TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-6:30 Elias’ parents were Fermin Cortabitarte and Facunda Madarieta, both from baserris in Ispaster, Bizkaia. Elias was born 3 July 1933 at the family farm in Ispaster. His siblings are Paulina, Modesto, Cecilio, José and Nemesio; he is the fourth oldest. He describes growing up on the farm. Theirs was fairly typical: 5 cows, a few sheep, etc. Fermin did a lot of farm work at home, but made most of his money as a carpenter in town, working in a partnership with some friends for a few jobs. Modesto followed this tradition, and is an architect today. Fermin worked away most of the day, but came home every night. Facunda was left with most of the house and farm work, but she had the help of her children. Elias’ farm was pretty self-sustaining, so they only had to go to market once in a while. His mother went to the Lekeitio market every other day to sell vegetables there.
6:30-10:00 The family always spoke Basque at home—Facunda never did learn how to speak Spanish (Fermin had learned during his army days). When he went to school, Elias spoke no Spanish, but he had to learn fast, since Basque was forbidden. The punishment was to hold a heavy stack of books with outstretched arms, or to have his fingers rapped. The teacher told the students which of three Sunday masses to attend, and when Elias and his brothers once went to the wrong one, they were punished. It took Elias several years to feel comfortable with Spanish.
10-15:00 Elias recalls that he and his friends mostly amused themselves with handball. One of his later teachers—a nice and attractive young woman from Gipuzkoa—even played with them! He remembers being surprised and smacked by the mean teacher because his arm was under his desk. He missed a few dinners being kept after class, as well. About 25-30 boys and girls were taught together in the same building on the outskirts of town (there was another school downtown). He describes some of the dances and festivals he attended as a child. Elias finished school when he was 14, but continued with night classes for 2 more winters, which he enjoyed. During the day, he had to work on the farm to help his family. Elias pushed himself to attend night school.
15-20:00 When he had finished school, Elias worked at home until his move to America. The family had some friends and relatives in the US; it was his sister’s fiancé who helped secure a job for Elias. Cecilio had originally intended to take this job, but he had to serve his conscription for Franco instead. He went to the consulate to get his paperwork together (which went way too fast for him!), and had to learn quite a bit about sheep. His cousins near Lekeitio had sheep, but Elias had very little experience with them. He suspected there would be a lot of space and easy money in the US, and avoiding conscription seemed like a good idea. Years later, he had to pay to avoid serving the Spanish military, so he could go home and visit his family.
20-25:00 Elias traveled through Bilbao, Paris (it wasn’t easy being piled into the night train and staying in Paris for 2 days, where they got lost for a few hours), New York, and Boise, arriving on 21 October, 1952. He was brought from Boise to Hagerman, and recalls being pleasantly surprised by his surroundings—he had expected something much more desolate. For the first four or five days, Elias dug fence pole holes, but it was so dry and rocky that his fingers got very blistered. He initially considered flying back home, but soon began fitting in. The ranch cook was an unpleasant fellow.
25-29:00 There were about 25 Basque guys on the ranch during lambing season, since there were many thousands of sheep of which to take care. Elias didn’t come to the US on a contract, but he stayed in Hagerman for 12 years. He did get to practice English with the occasional American ranch hand, and became a citizen in 1959. The boss and his family (whom Elias names) only spoke English, which also made for good practice. It took Elias several years to adjust to the lifestyle in the US, and he never really did until he had gotten married.
0-11:30 Before he met his wife, Elias had seriously considered returning to the Basque Country. He and Glorianne were married in Hagerman in 1960, at which point he made his first trip back to the Basque Country in 12 years. He suddenly remembers how the Spanish police arrested his father when Elias was a small boy. Three years later, a strange man came walking up to the house, and it took Elias a while to realize that it was his father. Fermin had been in several jails, but never talked about his experiences there. Elias could tell that his father hadn’t eaten much, and it must have been a painful experience. He also recalls how he had to sneak wheat to a mill over the mountain under cover of night to grind flour so they could eat. Food rationing was unpleasant for everyone, especially for those in the cities. Elias describes the experience.
11:30-14:30 Glorianne’s father was Candido Elorriaga, from (Larraga), Bizkaia. His parents had died soon after his birth, and he was raised by his older siblings. He served in the Spanish navy, then came to Shoshone, Idaho at the age of 19. Candido helped build a canal in Shoshone, then went to Hagerman to work as a sheepherder for Martin Kearn. He met his wife there, and they were married in 1931. Glorianne’s mother was Gloria Madarieta. She was a homemaker who helped her mother take care of her siblings, since Gloria’s father had passed away. Her parents were both from Bizkaia. Glorianne’s maternal grandparents had known each other in Spain, but didn’t marry until they were both in the US.
14:30-17:30 Glorianne was born in 1935 in Wendell. She has two older brothers, Raymond and John, and a sister named Mary. The children all grew up in Hagerman. They spoke Spanish at home, because Glorianne’s grandmother lived with them and only spoke this language. Glorianne spent so much time with her grandmother, that unlike her siblings, she was unable to speak English when she started school. It didn’t take her long to adapt to school, and within a year she was fine. Glorianne’s grandmother talked about the Basque Country all the time, and so when Glorianne went to visit for the first time, she felt familiar with a lot of the sights.
