TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-4:00 Javier’s father was Esteban Arrieta (from Munitibar), a farmer on baserri Jayo all his life. Growing up, his farm neighbored Javier’s mother’s. Even though Esteban had 2 older brothers, primogeniture was abandoned when they moved to Argentina and started families there—Javier has cousins there to this day. Javier’s mother, Eugenia Arriaga, was also from a baserri called Jayo, but technically in a different town. She and Esteban grew up knowing each other, and attended the same school in Bolibar to which Javier himself later went. While both parents have been to the US to visit, they never worked off the farm in Euskadi. Javier was born on March 4, 1947. He has 2 brothers, José Luis and Ignacio (who also worked in the US for a little over 5 years, but ultimately moved to Gernika to marry and work).
4-10:00 Life on the baserri was very tough: there was a lot of work, including before and after school. The family went to church every Sunday in Bolibar, in all weather conditions, leaving before sunrise to trek the hour’s distance in enough time. The baserri was on a hill with about 5 other families, and while technically in Munitibar, Bolibar was closer. There were no roads, only a steep dirt path that had to be navigated by the family’s lone donkey (for packing groceries, not riding!). Javier explains that his baserri was quite large by Basque standards, with 5 cows and 10-12 calves. The cows gave milk, but were also harnessed to pull the plow. Pigs, chickens, apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and vegetables, corn and wheat complete the picture.
10-15:00 Javier describes the chores he and his family did, including cutting grass for the cows. Unlike many baserris, the farmland around Jayo was not patchwork, but rather contiguous to the house. He began school when he was seven; the building was a little way from the center of Bolibar, and it only took 20 minutes to get there. Because the towns were so small, the 40 students of all grades in the single classroom included boys and girls. Classes were conducted in Spanish, although it was only in the army that Javier would become truly proficient in Spanish. One of the teachers was immensely cruel, but the last one (from Santander) was quite nice. Javier was hit on the fingers for speaking Basque on more than one occasion.
15-20:00 Javier finished school at age 14, and since his eldest brother left for the US around the same time and Ignacio a few years later, it was up to Javier to help support his family. In addition to working on the baserri, he and some other men began logging for 4 years. He did this from the age of 17 to 21, at which point he was drafted into the army. Javier didn’t enjoy the army at all, because there was nothing to do but drink and play cards, sergeants were very strict, the food was terrible and pay was a scandal (about 25 cents a month, with which he could buy a single sandwich). Since most of his army mates in Pamplona were Spanish—and everyone in Franco’s army had to speak in this language anyway—he learned a great deal of Spanish.
20-25:00 Javier was in the army for about 16 months, during which time his parents sent him survival money from calf sales (their only source of monetary income). The rest of the money had to be used for groceries like oil and sugar. Javier mentions which food was purchased and when certain food items were butchered or bought. His maternal grandmother died young, but his grandfather lived on the baserri with the family. After the army, Javier returned to logging for a few months, then went to America. He had applied before his draft, but the government didn’t let him escape service.
25-30:00 The whole time he was in the army, Javier was planning to go to the US, and José Luis—by this time a foreman for Jesse Nailer’s Highland Livestock in Idaho—helped arrange the travel. Wages for sheepherders were low, but Javier was not expected to reimburse the costs of the trip. In the years before he emigrated, more young men wanted to leave Euskadi for better work than jobs existed, but by the time he left, it wasn’t so difficult to find work. Javier’s parents were getting older and frailer, and did not want him to leave, but he knew it was something he needed to do for his future. It worked out for the best, since Esteban and Eugenia moved into downtown Gernika to retire, and got some much needed rest from the rigors of farm life.
0-5:00 Javier came to the US in 1971, traveling from Bilbao to Madrid (where he received an ID tag and $10 from immigration authorities) to New York to Denver to Boise. His brother and some friends were waiting at the airport, and brought him to the Letamendi boarding house. Javier was starving because he had refused to eat the unappealing American food on the way over. He did not speak a word of English, and had problems communicating with others. Javier admits that even in the sheep camps, there were few occasions to practice English, since all the other men were Basque! He traveled with a bunch of other Basque guys on the various flights, one of whom was from Aulestia and went to work for the Quintana ranch in Homedale. They all sat together on the place, drank cognac, and would not give in to the flight attendants’ pleas to try the meals. He arrived on March 16.
5-10:00 When Javier got into Boise, there was still snow on the ground. He drove into Parma the same night, and after a few days on the ranch, went out with the sheep. He details his shepherding calendar, which was very long. Even though Javier had heard a lot about America and had no illusions about the lifestyle, the dirty, cold, lonely and desolate life that greeted him was almost more than he could handle! He describes the barracks and the one good part of the day—breakfast. After a while, Javier came to love the beauty of the desert, but the mountains were a different story; rattlesnakes, ravines and other dangers abounded. In his tenure with Highland sheep, he went up the mountain five times, thrice as a sheepherder and twice as a camp tender.
10-15:00 The first year of shepherding, according to Javier, is the hardest. He never knew if he was doing the right thing, and he missed home. Fortunately, his brother delivered supplies every 10 days. Javier never worked with Ignacio, who was in New York working construction by this time. Javier got his green card after 5 years, and could have gotten a new job, but he stayed another 2 years because his brother wanted him to. When he left, he returned to Spain, unsure of his plans for the future. Franco died while Javier was in Euskadi, and recalls that people were unsure of the dictator’s status for quite some time. Instability was rampant, and he got pulled over by Guardia Civil many times for questioning, which he describes.
