TAPEMINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
Tape 1, side 1
0-2:00 Jose Mari says that, like most Basque immigrants to the United States, he immigrated to work and earn some money. In addition, he wanted to see another country. His family was poor, and Jose Mari remembers having to miss school frequently to help with the farm work. His original plan was to come to the US, make a little money, and return to the Basque country after two or three years. He ended up staying for six, then returning to see his family.
2:00-4:45 Jose Mari immigrated in 1968, at the age of 23. He was born in 1944. He had an uncle and a cousin in the US. The cousin’s name was Albert Artiach. He had tried to move to Australia before his mandatory military service came due, but could not get the documents he needed. Jose Mari had to stay and complete his service. Afterward, he wrote to his uncle and asked for his help. His uncle replied a few weeks later, and Jose Mari was on his way to America shortly after. The trip was difficult for him. He missed his family. Jose Mari remembers receiving his first letter from his mother after he arrived. He had to hide behind a tree while he read it because he was “crying like a baby.” He never regretted his decision to immigrate, and planned to finish his 3-year sheepherding contract before thinking of returning home.
4:45-6:15 Jose Mari had never herded sheep before, but was used to hard work. When he was 13, he started working at a sawmill in Muxika, his hometown. (Anecdote: a famous bersolari is from Muxika, and lived very close to Jose Mari). Compared to his other jobs, sheepherding was easy. He learned to cook, wash his own clothes, and take care of himself as a sheepherder. He compares the standard of living he experienced to that of young people today.
6:15-9:30 He talks about his childhood. His father was a basket maker. In addition to helping his father make baskets, Jose Mari worked in the sawmill from the age of 13. He finished school in Muxika at 14. In those days, life in the Basque country was difficult. Franco had outlawed the Basque language, which restricted freedom of speech to a certain extent. In contrast to higher rates of unemployment at the time of the interview, jobs were easy to find back then, but wages were low. People were poor. He remembers how hard he and his father worked to buy a bicycle for his two sisters. Jose Mari rode his father’s bicycle, which was too large for him, and laughs about how funny he must have looked. There were three children in his family: Jose Mari, his twin sister, and an older sister. Both sisters are married and live in the Basque country. Jose Mari’s twin sister, Mila, is married to Javier Egurrola (Mari Carmen Totorica’s brother).
9:30-12:30 Jose Mari’s family spoke Basque at home. In general, children spoke Spanish with their teachers and Basque with each other. Basque dancing was allowed, and took place at many festivals and competitions. The major restrictions were on voicing one’s opinion. Jose Mari describes the atmosphere as one in which Basques were not allowed to voice their opinion or express any view that was critical of the existing regime. Weightlifting and wood chopping were two of the other competitive events at festivals. He shares his opinion of weightlifting and how it must have begun. Jose Mari started going to taverns when he was 15 years old to drink, play cards, and socialize. Even though he was enjoying himself, he was not satisfied with his life and started looking for something new.
12:30-14:30 Jose Mari joined the Spanish Army when he was 21 and served for 16 months in Donosti. He says that he was lucky to be stationed near the “Concha,” or beach of Donosti. He worked at the commissary of the Gobierno Militar, or Military Governor’s Office, on the Calle Usandizaga (#4), and did not have to wear a uniform. He would go to work at 9:00 am, have lunch at 1:00, spend a few hours on the Concha, and return at 5:00. Friends would ask if he had friends in high places that helped him get such a nice assignment, but it was just luck. Looking back, he laughs and says that it was one of the best times of his life. He spent a lot of time in the older part of the city, and jokes that everyone must know him there today.
14:30-17:00 Until he joined the military, Jose Mari helped his father make baskets and worked in the sawmill. Wages were low. After an 8-hour day at the mill, Jose Mari returned home to help his father. His friends and sisters did not have to work as much as he did, and it saddened his mother to see him work so hard. Compared to his life in the Basque country, herding sheep was easy work. With the money he saved as a sheepherder, Jose Mari bought a condominium in the Basque country, which he still owns.
