Boise, Idaho’s Basque Community

Pimsleur Approach • February 19, 2013 • Language HistoryComments (1)
Boise, Idaho’s Basque Community

The Basque Country is the home of the Basque people, situated in a region between northeast Spain and northwest France. The Basque Country was granted autonomy under the Spanish Constitution in 1978. Under this declaration, the Basque Country is a self-governing region, which means the small nation may, among other things, name itself based on its historical identity, elect its own officials and develop its own constitution. Approximately 2 million residents live in Basque Country today.  The community has two official languages—Basque and Spanish—although Spanish is the predominant language. Usage of the native Basque tongue has declined over the years; based on a sociological survey taken in 2006, approximately 30% of residents of the Basque autonomous community spoke the native language fluently.

Although cultural and civic pride remains strong in their native country, growing populations of the Basque people have been popping up in the United States. Surprisingly, one of the most active and visible Basque communities in the U.S. resides in the city of Boise, Idaho. Boise’s Basque community started in the 1840’s, when a number of immigrants from Basque Country’s province of Bizkaia moved to the Midwestern United States to work as farmers, miners, or loggers.

Today, Boise’s Basque community has grown but remains very close-knit and dedicated to keeping their homeland’s culture alive. The heart of the city’s Basque community is known as the “Basque Block”, which is home to a traditional Basque pub and restaurant; community center, boardinghouse, and cultural center, among other establishments. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center offers exhibits, lectures, twice-weekly Basque language classes, and a gift shop to visitors interested in learning more about this proud culture. (www.basquemuseum.org).

One of the biggest annual traditions is the celebration of the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, patron saint of the Basques and founder of the Jesuit religious order. The day is marked with a traditional Mass, community picnic, and demonstrations of traditional dance, music, and sports. The Boise Basques also proudly stage performances by their native dance troupe, the Oinkari Basque dancers, during special cultural events.

There are a number of other Basque communities in the United States, but Boise’s is one of the oldest and most vibrant. Thousands of visitors tour the Basque Block each year to learn more about the residents’ proud heritage.

One Response to “ Boise, Idaho’s Basque Community ”

  1. Linda Odiaga Emry says:

    I was just on your site http://www.pimsleurapporach.com Basque Community and see you have a picture of my grandparents on your page.

    I am just curious where you got the pictures of them. I was excited to see it on your page.

    Their names are Jose Luis Odiaga and Juana Mendozona Odiaga. This is their wedding picture on 28 November 1914.

    Thank you,
    Linda

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