Who is Buber?

After all of these years, I just realized that I never really introduced myself. I’ve just been this vague presence behind this website, and while people may know of Buber, they don’t really know anything about Buber. So, Who is Buber?

Me, with the green cap, outside of the family baserri, with some of my dad’s family and my daughter. We had just finished burying a small memento in honor of my dad, who had passed a few years before.
  • Buber is Blas Pedro Uberuaga. I was born in Idaho. My dad, Pedro Uberuaga Zabala, was from Munitibar, Bizkaia. He had come to the United States when he was 18 years old, and came to be a sheepherder in the US west, primarily eastern Oregon and western Idaho. He had a few uncles who had already made their way to America and he followed in their footsteps. He was the oldest of eight children and the only one to leave the Basque Country.
  • My mom, Monica Uberuaga, nee Telleria, is from Jordan Valley, Oregon, a little hot spot of Basque culture. Her dad, Jose “Joe” Maria Telleria, while born in the United States, was the son of Basque immigrants, Blas Telleria and Ines Eiguren. Blas was from Mutiloa, Gipuzkoa while Ines was from Ispaster, Bizkaia. Joe ran the local grocery store in Jordan Valley, Telleria’s Market, for many years before retiring.
  • Growing up, I did a bit of Basque dancing, as part of Gloria Lejardi‘s Caldwell dance group, but I hated it (through no fault of Gloria’s!) so quit as soon as I could. As an undergrad at the University of Idaho, I spent a year in Donostia as part of the University Studies Abroad Consortium. I took a semester of intensive Basque, focused on Batua, but I would spend my weekends with my dad’s family in Bizkaia and I had a hard time with the dialect and it was simply easier to speak in Spanish, so I didn’t learn as much as I could.
  • I went to graduate school at the University of Washington, studying physics. It was during that time that I started this page. I had some free time and wanted to learn HTML, so I just started putting up notes from my time in Euskal Herria. I was also part of the crew that started the Seattle Euskal Etxea (SEE), which is still going strong. I made a lot of good friends during that time.
  • When I graduated, I found myself at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where I still work as a scientist focused on computational materials science where I study problems related to radiation effects in materials. I was part of the group that started the New Mexico Euskal Etxea (NMEE), which tried to recognize the long history of Basques in the region. Unfortunately, because of several reasons, that club has stalled, though there is always the hope of a revival.
  • My wife, Lisa Van De Graaff, has been super-supportive of these endeavors, playing a large role in the activities of SEE and NMEE. We’ve been able to go to the Basque Country together a number of times now, where I’ve introduced her to my family, the culture, and the food, including the boiled octopus my aunt pulled out of a pot, surprising us one morning. More recently, we’ve had a great time introducing our daughter to the Basque Country and her extended family. Lisa and I try to incorporate elements of Basque culture as much as we can at home so our daughter has some introduction to the culture of her amuma and aitxitxe.
  • The name of this page — Buber — comes from my name: B. UBERuaga. It was the name I was assigned for my first email account at Washington.

17 thoughts on “Who is Buber?”

  1. I really enjoyed your history on the Buber page!! You do an awesome job and I have researched your pages many times. My father, Sebastian Jose Michelena was born in Oyarzcun, Guipuzcoa in 1900 and came to Buffalo, WY in 1919. My mother is a full blood Austrian. By the time, my dad came to America, his family had moved to Sunbilla, Spain. I have been to the Basque country several times and I have experienced some different kind of food at my family homes. I am proud of my Basque Heritage…I do not speak Basque. Kathleen Michelena Smith

    1. Thanks Kathleen! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the pages and I appreciate the kind words. I have yet to make it to Oyarzcun, but maybe some day. Nor have I made it to Buffalo, but I’m told that I should check it out some time. Ondo izan!

  2. Blas, we love you man! What great memories from our initial sieps with Seattle Euskal Etxea.

    1. Mil esker Javier! I still remember that steak you made for us, one of the best I’ve ever had. Some day, we’ll need to repeat!

  3. Kaixo, Blas! When did the reveal happen?

    I had exchanged emails with you in 2006 while on my quest about the Zabarte’s. It still is a quest. But now more about exploring and enjoying Euskadi whenever I visit Europe.

    I was just flipping through stuff in my data bank that I came across some of my old notes on BBP and emails. Glad to see that your page is still around and very accessible.

    Visiting your page today made me grab an old book I’ve had for a long time – The Basque History of the World – by Mark Kurlansky. Entertaining, intriguing, quirky and lovingly partisan. Will start reading it again tonight.

    Desio onenak zuri eta zure webguneari!

    1. Kaixo Ernesto! The reveal is only a couple of months old, actually. Still fresh!

      It is good to hear from long time visitors! And I’m glad that your visit has refreshed some memories and kindled grabbing that book. It’s been a long time since I read it. I should read it again, to get some more inspiration.

      Ondo pasa! I hope a trip to Euskadi is in the not-too-distant future!

  4. Greetings,
    All this is very interesting!!!
    If and when you revive New Mexico Euskal Etxea, please let your readers know. Thank you!.
    So you are a scientist as Los Alamos, NM–my partner, best friend and everything that was wonderful in my life for over 35 years–he passed away 6 years ago and I sorely miss him–was a chemist at Sandia Lab. in Albuquerque–there must have been a bit of jealousy as he used to say–“oh Los Alamos is full of over paid scientists” but he did like the Basque country side very much. For various reasons, we would fly in to Madrid instead of Paris–we would stop at ventas and buy cod liver cans and once at a MacDonald that sold beer with meals. That made his day!! He turned to me and said ” this is a civilized country”!!.

