Tag: Nevada Basques (page 1 of 2)

Longest-serving Stanford Provost John Etchemendy stands down

We’d like to take a moment and pay homage to a remarkable Basque-American, John Etchemendy. Yesterday was his last day as the longest-serving provost at Stanford University. Born in Reno, Nevada, he received his B.A. and M.A. at UNR before going on to earn his PhD in philosophy at Stanford. Before he became provost, he taught at both Princeton and Stanford.

Beyond his many achievements, Etchemendy was a supporter of Basque cultural studies at Stanford, and even attended some of the classes himself. Moreover, in 2008 he was instrumental in bringing the then Lehendakari or Basque president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, to Stanford to give a talk on the political situation in the Basque Country.

Etchemendy’s grandfather, Jean (John, but also nicknamed “Manex”) Etchemendy, was born in Arnegi, Lower Navarre, in 1884 and came to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century and married Basque-American Jeanne Trounday in Fresno in 1916. Although he began his new life as a sheepherder, in his grandson’s own words during an interview for Euskalkultura.com, he didn’t take too much to that life because of the solitude.  Instead, he went into the hotel business, buying in as a partner in the Overland Hotel in Garnerville in 1921. It was at the Overland that Jean and Jeanne’s children were raised, including John Etchemendy’s father Leon. Later, Leon would relocate to nearby Reno, where John was born in 1952.

We’re sure he’ll keep busy after this position and wish him luck!

Check out this great article about his legacy, published by Stanford news: http://news.stanford.edu/2017/01/24/provost-john-etchemendy-leaves-remarkable-legacy/

Information about Etchemendy’s Basque heritage was found in Basques in the United States. To learn more about your ancestors, be sure to check it out!

The Ariñak Project: Learning about the many sides of Basque culture through music and dance

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The Ariñak Project, co-founded by Mercedes Mendive and Janet Iribarne in Elko, Nevada, is an ambitious attempt to learn about the multiple dimensions of Basque culture, centered on music and dance but also encompassing, for example, the Basque language and traditional Basque sports. According to Mercedes:

This endeavor was developed to teach important elements of music, including pandero (tambourine), accordion, txistu, alboka, txalaparta, singing as well as introducing our kids/members to the Basque language and Basque sports. It’s our goal to incrementally start our participants on a cultural journey that will stay with them for a lifetime.

As part of the project camp days are held on which participants learn the fundamentals of both music and dance from experienced instructors. The ultimate goal is to extend this learning to a more comprehensive understanding of how the instruments, the music, and the dance all form part of a greater whole that is Basque culture in general. For example, the project seeks to teach people the meanings behind popular Basque songs and dances, how and why they may be important in Basque culture more generally.

Check out Mercedes Mendive’s webpage (with contact information) here.

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And Euskal Kultura report on the project here.

This ambitious project mirrors similar efforts in the Basque Country itself that seek to interpret Basque dance as part of a wider cultural framework: first and foremost, and perhaps most obviously, as a cultural form intimately connected to music. As he notes, while doing research for his marvelous book, Alejandro Aldekoa: Master of Pipe and Tabor Dance Music, Sabin Bikandi was himself an accomplished musician who (p.31),

suddenly realized that I had no idea of how to play for the dance, no idea of the repertoire, the repetitions, or the meaning of “following the dancers.” If I was going to write about Aldekoa, a pipe and tabor player and a dance master, I felt I had to learn the job, and the only way was to do just that—to learn to perform.

However (p.33),

the learning process was slow and complicated, and my knowledge is still a long way behind that of the great master, Aldekoa. However, the little that I learned helped me to reinterpret and understand the relationship between choreography and music, and in the end, how music and dance form a single entity. As I have observed, at present, dance and music are taught as separate subjects. Musicians do not learn anything but music, and dancers do basically the same as regards dance. Many dancers are not able to sing what they dance or the rhythm they mark while dancing. This has been a problem during my own learning process, for my musical-analytical approach found no response from the dance teachers. On the other hand, I found that many dancers are afraid of musicians’ knowledge about rhythm analysis and their knowledge of the science of music.

