A Basque in Boise

‘Loretxoa’, Benito Lertxundi’s famous song, flamenco style

Today, thanks to Naiz, I discovered another version of one of my favorite Basque songs, Benito Lertxundi‘s ‘Loretxoa’. This time, Donostia’s flamenco group Sonakay, with Santi, Baldin Bada‘s bass player, performs the song in flamenco style.

I liked it, but I gotta say, my favorite will always be Exkixu’s version, even before I knew who the singer was (Alex Sardui, now with Gatibu).

I’ve gathered below the various versions of ‘Loretxoa’ I could find. What’s your pick?

Benito Lertxundi



Itziar Barredo


Tougher Than The Rest

tougher-than-the-restI thought I understood when my friends would tell me about their love stories gone wrong. I thought I could relate to their broken hearts because after all, I divorced the man I thought would grow older with me. But the years were not kind to our relationship and we parted ways. It felt different, though. I truly believe we both tried our best, in our own ways, but it wasn’t enough. At least we tried. He’s happy now, and I am happy for him.

Attempting to explain a broken heart to somebody who’s never experienced it is like trying to tell them how they’ll feel after having children. It’s impossible. Hard as you might try, it is one of those things you can only truly understand after the fact. When there is no going back.

No matter how many breakup stories you’ve heard, how many articles you’ve read, nothing prepares you for the pain and void you feel when the person you love decides to pull the plug. They say it feels like a punch to the stomach. It does. Like your heart is being ripped apart by the invisible claws of a nasty beast. That’s right. Like you’re suddenly tossed into an abyss with nothing to hold on to. Yep. And you’re left to deal with all this sadness, anger, impotence and disbelief, all by yourself. You cry, you write, you confide in your friends over and over and over again, in an effort to get him out of your system, to no avail.

They say time will heal you, and I’m sure it’s true, but when you’re as impatient as I am, that’s not much of a consolation. I don’t like waiting for things. I like to plan, I work better when I know what’s happening when. Having goals and deadlines, something to look forward to, helps me function. I have none of that now. Only would be plans that need to be cancelled, hopes that will never materialize, and a bunch of promises that will never be fulfilled. It’d be easier to forget if I knew they were not forever written on those once loving Messenger chats.

I’m not stupid, though. I know when to be practical and look at reality in the face. I know when to draw the line between trying and becoming a pathetic version of myself. Ok, fine. Maybe I did make a fool of myself there at the end. Nobody is perfect. Maybe I needed to fall that low to understand he is definitely gone. Sometimes I want to regret behaving the way I did, sending messages and calling for the umpteenth time when I didn’t get an answer, but I can’t. That behavior didn’t just happen out of the blue, it was the result of weeks trying to keep a relationship alive that was headed to an end. The more I fought to keep him close, the farther he pulled away.

I know I’ll survive. I don’t fully understand what happened to all that love he professed for me not so long ago, but who knows what goes through someone else’s mind, someone else’s heart. At least I know I’m still capable of falling in love. True, right now, I want to say fuck it that I’ll try again if I ever meet someone new, but I know I will. Love is a wonderful feeling, and I won’t let my sorrow get in the way of a future story. I won’t let disappointment harden my heart. I am tougher than the rest.

Do I still hope he’ll reach out? Of course I do. Should I? Probably not. But I feel what I feel, and that’s ok. Life will go on and I plan on enjoying the future, whether he’s there or not. There is a world outside my house, and I’ve only seen a tiny part. There is family and friends. There is a visit to Harry Potter World in the making. There is wine and Happy Hours at Barbacoa. A possibility to fit in my size 6 jeans now that my appetite is gone. A chance to see Athletic win La Liga this season. A will to become EGA certified some day. Learn Catalan. Or German. Or Portuguese.

There is life.

ETA’s ceasefire – five years on, by the The Irish Times

I’ve been home sick for the last couple of days, so I took the opportunity to catch up on current affairs. This morning, I came upon an opinion article published by The Irish News on ETA’s ceasefire, which finally happened five years ago. However, there is still much work left to do before we can finally close this dark chapter in our history.