    It is a good thing to bring your daughter and wife to visit your family –keep the flame of the candle going. Thank you.
    All the best,
    Monique

    1. Thanks Monique! Of course, if NMEE comes back to life, I will let people know.

      I haven’t seen much rivalry between Los Alamos and Sandia. Overall, I have good relationships with the people I know there. My condolences on the loss of your partner and friend.

      Thanks for all of the great commentary. It is always great to hear from you!

  5. My Grandparents came from St. Jean de Port in the early 1900s, so I am of French Basque roots! I enjoy learning anything about the Basque Country and people…..am happy to find this site! Have visited their home and my remaining family only once, but hope to return!

    1. Thank you for saying hello, Lenore! I’ve never been to St. Jean de Port but have to the coast of Iparralde. It is certainly beautiful! I hope you are able to make a return visit soon!

  6. I have followed this website on-and-off over the years and have enjoyed it. My grandparents. Enrique and Martine Josepha Aguirre came to the US from Ea, Bizkaia (near Bilbao). I speak very little Euskara; just what I have picked up casually in visits “home” to Ea where some family still lives.

    One of the fairly recent highlights in my life was attending Jaialdi in Boise the last time it was held (2015?). We’re hoping to go again in 2025 if age doesn’t interfere; I am now 81 and my wife is 80. We continue to think positively.

    One of the reasons I visited the website today was to try and identify a phrase my grandfather used; “makatako.” It was his daily afternoon break where he had a small glass of port wine and two Danish shortbread cookies, followed by a brief nap; then back to work on the ranch until supper time. I don’t know if the spelling (makatako) is correct; it is my phonetic attempt. If anyone has any insight on this, I would love to hear from them. Eskerrik asko!

    1. Hi Jim,

      Nice to “meet” you! I hope you are able to attend Jaialdi, though it would have been nice to have gone last year…

      Unfortunately, I don’t know what word that might have been. There is a Basque word for an afternoon break, but the words I found for it are askaria, arratsaldekoa or merienda (which is really Spanish). That said, it could be a dialect, but I can’t find anything specifically on that word. Sorry…

      1. Dear Blas, dear Jim
        here my two cents as only basic Basque speaking – your grandpa’s ‘makatako’ very much sounds like ‘amaiketako’ – this is the around noon (literally translated ‘at 11:00 am’) break many basques take for eating the sandwich, whatever they bring from home to work or picking something at one of the numerous ‘Tabernas’. In winter, when cold this could be a light warm soup on a cup. A very inspiring blog for those basques living far away from home, big thank you Blas!!!

        1. Eskerrik asko, Jose. Thank you for this information and I think you may have helped me solve the “makatako” mystery. “Amaiketako” fits this situation quite well, though it was just a little later in the afternoon. The timing may have been due to his work schedule on the ranch. Just changing a couple of letters from what I remember hearing verbally made all the difference.

          Again, many thanks for responding to my question. And, a big eskerrik asko to Blas for maintaining this page. My Basque heritage is very special to me and having a place like this to come and learn more about it is very special too.

  7. Thank you for the quick reply. It is nice to meet you as well, and thanks for creating and maintaining this great website. As for “makatako,” it may be a term my grandfather picked up somewhere during his early career as a ship’s captain in the Spanish Merchant Marine service. Maybe not Basque at all. I wish he was still alive so that I could ask him.

    Upon immigrating to the US with my grandmother and uncle Max (2 years old at the time), he left the sea and held a number of jobs in the San Francisco area before purchasing a chicken ranch in Northern California. For the rest of his life, he was “in the egg business” as he called it.

    I wish I had learned Euskara from my grandparents, but they reserved the Basque language for discussions they didn’t want curious children (and grandchildren) to understand. 😉

    Thank you for your response. Gora Euskadi!

  8. I am descended from a line of Basques. I live in ” the USA”. Flew over the Pyranees back in 1984 and felt a magnetic pull, an actual physical force. I had a vivd dream two nights ago, my cell phone was ringing and the contact i.d. said “BUBER”. I didn’t connect that with this blog until a minute ago when I saw the new blog post and the word BUBER startled me – I had assumed the dream was about a call from Martin Buber, a 20th century philosophy type, published even, about whom I know almost nothing so it didn’t connect.

    The whole Basque lineage thing took a startling shift recently when I discovered the Basque Jesuit posted to Caracas, Venezuela about 150 years ago did not play quite the role I had always heard he, Papa Juan Zumeta, had. Not even close really. And now I’m wondering if, and the answer seems to be obviously a “yes”, I ought to see whether the Buber of this blog may have some background information about this at best, or even just thoughts about how best to go about getting down down out of that plane and putting my feet (back) on the Pyranees, where I’ve realized for some time is where they want, badly, to be.

    Allow me to contemplate how best I might get my email/whatsapp or something along those lines to Buber in the event he decides, I hope, to consider a conversation.

    Thank you in advance for any consideration whatsoever. I will keep an eye on the email I used to open the WordPress account via which I was able to leave this “comment”. That email**, is why-aitch-O-O- EEE-why at gee mail dot com

    **(email phonetically presented so as to avoid being grabbed by net scanning bots. aitch equals the letter H, etc. EEE = e )

    1. Hey! Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about Juan Zumeta. Never heard about him until your comment and didn’t find much about him after an admittedly very brief search. So, I don’t know where to point you on that.

      As for getting your feet in the Pyrenees, have you ever visited? It’s simply a wonderful place to visit. The people aren’t always all that warm initially, but they warm up once they get to know you a little. If you haven’t been, you need to go!

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