Juan was born in Markina, Bizkaia, where his father worked in town and his mother stayed home to raise the couple's 10 children. He only attended school there for 2 years, since there was so much farm work to be done on the baserri. Juan's older brother had gone to the US when Juan was quite young, and soon had his own sheep ranch in Mountain Home, where Juan was invited to work. His mother had passed away by this time, and so Juan decided to join his brother. His father's instructions as he left home: don't forget us.
After waiting a week in a Liverpool hotel, Juan got the green light to continue to the United States. He worked as a sheepherder for 10 years, but detested this desolate lifestyle, and so became a silver fox trapper, then worked in a service station, and finally in a bar as a bartender. Juan lived in boarding houses for much of this time, and took comfort in the Basque surroundings. It took him a long time to learn English, though!
Juan married in 1927, after meeting his wife at Anunci Jayo's boarding house. The couple raised several children, all of whom learned to appreciate the Basque culture. John describes the process of naturalization, which culminated in his US citizenship in 1942.