Espe was born in Ermua, Bizkaia, a small town of about 500 people. Her father was a weapons mechanic, and her mother was a school teacher. After she finished school at 12, she went to San Sebastian (Donostia) for a short period, and on to Begona, where she earned her teaching degree. At 18, Espe decided to emigrate to the United States to join her mother, who was working at a boarding house in Boise.
In 1925, with help from her mother, Espe took a train to France and boarded a ship for the United States. When she arrived in New York, she found the train station and boarded the train bound for Boise, Idaho, where her mother greeted her at the depot. A few months after she arrived, Espe enrolled in school, where she stayed for a year before moving to Los Angeles. She remembers her first year in Boise, and how the Basque community reminded her of her hometown. She returned to Boise before the second World War, was granted citizenship, and found a position teaching English to American officers stationed at Gowen Field.
Espe's voice and personality lent themselves well to radio broadcasting. She started a radio program, the "Voice of the Basques," which she broadcast in Basque for over 25 years, providing music, news, stories, and announcements to listeners in the West. Sheep herders could hear their language and music, which eased their loneliness and kept them abreast of news in the Basque country and Boise.