Most of you are probably familiar with Basque terrorist group ETA. If you need a refresher though, this article by the BBC is a good resource: What is ETA?

Now that you know more about ETA’s beginnings, you might want to explore their demise. I recommend Mark Bieter’s The Rise and Fall of ETA, a piece he wrote three years ago for The Blue Review.

An undated handout video still image shows ETA members announcing a “permanent, verifiable ceasefire (courtesy of openbrief.org)

ETA’s ceasefire – five years on

It is regrettable that neither the current caretaker administration in Madrid, nor any likely successor, appears willing to consider a new approach

The group was initially often recognised by democracies as a legitimate resistance movement; France gave political refugee status to ETA members in the 1970s.

Many observers expected ETA to abandon violence after Spain became a democracy in 1978. Instead, attacks increased as hardliners pursued a nakedly terrorist strategy. Nevertheless, its political wing won up to 15 per cent of the Basque vote. The roots of the conflict lie deeper than, as Madrid often claims, the operations of a “mere criminal gang”.

Indeed, the response of the Spanish state sometimes only increased support for ETA, especially in well-documented use of torture against suspects. Madrid’s disastrous ‘dirty war’ strategy in the mid-1980s, involving extrajudicial executions by security forces, carried out with a terrorist lack of regard for civilian life, produced a new generation of militants.

Public support for ETA gradually eroded in the 1990s while police operations curtailed its lethal capabilities. The Irish peace process strengthened the hand of doves within the movement but ETA botched attempts to imitate it with ceasefires in 1998-99 and 2006. This at last forced the political leadership to impose itself on militarists. Yet the road to the 2011 declaration, regarded by most observers as a complete and final farewell to arms, required lengthy and tortuous debate.

Subsequent elections show the peaceful strategy for independence to be popular, with parties without violent links gaining up to 25 per cent of the Basque vote. Madrid, however, has been in no mood for negotiation, regarding ETA as simply defeated.

Spain still refuses even to return ETA prisoners to jails closer to their families and the legitimate release of long-term ETA prisoners has been systematically obstructed. Its political leader, Arnaldo Otegi, was jailed for participating in talks with ETA that led to the ceasefire.

Such policies suggest a desire for vengeance is trumping democratic principles of justice. They raise serious questions about the independence of the Spanish judiciary which has been sharply censured by the European Court of Human Rights on ETA-related judgments.

It is regrettable that neither the current caretaker administration in Madrid, nor any likely successor, appears willing to consider a new approach. Nevertheless, the Basque independence movement should continue to pressurise ETA’s small remnant structures to dissolve and decommission its weapons. Guns and bombs have no place in legitimate debate over the status of the Basque Country.

(For the original article, click here)


I was going through my drafts this morning and came upon this bit I wrote back in March of 2015. I don’t know why I never published it. I still feel the same about Andoni. He’s about to turn 13, but I gotta say, hasn’t changed that much. I wonder if, after so much waiting, the jump to adolecense will eventually catch me by surprise. I’ve been preparing for this heartbreak since he was born, though. That’s gotta help.


10514291_10152734728415159_8305724106774738067_oMy son stopped by the house last night, tired and sweaty after biking all the way from downtown. He had finished the scarf he was knitting for me, and he wanted me to have it before the weather gets warmer. He didn’t have much time to spare because dinner was waiting for him at aita’s, but he did stay long enough to sit on the couch and ask about my day (Did I have a good time with my girlfriends?), and weather Spring Break was actually a break or just a regular work week for me.

Other times, when he can’t visit, he’ll call to ask me those very same questions. In a world where everybody favors texting, getting a call from the (little) man you love is not something to take for granted. I understand that he’s only eleven and I am his mom, but pretty soon his eyes will wander and mom will no longer be first on Andoni’s speed dial. By the time he becomes a real teenager I will only have these memories to fall back on, so I plan on making as many as I possibly can.

It’s not so obvious in Boise, but I can see it happening already when we go to the Basque Country. As soon as we  arrive in Ortuella I instantly go down on his priority list. Aitzol will trump me every time. Next come the park, spinning tops, and soccer balls. He’s got no phone over there, so I have to drag him away from his friends virtually every day at dinner time, listening to him complain all the way home that he was only able to play for 6 hours.

