A May 2007 trip
to Boise by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Boise's Basque population has been an important part of its history and culture since the Basque immigrated to Idaho in the early 20th Century.
Basque immigration to Idaho came in three stages. The first was the above mentioned turn of the 20th century migration. The second wave of Basque immigration came after World War II. In the mid 1930s, Fascist Francisco Franco started a bloody Civil War in Spain that killed thousands. The Basque were a target for Franco since they spoke a different language and had a different culture than the rest of Spain. Franco used terror to try to subdue the Basque, and the most infamous incident was the German terror bombing of the Basque town of Guernika in 1937. Many of the post-World War II Basque immigrants to Idaho had witnessed the bombing of Guernika and fled Franco's oppression.
Franco did everything in his power to suppress the Basque during his reign (1939-1975) by imprisoning the Basque, executing them, and banning their language. It was forbidden to speak the Basque language in public, and if one was caught speaking Basque, they were thrown into prison.
The third wave of Basque immigration came in the 1960s and 1970s. Jobs were hard to find in Spain for the Basque, so many Basque men came to the USA for jobs as sheepherders and other labor-intensive work. After the Basque men settled in Idaho, Basque women came to join their husbands, marry Basque men from their villages in Spain, or to work.
Today, the Basque are a huge part of Idaho life and culture and their traditions and food have become a part of our lives in many ways.
1. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center on Grove and 5th Streets.
2. The early Basque immigrants settled in downtown Boise on Grove and 5th Streets in many boarding houses that line these streets. The Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House is part of the Basque Museum and can be toured by appointment only.
3. There are a couple of Basque Restaurants to eat at during your stay. Leku Ona is located across the street from the Museum on Grove Street, and I have eaten at Epi's on Main Street in Meridian.
4. The Basque Museum has several exhibits through the year. I caught a photo exhibit on Guernika when I came to the center for a funeral reception and, in July 2007, there will be a new exhibit on the history of Basque Whaling. Also, every five years there is a Basque Festival in downtown Boise complete with food booths, dancing, and other cultural fun. The next festival won't be until 2010.
For more information about the Basque in Idaho go to www.basquemuseum.com
For those coming from out of town, downtown Boise is easily accessible by car. From I-84 East, go left onto the "Flying Wye" that will get you onto I-184. Follow 184 straight into downtown Boise which becomes Front Street. Take a left onto 5th Street and go until you hit Grove Street. Free parking is rare during the day in Downtown Boise, so be prepared to feed a parking meter or park in one of the garages in town. Hourly rates are cheap compared to most big American cities. After 6pm, parking in Downtown Boise is free in most locations.
Mom and I parked at a meter on 6th and Grove Streets and fed the meter there. There was a park nearby that had several vagrants sleeping on the benches there, so make sure that you lock your car doors and shut the windows.
Attraction | "The Basque Museum and Cultural Center"
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center are two separate buildings on Grove and 5th Streets in Downtown Boise. The bigger Cultural Center is a raised beam, Tudor-style building that is used for weddings and other big parties. The museum is a smaller, newer building behind the cultural center. The day of the funeral, a couple of family friends and I were the first to arrive for the reception, and we waited outside to get the other guests in the right building. Otherwise, we would have been in the middle of a wild wedding reception and not a somber funeral reception.
I brought Mom back with me to the Basque Museum and Cultural Center the following Wednesday to check out the exhibits without shuffling through crowds. It was worth the second trip.
The museum walls are lined with several photos of Basque women who immigrated to Idaho as early as the 1920s. Most of them came because their husbands were already here making a living as sheepherders or other work. Other Basque women came to get married, and the later immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s came for work as domestics and later started their own businesses or became teachers of the Basque language.
