A Basque in Boise

Jaialdi puts Boise on the map: Check out today’s article in the New York Times

  • Menéame0

An Ancient Tongue and Paella’s Scent Fill a Boise Celebration of Basque Roots

Visitors danced at the Basque Center during the Jaialdi festival in Boise. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Visitors danced at the Basque Center during the Jaialdi festival in Boise. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

BOISE, Idaho — When the president of the Basques arrived here in Idaho’s capital from Europe late last month, the mayor stepped up to interpret for him into English from Basque, one of the world’s most ancient and difficult languages.

Boise is part of Basque country,” said the mayor, David H. Bieter, in an interview, explaining his role.

Mr. Bieter’s brother, John, a professor of history at Boise State University who was at the time running an academic conference across town about all things Basque — coordinated with the weeklong festival that had drawn the president, Iñigo Urkullu — said he couldn’t agree more.

“If you’re into Basque studies,” he said, “this is Christmas.”

Many Americans might think of Idaho as potato country, so successfully has the agriculture industry branded the place, right down to the license plates. It is also one of the least ethnically diverse states, with more than 93 percent of its population classified as white, according to the census.

But every five years, a wild and often hidden streak in the history and culture steps up to shout, “Ongi Etorri!” (That’s Basque for “Welcome!”)

A Basque street party called Jaialdi takes over downtown Boise, celebrating the roots that were sunk deep by a wave of Basque immigrants who mostly came as shepherds in the early 20th century. The Bieter brothers, (pronounced BEE-ter), the unofficial first family of the local Basque world, dust off their chops in speaking the language. The taps open to a tide of Kalimotxo, a Basque cocktail of red wine and cola. And people eat black beans and paella.

With an estimated 35,000 or more attendees — this year’s was the seventh Jaialdi (Basque for “festival time”) since the first one in 1987 — it is one of the biggest Basque festivals outside Europe.

And in much the same way that a walk down the street in Boston in mid-March can stir an impulse to wear a bit of green, Jaialdi draws in people like Anna Heathman. She and her husband, Dick, who drove here from their home in central Washington, said they felt a little bit Basque coming to Jaialdi, though in ethnic reality they are not.

“They have had to fight for identity,” said Ms. Heathman, 73, a retired massage therapist who was born in what is now Slovakia in Central Europe, which was swallowed up for decades by the former Czechoslovakia.

“Because they have no country, I can feel for them and the need to keep their history together,” she said, sitting on a bench in Basque Square. “My people had to fight too.”

Mr. Heathman, 75, a retired farmer, said he had mainly fallen in love with the food.

A century ago, Basques also came to other corners of the American West, like Bakersfield, Calif., and Elko, Nev. Thousands more went to Argentina and Chile. And in some places, those old roots withered to memory.

What happened to keep the story and heritage alive in Idaho was partly that in a state with a small population — 1.6 million now, and far smaller when the Basque wave broke — the immigrants stood out. Idaho’s Basques also mostly came from one province in Spain, Bizkaia, which created a cohesive web of interconnected families. California’s Basque community, by contrast, is much more heavily from the French side of the border.

Mayor David Bieter greeted visitors to the festival, which is one of the largest Basque festivals outside Europe. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Mayor David Bieter greeted visitors to the festival, which is one of the largest Basque festivals outside Europe. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

But it is also at least partly a family story, in how John and David Bieter’s father, Pat, fell in love with Basque life and pulled his family in with him, starting in the mid-1970s. Pat Bieter married into a Basque family (John and David’s mother, Eloise, was the daughter of Basque immigrants), and in 1974, as a professor of education at Boise State University, he led its first yearlong study-abroad foray to the Basque region in Spain, taking his family with him.

John was 12 that year, and David, now 55, was 14. Franco, who died in 1975, was still actively suppressing Basque traditions and language, which in turn led to an even deeper connection, the brothers said, as the Boise Basques and the Spanish Basques reached out to one another.

The trip became a university tradition and eventually an anchor of its Basque studies program, of which John Bieter, 53, is now associate director.

“It completely transformed our lives,” he said, describing the 1974 trip.

David Bieter, who served in the State Legislature as a Democrat before being elected mayor in 2003, said that after his parents were killed in a car accident in 1999 — Pat was 68 and Eloise 73 — their father’s Basque dream seemed more important than ever to fulfill.