17:30-24:00 The Basque community in Hagerman was small (2-3 families plus the herders), but Glorianne remembers being taunted by some non-Basques as a young girl. The herders always came into the ranch on Christmas Eve. They would stay at Marcelino and Marie Larragan’s place up the street. In general, the Basques and non-Basques in town got along very well, especially as people got older. Both Elias and Glorianne consider themselves as proud Basques. Glorianne was always considered the “most Basque” girl in her family. She went through all her schooling in Hagerman, and so got to see the community evolve. She remembers hearing that cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers used to have tensions between them, but was glad to see these differences put aside as she was growing up. Glorianne’s parents always told her to ignore prejudice and be proud of whom she was.
24:00-28:00 There were always big Basque dances in Hagerman, and the large Mormon community used to plan parades and festivities. Glorianne recalls that her house burned down when she was 7 and the family lost everything. The neighbors were wonderful in helping to rebuild the home, but with the war on, resources were in short supply. Elias and Glorianne still live in this house today! There was no Catholic church in Hagerman, so Mass was given in homes by a priest who came in every Sunday. A little church was finally built in 1948, after years of fundraising through Basque dances. There was no religious friction in town.
28-30:00 Glorianne’s mother never went to the Basque Country, and her father never went back (he never had any family to visit). Years later, they looked up cousins of his who were surprised they had relations in America. Glorianne graduated from high school in 1953, then went to Boise Junior College for 2 years. She then went home for a while and got married in 1960. She began attending summer school when her daughter was 4 years old, and graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1969. Glorianne taught junior high English and high school Spanish for 37 years until her retirement last year. There was never any pressure on either Elias or Glorianne to marry another Basque, but they just always suspected they would.
0-5:00 Elias and Glorianne married in 1960, and had a daughter named Julie. They tried to raise her appreciative of the Basque culture. She learned quite a bit of Spanish from her maternal grandmother, and is proud of her heritage today. Julie married a non-Basque, but her kids still feel connected to the Basque culture today. The whole extended family has made several trips to the Basque Country. They also enjoy working with the church and helping out with the Gooding Basque Association and the picnics there.
5-11:00 Both Elias and Glorianne are charter members of the Gooding Basque association because it helped everyone in the area keep in touch with each other and with their shared cultures. They recognize that it will be difficult to recruit young people to maintain the Basque culture in Gooding and Hagerman, but perhaps the new Basque Center will help them. They worry a bit about the weakening of the Basque culture in the Gooding area, but they hope their children and grandchildren can turn this tide. Elias and Glorianne don’t know if there such a thing as an American-Basque culture that is distinct from the Basque Culture per se, but they do notice the lack of new immigrant influence on the current Magic Valley Basque community.
11-19:00 Elias has made at least nine trips back to the Basque Country, and Glorianne has been there about 7 times. The first time Glorianne went, she was enchanted, and loved meeting Elias’ family. This was in 1972, and she got the chance to see where her ancestors were born—one old man even remembered her father. She met her father’s cousin in a restaurant he owned in Bilbao. Over the years, the couple has noticed many changes in the Basque Country. After Elias’ 12-year absence, he was astonished by the economic and political improvements he saw. Glorianne has noticed a lot of modernization as well. Every time he returns, Elias feels that he fits right in, but he feels at home in Hagerman as well. Glorianne feels very relaxed in the Basque Country as well. One of the biggest adjustments when they go over there is the later schedule; people are much more active at night, whether its walking, talking or bar hopping. Hagerman is much more quiet at night. Many aspects of life in the Basque Country seem better than that in America, at least in terms of lifestyle quality.
19-22:30 Elias and Glorianne discuss the differences in lifestyle between the Basque Country and Idaho. They have both noticed a drastic increase in motor traffic there over the years. It seems impossible to find a parking space in Lekeitio these days. Children seem to get more schooling over there as well.
22:30-24:30 After all these years, Elias still considers himself a Basque. Glorianne remembers an incident where her 8-year old grandson claimed to be “half American, half Basque, and half human!” Glorianne herself feels very strongly attached to her Basque heritage.
NAMES AND PLACES
Cortabitarte, Cecilio: Elias’ brother
Cortabitarte, Nemesio: Elias’ brother
Cortabitarte, Paulina: Elias’ sister
Cortabitarte, Fermin: Elias’ father
Cortabitarte, José: Elias’ brother
Cortabitarte, Modesto: Elias’ brother
Elorriaga, Candido: Glorianne’s father
Elorriaga, John: Glorianne’s brother
Elorriaga, Mary: Glorianne’s sister
Elorriaga, Raymond: Glorianne’s brother
Franco, Francisco: Spanish dictator
Goff, Julie Cortabitarte: Elias and Glorianne’s daughter
Gooding Basque Association
Kearn, Martin: owned sheep in Hagerman
Larragan, Marcelino and Marie: housed Basque sheepherders in Hagerman
Madarieta, Facunda: Elias’ mother
Madarieta, Gloria: Glorianne’s mother
Basque Center (Gooding)
Boise Junior College
Ispaster, Bizkaia: Elias’ birthplace
New York, NY
Wendell, ID: Glorianne’s birthplace
World War II