15-18:30 Javier spent 7 months in the Basque country, but ultimately decided to return to the US in order to improve his financial situation. The political climate of Euskadi did not influence his decision. Javier went to work at Boise Cascade in Emmett at the suggestion of a friend. There were about 20 Basque men in the plywood and sawmill factory when he began, but most employees were non-Basque, and so Javier’s English skills improved dramatically whenever he was out of his ethnic group. He worked at the plant until it closed in 2001.
18:30-21:00 While he was in Emmett, Javier and his friends went to the Basque Center every Saturday. This is where he met Angela Lasuen, and the couple dated for three years before marrying in 1980. Basque activities like picnics and dances formed the bulk of Javier’s activities, and he had always been determined to marry a Basque girl.
21-30:00 Angie’s father was Juan Lasuen and Matilde Maruri, both from Aulestia. They were farmers, and grew up in neighboring baserris. Juan had come to the Idaho to work for the Wood Creek Sheep Company in Grandview for about 6 years before he married. His mother’s brothers, Joe and John Urquidi owned the ranch. Juan and Matilde were married in Aulestia, and the couple returned to Mountain Home right away. They tried to farm in Bruneau, but the economic climate was difficult, so the operation went bust. When John Basabe offered them a job working for Simplot in Grandview, the couple accepted. When Angie was seven, her maternal grandmother gave from Spain to live with the family. Grandview was a nice place to grow up—surrounded by the Basque sheepherders with whom her father worked. Angie was born on February 8, 1957, and has a brother, Luis, who is seven years younger. Her parents spoke only Euskera at home, and this is why Angie is fluent in this language today. Angie’s mother did most of the cooking (Angie and Javier share a laugh), but she did help with all the dishes. Angie spoke no English when she started school—and has the horrendous grades through 3rd grade to prove it—but with the aid of summer school, had no more problems from then on. Even though she ended growing up bilingual, at home the family, now with the addition of grandma, continued in Euskera. There were other Basque kids at school, including the Susaetas, Isaguirres, Totoricas, Urquidis, Basabes and others. Angela does not remember any prejudice against the Basques—quite the contrary, since Basques in her area were very well liked. She finished grade school in Grandview, and completed junior high and high school at Rimrock, graduating in 1975.
0-5:00 Angie went through school with pretty much the same gang of Basque students, but was involved mostly in all-American activities, since this is all there was to do in Grandview. She danced with a Basque group in Mountain Home when she was in junior high, and recalls performing at picnics. Grandview had a Basque dance, but Angie’s father was very strict about being old enough to go out with boys, so it was a while before she was involved. Boise was considered a long way away at that time, but Angie still had a great time. After high school, Angie went to Boise State University to train as a nurse. After she had received her LPN degree, she traveled to Euskadi as the nurse for Pat Bieter’s Euskera study program. This was not Angela’s first trip to the Basque country, however—she had gone when she was seven to help fetch her grandmother, and again her senior year of high school. She had always felt comfortable in Euskadi (“an extension of home”), since her parents had kept in close correspondence through the years. When she returned to Boise, Angie studied for 2 years to become an RN—she got married after her first.
5-10:00 Angie hadn’t started getting involved with Basque activities until her 2nd year in Boise, but enjoyed it once she did. She was not necessarily set on marrying a Basque man, but when she met Javier at a Basque picnic, and then later at the Basque Center, he grew on her (despite “not being impressed” at the beginning!). The couple was married in 1980, and moved out to Emmett. They continued their involvement with Basque cultural events, and visit Euskadi every 2 years. Javier explains that he has been to Gernika independently to visit her sick parents several times, and Angie had to stay in Boise this year to care for her mother. The couple has raised 2 daughters, Nekane and Amaia, both of whom are fluent Basque speakers and have now begun appreciating their heritage. This makes Angie very happy, and she even harbors little hopes that they may one day marry Basque men…
10-13:00 Both Nekane and Amaia danced with a Basque group in Emmett, and they both love going to the Basque country. When the family travels there, they all—even Javier—feel like Americans, and although they enjoy themselves, they are ready to come home in the end. Since Angie’s parents are here, she would not consider retiring in the Basque country until this is no longer a responsibility. Both plan to return to their homeland again and again, nonetheless. Javier became a US citizen in 1987, since he knew America was his new home, and now identifies himself equally as Basque and American. Angie has never thought about separating her identity.
NAMES AND PLACES
Arriaga, Eugenia: Javier’s mother
Arrieta, Amaia: Javier and Angie’s daughter
Arrieta, Esteban: Javier’s father
Arrieta, Ignacio: Javier’s brother
Arrieta, José Luis: Javier’s brother
Arrieta, Nekane: Javier and Angie’s daughter
Basabe, John: Simplot foreman
Bieter, Pat: started BSU Basque study program
Franco, Francisco: Spanish dictator
Lasuen, John: Angie’s father
Lasuen, Luis: Angie’s brother
Lasuen, Matilde Maruri: Angie’s mother
Letamendi family: ran Boise boarding house
Nailer, Jessie: Javier’s employer
Quintana family: ran Homedale sheep outfit
Simplot, J.R.: Boise billionaire
Thompson, Dr.: Angie’s employer
Walsh, Dr.: Angie’s employer
Basque Center (Boise)
Boise Cascade Corporation (Emmett)
Boise State University
Gasteiz (Vitoria), Araba
Grandview Elementary School
Highland Livestock Company
Iruña (Pamplona), Naparoa
Jayo: Javier’s family baserri
Mountain Home, ID
New York, NY
Rimrock High School (Idaho)
Rimrock Junior High School (Idaho)
St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (Boise)
St. Paul’s Catholic Church (Boise)
Wood Creek Sheep Company (Grandview)