“He saw something that ought to be done, and he was the one crazy enough to do it,” David Bieter said.

At the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, which boasts the onlypreschool Basque-language immersion program outside Europe, Shamilee Ybarguen-Adams was telling her two daughters one afternoon last week about the lonely lives of the immigrant sheepherders, and how once upon a time Idaho had three million sheep that needed tending.

Ms. Ybarguen-Adams, 34, who lives in Boise and is the granddaughter of a Basque herder, said that for her, Jaialdi is partly about picking up where past Idaho Basques left off and making sure the next generation does not forget.

“The second generation tried to get away from it; the third is trying to bring it back,” she said. Her girls, Joanna, 6, and Isabella, 4, will start Basque dance lessons this fall, she said.

Out in the square, Xabier Urruzola Arana, 35, and his wife, Garazi Del Rey Salsamendi, 34, were talking about wine. They had come from their town of 300 people in the Basque region of Spain looking for a market and a distributor for their white wine, Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-LEE-nah), which they started making in the family’s 14th-century farmhouse in 2011. It was their first Boise Jaialdi, they said.

“We’re new, just getting started,” Mr. Arana said. “But this is a good place to network.”

For the original article and to view the slide show, click here.

Event list for Jaialdi 2015

  • Menéame0

Jaialdi 2015 is finally here, along with so many activities and events that it’s hard to keep them all straight. I heard from a few people that they were not sure about all the stuff going on this week, so I spend part of my weekend checking different sources and websites and compiled a list with all the events, dates and times I was able to find, including the NABO Pilota Finals and a series of Basque short films at MING Studios.

To download a PDF of this list to your computer, click here.

For the 2015 NABO Pilota Finals schedule, click here.

For the session of Basque short films presented by 39 Rooms at MING Studios from July 30 to August 1, click here.

Please make sure you check the website for the specific event you want to corroborate the information before you go:

Jaialdi 2015

Cenarrusa Foundation

Boise Basque Museum and Cultural Center

BSU Basque Studies

Preservation Idaho

Gure esku dago


Event list for Jaialdi 2015

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

2015 NABO Pilota Finals



Agirre Center, Columbia University and Gure esku dago organize in Boise a conference on the right to choose

  • Menéame0

GURE ESKU DAGO” (It’s in our hands), a movement in favor of the right to decide in the Basque Country, will be in Boise for Jaialdi and would like to invite you to attend their conference on July 30th at the Grove Hotel. During the event, Boise’s mayor Dave Bieter will present Ibarretxe’s new book, The Basque Experience: constructing Sustainable Human Development. Juan Jose Ibarretxe is the former President of the Basque Country. Ibarretxe (Agirre Center) will be a main speaker, along with Jon Camio (GURE ESKU DAGO), and Dr. Joshua Fisher (Columbia University).

jaildi talk

The event will be hosted by Boise’s Mayor Dave Bieter. Representatives of Pete Cenarrusa Foundation and Xabier Irujo (Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada) will also take part in the conference.

During the first part of this meeting Juan Jose Ibarretxe will present his research on the extraordinary transformation of the Basque Country from the recovery of self-government in the eighties up to now, and specifically in the period 1998/2008, in three relevant but traditionally unrelated fields: economics, social balance and peacemaking.

On Saturday and Sunday, CenturyLink Arena will be hosting a variety of vendors, including one manned by the “GURE ESKU DAGO” organization. Stop by and get to know them better.


The group is a citizens initiative that began on June 8, 2013. Their main goal is to achieve citizen support for the Basques’ right to decide. The movement is all-inclusive, as it extends to everybody its invitation to participate.

The group stands on three basic ideas:

1. The Basque Country is a nation
2. Basques have a right to decide
3. The future is in the hands of the citizens of the Basque Country

Last year’s big activity was the human chain. This year the organized a “patchwork”; a patchwork which was sewn together on the 21st of June into a massive ballot box.

For more information: www.gureeskudago.eus/en.

Beyond the Friendly, Two Idaho Immigration Stories, by Mark Bieter

  • Menéame0

The Basque Soccer Friendly between Athletic de Bilbao and Xolos of Tijuana has come and gone, leaving the city of Boise and its community filled with wonderful memories that will be treasured for years to come. Much has been said about this match, both in the months leading up to the event, and specially during the three magical days since the teams arrived in Boise on Thursday and Friday. However, nobody can take a story and twist it like Boise native Mark Bieter. In his latest article for the Blue Review, he goes beyond the surface and brings us a closer, more personal approach to the teams, their history and their fans.

