the French Empire in Mexico sought to annul the lease, Temple was able to override this by more loans to the new government. After Jonathan Temple died in the spring 1866, an
extension was signed with his daughter and de Ajuria’s widow, Francisca, as the leaseholder. The Mexican government rescinded the contract a couple of years later, but chronic financial shortages led it to reverse its policy after Francisca Temple de Ajuria came up, in 1871, with a substantial loan of $130,000 to the government. For two decades, the lease stood, presumably on 10-year agreements, but Mexican president Porfirio Diaz finally stepped in and demanded the return of the mint to the government.

In 1892–93, Antonio de Ajuria, Franciscoaand Gregorio’s son and Jonathan Temple’s grandson, acted as the agent on behalf of his mother, then living in Paris, and worked out an indemnity of some $75,000. With this, the mint reverted to Mexican government ownership in Feb. 1893 after almost forty years in the hands of the Ajuria Family. Francisca passed away in Paris in 1893.

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: Basques, Bets, Ball, and a Few Cadillacs, Life in the Fast Lane with Jean “John” Etchebarren

Today’s story in our ongoing series of tales from Basques in the United Statesadapted from volume 2, revolves around the charismatic figure of Jean “John” Etchebarren. Interestingly, he got involved in just about all the activities we would associate Basques with historically in the Western United States: the sheep and hotel industries, some retail interests, banking and insurance, and even gaming. To cap it all, as a young man he was even a champion handball player and a major figure in the lively gambling world that surrounded the sport. So saddle up and welcome to the story of one of the great go-getting Basque-American entrepreneurs and adventurers!

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Jean “John” Etchebarren

Born Mar. 12, 1880 in Baigorri, Lower Navarre, he arrived in New York City on May 3, 1898 and went initially to San Jose, California. Soon after, he moved to Nevada where he worked as a sheepherder. He later opened a hotel in the mining town of Golconda, Humboldt Co. and in Feb. 1910, after selling his hotel there, he took ownership of the Commercial Hotel in Reno. A year later, in partnership with Jack Marymont, he opened a clothing store on Center St., Reno. And in 1915 he rebuilt the largest hotel in town to add a new dining room and bedrooms (Reno Evening Gazette, Jun. 16, 1915).

Etchebarren expanded his business and by 1917 was president of the Stockgrowers & Ranchers Bank of Reno. One of its vice presidents, Martin Pradera, was also a Basque sheepman. A year later, he was president of an insurance company, the Nevada State Life Insurance Co., based in Reno (which he ran until 1924). By 1918 Etchebarren was also an important sheepman in Reno, and a prominent member of the Nevada Woolgrowers’ Association, in which he held various positions. In 1931, in partnership with Felix Turrillas, he rented the Laughton’s in Hot Springs, south of Reno, requesting a gaming license and becoming one of the first hotel casinos in the city (Nevada legalized gaming on Mar. 19, 1931).

 

Laughton Hot Springs

Laughton Hot Springs on the Victory Highway, US 40, 5 miles west of Reno, ca. 1933. From the Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno Library.

Throughout his life, in whatever free time he could muster, he also distinguished himself as an excellent sportsman, especially as a handball player, shooter, and bowler. He also loved cars to the point that Sol Silen used to say that Etchebarren sold his Cadillac every year to buy the latest model. His love of cars (and speed) brought him some trouble with the law for exceeding speed limits, and for the same reason, he suffered several serious accidents as well.

(Enmarcado en negro).

Pilota or Basque handball in the Old Country. From the Jon Bilbao Basque Library archive.

Back in 1907, on the occasion of the opening of the Saval Hotel in Elko, Nevada, Gabino “Guy” Saval (Ispaster, Bizkaia, 1883 – Lovelock, NV, 1940) and Michael Saval organized a pilota (handball) game between Andrés “Andrew” Ripa, champion of California and an employee of the Commercial Hotel in Reno (which Etchebarren would later own), and Etchebarren (then still living in Golconda), the champion of Nevada. The winner would receive $1,000. George Etchart (born in Ospitalepea, Zuberoa), the owner of the Commercial Hotel and Ripa’s boss, reputedly wagered up to $5,000 on the “Californian” winning, but even so, the betting generally went 5-1 in favor of the guy from Baigorri (Nevada State Journal, Nov. 11, 1907).

The game was played to 50 points and Etchebarren gradually proved his superiority in the serve. Still, until the 43rd point, the game was very even but in the end Etchebarren won. That event brought Basques to Elko from Nevada, California, Idaho, and Utah, and was followed by a “grand ball and supper.” According to the local media, a lot of money changed hands that day and “an immense crowd was in attendance” (Nevada State Journal, Nov. 16, 1907). This was not, however, Etchebarren’s only major game. In 1915, another game was played, this time doubles, with Etchebarren partnering John Jauregui against the two best pilotariak (handball players) from San Francisco.

He married Demetria Arburua (b. Etxalar, Nafarroa, ca. 1886), who came to the US in 1905, and they had two sons: John (1908) and Peter (1909).

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.

Professor Irujo Teaches 30th Weekend Workshop at Boise State University

16 04 03 BSU Genocide Holocaust Workshop (4)

Dr. Irujo taught the workshop “Genocide Studies: An Introduction to the Holocaust” at BSU on April 2 and 3, Saturday and Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm. 49 students were enrolled.

This course offered students an introduction to genocide studies and the Holocaust offers an excellent case study. The workshop provided students with a global view of how terror has been generated and how it has been managed with political aims in the twentieth century in Europe and other parts in the world.

