TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-10:30 José Mari was born in Markina, Spain on December 4, 1945. His parents were Juan Beristain and Balbina Bengoechea. He has 2 siblings, a brother and a sister named Miren. His father had grown up on a farm, buy worked in a factory in town, and his mother was a housewife. José's mother's cousin in Idaho, Boni Garmendia, was in charge of recruiting sheepherders, so he arranged for his father to come to America in 1947, a position he accepted due to hard times in Euskadi. He worked at the Astorkia's ranch in Gooding, ID for about 20 years, bringing his wife and 3 children over after 10. José lived and went to school in Markina, but he spent the summers in Ondarroa with his mother's parents. They lived in downtown Markina, where his mother did not work, and José went to a convent school until he was 10, then to a public school for 2 years. He did not have to salute Franco's picture at the convent, but did at the public school, and speaking Basque wasn't tolerated. He remembers the fascist rituals he had to deal with at school. Juan sent for his family when José was 12; they took the Covadonga from Bilbao to Cadiz to New York. It was December, and they had a rough trip; 7 days on the ship and 5 on the train. The family spent 2 nights in New York with Valentín Aguirre before heading to Boise. None of them could speak English, which made international travel very difficult. José's father, who was working in Gooding, came to meet his wife and kids at the station. They stayed with José's mother's other cousin, Julia Bastida, in Boise for a few days, before heading off to Gooding. They rented a house in Gooding and went to school there. Juan lived on the ranch most of the year. There were a few other Basques on the ranch. Juan had to learn English pretty quickly at school (there were a few Basques kids there, but they spoke mainly English). José was advanced in math, geography and history when compared to the American kids, but his limited English was a challenge. After about 3 years, the family moved near Elko, Nevada.
10:30-21:30 At the Spanish Ranch outside of Elko, José's mother was the cook and his father was the helper man. There was a small schoolhouse on the grounds, and José and his sister attended a few years of grammar school there. His older brother went to high school in Elko and lived in town with relatives. There were a few Basques among the 30 ranch hands, but José didn't socialize with them much. At the age of 17, he and his family moved to Elko, where his father worked as a janitor at the Stockman Hotel, and his mother was a cook at the Nevada Hotel (a Basque restaurant). She worked at the OK Motel making beds to supplement the family income, but was always home for dinner. José finished the 8th grade there, and graduated from Elko High School in 1965. There were few organized Basque activities anywhere José had lived, even though Elko was a little better. Around 1962, he went to Elko's first Basque picnic and dance. His Basque conversations with his parents and siblings were the bulk of his involvement with the Basque culture at the time. José also worked as a busboy, dishwasher and short order cook at Stockman's all the way through school. When he was in Gooding, his appendix erupted, and he almost died. The hospital bill was $2000 dollars (a reason the family had moved to the Spanish Ranch--to make more money), and the 1st $2000 dollars José made in Elko he gave to his mother to pay her back, even though she did not want it. His family always kept in very close contact with family in Euskadi. He got drafted right after high school, and went into the Marines after a summer of working as a firefighter. He was not a citizen before spending 3 years in the service, and did not want to be deported for avoiding the draft. He spent 13 months in Vietnam, a few months in Virginia, and the rest in California, always visiting his parents on breaks. Although he was told he would automatically become a US citizen after serving in the armed forces, he still had to go through the normal channels afterwards. He remembers that his helmet in Vietnam read 'Euskaldunak Danak Bat', and that there were no Basques there with him. He was in a few ambushes, but made it out pretty much unharmed. He became a citizen in 1968, the same year he was discharged.
