Guillermo Ibaibarriaga

Interviewed by Pedro Oiarzabal

In Reno, Nevada


Interview conducted in Spanish


Transcription, translation and sound byte files by Pedro J. Oiarzabal ©


Side 1


Interviewer: “I am Pedro Oiarzabal, and today is November 5, 2002. This is the first in a series of oral history interviews with Mr. Guillermo Ibaibarriaga. The interview is being conducted in Mr. Ibaibarriaga’s house in Reno, Nevada. The question is: does the Oral History Program of the University of Nevada have your permission to make available to the public the tapes and transcripts of the oral history interviews that we begin today?”

Chronicler: Yes.

Interviewer: Then, we can begin the interview. The interview will focus on your experiences in the United States of America [USA], and how you left the Basque Country – Euskadi, in order to find work over here. When did you decide to come to the United States?

Chronicler: It was in 1982.

Interviewer: Why did you decide to come to the USA?

Chronicler: I was working in a Cooperative, Cikautxo, in Berriatua. I was in charge of maintaining the machines. All catalogues of the machines were in English and nobody could understand anything. We could not translate them into English…

Interviewer: Yes…

Chronicler: So, we used to have problems. Then, I asked for a sabbatical year and I decided to come to Reno in order to learn English.

Interviewer: Why Reno?

Chronicler: Because my brother and uncle live in Reno.

Interviewer: When did you brother and uncle come to Reno?

Chronicler: Well, my uncle came; I do not know exactly when…maybe he came some forty years ago. My brother came when he finished his Master Degree…

Interviewer: Yes…

Chronicler: …in the Salesians Brothers…I mean in Mondragon. He finished his career at the age of 19 years old.

Interviewer: Did he [the brother] come to learn English also or to do something else?

Chronicler: Yes, overall he came to learn English.

Interviewer: I guess your brother came because your uncle was already here…

Chronicler: No, first he went to Miami, Florida, because he played cesta punta [Basque ball game] in Miami during his studies in the University over there. Once the course finished, he went to San Diego, California because uncle lived there. The uncle meant support in order to go back to University. He began to study…Well, better if he explains this himself…He began to study economics or something like that…

Interviewer: Very well, when you decided to come in 1981/1982…

Chronicler: 1981/1982 I believe it was…I do not know exactly…

Interviewer: …how was your live in Munitibar? What did you do? You told me you were working…

Chronicler: I was working in a Cooperative in Zigautxu. Of course, I was earning quite well. I lived with my parents in the house. I had an ordinary life.

Interviewer: So, you just came for a specific period…

Chronicler: Yes, only for a year.

Interviewer: Only one year…

Chronicler: I came in a sabbatical year…

Interviewer: …in a sabbatical year…

Interviewer: You came to Reno…

Chronicler: Yes, to Reno…

Interviewer: You were in your uncle’s house, and why did you decide to prolong your stay?

Chronicler: One year later, I went back to Euskadi and I was there for a while. Then, I realized that I liked the US. I decided to go back for another year…I was there [in the Basque Country] four or five months. I came back. I came back to stay.

Interviewer: What other factors influence your decision to stay?...

Chronicler: When I came back, I began working in the construction because you could earn lots of money. Then I joined a school to learn English and there I met my wife. One week later, I stopped going to school. I stayed with her.

Interviewer: From your arrival in 1982 to today, 2002, how did you see you experience in the US?

Chronicler: It has been a beautiful experience. I worked on the construction for nine years…working with water pipes…well, everything that goes underground. I learnt lots. After this, I began my own businesses, because I thought that the construction work was no my future. I got in to the business of repairing cars, painting. Today, I am involved on the construction business. I put cement, stucco, on the outside walls of the houses. It is going quite well thank God.

Interviewer: Did you come back to Euskadi?

Chronicler: Yes, of course…

Interviewer: When did you come back?

Chronicler: Normally, I go every two or three years because one year I go to Euskadi and the next year I go to Costa Rica. My wife is from Costa Rica.

Interviewer: Then, the second time you came back, you thought to go for good, leaving Euskadi, your work…

Chronicler: Not for good. I fall in love with my wife and then I decided to stay…

Interviewer: You decided to settle here…

Chronicler: Really, there was a time that we thought to go back to Euskadi…


[The interview is paused]


Interviewer: Resuming the conversation…Then, how did your family react to your decision to come back for second time?

Chronicler: The parents were in shocked, you understand, as it is logic…

Interviewer: …because your brother had left home also…

Chronicler: Yes. My other brother was playing cesta punta, he was a pelotari [Basque handball player]. He left home when he was 15 years old. He never came back. Maybe he went home for a month or two months every year, but he always came back for one year or two years. I was the youngest. Then, the first time I told my parents I was coming here, it was ok, perfect…You are going to the US to learn English, you go with your engineering career. You are going to have a better future. Then, they were all happy. Nevertheless, when I came back for second time, they [the parents] were not so happy. They asked me why; you are going to start your job again…but I asked them permission to leave, to see what would happen. They were hurt; particularly the father was very hurt.

