A Basque in Boise

Back to the Far West: 81 Basque sheepherders will travel to the USA in September to revisit the places where they once worked

From EuskalKultura.com, we find a very interesting and uplifting story related to former Basque sheepherders that worked in the USA years ago. (To read the story in Spanish, click here. For Basque, click here.)


Imagen histórica de un pastor vasco en California, hace más de 50 años (foto FGoñi/Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan). Uno de los pastores. From EuskalKultura.com

This year, almost a hundred members of the Basque Sheepherders in America Association will dare to make a longtime cherished dream reality. Most of them worked as sheepherders in the USA for years and now, despite their old age, have decided to revisit those places and show their sons and daughters how life was there. “Most of them are looking forward to returning, but didn’t dare to travel alone. However, as everything is organized and they will travel with friends, they go happy, surrounded by their wives, sons and daughters…”, explains Laura Igantzi, from the association, to EuskalKultura.com. They will set out on the 31st of August to California and they will stop by Chino, Bakersfield, Fresno y San Francisco.

Lesaka, Navarre. The associations Basque Sheepherders in America usually organizes a big annual meeting, where hundreds of sheepherders get together who worked in the USA for many years. This year there will be no meeting; instead, the sheepherders will see a long time dream come true: travel to California and reunite with friends, places and memories they left there and which, in many cases, they never saw again.

According to Laura Igantzi, from the Basque Sheepherders in America Association, members of the association are living with excitement the last few weeks before the trip: “It’s great. How exiting, how awesome, so proud! It has to be taken into account that most of them were dying to go, but didn’t dare to travel alone.”

Chino, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Francisco

The organization of the trip has been the Angie Otxandorena’s responsibility, born in the USA but residing in Doneztebe since a few years ago, and who has scheduled the visits and meetings in the Basque Centers. The trip will start on the 31st of August in Los Angeles and on September 1st have already been invited to join the annual Basque Festival which takes place the first weekend in September, organized by Chino Basque Club, in southern California.

Later, they will visit places such as Cucamonga Ranch, Bakersfield, Fresno, Pleasanton, and San Francisco, meeting with former coworkers and the Basque communities in each town.

With open arms

Basques in the USA have welcomed the idea with enthusiasm and from numerous Basque Centers the travelers have been invited to participate in festivals, Basque picnics and other celebrations. “For example, last week Pierre Etcharren called from San Francisco saying he found out we were going to be there and invited us to the September 8 picnic organized by the Marin-Sonoma Euskal Etxea. And a few weeks ago, a Basque-American sheepherder who was visiting Erro, told us that he was already signed up to have dinner with us,” says Igantzi, who was also born in the United Stated, although her family returned to Navarre when she was very young.

The organizers have no doubt that the trip will be very exciting, for them the sheepherders as well as their families. “We will experience incredible moments… After so many years, meeting up again with relatives, having the opportunity to tell your kids stories lived there, see those places again… We are very excited to go and, just in case, full of Kleenexes!”, laughs Igantzi.

List of participants

Los 81 viajeros estarán acompañados por un equipo de Euskal Telebista, que grabará los instantes más emotivos e interesantes del viaje. Ésta es la lista completa de participantes:

The 81 travelers will be accompanied by an Euskal Telebista team (Basque radio and television), who will film the trip’s most touching and interesting moments. This is the complete list of participants:

-Felipe Arozamena, Elena Etxegarai, Lesaka
-Juan Felipe Vicente, Angeles Mitxelena, Irurita
-Juan Lucio Teletxea, Araceli Garro, Oitz
-Jose Mª Cordoba Rekarte eta emaztea, Erratzu
-Fermin Ciganda, Teresa Txokarro, Iruña
-Fco. Javier Iñarrea, Maria Elarda, Irurita
-Tomas Ibarra, Arantxa Oteiza, Zubieta
-Eugenio Villanueva, Rosario Osacar, Iruña
-Beñardo Villanueva, Juan Mª Arteaga, Iruña
-Angel Oroz, Jaione Oroz, Nati Torrea, Villava
-Fermin Barazabal, Rosario Erasun, Azpilkueta
-Candido Etxarte, Carmen Iriarte, Iruña
-Jose Antonio Abaurrea, Arrieta
-Elias Mandacen, Milagros eta Angel Luis, Garralda
-Guillermo Etxenike, Rosario Iñarrea, Irurita
-Alejandro Cordoba, Azpilkueta
-Carlos Borda, Carmen Redin, Huarte
-Antonio Retegui, Ana Mª Guembe, Barañain
-Julian Arretxea, Asuncion Irigoien, Irurita
-Emeterio Guerendiain, Galar
-Daniel Iparaguirre, Teresa Iparaguirre, Burlada
-Juan Bautista Oteiza eta Ana Oteiza, Arraioz
-Esteban Alzuguren, Ana Mª Irigoien, Bera
-Lucio Irisarri, Fermina Goienetxe, Elgorriaga
-Fco. Javier Zubieta, Mª Cruz Andueza, Etxalar
-Julian Irisarri, Pilar Goienetxe, Elgorriaga
-Santi Hualde, Mª Carmen Elizalde, Zubieta
-Martin Barrenetxe, Urdazubi
-Jose Luis Arretxea, Gloria Maya, Etxalar
-Angel Iparraguirre, Mº Teresa Zubieta, Etxalar
-Pablo Olaizola, Mª Luisa Zaldainena, Urdazubi
-Laura Igantzi, Lesaka
-Angie Otxandorena, Juanito senarra, Doneztebe
-Carlos Overtrails, Iruña
-Jose Aguas Sevilla, Unzue
-Mercedes Zabalza, Olaz
-Vicente Vidaurreta, Iruña
-Ignacio Marmaun, Mª Jose Juanena, Adriana, Erro
-Paula Huarte Arregi, Arizkun

Thanks for passing by: ↓

Steven Roosevelt Aitzol Azurtza Mark Bieter Paula huarte arregi Benito Oneida

7 thoughts on “Back to the Far West: 81 Basque sheepherders will travel to the USA in September to revisit the places where they once worked

  1. Angie Otxandorena

    One small clarification:
    Although EAA was touched and really appreciates the invitation by Pierre Etcharren to visit with folks at the Sonoma picnic, our scheduled itinerary, will not allow us to attend. The tour group will be at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco on Sunday, September 8.

  2. Henar Chico Post author

    Eskerrik asko, Angie, for the clarification. One way or another, you will have such a great time!

  3. Paula huarte arregi

    estoy emocionada de verdad. Qué felicidad volver a esos sitios donde sudé tanto. paula

  4. Benito Oneida

    when will you come to Idaho? I have much history and original sheepwagons to see.

  5. dunate

    Hello , i’m french and i know that my grand-father went in California in the 50′ as a sheepherd. Unfortunaltely he died long time ago and anyone can give to my family good and precise respons to his experiences in your countries. I’m rendering if it will be possible to have information about it and know if anybody remember him.

    Thanks a lot and excuse me for my bad english..

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