A Basque in Boise

Irune Sánchez: An interview with Boiseko Ikastola’s teacher


Few things are as rewarding for me as writing about what’s going on in Basque communities abroad, particularly in the state of Idaho. It’s even better when I blog about events organized by people I know or attended by my friends.

Today is one of those happy times when I get to share with you news about an awesome person who, for the second time in four years, has made Boiseko Ikastola shine even more. I’m talking about Irune Sánchez, a very, very special friend and Boise’s Basque language immersion school teacher. She first came to work for the Ikastola in 2008, when my own kids were enrolled. She decided to come back last year to teach for another 15 months and has made even more families happy. Irune is the greatest with kids, good-natured, fun and full of energy. Boiseko Ikastola in particular and Boise’s Basque community in general, we are lucky to have her.

A few days ago, Basque newspaper Anboto published an interview with Irune, which I’ve put in English below. If you rather read the article in Basque, find it online at Anboto’s website, or download the pdf and navigate to page 24.

I always ask that you forgive me when translating from Spanish to English. On a Basque to English translation, I really, really mean it!


Irune Sánchez: “Like my friends say, I’m another Basque-American”

Irune Sánchez, a Basque teacher from Berriz, Basque Country, made cakes for San Blas with the kids at Boiseko Ikastola. She is happy in Boise: she says she feels at home among those people in Boise who experience Basque culture in their own special way. Boiseko Ikastola was created fifteen years ago with to preserve Basque culture. Kids between three and six years of age attend the school, and Irune is their only teacher. There are over 5000 miles between Berriz and Boise, but thanks to today’s technology, she answered our questions right away.

What type of lifestyle do you have in Boise?

Even though Boise is a city, it’s not like other cities in the United States. It has the charm of a smaller place. I work until four o’clock during the week, then play pala once a week. Other days I teach Basque at the Basque Museum, I go for a walk with my roommate or I have a couple of drinks.

You were there four years ago and decided to go back.

Yes, I came in 2008 and spend 15 months here. Then I went to London and in 2012, the Basque Museum asked if I would come back, and here I am again. Like my friends here say, I’m another Basque-American, I feel at home and I know most Basque people here.

How is the Ikaskola in Boise?

It’s called Ikastola, but it’s more of a preschool. There are kids between three and six years of age. Some Basque formed the Ikastola in 1998 for their kids to be surrounded by other Basque children and to maintain the Basque culture. Now we have 21 kids split between two classrooms.

Do they call you ‘Miss Irune’?

No! Some kids whose parents are not Basque do, but otherwise they call me Irune or teacher.

How do the parents and their kids experience the Basque language there?

This group is very different from the group I had four years ago. Then, the kids spoke more Basque because they had parents at home who spoke to them in Basque. In this year’s group there are four kids whose parents know Basque but it’s difficult for them to speak to their children in Basque. It’s not easy. I do my best but they don’t speak much Basque among each other. They use “give, take, careful, don’t run”, and things like that.

We hear that people from the Diaspora are really proud of their roots? Do you agree?

If you ask my friends from here, none of them will tell you they are just American; they are Basque-American. They all know where their family came from and the surrounding towns. Then, they have necklaces or tattoos featuring the lauburu or something related to the Basque Country. They give their kids Basque names and if the Basque last name is going to be lost, they make it the kid’s middle name, like Parker Arana Anderson or McKenna Kattalin. Basques here feel more their roots more than many in the Basque Country and they fight more to maintain their language and traditions.

You teach many things about Basque culture.

Not so long ago we celebrated Tamborrada at the Ikastola. Then we did Santa Agueda and finally we made cakes for the parents during San Blas. Next week, although a little bit late, we will celebrate Lantza’s carnival and we will sing songs for the parents.

You will also celebrate Korrika this year.

Yes! The Ikastola kids, their parents and many people from Boise will gather at the Basque Center. A couple of years ago about 200 people took part. We will run and then eat at the Center. Adults will pay $15 and the money will be used to send young people to the Basque Country to improve their Basque.

You have been in London too. Did you always want to live abroad?

Yes… I left when I was young and now, even though I miss my town and I’m older, it’s not easy to come back. I always think there will be time to return and for now I have to ties. I want to travel more.

You will be in Boise until the end of the year. Would you like to stay longer?

Yes… if it was up to me, I would stay here at least two more years!


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“Nire lagunek esaten duten moduan, ni euskal-amerikar bat gehiago naiz”

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6 thoughts on “Irune Sánchez: An interview with Boiseko Ikastola’s teacher

  1. Ruth Vonk

    Nice piece of work. Irune is truly one of a kind and I know how important her friendship is to you!

  2. Irune

    Thank you guys,… You all now I love it in here and is mostly because of people like you! You make it a special place!!!

  3. Joxu

    We are so glad that our daughter Maitea got the opportunity to go to the Ikastola. Irune and Mara are the best teachers we could ask for.

  4. Mikel Egaña

    kaixo Irune…nahi dugu, Getxotik, zurekin egin berba. Erantzun mesedez


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