Being Basque

Last month, my family and I were up in Idaho to visit grandparents.  While visiting amuma and aitxitxa (now affectionately known as “txitxi”), a couple of dad’s buddies got together at the Txoko Ona, their Basque center in Homedale, to eat and play cards.  They’d planned it a bit, but it wasn’t an overly involved production, just 4 or 5 guys, one making lamb stew and bbq’ing lamb ribs, another making bread, getting together and living life just like they might have in the old country.  They let me tag along, and while they were playing Mus, chatting away in Euskara, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this is what being Basque really is about.  These guys don’t have to do anything to show their Basqueness, they just are Basque.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the big events, especially the ones that pull people from all over as I then get a chance to see old acquaintances and the like, people I wouldn’t get to see otherwise.  And it’s great to see the dancing, the sports, and the rest as such a profound expression of culture.  Later that month Homedale had it’s own Basque picnic, which drew in a respectable crowd, and I got to have my chorizo and kalimotxo, and see some old friends.

But, there is also something very special just seeing these guys do their thing.  Not trying to be Basque, but just being Basque by being themselves.  As the sheepherder generations leave us, we will be missing something crucial in the fabric of the Basque community.  One can only hope that the outward expressions of Basque culture that the collective “we” work so hard in keeping alive can draw new blood from the Basque Country to keep the foundation solid.

4 thoughts on “Being Basque”

  1. Just to read your description of the Basques being Basques brings back memories of 20 years ago. My friends dad had the old Basques friends from spain,they would go up in the mountains and cook and play cards and drink wine and shoot the bull just being Basque.I’ve got to say it sure was excellent food and some amasing conversations.

  2. I think Basques of your generation are like this too, Blas. Perhaps it is over beer instead of wine, and perhaps it is at a sports bar instead of over cards, but when you are together with other Basques an atmosphere is created. There is an intensity to the conversation and an underlying cultural camaraderie that is all Basque.

  3. You are so right, Blas. I know these men and believe me they don’t need Basque flags, tattoos, license plates, or any other paraphenalia to make them Basque; they just are. We could learn a great deal from them. I think the more American Basques travel to Euskadi and experience the country and its people the more they would really understand their own “basqueness.”

  4. I am the daughter of a spanish basque sheepherder from Nevada. My upbringing was immersed in the basque way of being in the world – anyone who is basque knows what that means. My dad is gone now but I would like to attend Basque clubs, activities, picnics in the California area. Please let me know if such a calendar of events exists.


    Barbara Yturralde

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