A most unreliable movie review

“Everybody experiences the movie in their own, personal way”

~ Asier Altuna, Amama’s director

My parents were just a couple of teenagers when they arrived in the Basque Country. My mom left first to move in with her dad and stepmom. My dad, so in love with her, followed her shortly. He didn’t quite make it all the way to Ortuella, settling in Eibar for a while. He found work and dated my mom until they got married. A few months after I was born, they left their rental in Portugalete and bought a house in Ortuella, where they still reside, 44 years later.

After Amama’s screening last night, I saw how many audience members were overcome with emotion as they shared with the director the feelings elicited by his movie. Some grew up in the Basque Country, much like the Amama’s family, but life later sent them abroad. Others were first or second generation Basque-Americans whose ancestors owned a baserri, also passed down from generation to generation.

I never experienced the baserri life style while growing up. Actually, I can’t say I ever did, although I did come in contact with it briefly over the summer. Ortuella has nothing to do with the world presented in this movie, so I was grateful and excited to get acquainted with it. For a fleeting few weeks, I even dreamed of slipping into that world some years down the road.

From the minute I heard where the director was from, I knew this movie was going to be different for me. The initial scene only confirmed it. The Transporter van moved up the narrow steep road leading up to the baserri, which could have well been the road I traveled—so very slowly and with the tightest grip on the stick I could manage—more than once this past July.

The movie explores the differences between the older and younger generations: The younger one feels trapped in the baserri, while the older one would suffocate in the outside world. The dad wants nothing to do with change, and his unwillingness to let go almost breaks the family apart.

I tried to concentrate, follow the plot, immerse myself in the story, but I was constantly reminded of something wonderful that is no more. The scenery, the dad’s stubbornness, his need to keep busy working, wood chopping, the way they spoke Basque. After a while, I allowed my thoughts to fly where they pleased, as keeping them locked will only prolongue this feeling of failure that seems to have found its comfy place at the pit of my stomach.

I bought the movie before leaving the Basque Center last night. Maybe I’ll watch it again soon.

For my friends

friends-pictures-20I read one of these “quote posts” that pop up on Facebook almost by the minute, which said that intelligent people are able to enjoy their solitude, while the rest fill it up with any one person. I got a bit worried at first, because even though I do enjoy my time alone once in a while, more often than not I’m surrounded by people, and nobody likes a dummy.

I started thinking back to the time when I sold the house on Victory and bought the one on Hummel. I had to work and take care of the kids, so moving all the stuff from one place to the other seemed like a daunting task. My friend took charge and spent a whole day making trips, and basically moved me all by herself.

What about that friend who prohibited me from taking a taxi to the airport, insisting on taking me herself, even though the plane left at six in the morning? Her husband took time from his garden and bees last year to lift the carpet off the guest bedroom when I decided I better install hardwood floors.

When my computer keyboard couldn’t take it any more, my neighbor spent over three hours removing the 200 minuscule screws that attach it to the frame, then screwing them back on to install the new one.

A few months ago, when I was worried about plane ticket prices to Bilbao, I received a generous offer so I could breathe easier for a while if it came to that.

When I broke down the other day and needed a shoulder to cry on, all it took was a phone call and I was comforted for as long as I needed that day.

Putting up with me as her pala partner when I sucked even more than I suck today. And winning the league!

Endless, incredibly politically incorrect chats.

Happy Hours.

Dani Martin.


The truth is, I am surrounded by many people, but I would not call any of them “any one person.” So that still makes me smart, right? These are wonderful friends that care for me and always have my back. I can’t imagine going through the ups and downs of life if they were not there.

Thank you.


The director and producer of ‘Amama’ will visit Boise, among other towns, in October


This week’s Astero brings some really awesome news!

Thanks to the efforts of Philippe Acheritogaray and the NABO Filmategi, the film Amama and its producer and director, Marian Fernandez and Asier Altuna respectively, will be touring six different Basque entities during the month of October. From October 5th to the 15th, the film will be shown at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center in Boise, the San Francisco Basque Cultural Center, the Chino Basque Club, the WAD Center for Basque Studies, and at the Euzko Etxea in New York.