17:00-19:45 He describes his trip to the United States. Jose Mari and six other people flew to New York and spent the night there, then continued to Denver, Colorado. He was the only one headed to Boise. He was not afraid to start working in America, but he remembers being ill in New York. Nati [Natividad] Anchustegui met him at the airport in Boise. Jose Mari did not speak English and did not know anyone, but he was glad to reach his destination and rest. On the way over, a tag pinned to his jacket identified him and informed airport personnel of his travel information. His traveling companions all wore similar tags, but he did not know any of them.
19:45-24:30 Jose Mari’s family was sad to see him leave, but they understood why he decided to go. His father passed away 9 months after he left. When he arrived in Boise, he was taken to his uncle’s house and treated “like a king.” His uncle bought clothes for Jose Mari, who only had $7.00 to his name, and helped him get ready for work. Jose Mari used his first paycheck, $120 of the $240 he made the first month, to repay his uncle. On May 20, after four days in Boise, he went to work. The first things that caught his attention were the automobiles, especially his uncle’s 1967 Chevrolet. The buildings and streets of Boise also impressed him. At the time, the Letamendi, Valencia, Delamar, and Vizcaya boarding houses were still open (although the Vizcaya came later). He did not expect to see such a large Basque community in Boise, and enjoyed spending time with friends at the boarding houses. He knew people who had worked in the US and returned to the Basque country. He talks about how wealth meant more in those days that it does now. A man could come to the United States, work for 6 years, return to the Basque country, and live well on his savings. The idea excited Jose Mari and encouraged him to work hard.
24:30-27:45 Before he was allowed to leave Euskadi and enter the US under a sheepherding contract, officials checked Jose Mari’s hands to see what kind of work he was used to doing. His hands were calloused enough to pass inspection. When he started working, he was paid once a year, usually just before Christmas. The first year, he kept a few dollars for himself and had a cashier’s check for $1000 sent to his father in the Basque country, who was at the hospital at the time. Due to blood clots, doctors needed amputate his father’s leg. He died during the surgery, but had lived long enough to receive his son’s gift. Jose Mari says that if his father had been well, he would have jumped for joy when he saw the check. Unfortunately, Jose Mari did not have the money to return home for his father’s funeral after sending a year’s wages home.
27:45-30:00 He did not have much trouble learning how to herd sheep. Benito Oleaga trained Jose Mari, and is still working for the sheep company (Wilbur Wilson, Hammett Livestock Company, Hammett, Idaho). Jose Mari was Benito’s camp tender, and Mr. Wilson was a good man to work for. Jose Mari remembers being very homesick for the first few months, and counted the days until he could return home with his savings. He listened to Espe Alegria’s radio program, “Voice of the Basques,” every Sunday evening from 7:00-7:30 pm, no matter where he was.
Tape 1, side 2
0-9:00 Jose Mari describes his job as a camp tender, which lasted the first year. After the first year, he herded sheep for the next three years. He goes through the sheepherding year, explaining each of the seasons, how long they stay in each location, and how the herds are divided. He describes the sheepherding routes that Hammett used. A Basque man from Mountain Home, Guisasola, owned the trucking company that they used to ship the lambs. Jose Mari enjoyed his time as a sheepherder, especially the picturesque countryside and the people he met. He was lonely from time to time and missed his family, but enjoyed the work. A few times a year, he would go to Mountain Home for dances. He remembers one of his friends, a man from Ereño, who returned to the Basque country. He and Jose Mari still have dinner together whenever Jose Mari visits.
9:00-13:00 After four years as a sheepherder, Jose Mari went to work at the Basque Hotel in Mountain Home. He stayed there for one year, and remembers that there were around 15 Basques staying at the Hotel. They worked for a road crew, and he socialized with them when they were not working. Jose Mari met a befriended a few non-Basques when he started working at the sawmill in Mountain Home, but was too shy to walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation. He opened up gradually, especially when he started his business. He does not remember any instances of prejudice or discrimination against him, saying that by the time he arrived in the US, Basques had built a good reputation for themselves.
13:00-15:00 Once Jose Mari finished his 3-year sheepherding contract, he did not return to the Basque country immediately because he wanted to keep his work visa (green card). As a result, he stayed in the US and looked for work in Mountain Home. He met his wife, Miren Rementeria, at a Basque picnic in Mountain Home in 1970. He saw her again at the Basque Center in Boise in 1972. They spoke Basque to each other. They married in 1974, and Jose Mari decided to stay in the US.