In short, as Bikandi observes in his work, stepping up to the next level, at least attempting to comprehend a true master like Aldekoa, required that kind of commitment to a greater understanding of how music and dance are one and the same thing, and how in this particular case, they are are also central to Basque cultural norms as a whole.

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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!

 

 

 

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!

Arbasoen Ildotik: 6th Grade Students from Baigorri visit Far West to learn about Basque settlement there

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A group of 6th grade students from Baigorri in Lower Navarre are on the trip of a lifetime to the American Far West in a quest to understand what it meant for Basques to uproot and make new lives for themselves across the Atlantic. Titled “Arbasoen ildotik” (On the trail of our ancestors), the expedition is made up of the following students who all attend the Donostei school in Baigorri: Laina Aizpurua, Alaia Arangoits, Maialen Innara, Enaut Gorostiague, Ana Gouffrant, Iñaki Hualde, Morgan Labat, Mathias Lallemand, Leatitia Oronos, Pauline Perez, Céline Séméréna, and Viktoria Toro. Accompanying them are four teachers: Amaia Castorene, Danielle Hirigaray, Xantxo Lekumberry, and Christine Paulerena. During their stay they will visit several locations in California and Nevada, where they will study first-hand the Basque emigrant/immigrant experience in the US.

For more information, see their Facebook page here.

And to get in contact with them send an email to slobasque@aol.com

There is a comprehensive list of Basques who emigrated from Lower Navarre to the United States in the Center’s Basques in the United States, volume 2, Iparralde and Nafarroa, 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.

Basques in the US vol 2

 

 

 

Reno Basque Festival This Weekend

 

The Zazpiak Bat Reno Basque Club will be hzazpiak bat logoosting its 49th–yes 49th!–Basque Festival this weekend.

The festival kicks off on Friday evening, July 15, at 7pm at Louis’ Basque Corner, with the main events taking place on Saturday, July 16 at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno from 10am-10pm. There will be Basque dancing by the local Zazpiak Bat dancers as well as the Irrintzi Dancers from Winnemucca, NV, a bota contest for the kids, rural sports exhibitions, and a txinga (weight carrying) contest that is open to the public. Live music will be provided by Mercedes Mendive, from Elko, NV, at the public dance from 6-9pm.

Food and drink will be available for purchase all day, along with items from various vendors. Everyone is welcomed to join in the fun. For more information check out Zazpiak Bat at Facebook.

 

Governor signs Basque Heritage and Culture Day Proclamation

5332b2937123fc47730b98c462c8bc33Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has officially declared June 29 as the day to celebrate “Basque Heritage and Culture in Nevada.”  As a part of this celebration, local performers and artists will perform Basque traditional dance and songs, representing Nevada at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to be held in Washington, D.C. from June 29 to July 4. See a report on this by the Elko Daily Free Press here.

To mark the event, an Elko native, Vince Juaristi, has written a series of wonderful articles, titled “Intertwined,” which explore the connections between Basque and American culture. If you haven’t already done so, you can read these articles here.

Anyone interested in Basque culture should check out Basque Culture: Anthropological Perspectives, by William A. Douglass and Joseba Zulaika. As well as serving as a great general introduction to Basque culture, this work also includes the personal experiences and reflections of the two renowned authors.  The book is available free to download here.

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: Erramun Borda, the “Dutch” Basque sheepherder, moonshiner, and tree carver

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Ramon “Dutch” Borda sitting and reading a book.

This week in our series of stories adapted from vol. 2 of  Basques in the United States we look at a man who had four names, about the same number of jobs, and, ultimately, seven kids. Welcome to the always lively world of Erramun “Dutch” Borda.

Erramun, aka Raymond, Ramon, or “Dutch” Borda was born Apr. 17, 1894 in Bidarrai, Lower Navarre. His mother, Marikita Etchelhar, had been born in Argentina. Besides Pierre, he had 2 other brothers, Guilen and Batita, who also came to Nevada to herd sheep. Their sister also came to the US. Borda was commonly known as “Dutch” (due to his affiliation with Minden, a German town, according to one source) but he wrote his name on aspen trees 3 different ways: Erramun, Ramon, and Raymond.

