Tag Archives: fronton

Celebrating Boise’s Fronton

Anyone who has been to the Basque Country and visited any of the villages that dot the coast and the valleys between those peaks shrouded in mythology certainly knows the importance of the fronton to the Basque people. The plaza of most any town is often surrounded by the three corner-stones of Basque life: the Church, the tavern, and the fronton. I know best the one in my dad’s home town of Munitibar. Festivities may always begin with a mass at the Church, but they always center on the fronton, either a game of pelota or animal tests or a bertsolari contest. The fronton is the public space in which life happens.

The Basques who immigrated to the US brought their games with them. And, the fronton. A wonderful open-air fronton sits in my mom’s home town, Jordan Valley, Oregon. But, the oldest is in Boise. In fact, the fronton in Boise is probably one of the oldest sporting venues in the US. Like Wrigley Field in Chicago, it will turn 100 in 2014. The Jacobs-Uberuaga boarding house will turn 150 the same year. The Basque community in Boise is gearing up to celebrate these milestones, important not only in the history of Boise Basques, but Basques in the US as a whole. The fronton endures, just as the Basques have endured.

I personally am not overly familiar with Boise’s fronton. I may have stepped foot in it once as a kid. However, both Mark Bieter and Henar Chico have written wonderful testimonies about the role the Boise fronton has played in their lives. Mark describes the history of the fronton and how, to pelota players in the US, it is sort of the Wrigley Field of pelota. Henar, a newer resident of Boise, has become an aficionado of the fronton and the pala leagues that are very active. The fronton has become a very important part of her life in Boise. Both paint a picture, both past and present, of a building that has served as the cornerstone of the Boise Basque community for nearly 100 years. And, knowing the Basques, will likely be standing strong for another 100 years.

Today in Basque History: Architect of Gernika’s Fronton

1892: Castor Uriarte Aguirreamalloa, architect and author, is born in Catabuig, Philipines. In 1937 he witnessed the German bombardment of Gernika, during which the village fronton, which he had designed, was destroyed. He later tried to get Picasso’s Guernica moved to Gernika without success.

Link Dump: Pelota, Picon, and Pipes

Here are a few links I’ve run across that I thought were worth sharing.

Pelota is immensely popular in Euskal Herria.  Most evenings I was there, a match was being shown on the TVs of most bars.  Even though cesta punta — jai alai to the rest of the world — is the most flashy version of pelota, the most popular within the Basque Country is pelota mano — hand ball.  Every match I saw on TV was mano.  It is amazing to think about the punishment these guys do to their hands.  In any case, Fronton is a site that is trying to bring “a game with centuries of traditions to a new millenuim.” They have news, rankings, videos, forums, and more.  If you are a pelota junky, or just want to learn more about the sport, this is the site for you.

I’m not one for hard alcohol — simply just don’t like the taste — so I have never tried a Picon punch.  However, this article in The Atlantic uses Picon punch as the context to describe a bit of Basque history and the Basque way of life in the western US.  According to the article, Picon punch isn’t what it used to be, mostly because the Amer Picon from which it was made is no longer available in the US.

Finally, this site describes a woodcut purchased by the website developer of a scene depicting Basques working on their catch after a whale hunt.  What really caught the eye of the writer, however, is the presence of a bagpipe player.  The Basques are known for lots of things, but playing the bagpipes is not necessarily one of them.  The bagpipes, within Iberia, are typically associated with the Gallegos.  But, the woodcut is from the late 1500s and the author is speculating that maybe the Basques did play the bagpipes.  Does anyone know?