15:00-22:00 He visited the Basque country for the first time in 1974, right after he and Miren married. It was the first real vacation he had taken in his life. He spent two months with his wife, mother and sisters. He did not notice many changes after 6 years, but started noticing changes in the Basque country in 1981. He went alone in 1981, and noticed the major changes brought by democracy. People were able to express themselves. On each of his subsequent trips, Jose Mari has continued to notice new changes. Not all the changes are good, however. He says that the younger generations are losing their sense of responsibility and respect for the older generation. They go to bars much more than Jose Mari’s generation did, and he worries that many children are developing dangerous habits.
22:00-26:15 Jose Mari has seen major changes in himself since he arrived in the United States. During his first trip, he noticed that he had gained self-confidence from working on his own for 6 years. The saddest part of visiting his hometown was that while some of his friends understood why he had moved to America, others did not. Some of his friends felt as if he had deserted them. Many have changed over the years, and he misses the friendship he used to have with some of them.
26:15-30:00 Until about five years ago, Jose Mari planned to move back to the Basque country. Over the past few years, however, it has become increasingly difficult for him to seriously consider returning. The more he and his family settle in the US, the less likely it becomes that he will move back to the Basque country. He appreciates the economic opportunity that exists in the US. The economy in the Basque country has improved a great deal in recent years. Six or seven of his closest friends there are doing well for themselves. He is happy to see people in the Basque country succeed.
Tape 2, side 1
0-4:45 Jose Mari feels at home in the Basque country and the US, and he does not regret his decision to move and settle here. He explains how he learned to drive a truck with Joe Larrea in Mountain Home. In 1973, he started driving a truck for a living for a company in Nampa. After his trip to the Basque country in 1974, he contacted Joe and got his job back. In 1975, Joe wanted to sell him a truck, so Jose Mari talked to Dick Bicandi, the manager of the Simplot feed lot in Caldwell, about hauling hay from Simplot’s farm in Ontario, Oregon to Caldwell. Dick gave him the job, and Jose Mari bought his first truck that year.
4:45-10:30 Jose Mari talks about the differences between Basque immigrants, specifically sheepherders, before and after he came. After he came, they did not seem to be as interested working hard and saving their money. He had more in common with the immigrants who came before he did. His wave and earlier waves did similar work (sheepherding did not change much over the years), but more recent waves of immigrants did other types of work. He gives a few general characteristics of the immigrants who came after he did. The immigrants who came before Franco took power were not as concerned with politics as Jose Mari’s group was. Education was another difference. Successive immigrant groups tended to have more formal education.
10:30-13:30 The Catholic church in Spain was an oppressive force in Jose Mari’s childhood. He remembers being told what to believe and when to attend church. When he arrived in Boise, there were several Basque priests: Fr. Garatea, who married Jose Mari and Miren (Twin Falls, Idaho), Fr. Recalde (who returned to the Basque country just before Jose Mari arrived), and Fr. Ramón Echevarria. Jose Mari appreciated the religious and social freedoms he experienced when he immigrated.
13:30-14:30 Jose Mari and his sisters do not have much interest in politics, but their mother does. She gives Jose Mari the latest news whenever he calls.
14:30-26:30 Jose Mari has owned his trucking business for 18 years. He recently bought a farm in Kuna and 500 head of cattle. He operates both the farm and trucking company, trucking alfalfa to Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. He has employed several Basques, Mexicans, and Americans in his businesses. He gives some details of his businesses. Jose Mari enjoys his work on the farm, and compares it to trucking. He has fond memories of his days as a sheepherder, and talks about how he was one of the few people that enjoyed herding sheep. Jose Mari discusses the importance of the sheep industry to Basque immigrants – even those who did not like the work should be thankful for the chance it afforded them to come to the United States. Herding sheep was easy for him, and usually did not even feel like work. Jose Mari says that if he could herd sheep, anyone could. He broke his wrist falling down a hill during his first year, but did not see the doctor for several months. He broke the wrist in July, but did not see the doctor until he brought the sheep to the lambing sheds in February. Jose Mari gives a short account of his medical history, focusing on a heart attack.