Beyond the Friendly, Two Idaho Immigration Stories

It’s a professional soccer game in a college football town played in a U.S. stadium by two non-U.S. teams who have never faced each other and might never face each other again. It was practically an impossible dream. For example, one basic requirement was trucking in  85,000 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass to be placed over plastic decking and two layers of tarp to cover the Boise State  field, which is artificial turf colored blue and trademarked so no other university can copy it. When the game is over, all that grass will be rolled up, shipped away and planted in a park.

The original cocktail napkin plan hadn’t anticipated all that. The only idea then was to bring Athletic Bilbao to Boise for a game during Jaialdi, the massive international festival Idaho’s Basque community holds every five years. Athletic is an iconic team, founded in the 1890s in Bilbao, the Basque Country’s largest city. It’s ranked among the top 30 soccer teams in the world. Athletic plays in 53,000-seat San Mamés stadium, which was built in 1913, remodeled a century later, and is now one of the premier soccer venues in Europe. They’ve been champions of La Liga, Spain’s top professional division, eight times, and winners of Spain’s most prestigious cup competition, the Copa del Rey, 23 times, the most of any team besides FC Barcelona

Like it so far? You can read the article in its entirety on the Blue Review website: Beyond the Friendly, Two Idaho Immigration Stories

Mark Bieter is an attorney and writer in Washington, D.C.


Related posts

Last minute update: Watch the Basque Soccer Friendly live or On Demand!

  • Menéame0

Albertsons Stadium

Can’t make it to the game tonight? No problem! We’ll miss you, but you won’t have to miss us.

Watch the BSF live on your phone, computer, or TV + on-demand for a week after the game!

For those unable to make it to the game today in Albertsons Stadium, the Basque Soccer Friendly featuring Athletic Club Bilbao and Club Tijuana  at 7:00pm will be available via live stream for $10! To watch online, visit the Basque Soccer Friendlywebsite, www.basquesoccerfriendly.com and click the button on the homepage that says “live stream”. Following the live broadcast, the ability to watch the archived game on demand will remain available for one week for those unable to watch the game live.

Related posts:

Athletic de Bilbao sticks to its Basque-only policy: An Idaho Statesman article by Michael Lycklama

  • Menéame0

Athletic Bilbao sticks to its Basque-only policy

mlycklama@idahostatesman.com | July 14, 2015

Athletic Bilbao drew an average of 43,454 fans to its matches this season, fourth most in La Liga behind Barcelona (77,632), Real Madrid (73,081) and Atlético Madrid (46,603). MARIELI OVIEDO — Photo courtesy of Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao drew an average of 43,454 fans to its matches this season, fourth most in La Liga behind Barcelona (77,632), Real Madrid (73,081) and Atlético Madrid (46,603). MARIELI OVIEDO — Photo courtesy of Athletic Bilbao

The history of professional soccer teams developing players mirrors its American counterparts. Both originally developed their own players within the organization to fit their system.

Today, highly-paid players from Spain play in the English Premier League, French players suit up in German Bundesliga and Latin American players are scattered throughout top European leagues.

But one club has resisted globalization.

Athletic Bilbao, which takes on on Mexico’s Club Tijuana in the Basque Soccer Friendly at 7 p.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium, remains true to its historic principles, fielding only Basque players.

“There are a lot of fans (of the team) that are not Basque because they like the philosophy,” said Henar Chico, the president of Boise’s Athletic Bilbao fan club. “They see that it’s getting out of hand in teams like Real Madrid. I mean, who is from Spain there?”

The club originally only fielded players from the city of Bilbao. But it has since expanded its home base to include all of the Basque country in Spain and France, a semi-autonomous region with desires to become its own country. Meanwhile, Real Sociedad, its rival, abandoned its Basque-only policy in 1989.

Players are considered Basque if they were born in the Basque country or if the team developed them in its envied youth system. That has produced a bounty of world-class players despite drawing from a region with the population of the San Diego metro area (3 million) that covers a land mass slightly larger than Owyhee County (8,000 square miles).

Chico points to the rising commercialism in sports and the example of the Utah Jazz, originally from New Orleans, playing in Salt Lake City. Athletic’s policy ensures the team on the field mirrors the fans in the stands.

