Over the years, I’ve explained Basque to countless people and often times I’ve just resorted to saying “my Mom is Spanish” to avoid the conversation and explaining. But, for your sake and the sake of the blog I’ll explain it again. Basques are a group of people located in Northwest Spain and Southwest France which is known as Basque Country. Basques are considered one of the oldest ethic groups in the world and have a rich history and culture but the population of Basque people in world is relatively small.
So needless to say, growing up Basque in the Pacific Northwest is NOT common and it certainly isn’t something that my peers know much about. Not to mention, light hair and blues eyes aren’t typically thought of as being from Spain or of Spanish descent.
And although it may not be common, we are proud to be Basque and I am blessed to be part of the community.
Basques have a rich history of music, arts, sports and cuisine. Goldsmithing, working with silver and other metals is a common hobby and profession. Basques have a unique form of dancing and it is a way to preserve the culture in today’s world.
Basques are also known for sheep herding in the Pyrenees Mountains. The sheep herders would spend months on end in their wagons and they would use carvings in trees to communicate with each other and express themselves. Basque sheep herders found their way to Boise and began their herding the Boise foothills.
Basque sports are focused around strength and stamina. Some common competitions include log cutting, stone listing, hay bale throwing and wagon pulling.
The Basque language is completely unique. Unrelated to any other current language. Basque was spoken in Spain before Spain was colonized and it is the only pre-Roman language still spoken. Although most Basques also speak Spanish fluently, Basque is also an official language of Basque Country.
Every five years an international Basque festival takes place in Boise, Idaho. And let me tell you, it is the REAL DEAL. Basques come from all over the United States and other countries to celebrate together. A street in downtown Boise shuts down for five days for celebrations. Basque bands play live music all night long, authentic Basque food is sold on the streets and delicious Kalimoxtos (red wine and coca-cola) are served throughout the day. The days are spent exploring Basque History and indulging in delicious food, the nights are spent dancing and drinking.
To put it simply, we like to have fun. We love, we laugh and we live life to the fullest. We may not see each other often but when we do, it is a blast and it feels like home.
My great grandparents were immigrants from Basque Country and they moved to Boise, Idaho. My grandfather (my Aicheche) was a Basque sheep herder and spent his springs and summers in the foothills of Boise. My Amuma (grandmother) worked as a maid in the Basque boarding homes in Boise where a large Basque population was built.
To preserve our family history, every Sunday the family gets together for lunch and we enjoy each other’s company. Our wedding’s are wild and a sight to be seen. But above all else, we have a bond because of our background and our heritage. We have something in common and we love who we are because of it. As the Basque’s say it, Euskadi. We are proud to be Basque.