Another part of the Basque exhibits included Basque Dance, Sports, and other cultural aspects. When the most recent group of Basque came to Idaho, they noticed that there was not Basque dance groups and started their own dance clubs. They grew to many members and have travelled around the USA and Europe, including their old homeland in the Basque Region of Spain.The Basque also brought jai alai and sports similar to Scottish Highland games to Idaho, and they built a couple of Catholic churches in the Boise area, St. Mary's (where the funeral was held) and St. Charles' Church.
One of the biggest exhibits was right in the middle of the museum. It was a covered wagon used by some of the first Basque sheepherders. Reconstructed to its early 20th century look, it was home for a Basque sheepherder and his wife, who helped out hubby with the sheepherding along with cooking and other domestic duties.
To be continued.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 31, 2007
Basque Museum & Cultural Center
611 Grove Street
Boise, Idaho 83702
Attraction | "The Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Part 2"
The covered wagon they lived in was tiny and would have been very crowded for two people, but they were newlyweds and liked being with each other. The bed took up the back of the wagon, and the front was a little pantry with shelves filled with canned goods and appliances.
After touring the museum, Mom and I returned to the little souvenir shop and asked the curator, Christy, about visiting the Jacob-Uberuaga Boarding House, but you can only see that with an appointment, Christy said. I told her I was surprised that the Guernika exhibit was gone, and she was shocked to see that it was taken down, too. The place that housed the Guernika exhibit will be replaced with a mural that will be part of the History of Basque Whaling Exhibit that takes place in July.We all got talking about how Mom and I got to Idaho and about Basque History and Culture. I told Christy I had been there the Saturday before for a funeral reception, and she said that the Basque sure know how to throw a wake and drink. Christy said that she was of Scottish and Basque heritage, and we talked about how Franco tried to suppress the Basque people by banning their language and culture. Christy said that when she visited Spain in the 1970s, she spoke a little Basque, and someone warned her that she could go to jail for speaking Basque in public. After Franco's death in 1975, King Juan Carlos took over and granted some autonomy to the Basque people, and there are two representatives in the Spanish Parliament.The Basque Museum and Cultural Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturdays from 11am 3pm. Admission is free but donations are accepted.
Attraction | "The Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House"
Several of the boarding houses are still standing on Grove and 5th Streets. The Leku Ona is now a hotel and restaurant while the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House is part of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center.
Built in 1864, the Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House is the oldest brick building in Boise and was a Basque boarding house from 1910-1970 for Basque immigrants from Spain. Eventually Boise, Idaho was home to the second largest Basque population in the U.S.A.
One needs to make an appointment in advance to tour the Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House, which houses exhibits, photo displays, and Basque artifacts. I will be making reservations in the near future to tour the home. I hear the exhibits are done by Basque descendants in costume. It is a gathering place for all who want to learn about the Basque Culture and participate in its activities.The Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House is open the same time as the museum. For more information, go to www.basquemuseum.com or call (208) 343-2671 to make reservations for tours or plan a reception or special occasion.
Attraction | "The Basque Market"
The market is a small grocery store with Basque goods and pottery along with a deli where one can order sandwiches. Mom and I spent about 15-20 minutes browsing the shelves that were stocked with Basque delicacies such as smoked eel, calamari, and sardines imported straight from Spain. There were also Basque meats like tongue (UGH!) and bacon that are a staple of the Basque diet. There was a map on the back wall showing the Basque Region of Spain that was interesting to look at. The Basque's most famous food gift to Idaho is Chorizo, the spicy reddish sausage that is best served grilled and on a hard roll with mustard.
Mom and I didn't buy anything in the market because the prices were a bit high being located in Downtown Boise, but it was a short diversion before touring the museum to see how the Basque culture lives and eats. Someday I will have to return to the market and get a sandwich at the deli. Next door to the market is the Leku Ona Restaurant, one of the Treasure Valley's two Basque Restaurants. The second one is Epi's in downtown Meridian on Main Street. I dined there a few years ago, and it was one of the best dining experiences since moving to Idaho in 1992.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 31, 2007
P.O. Box 727
Napa Valley, California 94559