“It gives people a sense that they really belong to you. They’re really from where you’re from,” she said. “When you cheer for them, you’re cheering for people like you.”

But the policy also comes with its detractors, who claim it limits the club’s competitiveness.

The club dominated Spanish competitions in the early 1900s but hit hard times in the 2000s, flirting with relegation to the second division of La Liga, a fate only it, Real Madrid and Barcelona have avoided in league history.

Athletic didn’t field its first black player, Jonas Ramalho, until 2008. And defender Aymeric Laporte, inked to a $55 million release clause this summer to ward off interest from Manchester United, is only the second French-born Basque to suit up for the team in its 117-year history.

Chico says she’d rather watch the team fall into the second division of La Liga than watch it field a foreign player, not that anyone expects change soon.

Joe Lasuen, vice president of the Boise fan club, says the policy speaks for itself in Bilbao’s results.

“To be able to hold their own in upper division of La Liga is amazing,” Lasuen said. “The fact they still can cultivate that kind of talent and remain where they are in La Liga, it says a lot about the team.”

Read the origina article here.

8 Herrialdeak Zuzenean (8HZ) celebrates ten years on the air

  • Menéame0

Bayonne, at the heart of the Diaspora

Affiches 8HZThe 8 Probintziak association will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its radio show, 8 Herrialdeak Zuzenean (8HZ), on June 7, 2015. A live radio broadcast in 4 languages, and interactions with Basques from around the world.

The radio program will begin on Sunday, June 7, 2015 at 8:00 pm (Basque Country time), presented by Benoit Etcheverry, Robert Acheritogaray, and Julie Faxel.

The 8 Probintziak association’s work has been about and with the Basque diaspora since May of 2005. It is composed of a 12-member board of directors, 5 of which are in the northern Basque Country, and the other 7 are active in the Basque diaspora.

The association has been part of several projects and is at the origin of many:

  • Diaspora Bidaian with the the Théatre du Versant
  • Partneship with the platform EuskoSare from 2004 to 2009
  • The project for the International Center for the Basque Diaspora in Ascarat from 2006 to 2009
  • Facebook in Basque in 2008
  • The radio show 8HZ (10 years in June 2015!)
  • Conferences in different Basque Centers (Bordeaux, Paris and Montpellier)
  • Help and support of the start of the Basque Center of Marseille in December of 2014
  • The largest datebase of contacts to date ( approximately 150,000 individuals outside of the Basque Country)

The association 8 Probintziak was created on May 25, 2005, in association with the federation Euskal Irratiak, the only radio program on air in 4 languages, and which is broadcasted in FM radio in the Basque Country, and via the Internet for the Diaspora.

Come to participate with us on this June 7, 2015 when the city of Bayonne will be at the heart of the Diaspora.

For more information, contact Benoit Etcheverry, President of the association 8 Probintziak, at irratia@8probintziak.com.

Association 8 Probintziak

11bis, rue Georges Berges
Tel : +33 (0)635492833
E-mail: benoit@8probintziak.com

The Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture presents: A Night with the Basque Chefs and Basque Wine Tasting and Education

  • Menéame0

A Night with the Basque Chefs

Chef Aitor Elizegi, Chef Josu Ibarra, Chef Beñat Ormaetxea and Sommelier Mikel Garaizabal Pildain will travel to Idaho to prepare a meal you will not soon forget.

A six course dinner with wine pairings will be offered on August 1, 2015 from 6:30 to 11:00pm at the Boise Arid Club. The dinner will include 6 courses and 6 wine pairings.

Pre-paid reservations only; no tickets at the door. Tables of 8 or 10 also available for groups.

Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture.

For information and advance ticket purchase only:
http://anightwithbasquechefs.brownpapertickets.com or call 1-800-838-3006


Basque Wine Tasting and Education

Learn how to smell, taste, pair and buy wines from the Basque Country’s best Sommelier, Mikel Garaizabal Pildain. Enjoy tasting a variety of Basque wines including Txakoli (pronounced cha-co-lee). Txakoli is a clean, naturally effervescent dry white wine. It has an herbaceous and citric quality, making it perfectly refreshing to sip with seafood, cured meats, and hard cheeses.