He emigrated to the US when he was 19, arriving in New York City and making his way across the country to Reno where his brother Pierre lived (in the Commercial Hotel). He began tending the sheep of his brother-in-law Uhalde, but soon had his own herd. In the next ten years he began many new adventures. He married Gorgonia Martinez from Iruñea-Pamplona and they had 4 children: Mary, Raymond, Helen, and Pete. He bought a ranch in Dayton, NV, and then he bought the East Fork Hotel in Gardnerville, NV from Charles Brown.

Those were the days of Prohibition and most Basque hotel owners in Nevada, more than 97 percent of them, ended up getting involved in Prohibition-related incidents at one time or another with the federal authorities. Some hotels were even shut down and their owners jailed. In April 1920 Raymond was arrested by federal agents when they discovered wort–the liquid extract from the mashing process involved in distilling beer and brandy–at his home. It was the second time that he had been caught breaking the law. He was released on bail and was tried in June of that year. In April 1921 he was arrested yet again for selling liquor to two clients in the hotel kitchen. He was brought before the magistrate who set bail at $500 with the obligation to report to the federal commissioner, Anna Warren, for preview. And on April 23, 1923 a federal judge ordered the closure of the hotel for 8 months. Two days later, in an event never clarified, someone fired 2 shots that hit the hotel office.

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Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a clandestine brewery during the Prohibition era. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In November of that year he was sentenced to 6 months for 3 counts related to the ban and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and a fine. While in prison in February 1924 he requested furlough to care for his lambs, and was granted permission. The costs of the probation officer were charged to Dutch’s account, and when the lambing season ended, he returned to the county jail to serve the rest of the sentence! Borda was a member of the Farmer’s Bank of Gardnerville, the Farm Bureau, and the Eagles Lodge. He had 7 children in total, and died on April 7, 1950.

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: If you ever needed reminding that Basques had a reputation for working hard…

Today’s story in our series of tales from Basques in the United States is adapted from vol. 1 and concerns the amazing feat of record-breaking Antonio Malasechevarria, brother of the more tragic “Txomin” covered in a previous post.

Jan eta lo, potolo (“The Devil makes work for idle hands,” literally: “Just eating and sleeping makes you fat”)

 Lan onak, uzta ona (“Good work, good harvest”)

Gus Bundy.

Long, lonely days on remote mountains were the norm for newly arrived Basque sheepherders. Photo courtesy of Gus Bundy, from the Basque Archive.

Born Apr. 22, 1890 in Gizaburuaga, Bizkaia, he arrived in New York City in 1910 and went straight to Winnemucca, NV, to meet up with his brother, Juan, who was working in Paradise Valley. He became a sheepherder and, after stints in Humboldt Co., NV, he ended up working for Jay H. Dobbins in southern Idaho and Oregon. In 1918 the media reported that he had broken a record that was difficult to match: He had worked a straight 38 months and 5 days or 3 years, 2 months, and 5 days, without taking a single day off! What’s more, he didn’t receive a single penny for any of this mammoth work shift until it was over, and he went into a town only when passing through. In the end, he received a check for $2,018. Antonio was one of the five “Bascos” contracted by Dobbins in the spring of 1915. Another compatriot, José Arriaga, had also worked 2 years straight without rest (Oregonian, Jul. 7, 1918).

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.

Elkokoak, an online exhibit about the Basques of Elko

“Elkokoak: The Basques of Elko” is the title of an online exhibit by the Virtual Humanities Center at Great Basin College showcasing archive materials about Basques in northeastern Nevada. The exhibit is timed to coincide with both  the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival “Innovation by Culture” tribute to Basque-Americans and the 2016 Elko National Basque Festival. Check out the exhibit here.

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It includes Elko Basque Stories, the oral histories of the Basque residents of Elko; Elko Basque Articles, a sampling of Basque-themed articles from the Northeastern Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, published by the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko; a link to the Great Basin Basque Dancers; Intertwined, a wonderful series of articles by Vince J. Juaristi (highly recommended if you haven’t already read them); a link to the 2016 National Basque Festival; and other Basque resources.

This is yet another inspired initiative to preserve Basque heritage in the United States and we at the Center encourage you all to take some time out and visit this great new online resource.

 

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