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A Bit of Basque Culture in Boise (Idaho)

Every five years Basque people from around the world gather in Boise for a festival of food, games, dancing, and other cultural events. It is called Jaialdi and it takes place in 2020, late July into early August. It is well worth attending if you are in the area.

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6788 posts


I vaguely recall seeing a local documentary or reading something about the Basque community in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest - I believe that for some reason (which escapes me right now) there was a significant immigration of Basque people to the region many years ago, specifically to work as shepherds at high altitude meadows - like seriously high up in the very rugged, very remote mountains of northern Idaho, tending livestock seasonally. It seemed like a very unexpected, incongruous connection, but as I recall the Basque people were good at it, didn't appear to mind (or at least were willing to tolerate) the remote locations with primitive conditions, and they stayed. Not a story I would have expected. Fascinating to learn that the Basque community in Idaho lives on. Who would have thunk it?

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3830 posts

Thanks for letting us know. Interesting happenings going on around the US

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78 posts

If you are ever in Reno, NV, there's a good Basque restaurant/bar called Louis' Basque Corner. You are seated with others at long tables and food is served family style. I llike the sweetbreads and the Picon Punch (a Basque cocktail).

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2602 posts

I travel to Boise on business once a year and was delighted to discover the Basque neighborhood near the old downtown, which is also charming, little museum and some good restaurants.

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3961 posts

Thanks for sharing. I have a colleague whose husbands ancestry is Basque.. They have attended the festival multiple times. They raved about festival. We haven't been to Boise for many years. I recall a great restaurant there. It may be time to revisit!

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16215 posts

The Eastern Sierra (over Tioga Pass from Yosemite) also had a strong Basque presence, now documented by the arborglyphs (tree bark carvings, mostly on aspen trees). Fortunately it did not hurt the trees, and they stand to this day as a record of the past.

Some nice photos here (scroll down to the last one especially):

And you can take a natural history course about them from the Mono Lake committee in Lee Vining in the fall:

My husband and I happened across an impressive grove of them last October, hiking in Lundy Canyon near Lee Vining. We were there for the fall colors, and were surprised to find a grove of the arborglyphs. This was around 8000 feet in rugged terrain and did not look like “sheep country” to us, but there was water in a creek and some grazing ground. John Muir used to complain bitterly about the grazing sheep in the Sierras, calling them “hoofed locusts”.

Back to Boise, you can find nice wine and tapas at the Basque Market downtown in what is known as the Basque Block.

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2172 posts

Idaho is second only to California in Basque population (Nevada is a close third). The last Jaialdi was in 2015, just a few months before we moved to Idaho, so we're looking forward to our first!