TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-10:00 Alberto’s father was Sabino Bilbao, from Arrieta. He was a farmer who was born and worked at the same baserri where Alberto was born, and never went to the US, even though he had a brother (Juan, who later returned to Euskadi) who had come to Idaho. Alberto’s mother was Eustakia Ojinaga, who was also born in Arrieta, and who worked all her life on a baserri as well. Alberto’s parents never really talked about how they met, but the couple was married in 1931. The family baserri was quite large, with 8 cows, several steers, corn, potatoes, beans, a few fruit trees, a single pig a year (since it was too expensive to feed more), chickens, and lambs. Once a week, Alberto’s mother went to the market in Mungia to sell milk and eggs; she walked the six kilometers with the donkey. He describes the market experience.
10-22:00 Alberto describes all the chores he had to do to help around the farm, and explains his schedule. He was 7 years old when started school, and studied there until he was 14. It was in downtown Arrieta, and therefore only about 1 kilometer away from the Bilbao family baserri. School was taught in Spanish, and boys and girls were separated into different classes. The children had catechism 6 days a week in the church; this was done in Basque. Alberto discusses his school days. It was very important to his parents that their children get an education, and they even paid for a few years of private instruction in Mungia. He suddenly recalls the Spanish nationalist anthem the children had to sing every morning at school. Arrieta was only a small town, with a few hundred inhabitants, and few people were very political. He recalls that he didn’t see his first Basque flag until he arrived in Boise!
22-30:00 Life in the Basque country wasn’t all work. When he was young, Alberto often went to dances, and as young as 12, kids could go to bars and order drinks. The family went to church every Sunday; mass was always said in Latin. Alberto and his friends played a lot of soccer and handball (often on gravel). He stayed at the baserri until he was eighteen, often earning money to help his family by working as a lumberjack. Both of his brothers were in America working with the sheep, so Alberto’s parents relied on him for a lot of help around the baserri. He soon decided to go to the US to make a little money himself, though. His brothers had told him a lot about America.
0-10:00 Alberto came to the US for the first time in 1964, worked 5 years with sheep, then went back to Spain for a few years before finally returning to Idaho. Both his brothers helped facilitate his passage to America. He came to Boise via Bilbao, Madrid, New York, and Chicago. Although Alberto spoke no English, he had no problems on the journey over. He touched down in America on October 6. Alberto quickly lists his siblings: Mari, Domi and Pedro (twins), Patricia, three babies who died, Fermin and Conchi (twins), and Mila. Both Pedro and Fermin were working for the Highland Sheep Company (owned by Jessie Nailer) when Alberto arrived. Ramon Ysursa picked him up at the airport and took him to the Valencia hotel for the night, then dropped him off at the sheep camp. Seeing the change in landscape was a big surprise for Alberto! Most of the employees at the sheep ranch were Basque, and Alberto got to talk to a lot of them when he first arrived, joining his brothers in the mountain. During his years with Highland, Alberto worked both as a camp tender and as a sheepherder. He describes his route.
10-17:00 Alberto didn’t mind shepherding, even though the lifestyle was tough to deal with sometimes. The loneliness was the worst. There was very little free time except at Christmas. Alberto always saved his money, and even sent some back home to his family. He made $225 per month for the first 2 years, and $250 for the last 3. He quips that the Basques saved so much money because they never had time to spend it! There were a few Basque dances in different Idaho towns, and the herders enjoyed going to those. Alberto also listened to Espe Alegria’s radio program. Alberto finally got his green card in 1968, and worked 2 more years in the sheep before quitting to work construction in Boise. This only lasted a few weeks, then he went to work for Boise Cascade in Emmett for 31 years. The plywood factory closed down in 2001. Only a small percentage of the employees there were Basque, so Alberto quickly became fluent in English.
17-23:00 Alberto has been very involved in the Basque culture since his arrival in America, often going to the Boise Basque Center. He recalls playing league soccer with many friends. There was even a Basque team! He describes this experience, and lists many of the Basques who played with him (including Joseba Chertudi). Alberto discusses the things people did for fun at the Basque Center. There were also many picnics in Idaho and Nevada.
23-30:00 Alberto met his wife Juanita Zubizareta at the Boise Basque picnic around 1972. She was a full Basque whose parents were both born in the US. When she was little, she spoke nothing but Basque, and still understands a lot today. The couple was married in 1974 in Boise. Alberto had always expected to marry a Basque Catholic woman, and Juanita fit both categories; in addition, she enjoyed participating in all the Boise Basque cultural activities. He describes how they met.
0-7:30 Alberto and Juanita had the traditional Basque-style wedding, and raised 2 daughters, Mila and Carmen. The family speaks mostly English at home, but the kids have learned a little Basque, and they still love to attend the Basque cultural events. Both daughters enjoyed Basque dancing in Caldwell. Gloria Lejardi was the instructor there. Mila and Carmen are still single, and Alberto isn’t sure if they will marry Basque men or not—it isn’t his business. The whole family loves Basque cooking; Alberto’s specialty is paella.
7:30-12:30 Alberto has taken several trips back to the Basque country, both alone and with his wife and family. He and siblings never made it to Euskadi all together until 2 years ago—a huge portrait marks the occasion. Alberto has seen his homeland undergo many changes over the years: more people and cars, new roads, technology. He considers most of these changes to be good for Euskadi, and feels at home despite them. Through the years, he has kept in close contact with his family, and several of his sisters have come to visit. Alberto would consider spending part of his retirement in the Basque country, and plans to make many more trips there.
12:30-18:00 Alberto is pleased with Idaho’s efforts to preserve and promote the Basque culture, and thinks it would be a great loss if the traditions ever faded away. Now that he is retired, Alberto works a little bit for the Emmett school district, but also enjoys bicycle riding, taking care of his cattle. After all this time, Alberto still feels very Basque. He never became a US citizen, but is happy here in America.
NAMES AND PLACES
Alegria, Espe: had a Basque radio program in Idaho
Bilbao, Conchi: Alberto’s sister
Bilbao, Domi: Alberto’s brother
Bilbao, Fermin: Alberto’s brother
Bilbao, Juanita Zubizareta: Alberto’s wife
Bilbao, Mari: Alberto’s sister
Bilbao, Mila: Alberto’s sister
Bilbao, Patricia: Alberto’s sister
Bilbao, Pedro: Alberto’s brother
Bilbao, Sabino: Alberto’s father
Boise Cascade: employed Alberto in Emmett
Chertudi, Joseba: Alberto’s friend
Franco, Francisco: Spanish dictator
Highland Sheep Company: employed Alberto
Lejardi, Gloria: taught Basque dancing in Caldwell
Nailer, Jessie: owned Highland Sheep Company
Ojinaga, Eustakia: Alberto’s mother
Ysursa, Ramon: owned the Valencia hotel
Basque Center (Boise)
New York, NY
Valencia Hotel (Boise)