21:30-30:00 After he became a citizen, he went to the Basque country for about 5 months, in March of 1969, which he describes as the best time of his life. Things there were inexpensive, and he spent all his time visiting family and friends between Markina and Ondarroa. Politically, Spain was still a very dangerous place, and José visited a few friends in prison. He felt very much at home, and slipped into Basque so easily that his English skills suffered! He was the 1st person in his family to go back. He came back to Elko, and worked with the Bureau of Land Management, fighting fires. He then spent a year at the University of Nevada Reno. It was about 1970, and even though the Basque Studies Program was well established, José studied other things. He got married to Hilah White (a non-Basque, to the initial chagrin of his family) there, then moved to Las Vegas to manage a trailer park. After about 4 or 5 years, he got into the construction business, and is now a contractor, installing several thousand swimming pools a year. He had 3 children in Las Vegas: Amaia, Andoni, and Argia. They are all quite involved in the Basque community. In 1981, José helped start the Las Vegas Basque Club, and he has been president off and on for 18 years. His daughter also started a Basque dance group after she had finished high school. The Basque Club is small, and it's hard to get everyone together, but they are pretty tight. MGM Casino opened up a fronton in Las Vegas in 1974 (as a gambling sport), and most of the Basques in the city are former jai alai players (the fronton was closed after a few years).
0-13:00 José talks more about the jai alai in Las Vegas, which was not very successful. When he first arrived, he was the only Basque in the city, and he helped translate for new immigrants and helped them buy cars. He discusses his daughter Amaia's dance club (she had been inspired by NABO music camps). José coached youth soccer for about 10 years, and there were always many Basques on his teams (his team colors were very similar to the Bilbao team). His oldest daughter speaks decent Basque, and his youngest just spent a year in San Sebastian with the UNR Basque studies department, but his son does not (although he danced for a while). With an American wife, it's hard to teach Euskera. The Basque Club José started is essentially the only organized Basque social organization in Las Vegas. They have a big picnic, festival, cookout, dance, and Mus tournament every year. Many non-Basques attend as well. José sometimes travels to Basque events in Elko, California and Boise. Even though it is a tiny organization, it has been a part of NABO since 1985, and even hosted a NABO Mus tournament early in the Club's existence, in 1986--the 1st one in the US. He has never served in NABO leadership, as he has been very busy.
13-23:00 José remarried in 1996, to Michelle Pauleti, a friend and fellow student council member from Elko High School (they met at a reunion), and she enjoys participating in the Basque culture as well. She has no Basque heritage, but has grown up in an area where the Basques are prominent. He has made many trips to Euskadi, trying to go back every 2 or 3 years. José's parents moved back to Ondarroa after the children left home, facilitated by the fact that they never became US citizens. José's mother had no problem readjusting to the Basque country because she had never become fully adjusted to life in the US. Since his father was not quite retirement age when they moved back, he traveled back and forth to Elko every winter to do business. José still feels very comfortable in Euskadi. He himself never moved back because of the political situation; he was afraid he would become active and be thrown in jail. He explains that things are better there now (although modernization has greatly changed the area), and will consider spending his retirement between the US and the Basque country. He remembers that he never really experienced much prejudice while he grew up in the Basque country. José feels Basque first, then American.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aguirre, Valentín: ran boarding house in New York
Bastida, Julia: José’s mother’s cousin in Boise
Bengoechea, Balbina: José’s motherBeristain, Amaia: José’s daughter
Beristain, Andoni: José’s son
Beristain, Juan: José’s father
Beristain, Miren: José’s sister
Beristain, Argia: José’s daughter
Covadonga: ship José took to US
Astorkia family: owned ranch in Gooding, ID
Franco, Francisco: Spanish dictator
Garmendia, Boni: José’s mother’s cousin in America
NABO: North American Basque Organizations
Pauleti, Michelle: José’s wife
White, Hilah: José’s first wife
Elko High School
Las Vegas Basque Club: José is founding member and president
Las Vegas, NV: José’s hometown
Markina, Spain: José’s birthplace
MGM Grand Casino (Las Vegas)
Nevada Hotel: José’s mother was the cook here in Elko
OK Motel: José’s mother made beds here in Elko
Ondarroa, Spain: José’s mother’s birthplace
San Sebastian (Donosti), Spain
Spanish Ranch: ranch family lived on near Elko
Stockman Hotel (Elko)
University of Nevada, Reno
Clubs and Organizations