TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-6:00 José Martin’s father was Rufino Elexpuru, and his mother was Maria Jesus Larrinaga, both from Aulestia, Bizkaia. They grew up in different areas, and married around 1935. Rufino and Maria Jesus moved into baserri Lekoiz, and spent their lives farming and raising children. José Martin recalls having 100 sheep, 14 cows, as well as many grains and vegetables. Rufino came to the US on two different occasions before his marriage to work as a sheepherder, but stayed in Aulestia once he started a family. José Martin was born on 11 November, 1939. His siblings are: Miren, Jone, Juan Cruz (died in a mine accident), Augustina, Benita, Jesus (died at one day), Esteban, Enrique, Mari Angeles, Maria Luisa and Maria Jesus; he is the 4th child. Taking care of all these kids was greatly facilitated by José Martin’s maternal grandparents.
6-13:00 José Martin describes all the work he did on the farm. The four boys had quite a few chores outside, even though the girls did a lot as well. Oddly enough, even with all these kids, there was often too much work! There was a huge table in the kitchen, and the family made most of their own food and grew the ingredients. José Martin’s mother and sisters sold lambs and beef in the Gernika and Markina markets (saddling up the burro), and eggs and chickens locally. He remembers food rationing: even when hail damaged the crops, the family had to give away so much food that they were forced to buy some of it back. German soldiers once stole all 100 of the family’s sheep. Beggars didn’t come by the baserri very often, but it did happen. The family was not allowed to mill it’s own wheat, relying instead on State-sanctioned operators who took a cut of the flour. Corruption was common.
13-17:30 José Martin began school when he was 7, and had to walk the 5 kilometers in all weather conditions. School was not a great experience, and it was not a major concern for his parents. José Martin had to miss a lot of class to help out at home. Classes were conducted entirely in Spanish, which few of the students could speak upon entering. Boys and girls were separated into different classes, but all grades were in the same room. It was not easy for José Martin to learn Spanish, and even though occasions to speak in school in general were rare, if it was in Basque, he was punished.
15-20:00 Regardless of class, catechism was a mandatory daily event, and was always taught in Basque. Basque. At one point, due to a paucity of qualified teachers, one of the Goitiandia girls had to teach this class. For fun, José Martin often played handball with his friends. Once he had the money to buy a bike (about age 16), he started to race bikes, and he lists some of his teammates.
20-25:00 José Martin finished school when he was 12, because the wages he could earn working were more important to the family than an education. He found a job in Ispaster, working at the farm of a wealthy Spanish doctor and his Basque wife; the man was supposed to be teaching him Spanish, but José Martin was worked like a slave. He describes his chores. José Martin didn’t get to come very often (twice a year), but he bought his first bicycle so he could pedal faster when he did. The atmosphere in Ispaster was kind of like a family in the sense that they ate together, but during the 3 years he was there, they never grew very close. He was not paid very well, but sent some home to help out his family.
25-30:00 At age 15, José Martin quit to work in the marble mine near his home. His task was to sharpen the tools and other things, which he did for 5 years. He was drafted into the Spanish army when he reached 21, and was stationed in Burgos and Vitoria. José Martin felt the army was a waste of time, since he made the equivalent of 2 pennies a day and the food was repellant. He discusses his bicycle racing, which began when he was 16. Friends and family pushed José Martin to compete since he was so fast and athletic. He won many trophies and traveled a lot for these races.
0-5:00 José Martin continues with the bicycle racing: his team was Euskadi champion a few times, his teammates were from different towns, and they got along well together. Racing was easy for him for the first few years, but it got tougher as he approached conscription age, so he quit. After the army, José Martin began hauling lumber around the Basque country. When friend Victor Garate offered to help him find a job in the United States, José Martin accepted in order to make a little more money.
5-12:00 Crossing the Atlantic in October 1964 made José Martin’s family a little sad (since he was the first to go), but the situation improved. He recalls flying from Madrid to New York To Chicago to Salt Lake City to Boise, in the company of a few other Basques. He stayed a few days in the Uberuaga boarding house before moving out for the sheep camps. José Martin considers that life as a sheepherder was not especially pleasant , but he knew he needed to work there to get the money he wanted.
12-16:30 José Martin worked for the Achabals until 1966, mostly as rancher, but also as a sheepherder. He then went to work for the Simplot Company under Johnny Basabe and another man. After these years in the sheep business, José Martin went to work in construction at the Air Force base in Mountain Home from 1969 until 1974, where there were also many Basques. He hauled hay for Joe Larrea during the off seasons.
16:30-21:30 Throughout his years in Idaho, José Martin traveled to many cities to attend Basque picnics and festivals, he also loved to dance at boarding houses and Sheepherders Balls. He moved to Gooding in 1974, where he and a partner ran a trucking business for 10 years. They hauled hay all over the state, and sometimes went as far away as Nevada. Since then, he has dabbled in farming, and builds houses with his wife, who has a construction license—he’s only semi retired with 300 acres and 200 cows!
21:30-25:00 When he came to Gooding, José Martin encountered a thriving Basque community, and once again participated in picnics and casual socializing. He met his wife Carolyn in 1979 at the Lincoln Inn (he was a goof friend of her brother’s), and although she is not a Basque, that was never an issue for José Martin.
25-30:00 Once he got married, José Martin decided that the US was his new home, and even though he has not become a US citizen, business and friendships here have blossomed. Carolyn has adjusted to the Basque culture well and willingly, and the couple’s daughter, while unable to speak Euskera, appreciates her Basque heritage. José Martin has another daughter from a previous relationship who has not been involved with her heritage. José Martin’s first trip back to the Basque country was in 1972.
0-5:30 José Martin discusses the changes he saw in his hometown the first time he went back for a visit: the economic situation had improved enough for a few job prospects, but he had already gotten attached to America. Altogether, he has made 4 trips with his family, which has grown to love Euskadi. Now that the region is less oppressed, visiting is more enjoyable, and José Martin still feels at home with his family there (he still has seven sisters!). He us toying with the idea of spending part of his retirement there
5:30-9:00 In Gooding, José Martin is a member of the Basque Association, and enjoys helping out with the group’s activities. He supports the idea of preserving the Basque culture for future generations. After all his years in the United States, José Martin still feels like a Basque, and his family enjoys this heritage as well.
NAMES AND PLACES
Achabal family: ran Idaho sheep ranch
Basabe, John: José Martin’s foreman
Elexpuru, Alyssa: José Martin’s daughter
Elexpuru, Augustina: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Benita: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Carolyn: José Martin’s wife
Elexpuru, Enrique: José Martin’s brother
Elexpuru, Esteban: José Martin’s brother
Elexpuru, Jesus: José Martin’s brother
Elexpuru, Jone: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Juan Cruz: José Martin’s brother
Elexpuru, Mari Angeles: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Maria Jesus: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Maria Luisa: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Miren: José Martin’s sister
Elexpuru, Rufino: José Martin’s father
Garate, Victor: José Martin’s friend
Goitiandia family: José Martin’s friends from Aulesti
Gooding Basque Association
Larrea, Joe: José Martin’s employer
Larrinaga, Maria Jesus: José Martin’s mother
Simplot, JR: Boise billionaire
Lekoiz: José Martin’s baserri
Lincoln Inn (Gooding)
Mountain Home Air Force Base
Mountain Home, ID
New York, NY
Salt Lake City, UT
Vitoria (Gasteiz), Araba
Spanish Civil War