Tag: history (page 2 of 6)

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.

February 22, 1926: The Urola Railroad Inaugurated

On February 22, 1926, the Urola railroad, linking the towns of Zumarraga and Zumaia in Gipuzkoa, was inaugurated by the Spanish king, Alfonso XIII. It was the first electrified railroad in the Spanish state and operated until 1986, closing definitively in 1988.

It was originally envisaged as both a passenger and freight line, connecting key towns in the nascent industrial and demographic growth of this river valley in Gipuzkoa. Starting at Zumarraga, a station on the main Madrid-Irun line, this narrow-gauge railroad followed the Urola River, stopping at towns like Azkoitia and Azpeitia, as well as important destinations for many visitors like Loiola (the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loiola and home to the Sanctuary bearing his name) and the Zestoa spa, before finishing at the port town of Zumaia.

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Zumaia station. The terminus for the old Urola railroad line.

In its early years it was transporting just under 400,000 people annually, and during its most successful period in the 1950s and 1960s, 800,000 people used the line annually (with a record number of just under a million in 1962). As regards freight, it transported around 55,000 metric tons annually until the mid-1950s, when freight services began to decline in part due to improved road connections (by the end of its lifetime the Urola line was only transporting 2,000 metric tons annually).

In the 1980s, a Basque government report stated that, without significant investment, the line would have to be closed (to be replaced by a bus service for passengers).  Despite significant protest, including a 1988 demonstration involving 7,000 people, the line was ultimately closed.

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Steam locomotive “Portugal” E205 with railroad cars on the line between the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia and Lasao. Photo by Nils Öberg, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today, however, the Urola railroad is enjoying a new lease of life, at least in part, through the auspices of the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia. Here, as well as visiting the impressive collection, enthusiasts old and young alike can enjoy a charming ride to Lasao and back (a 10 km/6 miles round-trip) on an old steam train. Having done this myself last year, I’m still not sure who enjoyed themselves more on that ride, the kids or the drivers!

Check out this short article on the Urola line, part of a wider series of articles about the railroad in Gipuzkoa that also includes an interesting piece here on the Basque Railway Museum.

Modern railroads, and especially the new project for a high-speed train service in the Basque Country and beyond, are central to Nagore Calvo Mendizabal’s argument in her compelling study, Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building.  If you thought that railroads and nation-building were a relic of the past, of nineteenth-century industrialization and growth, think again. Railroads are still a highly political, as well as economic, issue, and impact people’s very group identity, as adeptly demonstrated in this remarkable work.

Prominent American Women of Basque Descent: Jeri Echeverria

Dr. Jeronima “Jeri” Echeverria: Professor and Provost Emerita, California State University, Fresno, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer, California State University System (ret.).

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Jeri Echeverria, inspiring leadership and promoting Basque Studies

Born in 1946, Echeverria grew up on a sheep ranch in Brea Canyon, California, the daughter of Basque immigrants, and earned a BA in history and humanities from the University of California, Irvine, where she also completed a teaching credential. After teaching social studies at the secondary school level for twelve years, she earned her doctorate in history at University of North Texas, with research focusing on Basque-related topics.

In 1988, she joined the Department of History at California State University, Fresno, and later served as Chair of the Department, as Associate Dean of the College of Social Sciences, and as Associate Provost before being appointed Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. As provost, she played a leadership role in strategic and academic planning, expanding graduate and joint doctoral programs, supporting student success initiatives, addressing gender and equity issues and diversity hiring, planning for instructional technology, and developing systems to expand grant and contract activity.

Appointed Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 2009, she participated in the national movement to increase graduation rates in higher education, championed a statewide initiative to improve the experience of students transferring from community colleges to four-year universities and colleges, as well as advocating for the quality of academic programs offered to the largest cumulative student body in the United States, the CSU.

Home Away from Home

She currently offers a Leadership Course to doctoral students in two of California’s doctoral programs for educational leaders.  Her goal is the transformation of education and educators, and she focuses her current efforts in California.  Another of her current commitments is leading Lecole: A Learning Community for Ontological/Phenomenological Education, a group of faculty who are committed to introducing the Leadership Course and its distinctions to higher education. For more information on this, as well as an introductory video featuring Jeri herself, click here.

Among her publications are: Home Away From Home: A History of Basque BoardinghousesPortraits of Basques in the New World (edited with Richard W. Etulain), and  Home Off the Range: Basque Hotels in the American West.

We at the Center are also proud to say that Jeri serves as Vice-Chair of our own Advisory Board.