Asier Altuna, the film director, will be in Boise on October 5 at 6 pm (Basque Block location, TBD). Asier will be presenting his award-winning film and answer any questions afterwards. Light pintxos (appetizers) will be provided.

Screening dates

Wednesday, October 05, 2016     Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Boise
Friday, October 07, 2016              Basque Cultural Center, San Francisco
Sunday, October 09, 2016            Chino Basque Club
Wednesday, October 12, 2016     WAD Center for Basque Studies, Reno
Saturday, October 15, 2016          New York Euzko Etxea


When a Basque family’s eldest son opts not to take over the family farm, sensitive daughter Amaia (Iraia Elías) steps in to convince their controlling father Tomás (Kandido Uranga) of the inevitability of change. A film of rare lyricism and visual poetry, writer/director Asier Altuna’s first solo dramatic feature is a sumptuous and deeply felt exploration of the struggle to maintain the customs that form identity against the inevitability of change. Symbolically rich and rooted in tremendous performances by a largely non-professional cast, AMAMA is steeped in Basque tradition but tells a universal tale of ancestry, generational divide, and the demands of progress.

To have Astero, NABO’s weekly bulletin, sent directly to your inbox, you only have to fill out this form.

Free App ‘Mendiak’ (Mountains) identifies more than 1,500 summits in the Basque Country

‘Mendiak’, written in Basque and developed by CodeSyntax, a company based in Gipuzkoa, is intended for all hiking enthusiasts in the Basque Country.

ScreenHunter_480 Sep. 20 10.45The app identifies more than 1,500 summits in the area and allows the users to save and share their hikes, as well as the history and rating. It also offers information about the mountains, statistics, comments, and maps.

According to the company, the objective of this tool is to identify the most important mountains in the Basque Country and nearby provinces. The idea is to expand the app by adding more mountains from the Basque Country and other areas.

Even though the app was written in Basque, it has an intuitive design that allows non-Basque speakers to navigate through it easily.

Unfortunately for iPhone users, at the moment the app is only available for Android phones on PlayStore.

Para leer el artículo en castellano, haga clic aquí.

Artikuloa euskeraz irakurtzeko, sakatu hemen.

“Argi”, Iratxe Mediavilla’s new film, will premiere on October 8 at the Arriola Antzokia in Elorrio

It is so nice to see the Basque movie scene getting more and more lively. Last week, we talked about the film Igelak, and how Basque rock band Gatibu was responsible for creating its soundtrack.

Today, I’d like to talk about the movie Argi, directed by Iratxe Mediavilla, a native of Elorrio, Bizkaia. The movie is set in the 60’s and 80’s, in the small village Elorrio, and it will be shot in both Spanish and Basque.

Argi sneak preview will take place on October 8 at the Arriola Antzokia (Elizburu Kalea, 3) in Elorrio.


Argi feels different and she makes a point of showing it despite being so young. A prisoner and an outsider in a society that seems exclude her if she doesn’t adapt to it, this imaginative and curious girl grows up under the influence of an authoritarian and alcoholic father, and the stimulating friendship with her pelotari (Basque handball player) cousin, and her flamboyant friend Paula.

Despite her efforts to live her own way and achieve happiness in her stagnant home town, after a series of unfortunate events, Argi decides to flee to Paris in search of her coveted illusions.

But luck is not on her side. Family problems will prevent her from leaving. Argi will have no choice but to stay in her town and work in the village shop run by her mother.

Frustrated and repressed, her dark side gradually starts to show, the one she hates. She will have to face herself, and everyone and everything around her to get back on track in the pursuit of personal fulfillment in order to regain hope of finding her place.

The making of Argi

The Director

IratxeIratxe Mediavilla is a native of Elorrio. She spent several years studying both audiovisual and advertising such as movies, mainly linked to videoclips and the art department. In November of last year, she directed a short film called Il Marquesse, winning first place at the Arriola 24-hour Short Film Festival. And that’s why she decided to start a new project, which became Argi. She considers the movie her gift to the village of Elorrio.

If you’d like to know more about the movie, you can click here, or go to their Facebook page.