Boise Basque History

The Basque Country or Euskal Herria is the name given to the home of the Basque people in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast.  It comprises the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France.  There is some contention about origins of the Basque people.  Linguists have studied Euskera or the Basque language for five centuries without finding conclusive connections between Basque and other languages, making it unique among Western and Central European languages.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century limited economic opportunities in Euskal Herria led great numbers of Basques to immigrate from their homeland. Basques who had migrated to South America and the southwest in the United States responded the discovery of silver in DeLamar (1889) and Silver City (1890) and moved to Idaho.  They spent little time in the mining camps, finding ranching and sheepherding more lucrative.  Once established in Idaho, the Basque Idahoans sent for family members back in their homeland to make the journey to Idaho.

Basque residents in Boise maintained their native culture through Basque hotels and boarding houses, which provided more than lodging for newly arrived Basques.  These institutions helped immigrants adapt to unfamiliar customs and meet other Basques, and provided a reminder of Basque traditions with Basque food and language.  Boarding houses, hotels, and clubs serving the Basque community were a haven for traditional dances and music from the Basque Country.

Today, Idaho has the second highest Basque population in the United States and Basque culture and history have been carefully preserved and celebrated in one of the biggest Basque communities: Boise.  The Basque Museum and Cultural Center (the only Basque museum in the U.S.) has diligently worked to protect and share Basque culture and history with its patrons.  Boise is also home to Jaialdi, an international Basque festival that brings people from all over the world to celebrate Basque culture, food, traditional games, dancing, and music.

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