Tag: Joan Errea

Join us in celebrating A Man Called Aita

We are so happy to announce the publication of Joan Errea’s A Man Called Aita. These stories, told in rhyming verse, tell an extraordinarily deep, complex, and moving story about being Basque in the U.S. West and what it was like to grow up on a ranch on the frontier. They tell the story of the life of Joan’s father, aita in Basque, Arnaud Paris, who originally came from Iparralde and herded sheep in Wyoming before venturing out on his own to ranch in Central Eastern and Northern Nevada for many years. There is so much to say about this little book, a true gem of Western Americana, much of it ably done so in Pello Salaburu’s masterful introduction.

“This book narrating the story of Marie’s life is captivating, moving, and very attractive in its simplicity. It shows how wonderful the relationship between the father and daughters was, that Arnaud was a warm man, and that they loved each other a lot and were very close. For Joan, her aita was a role model and a point of reference.”

Here, from A Main Called Aita is the title poem, which says much more than I can:

A Man Called Aita

With a brand new dream, a clarinet, and his suitcase in his hand.

The young Basque came to write his name in the history of this land.

Perhaps he was never famous but the world was a better place.

For the Basque who came and brought with him the faith of his proud race.

In the mountains of Wyoming where he first came to herd sheep,

How bitter were his lessons, how lonely was his sleep!

How many times he lay awake and looked up at starry skies,

Unable to see their beauty for the tears that filled his eyes.

How unbearably cold and lonely it must have been at times,

As he sat upon some windswept hill and wrote his songs and rhymes.

For the young man was a poet, a Basque “Bertzolari”;

And in later years he’d sing his songs to my brothers and to me!

With two dogs for companions, he spent six long years there.

He guarded all the lambs and sheep entrusted to his care.

He loved to dance, he loved to sing; to learn was a burning need;

For the greatest pleasure of his life was a good book he could read.

One day in his quest for books he found a copy of the Constitution.

And he quickly learned of the laws and rules that governed this great Nation.

He left Wyoming for Nevada, where his brother found them jobs;

And the two of them together, tended to the woolly “mobs.”

Now times were hard upon the land and wages seldom came.

Herders were sometimes paid in sheep; mostly the old and lame.

It was so, they built their own herds up and ran them on “tramp” ground.

It was hit and run, first come first served, there was no BLM around.

The grass was there and it was free, but the sheepmen fought each other.

It often came to troubled times with brother against brother.

And so it came to pass with them and bitter words were spoken;

Words that could never be recalled, so the partnership was broken.

The love between them still ran deep but forgiveness had been frozen.

They drifted apart and went their ways on the paths that each had chosen.

And each young man in his own way left his mark upon the land.

So my Father came to live his dream with his suitcase in his hand.

He labored well, and built his dream; he married sweet “Marie.”

He was always known as “Aita” by my brothers and by me.

Agur, Joan Errea


Joan Errea with family. From left to right, standing: Pete Paris, Mike Errea, John Paris, Mary Ann Hammond, Martin Iroz, Stephanie Swan, Lianne Iroz, Scott Swan, Lisa Cassinelli, Kelley Paris, Jack Paris, Katie Cassinelli. Seated: John Paris and Joan Errea. From My Mama Marie.

The Center has lost a beloved author and friend in Joan Errea. The Center published My Mama Marie by Joan, a recounting of her life with her mother, Marie, and her father, Arnaud. Read a bit more about the book in this post from our blog from 2015. It will always be a book that is very dear to your Basque Books Editor’s heart and sets a standard for Basque memoirs. Also, Joan was one my favorite authors to work with, and the day I spent with her signing copies of My Mama Marie at the Winnemucca Basque Festival will always be one of my most treasured memories as your Basque Books Editor. She put so much care and love into every one of the books she signed, talking at length with her readers and friends, many of whom related in many different ways to her story. It was such a testament to the power of writing and words to make a difference in people’s lives.