For information and advance ticket purchase only:
http://basquewinetasting.brownpapertickets.com or call 1-800-838-3006

Wine Tasting

The Basque Soccer Friendly retail shop opens today in Boise, plus the Toyota Car Giveaway

  • Menéame0


Basque Soccer Friendly retail shop opens in downtown Boise

The Basque Soccer Friendly is opening a downtown Headquarters and retail store this Friday, May 29th at 401 S. 8th Street, Boise, ID 83702. Store hours will be 11am to 9pm from Wednesday through Sunday. Basque Soccer Friendly and team merchandise from Athletic Club Bilbao and Club Tijuana including jerseys, t-shirts and scarves will be available for purchase. The Headquarters will also serve as the main meeting place for staff and volunteers working on the event. The Basque Soccer Friendly’s Headquarters is made possible thanks to the support of the Capital City Development Corporation, furniture courtesy of RC Willey Home Furnishings and signage from Signs Now.

Also, the Basque Soccer Friendly will be giving away at halftime a brand new 2015 Toyota Corolla in partnership with the Southern Idaho Toyota Dealers Association. Starting in June, people will be able to enter to win at either Peterson Toyota or Tom Scott Toyota where two winners will be drawn to win a pair of tickets to the game and a chance at winning the new Corolla during halftime of the game. Basque Soccer Friendly attendees will also have a chance to sign up to win the car the day of the game near the entrances to Albertsons Stadium.

About the Basque Soccer Friendly

The Basque Soccer Friendly LLC is a partnership between the Basque Studies Foundation and the Idaho Youth Soccer Association. Together they are working to bring this unique community event to Boise, Idaho and create greater awareness for both organizations. All proceeds from the Basque Soccer Friendly will go the Basque Studies Foundation to support scholarships and Basque Studies programming at Boise State University and soccer scholarships for Idaho youth provided by the Idaho Youth Soccer Association.

Basque Soccer Friendly Sponsors include the Provincial Government of Bizkaia, Southern Idaho Toyota Dealers, the City of Boise, Holland & Hart, KTVB Channel 7, St. Luke’s, McAlvain Group of Companies, Albertsons, Capital City Development Corporation, Carew Co., Cinder Wines, Idaho Power, Payette Brewing Company, Wide Eye Productions and Double R Ranch.

For more information contact: info@basquesoccerfriendly.com

Argia Beristain at 703-309-9437
Website: www.basquesoccerfriendly.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/basquesoccerfriendly
Twitter: @BasqueSoccer
Instagram: basque_soccer_friendly

Related posts:

Boiseko Athletic Club Peña launch party announced for Saturday, May 30

  • Menéame0

LogoBoiseko Athletic Club Peña will hold its official launch party on Saturday, May 30, starting at 1:30 pm MST at the Basque Center (601 W Grove St), during Copa del Rey finals. where Athletic will take on FC Barcelona.

Boiseko Athletic Club Peña is the only fan club established in Idaho, and one of only five officially recognized by Athletic Club de Bilbao in the United States. Boise and its surrounding communities is home to a large concentration of Basques, in particular Basque families from the province of Bizkaia, of which Bilbao is the capital.


Although there are a few Real Sociedad and Eibar followers, most people in Boise’s Basque community come from Bizkaia, so naturally, they root for Athletic de Bilbao. So much so, that Athletic announced they will be wearing their home jerseys during the Basque Soccer Friendly on July 29 in Boise, because this is their home away from home.

The Peña was formed last year by a group of eleven Athletic fans: Henar Chico (President), Joe Lasuen (Vice President), Annie Gavica (Secretary), Mary Lasuen (Treasurer), Argia Beristain, Josu Zubizarreta, Alaina Gavica, Teresa Franzioa, Ryan Boyd, Johnny Boyd, and Martin Bilbao.

Even though the group kicked around the idea of forming a Peña in Boise three or four years ago, it wasn’t until the Basque Soccer Friendly got closer to being a reality that they really decided to push forward and make it happen. They realized it was crucial to show Athletic how much they’re loved, even thousands of miles away.

Athletic belongs to the Basque people, and that’s what we are here in Idaho. So block your calendar and join us at the Basque Center to watch the game and sign up! Additional details can be found at http://boisekoathleticpena.weebly.com/launch-party.html.

For more information contact: boisekoathleticpena@gmail.com

Henar Chico at 208-353-8490
Website: http://boisekoathleticpena.weebly.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BoisekoAthleticClub