My friends and I are always making fun of how much time we spend at the Basque Center, “that new place in downtown Boise.” We show up for Basque dancing on Tuesdays, after pala practice on Wednesdays, Mus tournament on Sundays, and monthly dinners or special events throughout the year, like Olentzero or Sagardotegi. On Friday and Saturday nights we go just for fun and kalimotxos.
We promise ourselves on a regular basis that this weekend we’ll try something new, that we’ll aim for a change of scenery. We research online and get ideas from family and friends. We act like this time will be the time, just to fail miserably and find ourselves drawn to the Center again, irresistibly, like we did last weekend and the weekend before.
There is always a familiar face there. Even when it’s empty, bartenders Juli and Flora will sit across the bar and chat with you. That’s the main reason why I love it so much. Besides, I know that more often than not I’ll be able to park my English at the door and use Spanish or Basque instead. When you live in a foreign country and speak their language all day, you know what it means to take a break. In the end though, the conversation invariably turns into a mix of three languages — four when our friends from Iparralde pay us a visit.
Boise’s Centro Vasco is anachronistic, timeless. A place that transcends physical barriers and becomes universal. It is not unusual to find four different generations of Basques on any given day of the week. Some were born here, some in the Basque Country. Older Basques continue to play cards on Sunday evenings, just like they did when they were young, and often Mus partners go back more than a decade. But there is also change in enduring traditions. The older generation now competes against their children and grandchildren, women are part of the tournament, and there is at least one grandfather/granddaughter Mus couple.
The Euskal Etxea is an integral part of Boise’s close-knit Basque community. We all gather there, each with our languages, our accents, our nationalities, our stories, and our preference in soccer teams. At the Center, our differences bring us together to make us, above everything, Basque.
- Mayor Bieter’s eMemo: Let’s Walk 150, Boise
- Intensive Basque language classes in Maizpide (Basque Country) in July, 2013