February 18, 1770: The final voyage of the Oriflama, the Basque ghost ship

On February 18, 1770, the Basque-owned and operated vessel, the Oriflama (the oriflamme or golden flame), set sail from Cádiz, destined ultimately to become the “Basque ghost ship.”

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Diagrams of first and third rate warships, England, 1728. From the 1728 Cyclopaedia, vol. 2, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

William A. Douglass recounts the story in his Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean (pp.  185-86):

      On February 18, 1770, the Oriflama left Cádiz, commanded by José Antonio de Alzaga, with José de Zavalsa serving as master and Manuel de Buenechea as pilot. (All three are Basque surnames.) More than five months later, on July 25, the Oriflama was spotted in the Pacific by the crew of the Gallardo. Its captain, Juan Esteban de Ezpeleta (another Basque surname), knew Alzaga and ordered that a friendly cannon shot be fired in greeting. When there was no reply, a boarding party was sent to investigate. It found that half of the Oriflama’s crew had died of a mysterious plague and the survivors were deathly ill.

Later that day, before the Gallardo could render assistance, the two vessels were separated by bad weather. It was said that as the distressed ship disappeared into the night, it was bathed in a ghostly light. On July 28, some objects from the Oriflama, as well as several bodies, washed ashore on the Chilean coastline. The following spring, Viceroy Amat sent Juan Antonio Bonachea in command of trained divers to search for the shipwreck. They were unsuccessful.

 

Flashback Friday: Red Army

On December 11, 1932, the Basque soccer team Osasuna (Club Atlético Osasuna) won 5-1 away to Athletic Madrid (Club Atlético de Madrid) in the Spanish Second Division, at the former Metropolitan Stadium of Madrid. In this match, Osasuna’s young forward Julian Vergara Medrano (1913-1987) scored all five goals. In 1932, during his debut season, Vergara scored a total of 34 goals for Osasuna. Three years later, in 1935, Vergara led the Basque “red” team (see below) to promotion to the first division. By then, he had established himself as one of the best soccer players at Osasuna. Vergara played for Osasuna until 1939. The professional soccer club Osasuna, based in Iruñea (Navarre), was founded in 1920 by the fusion of two small local teams–the Unión Sportiva and the New Club. Since its inception, the team has traditionally worn red jerseys and therefore this color has always been associated with Osasuna and its supporters.

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Julian Vergara Medrano (1913-1987)


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Two major Center-related events in the Basque Country on December 9

Two major William A. Douglass CBS-related events are scheduled to take place on Wednesday, December 9.

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Mondragon University is a young, vanguard university that emphasizes close partnerships with the working world, typically offering students the opportunity to combine their studies with hands-on experience in the workplace.

First of all, the Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences at Mondragon University will host a conference in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World, by William A. Douglass and Jon Bilbao.

Titled “Basques: Images and Representations,” Bill Douglass will himself be in attendance and take part in an interview by University of the Basque Country professor and former William A. Douglass Visiting Scholar at the CBS, Oscar Alvarez, and by Miel A. Elustondo, author of William A. Douglass: Mr. Basque.

In addition, Center graduate student Amaia Irazoz will present a paper titled  
”La prensa vasco-americana del siglo XIX en California y el sentimiento anti Chino como estrategia para la integracion en la sociedad americana” (The nineteenth-century Basque-American press in California and anti-Chinese sentiment as an integration strategy in American society). And David Rio, University of the Basque Country professor and author of Robert Laxalt, the Voice of the Basques in American Literature, will also take part in the event.

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Logo of the Etxepare Basque Institute, an ambassador for the Basque language and culture abroad, which encourages the international diffusion of Euskara and Basque artists of all disciplines

Later that same day, the Etxepare Basque Institute will graciously host a presentation of new Center publications at its outstanding new location, Tabakalera, in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Here, Koldo San Sebastian and Argitxu Camus Etchecopar will present the major new work Basques in the United States, an ambitious and ongoing project that seeks to record, name by name, all those Basques that migrated to the United States.

Bill Douglass will be on hand again (a busy day for Bill!) to talk about his new publication, Basque Explorers in the Pacific Ocean, which seeks to situate Basques front and center of the dramatic and important story of European exploration of the Pacific.

Following on with the theme of the Basque experience beyond the borders of the Basque Country itself, we will also be presenting two fictional works that, in their own way, each playfully reinterpret the Basque history of the American West:  David Romtvedt’s novel Zelestina Urza in Outer Space and Kirmen Uribe’s adventure story for children and young adults, Garmendia and the Black Rider, wonderfully illustrated by Mikel Valverde.