In addition, the celebration in verse of her father’s life A Man Called Aita won second prize in our literary contest and we hope to publish it as well. Its Basque version, Aita deitzen zen gizona, which Joan translated into Basque herself, appeared this past year, introduced by Pello Salaburu.


From Joan’s obituary in the Reno Gazette Journal:

Joan Paris Errea was born July 23, 1934 in Ely, Nevada to Arnaud Paris and Marie Jeanne Goyhenetche Paris. Joan, together with her 4 brothers, were raised in sheep camps and ranches in White Pine and Pershing Counties . She and her two younger brothers attended school in Winnemucca after the private teacher at the ranch passed away. Joan graduated from Humboldt County High School in 1952. In 1955, she met and married Louis Errea from Baigorry, France. Joan was a storyteller, poet and the author of several books.”

Funeral services will be held at Saint Paul’s Catholic Church in Winnemucca on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 1:00 pm.


Goian bego.

A Man Called Aita debuts in the Basque Country


Joan Errea, the author of My Mama Marie is making a major splash in the Basque Country. Her manuscript A Man Called Aita has recently been published as Aita deitzen zen gizona by Pamiela in Basque to widespread acclaim! Good friend of the Center Pello Salaburu has been instrumental in its being published in Basque and has provided the introduction for it. The book was presented in April in Baigorri, in the Basque Country, and Josephine, Joan’s sister, who lives in Erraztu, was able to attend the event!

The book tells the story of Joan’s family and especially her beloved father Arnaud Paris, but also many of the other characters with whom the author grew up in the Nevada countryside. The stories are written in rhyming verse and the books was presented to Pello translated into Basque by the author herself, in the dialect from Nafarroa Beherea, in a story full of emotion and respect for the experiences lived by this family of Basque immigrants.

Pello has written about the genesis of the book’s Basque edition in our 2015 newsletter, which I quote here:

When I read My Mama Marie I was so impressed that on my next trip to Nevada I decided to rent a car and spend a few days in the inhospitable places described in the book. Today there are only mountain lions and rattlesnakes there. Hard to imagine the 18 year old girl with nowhere to go, a suitcase in hand at the Currie train station, after an endless journey that had started in the village of Banka in the Northern Basque Country. Hard to imagine her working at the Currie Hotel or at the Eureka Hotel, or fighting with her mother in the kitchen of their Forest Ranch and tinkering with an old car whose ruins still remain today. The solitude of those places is impressive, first abandoned by the hand of God and now abandoned by the hand of man. But that place was a few decades ago a lively place. My trip to the sites referred to in the pages of his book ended in Winnemucca. There I met Joan Errea, as well as John and Lianne Iroz, Joan’s son-in-law and daughter. I spent a very pleasant time at their home, while Joan, full of energy, showed photos in her computer and talked to me of Louis, from Baigorri, who had passed away some years ago. When I was saying goodbye to her she told me that she had a present for me. And, among other things, she gave me a manuscript with the title A Man Called Aita. I told her I would read it on the plane back home. So I did. The first thing that surprised me was the introduction: it was in English, but also in Basque, in the dialect of Baigorri. Then came the pictures: the family members, cowboys, bears, coyotes, bulls, the ranch, the train, the old car, ants, holidays, Christmas, the adventures of children, etc. All this was in English. In view of the introduction I got in touch with her daughter Lianne and suggested her that she should encourage her mother to put everything in Basque. Lianne answered quickly: my mother and I did so a few years ago. And she sent me the manuscript in Basque. When I read those pages I was astonished. It was a beautiful text, written in a very close and moving style. And, most surprising, it was written in verse.

Here are 2 videos from the Baigorri event and another from the book’s formal presentation in Sara in March, posted on YouTube:




From the Backlist: My Mama Marie


“To soon, the setting sun would give it’s last rays of the day / We’d gather up our fishing gear and head off along our way.” “A Day with Aita” Descending Soldier Creek, Ruby Mountains.