Dr. Irujo focused on the study of the theoretical and technical development of tools and strategies to generate and manage terror during the twentieth century, with special attention to the Holocaust. The analysis of the atrocities perpetrated by the German regime from 1933 to 1939 and, after that, in the occupied territories between 1939 and 1945 in the light of international law gave the opportunity to students to discuss and understand concepts such as atrocity, crime, aggression, terror, and genocide.

By the end of this course successful students will be able to demonstrate knowledge on the Holocaust (causes, development, denial, and recognition); discuss the interaction of psychological, sociological, and cultural factors that cause genocide; articulate characteristics unique to the Holocaust in the context of genocide in the 20th century and discuss major historical, legal, and political problems regarding genocide.

March 31, 1937: The Mola Proclamation and the Bombing of Durango and Elorrio

On March 31, 1937, nine months into the Spanish Civil War, General Emilio Mola, the main figure in charge of the northern campaign by the military rebels against the democratically elected government of Spain’s Second Republic, issued the following chilling proclamation:

I have decided to end the war rapidly in the north. The lives and property of those who surrender with their arms and who are not guilty of murder will be respected. But if the surrender is not immediate, I shall raze Bizkaia to its very foundations, beginning with the war industry. I have the means to do so.

That same day, heavy bombers from Fascist Italy’s Legionary Air Force (Aviazione Legionaria) bombed the Bizkaian towns of Durango and Elorrio in relays over a period of five days.

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Plaque in Durango, Bizkaia, in memory of all those who lost their lives as a result of the bombing. Photo by Txo. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Casualty figures, the vast majority of them non-combatants, are disputed, with different figures of between 150 and 350 deaths quoted by different authors, although the official number quoted at yesterday’s commemorations was 336. Churches were also bombed in Durango as part of the operation, resulting in the death of one priest and several nuns. Some images of the town in the aftermath of the bombing can be seen here.

This was arguably the first instance in history of aerial bombing of a civilian population on European soil. And it clearly served as an operational model for the bombing of Gernika, later that same month, on April 26.

See some pictures of an official event of remembrance yesterday in Durango here. And our friends at the Gerediaga Association have produced this moving video in remembrance of the bombing of Durango:

For more on the general context in which these events took place, see Modern Basque History by Cameron Watson, which you can download for free here.  For more detailed studies of the impact of the civil war in the Basque Country, check out War, Justice, Exile, and Everyday Life, 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott and Gernika 1937: The Market Day Massacre by Xabier Irujo.

 

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).

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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.

March 3, 1794: The Lapurdi “communes of infamy” deportation

March 3, 1794, marks the anniversary of the beginning of one of the murkier tales from the French Revolution: on that day, an order was decreed for the internment and deportation (and ultimately death for many) of thousands of Basques in Iparralde by Revolutionary forces, suspicious of their connections with Basques on the other side of the border during the war with Spain at the time.

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“The Last Cart” of the Reign of Terror before the Thermidorian Reaction. Drawing by Denis Auguste Marie-Raffet, French illustrator and lithographer. From Hector Fleischmann, La guillotine en 1793 (Paris: Librairie des Publications Modernes, 1908), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Philippe Veyrin describes the events surrounding the deportation in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre: Their History and their Traditions (p. 239):

In spring 1794, following the desertion of forty-seven young men of Itsasu, all inhabitants, men, women, and children, of the villages near the frontier—Sara, Azkaine, Itsasu, Ezpeleta (Espelette), Ainhoa, and Zuraide, decreed to be “communes of infamy”—were arrested en bloc and deported to Landes and Gers. Several other localities in Lapurdi were also subjected to a partial raid. All in all, several thousand of these unfortunate people were crammed haphazardly into disused churches, badly fed, deprived of all hygiene, and forced to endure sufferings that were often fatal—barely half of them escaped with their lives. When, on September 30, the survivors were allowed to return home, they found that their property had been pillaged or auctioned off; they were able to regain very little of it, and never received compensation. This internment of Basques remains the darkest episode of the Revolution in the southwest of France.

For Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga, in The Transformation of National identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006 (p. 64):

Ultimately, this would be an easy decision for the revolutionary authorities to make, because it served as a good excuse to explain the military failure of the campaign against Spain, punishing the inhabitants of the borderland by accusing them of collaborating with the enemy under the influence of a recalcitrant clergy. Consequently, in simplistic and Manichean fashion, the inhabitants of these communes were accused of being “aristocrats” and counterrevolutionaries.

Moreover, as Cameron Watson observes in Modern Basque History: Eighteenth Century to the Present (p.p. 57-58), free to download here:

Iparralde was viewed by Paris as a weak point in its state-building aspirations, especially given the potential of the rural clergy to foment dissent among the Basque population. The deportees were eventually allowed to return that same fall, but fewer than half those deported survived the involuntary exile. Those who did survive returned to find their property in the hands of French “patriots” (a factor contributing to later emigration from the region).

As Watson goes on to note, a revenge of sorts was carried out two years later: On the night of March 16-17, 1796, Jean-Baptiste Munduteguy, a native of one of the villages involved (Ainhoa) and an architect of the deportation, as well as being involved first-hand more generally in implementing many elements of the Revolutionary Terror in Lapurdi such as execution by guillotine, was murdered in his home in Uztaritze. According to subsequent accounts, “numerous” people appear to have taken part in the murder.

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