TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-11:30 Alberto was born on February 12th, 1940 in Berriz in the house commonly known as Coxine. His mother Stefana Ugarte Arbulu, was a homemaker and his father Andres worked on the railroads. The family did not live on a farm, although they did keep a small garden. After their marriage, Andres and Stefana moved to Berriz because it was closer to their work. Alberto was the youngest of seven siblings named—from oldest to youngest—Jose, Maria, Benito, Julia, Angel, Rufino, and then Alberto himself. There is a twenty-year difference between the Alberto and Jose—who worked his way to Argentina on a trans-Atlantic ocean-liner and lives there to this day. Jose did return to the Basque Country once, but had to re-learn the language because he had forgotten almost all of it. Alberto explains in some detail the beauty of the ocean-liners: the huge kitchens, the elegant dining rooms, the expansive decks, etc…
11:30-25:30 Alberto began school when he was six years old, and recalls having simply played around a lot before having started school. He even made his own roller-skates and used to fly down the steep hills at up to 30 mph! His family always spoke Basque at home, but at school his teacher (who was Basque) would strike the students’ hands with big square rulers if they were caught speaking anything but Spanish. He vividly recalls a particular friend going home with bloody knuckles every other day. Even the church catechisms were given in Spanish. Luckily, Alberto knew Spanish before starting school so adjustment was easy and he was never reprimanded. He finished school in Berriz at about the age of 12, when he went to Durango for two years to learn how to engrave intricate designs, emblems, and names on shotguns.
25:30-38 After spending those two years in Durango learning how to engrave shotguns, Alberto went to Eibar and apprenticed in a gun shop until he was 18 or 19, after which time he moved back to Berriz to work in his brothers’ gun shop. At the age of 22 Alberto was drafted to the army in Bilbao and served until he was about 24. After he finished his obligatory 18-month term in the army Alberto went back to his parents’ house and continued to make shotguns. He did this alone, however, because Rufino and Jose had gotten married by this time and lived in their own homes. Some time is spent here admiring old pictures of Alberto. Mikel notes that he looked quite stunning in his army uniform. By this time, thoughts of coming to America had already entered Alberto’s mind. A family friend, Juan Jose Hormaechea already lived in Idaho Falls. Because his father and mother had passed away and he was all by himself, Alberto decided to go to America. Ramon Ysursa made the arrangements for him to come. He planned to work his way to America on a boat with his brother Benito but was not allowed to because two brothers were not, at that time, permitted to work on the same boat. He did however, make his way to the US on July 8th, 1965. Ramon came to the airport in Boise to pick him up, but the car ran out of gas about half a mile before reaching Ramon’s house! Alberto had to push it the rest of the way home. It was a hot July day and Alberto has never forgotten how big a pain it was to push that car on his first day in America—the land of promise.
38-45 It took about a month and a half to arrange the papers for Alberto to come to the US. As he was going to the consulate in Bilbao, a lady told him to take off his watch before going in. He naturally asked why, and she told him that the people would think he was too rich and did not need to go to the US because his watch had a square face instead of a round one. So, he took off his watch and was able to get his papers. When he did arrive in the US he spoke absolutely no English, but he managed the trip to Boise because many people along the way spoke Spanish. Alberto told Belen (Maria Belen Gabiola), who was at the time his girlfriend, that she was too young to get married. They remained intimate for the 4 and half years that he was in the US. Belen notes that Alberto would write her a letter (sometimes two) every single week that they were apart. Alberto says that there is not much to do besides write letters when one is up in the hills herding ship all day. “What was I going to do, shoot coyotes all day?!” he exclaimed. So, he wrote letters to Belen.
45-62 Alberto’s flight came from Spain to New York, then to Salt Lake and finally Boise. His initial impression of Boise was fairly nondescript, although he remembers it being very beautiful. At the time there were seven or eight boarding houses in Boise, and the population of the town was only about 70 thousand. He stayed at the Valencia Hotel boarding house before heading up to try his hand at the sheep-herding business near Twin Falls. He had to pay more for his supplies than he should have because his boss was crooked. He describes the working environment in Twin Falls as being very difficult to adjust to. Alberto also remembers having to drive around eastern Idaho without a license. He quit herding sheep after a while because it was a pain, and sought better employment in Grandview. Alberto’s boss told the immigration people that Alberto was a good-for-nothing, so they came to him and checked his hands to make sure he had been working. Luckily, Alberto had been building a corral for sheep and cows all by himself, so his hands were calloused enough for two people. Alberto made his way to Grandview and stayed there for 3 ½ years. During this time in Grandview he learned a little bit of English, but they spoke mainly Spanish at work. Alberto Barinaga was Alberto’s foreman at the Grandview ranch. On almost every Sunday, Alberto and some of his friends from Grandview would drive over to Mountain Home to play handball. For the two weeks that he had off of work in the winter, Alberto would stay at Begonia Ysursa’s house. He mentions how good Begonia’s cooking was. In his 4 ½ years living near Boise, he mentions that Boise was very much like Gernika because there were so many Basques. At that time, he says, there were seven thousand Basques in Idaho and almost all of them lived in or near Boise. That was about one tenth of Boise’s population.
0-10:30 Alberto describes how beautiful Boise was in those years, with all the boarding houses and Basques. He laments that nowadays few people go to the Basque Center, which is why he does not go anymore. It is no longer the Basque hub, teeming with activity, that it was when he first came to this country. Alberto tries for some time to recall some Basques who went to Vietnam, among them Enrique Goitiandia.
10:30-20 Alberto intended to return to the Basque Country. However, during his fourth year here he found that he had to stay for another half a year in order to receive his green card so that he could return to America within a year after leaving it. When he returned to the Berriz he worked in the same shotgun shop. But something was amiss. He found he had changed in some way, and wanted to come to the US once more. He did stay in Berriz for nine months in 1970, during which time he married Maria Belen Gabiola, before returning to America. Alberto left before Belen so that he could arrange the papers and everything else needed to have her come over. Belen talks for some time about her ideas of the life she was to live in Idaho. She thought she was going to be one of those little old ladies in the Western movies that carries a gun everywhere. Her first impressions of Boise were somewhat dismal, but she found the Boise’s Basque flavor reassuring.
20-34 Alberto’s original intention was to marry Belen, go to America for a few years, then return to the Basque Country. After 3 ½ years in America, they did just that. However, they only stayed in Berriz for six weeks before they returned to the US. Apparently, they both liked America and wanted to move back here. So, Alberto and Belen returned to Grandview once more. From there, they moved to Orofino with recommendation from Pete Cenarrusa but could not find any work. Alberto and Belen found work in Rupert and lived there for seven years. After their stay in Rupert, they moved to Emmett in 1978 so that their daughters—Juanita and Stephanie—could go to school. Alberto got a job with Boise Cascade and worked there for 25 years. He does not spend much time with the Ontario Basque community, and spends only slightly more time In Boise because they are both quite far away.
34-54:30 Alberto regrets that his daughters do not seem very interested in his background and that they have trouble understanding his personal history because times have changed so much since he first came to Boise. Life both in Spain and in Boise has changed dramatically. He also laments that in a few years, only the Basque last names will remain because the Basque culture that once thrived here is slowly dying. The younger generations just do not seem interested in learning Basque. Despite all the years he has been in the US, Alberto identifies himself as being completely Basque. His children do as well.
NAMES AND PLACES
Arbulu, Stefana Ugarte
Gabiola, Maria Belen
Hormaechea, Juan Jose
Bilbao, Bizkaia (Sorrosa)
Idaho Falls, ID