“Those summer days were perfect and the best times I ever had / Were sitting on the creekbank and fishing with my dad.” From My Mama Marie. Soldier Creek in 2013. All photos in this post courtesy of Daniel Montero.

My Mama Marie, written by Joan Errea, tells the captivating story of the author’s mother, Marie Jeanne Paris neé Goyhenetche, who emigrated from the Northern Basque Country to a remote part of Nevada where she succeeded in raising a family and building a life on the frontier.


Then, the train stopped at a dusty little town. A sign on one of the buildings proclaimed that this was Currie, Nevada.” Currie Depot with the decaying Currie Hotel building in the background in 2013.

As Daniel Montero, Publications Editor at the Center, notes in his introduction to the work,  “My Mama Marie is a remarkable story. On the surface it is a fairly simple story written by a grandmother for her grandson about her own mother. However, I believe even more so it is the story of two girls who became two women, and two men who in very different ways influenced to a great degree the girls’ development, and the women’s personalities . . . Though the story is often funny, this tension, this battle of wills [between the two women] . . . serves as a metaphor for the process of immigration and assimilation, of leaving behind the old and embracing the new, all the while holding on dearly to the traditions, language, and ways of life of the Old Country.”



“At the time, Eureka was the hub of the cattle and sheep industry. . . . On Weekends, generally, the boys would come into town from the ranches and sheep camps and there would be gatherings and dances. Many times she found herself still dancing at four in the morning.” The Eureka Hotel, Eureka, Nevada.

The compelling nature of the text itself, its detailed portrait of life in rural Nevada and the landscape that so clearly shapes the people who live there, is captured in this same vivid and engaging introduction, which I quote at some length:

“As we worked through the manuscript, I found myself more and more intrigued by the story, and, by extension, the places where this story played out. So, one weekend as we finished up the book’s editing process, I decided to retrace, as much as I could, the steps of My Mama Marie. The story had grabbed me, and I wanted to experience firsthand the places where it had taken place. So I drove east from Reno on Highway 50, the ‘Loneliest Road in America’.”

“I drove farther east, deeper into Marie’s history, to Currie. Now part of a ranch, I arrived in the late afternoon. The tracks remain, overgrown with desert weeds, the old depot, its windows broken and boarded up with plywood, and the two-story hotel, still retaining something grand despite its advanced decay . . . In my mind, I cleared away the ranch, removed the weeds from the tracks and in their place put a smoking locomotive, and a young girl stepping out, shielding her eyes against the glare and fearing that, after the green and lush Basque Country, she had stepped straight into the Inferno. Where the horse trailers were, I placed the team of horses handled by a young Basque man who, interested in the train’s arrival (surely a big event in the little stop’s day) put down his work and watched a pretty young girl disembark, and who then spoke to her in their shared tongue. A language spoken by very few in the world and jealously guarded and defended.”

“That night I camped at the mouth of Soldier Creek, where the Paris sheep bands had had their summer range . . . I returned to my camp late in the afternoon after wandering along the creek and among the ponds and lakes of the Soldier Creek Basin, following in the footsteps, I imagined at least, of young Joan and Aita, watching the big bands of summer fat sheep dotting the hillside and seeing the white tents of wagons of the big summer camp. The sun was setting and I walked through the shadows from Soldier Mountain and the high country of the Rubies before emerging again into the bright Nevada light. Walking through shadow and light, I thought of how each of the places I had visited had shed a distinct light on the story, making me realize how very special it is. How much struggle had gone into creating a life, and how much was both gained and lost by it. My Mama Marie has the ring of this, of the truth of these places, and the truth of real stories: stories not dressed up with the trapping of myth, but the real stories of people, hard-working people, who instead of seeing only despair and abandonment, chose to forge ahead and to create a life, and in the process to leave their mark on the land. They are, for me, the true testaments of this book, and the reason why it stands out in the memory.”

My Mama Marie will appeal to not just those with a generic interest in Old and New World Basque society and culture, but anyone fascinated by the immigrant experience in general, Western History, and, more specifically, women’s history.