 

 

Flashback Friday: A Young Man’s Fight In An Old Man’s War

On December 4, 1270, Theobald II, King of Navarre, died at the age of thirty-two as a consequence of the plague while he was taking part in a religious military campaign in Tunisia, North Africa. In 1238, he was born of Theobald I and Marguerite de Bourbon. In 1253, after the death of his father, Theobald II was crowned when he was only fourteen years old. Since he was regarded as too young to govern the kingdom, at first his mother assumed these duties. In November 1253, in the context of Navarre-Castile warfare, the “Young,” as he was nicknamed, swore an oath to preserve all the statutes, rights, and privileges of the entire territory of Navarre and its people. Soon after, Theobald II moved with his mother to Champagne, France, with the aim of gaining  the support of and an alliance with Louis IX against Castile. This alliance was strengthened through the marriage of Theobald II to Isabella, Louis IX’s daughter. As soon as they got the French support, Theobald II returned to the Basque Country to resume his title as King of Navarre.  In 1267, due to his alliance with Louis IX of France, Theobald II swore an oath to fight a holy war against Tunisia. In 1270, a military incursion into this African territory was launched that turned out to be a fatal disaster. After his death, Theobald was embalmed and his body was placed in a sarcophagus inside a mausoleum in the French town of Provins, located in the vicinity of Paris. This was destroyed some centuries later during the French Revolution (1789-1799).

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Portrait of Theobald II

 


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

 

Flashback Friday: The Wheelbarrow Basque

On November 27, 1885, Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte was born in Iruñea, Navarre. In 1900, at the age of fifteen, he emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He first began working as a merchant sailor. Later on, he moved to Uruguay, where he worked and prospered on a hog farm. Then he went southward to Patagonia and worked for an American Oil Company in the province of Santa Cruz. One day in 1935, Guillermo met another Basque immigrant. The two Basques started yelling at each other over a bet that one could walk northward to Buenos Aires with a wheelbarrow. Without thinking twice and while everybody laughed at him, Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte grabbed a wheelbarrow and prepared it with the essential things he needed to survive. Thus began his long journey from Santa Cruz to Buenos Aires.  In reality, he wanted to start traveling through and exploring the Latin American landscape. Since he had no other means of travel, he embarked on this curious adventure with a wheelbarrow. His story soon began to appear in newspapers and people from different corners of the country increasingly followed his footsteps. Furthermore, people supported him on every stage of the journey, especially from the Basque immigrant community. After his great feat, Larregui never claimed his winnings from the bet. Later on, Guillermo made a further three more trips with his wheelbarrow. He came to be known as “the Wheelbarrow Basque” or even “the One Wheel Quixote.” On June 9, 1948, Larregui passed away at the age of seventy-nine in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. 

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Guillermo Isidoro Larregui Ugarte holding his wheelbarrow

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Front page of an Argentinian newspaper La Nacion of May 25, 1936


Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Flashback Friday: The Disciple of Barandiaran

On November 13, 1914, Julio Caro Baroja, the renowned anthropologist of Basque origin, was born in Madrid, Spain. He was the eldest son of Rafael Caro Raggio and Carmen Baroja Nessi. At a very early age, Julio moved to the Navarrese town of Bera, in the Basque Country. There, he would spend hours with his uncle, the famed author Pío Baroja. During his adolescence, he learned about Basque culture when he began reading books in his uncle’s library and this interest led him to undertake ethnographic research in the Basque Country. As a student of the Basque archaeologist and ethnographer Jose Migel Barandiaran, he quickly became drawn to Basque history and culture. In 1941, he had already completed a doctorate in ancient history. From this moment on, his contribution to Basque anthropology and historiography consisted of publishing numerous books and articles, including The Basques (1949) and Vasconiana (1974). Among other things, Baroja, who was considered a nonconformist scholar, observed Basque society as a synthesis and integration of modernity and tradition. In 1995, Julio Caro Baroja passed away in Bera and was buried in the local cemetery. Born in the context of World War I and dying in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baroja lived through many of the turbulent events that marked the “short twentieth century,” which also influenced a considerable part of his work on Basque studies.

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From left, Julio Caro Baroja, Joxemiel Barandiaran Aierbe, and Juan Garmendia in Ataun, Gipuzkoa, in the 1970s.

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From left, Eloy Placer, Julio Caro Baroja, William A. Douglass, and Jon Bilbao during the Summer Session Abroad in Uztaritze, Lapurdi, organized by the Basque Studies Program in 1970. Source: Jon Bilbao Basque Library, UNR


For more information and a selection of his works translated into English, check out the book edited and translated by Jesús Azcona, The Selected Essays of Julio Caro Baroja.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

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