TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-12:00 Martina’s parents were José (“White Horse Joe” due to his work on a ranch by the same name) Yraguen and Claudia Acordagoitia. They were born in Natxitua and Ereño, which Martina had the pleasure of seeing a few years ago, and got to see where they courted and married in 1909. She says she could just feel her roots there, even though her parents had never spoken much of their homeland when they were little. Claudia did sing to her kids, and shared a few stories—mostly about all the hard work everyone had to do. Claudia’s nephew Frank Yraguen (a judge) has compiled a book recounting the stories of the family’s life, to which she refers all the time. From this book, Claudia learned that her father was a deck hand on a ship to the United States when he jumped ship in New York. José had a brother in McDermitt, Nevada, and after working as a farm boy on the White Horse Ranch for 2 years, then as a sheepherder on the Crowley Ranch, he and his brother opened the Antelope Sheep Ranch in Oregon Canyon. Martina explains the various ranches.
12-20:30 José met his future bride when she was a very young girl, and although everyone expected him to go for Claudia’s older sister, the couple was engaged when she was 10 and he was 15! After the wedding in 1909 (over a decade later), Claudia worked very hard as a cook for her husband’s various ranch positions. Martina’s siblings are Epifanio, Timotea, Mary, Juanita, Carmen, Bonifacio and Joe; she is the youngest. Their first house had one room, a dirt floor, a woodstove, and a sod roof. The family soon built a new house, but then moved to Vale, where Martina was born at the Bully Creek Ranch on April 18 1925. She was the only child to be born with the aid of a doctor (Dr. Weese)!
21:30-26:00 As she was growing up, Martina’s family did not keep in close contact with their family in Euskadi, but socialized frequently with Basque neighbors such as the Guerricagoitia, Cenega and Mendive families. They mostly ran alfalfa and sheep ranches. The family loved to go to Vale, even though it was a very small town, and they also tried to go to dances whenever possible. Martina’s godmother, Martina Unamuno, ran one of the few boarding houses in Vale. There were also Japanese and Hispanic families in the area. Once in a while, sheepherders would pass through the ranch and play the accordion, to the children’s delight.
26-30:00 By the time Martina was born, her father had gotten out if the sheep business (prices had fallen too low) and was concentrated on farming. She recalls a flood that swept through the Bully Creek area the month before Martina was born, when her mother had to do all the rescue efforts (her husband was so upset that he didn’t do much). Claudia never spoke any English, so the kids spoke Basque to her, but English to their father. Martina is proud that she is able to speak Basque, and even though she is a little rusty, she enjoys practicing whenever she can. She is now the only Basque member of her church choir.
0-4:30 Martina didn’t have the rough time at school that her siblings did (they spoke no English when they began), since she had grown up bilingual. She recalls that her brothers had accidents because they could not ask to go to the bathroom. She usually spoke English with her brothers and sisters, except now, when they do it for fun (only Juanita and Timotea are still living). Frances Cenega, Julie Mendive and a few other Basques went to school with Martina, and while she doesn’t remember any prejudice, her siblings did a little (her brothers got into a few fights over ‘Black Basco’).
4:30-11:00 Martina’s father was adamant that all his children stop school and begin work at age 15, so she only got one year of high school. She wanted to become a beautician against her parents’ wishes, apprenticing in Ontario and Portland for a year. Once she had gotten a license and begun work in a beauty shop, her parents were quite proud. She worked in Ontario. Martina’s siblings mostly worked on ranches, which were mostly what was available at the time. Joe worked as a car salesman, and Boni as a logger. Martina very much enjoyed fixing hair, which she did for about 10 years.
11-19:30 Martina married Lorenzo “Larry” Echanis (Timotea’s husband’s nephew) in 1946. Marrying a Basque was “very much an issue” in the Yraguen family, since Martina was not allowed to date non-Basques. If only his parents knew that the Basque boys were the wildest ones! She explains how she met Larry in California when she was 15—love at first sight, and she was instantly determined to wed him. The couple tied the knot in Ontario in 1946 after his 3 years in the Navy. Martina mentions some of the places her husband served in during the war, including Omaha Beach.
19:30-30:00 Martina describes what it was like living in Ontario during the war—she did a lot of praying over the danger her husband was in. Despite the horrid things Larry saw, he was proud to have served in the Navy. Her children are James Cecil, Michael Lawrence, Patrick Joseph and Tina Marie—they grew up speaking a little Basque and a little Spanish, but mostly English. None of Martina’s children are particularly sorry they did not learn Euskera, and did not keep in close contact with their Basque family, but they were members of the Ontario Basque Club. Martina was a charter member of the group, which was initially for ladies, but is now more family oriented. Over the years, they have danced at boarding houses, met in various homes, etc.—just to provide a venue for community togetherness and promote the Basque culture.
0-5:30 Martina has a “50-year pin” from the Basque club. When the women got older, they began letting men into the club to help out with the functions. Now instead of a regular dance, the club hosts a dinner dance, and new members (many young ones) are joining all the time. Martina’s Basque heritage forms an integral part of her identity, and although she doesn’t want to make an issue out of it, she is very proud of her roots. Non-Basques love the Basques because they are a happy people—perhaps evidenced best by lively funeral dinners, like a recent one for Justa Yturri.
5:30-13:30 Martina took a wonderful trip to Euskadi with friends Julian and Mercedes Caldecorta in 1990, and had a condo right across the street from the Tree of Gernika. She talks about how much fun she had looking up and visiting her relatives. Martina has a cousin named Ralph Abadia with a bar in Gernika. She took this trip with her husband, right before he passed away in 1993. Martina would not consider going to the Basque country again, since she has no more close relatives there any more. She recalls her mother talking to her about the Basque country when she was little—they never got a chance to return to the country of their birth. Both José and Claudia became American citizens. Martina considers herself to be an American first and foremost, with an interesting Basque culture.
NAMES AND PLACES
Abadia, Ralph: Martina’s cousin
Acordagoitia, Claudia: Martina’s mother
Caldecorta, Julian and Mercedes: Martina’s friends
Cenega family: Martina’s neighbors
Cenega, Frances: Martina’s friend
Echanis, James Cecil: Martina’s son
Echanis, Lorenzo “Larry”: Martina’s husband
Echanis, Michael Lawrence: Martina’s son
Echanis, Patrick Joseph: Martina’s son
Echanis, Tina Marie: Martina’s daughter
Guerricagoitia family: Martina’s neighbors
Mendive family: Martina’s neighbors
Mendive, Julie: Martina’s friend
Ontario Basque Club
Unamuno, Martina: Martina’s godmother
Weese, Dr.: assisted in Martina’s birth
Yraguen, Bonifacio: Martina’s brother
Yraguen, Carmen: Martina’s sister
Yraguen, Epifanio: Martina’s brother
Yraguen, Frank: Martina’s cousin
Yraguen, Joe: Martina’s brother
Yraguen, José “White Horse Joe”: Martina’s father
Yraguen, Juanita: Martina’s sister
Yraguen, Mary: Martina’s sister
Yraguen, Timotea: Martina’s sister
Yturri, Justa: Martina’s friend
Antelope Ranch (Oregon Canyon)
Bully Creek Ranch (Vale)
Crowley Ranch (NV)
Omaha Beach, France
Oregon Canyon, OR
White Horse Ranch (NV)