26:30-30:00 Jose Mari speaks mostly Basque with his wife, but has learned English by doing business with non-Basques. He speaks Basque with his children, Aitor and Andoni, but his wife speaks mostly English with them. He wanted his children to be able to speak Basque. Jose Mari talks about the differences between his childhood and his sons’. He is proud of his sons’ achievements in academics and soccer.
Tape 2, side 2
0-7:15 Jose Mari talks about Aitor’s plans to go to college, and the differences between his two sons. He supports his sons in everything they do, and feels it is important for them to stay in touch with the Basque culture. He encourages them to visit the Basque country. Aitor used to dance with the Oinkari Basque Dancers, but decided to quit dancing so that he could focus on playing soccer. Jose Mari did not agree with the decision, but respected his son’s choice.
7:15-17:00 Jose Mari considers himself to be Basque, and has no intention of becoming American. He is happy with his status as a legal resident, and sees no real advantage to getting a US citizenship. He enjoys work but is looking forward to an early retirement. He wants to tour the country and relax. Now that he has settled in the US with his family, he does not think he could move back to the Basque country without them. He does not want have his heart split between the two countries, and could only be happy if his whole family moved to the Basque country with him. He says that life in the US has made him what he is today, and appreciates the opportunities he has found in the US. Jose Mari talks a little more about the advantages of a US citizenship, saying that he notices the advantages more when he travels to the Basque country. He has returned to the Basque country seven times since he arrived in the United States (1974, 1977, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1988, and 1992).
17:00-23:30 Jose Mari discusses the economic changes in the Basque country since he left. The situation has improved dramatically, and he says that Basque cuisine is the best in the world. He encourages the interviewers to help bring people to the Basque Center to draw some revenue and bring life to the Center. They talk about some changes they would like to see at the Center.
NAMES AND PLACES
Alegria, Espe – Jose Mari listened to her radio program, “Voice of the Basques,” every week while he was herding sheep.
Anchustegui, Nati – met Jose Mari at the airport in Boise.
Artiach, Aitor – Jose Mari’s older son.
Artiach, Albert – a cousin.
Artiach, Andoni – Jose Mari’s younger son.
Artiach, Miren Rementeria – Jose Mari’s wife.
Echevarria – served as a priest for 20 years.
Egurrola, Mila – Jose Mari’s twin sister, married to Javier Egurrola.
Franco, Francisco – Spanish dictator.
Garatea – the priest who married Jose Mari and Miren.
Guisasola – owned a trucking company in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Oinkari Basque Dancers
Oleaga, Benito – trained Jose Mari to herd sheep.
Recalde – priest in Boise; returned to the Basque country.
Totorica, Mari Carmen – Javier Egurrola’s sister.
Basque Center, Boise, Idaho – mentioned several times in the interview.
Basque Hotel, Mountain Home, Idaho – Jose Mari worked at the Hotel after his years herding sheep.
Boise, Idaho – final destination on his first trip to the US.
Caldwell, Idaho – Jose Mari mentions the Simplot feed lot here.
Delamar Hotel and boarding house, Boise, Idaho – mentioned.
Denver, Colorado – Jose Mari’s second stop in the United States.
Donosti/San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa – Jose Mari was stationed here during his service in the Spanish Army. He mentions several places in the city.
Hammett Livestock Company, Hammett, Idaho – owned by Wilbur Wilson, this was Jose Mari’s first employer in the United States.
Kuna, Idaho – Jose Mari owns a farm in Kuna.
Letamendi boarding house, Boise, Idaho – mentioned.
Mountain Home, Idaho – mentioned several times in the interview.
Muxika, Bizkaia – Jose Mari’s hometown.
Nampa, Idaho – Jose Mari started driving a truck for a company in Nampa in 1973.
Nevada – he trucks alfalfa to Nevada.
New York, New York – Jose Mari’s first stop in the United States.
Oregon – he trucks alfalfa to Oregon.
Valencia Hotel and boarding house, Boise Idaho – mentioned.
Vizcaya Hotel and boarding house, Boise, Idaho – mentioned.
Basque clubs and organizations
Basque language and culture
Economic opportunity and change
Non-Boise Basque communities