Interviewer: Ok, having a good job…for example, if I told my aitas [parents] now the same thing that you told them, they would said that you have a job; you have a family. Really, telling them that you are going to leave everything behind…

Chronicler: It was like an adventure. I wanted to leave; I wanted to experience what my brothers have told me many times: here there is a great future. Then, the people push you a little bit. Then, let’s go to see it for yourself. I worked and I earned very well there [in the Basque Country]. The salaries were quite high. There, I had the future resolved, you understand. Within the cooperative industry, you will always have work. However, I got restless; I wanted to come here, to know everything. I came here in 1981, for one month, during my vacation time. I liked it very much as I came on vacation. Everything is easier. I liked it. I liked Reno. It is a beautiful town. After this month I went back home to Euskadi with my brother that he was getting married with a girl from here. They got married in Urkiola. He was there for a month. He told me that if I wanted to come back I had to make a decision. Then, I decided to come back the next year.

Interviewer: Since then, you have come back many times…how…

Chronicler: Well, the first time I went back [to the Basque Country] was ten years later. I came here and I began to work. I met my wife. We got married and we had a baby girl. We bought the house. Once you have bought a house and you have a family, it makes it harder to come back. Then, the trip to the Basque Country costs thousands of dollars. In that time, people had not so much money. The second baby girl was born. My parents came here before me returning home. I came back ten years later.

Interviewer: So, your parents have been here…

Chronicler: Yeah, my parents come here every two years, three years.

Interviewer: Was that the first time your parents came here?

Chronicler: No, they came here before.

Interviewer: They came here before to see the family…

Chronicler: …to see my older brother.

Interviewer: Once you have settled, ten years later you went back to Euskadi, how did you see changed your family, friends?

Chronicler: As you can imagine, it a drastic change, isn’t it? They are ten years. People had white hair. For example, the village has changed lots. They have built new houses, improved roads…

Interviewer: How do the people welcome you?

Chronicler: The people welcomed me warmly. Party after party. Every day I went out with the friends. Euskadi is beautiful. I was impressed.

Interviewer: Do you think to go back definitely with the family?

Chronicler: No, definitely not.

Interviewer: Are your parents still alive?

Chronicler: Yes, of course. No, definitely, I will not return to stay there all year. We plan in a short period to live four months in Costa Rica, it is beautiful, and there is where my wife is from; four months in Euskadi, and four in the US. That is to live two months there, come back, return…you understand. This is the plan for the future.

Interviewer: Do you see a necessity for your daughters and wife to live in…

Chronicler: Of course, it is logic, my wife’s mother lives in Costa Rica. She wants to go Costa Rica to stay with her family.

Interviewer: How well do your wife and the girls adapt to there?

Chronicler: in Costa Rica?

Interviewer: in Euskadi.

Chronicler: Well, they like it very much. They adapt well for a month.

Interviewer: Do they prefer to go back to the US?

Chronicler: I am going to tell you something, the last time I was there were the golden wedding anniversary of my parents and all my family from the US was there, we have lots of family here…After a month I missed Reno, seriously. You want…, I do not know, it is the place where we live…

Interviewer: Why do you think is that?

Chronicler: First, you have here all sorts of commodities. We live quite well. Today, there is everything in Euskadi…There are many years living here, you understand. Although, I was born in Euskadi, and I would like to die in Euskadi, I want to live here also.


[The interview is paused]


Interviewer: Well, resuming the conversation…You told me that when you came you had an engineer career, and you had a good job. What was the reality…well, you told me you left everything behind, and you came here with nothing…What was the reality that you encounter here?

Chronicler: Well, as I told you when I went back, I was there for few months and I wanted to come back to the US. Then, I decided to come back, to return with the excuse of learning English and to work here. In Reno, my first job was in landscaping, gardening, planting trees. I was paid $3.20. We worked from sunrise to sunset. I was a good worker. The owner loved me very much. I worked there for three months and I left it. I found a better job in the construction. My uncle helped me. At the beginning, I was another worker…

Interviewer: How much were you being paid?

Chronicler: It was very well paid. Back then, it was $12, $13 per hour compared to my former job. I worked for nine and a half years. After eight years, they wanted to give me an opportunity as a topographer. However, I did not want this. I had other plans. I wanted to begin my own business. Always, my ideas here were quite clear, to start my own business. I got a partner. He is from Guatemala and we are still together after thirteen years. We began as mechanics. I did not know anything about cars. I studied a little bit. We began to do painting. I gave quotes of crashed cars to the people. Friends helped me all the way.

Interviewer: How long are you in the repair car business?

Chronicler: I am in this business for thirteen, fourteen years. In addition, it is doing very well.

Interviewer: Now, you have another plan to begin your own construction company.

Chronicler: No, I have already my own construction company. It is of stucco for the outside walls of the houses. We are in this business for a year and it is going quite well. We have a brilliant future, I believe. We are optimistic.

Interviewer: Therefore, it can be said that you have a great success in life.

Chronicler: Well, success due to work. Because, for example, last summer, I worked about sixteen hours a day, six or seven days a week. So, what a have is due to effort and dedicate myself to work. Therefore, many times, I have no time for my family and that is why I had got in troubles with my wife.

Interviewer: Quite well, what do you think is the difference…if you have been in Euskadi now and we have this conversation twenty years later, working in the cooperative as an engineer…what is the difference you can perceive as a result of your trips to Euskadi, when you see your friends, cuadrilla [close knit of peers]?

Chronicler: All my friends have studies, almost all of them. They all have good jobs, married with children. You can see they follow the typical plan in Euskadi. They go out for a drink or for dinner Fridays and Saturdays. What the people do normally in Euskadi. Here, as I said, working sixteen hours a day. There is no time for nothing.

Interviewer: Does this hard working bring you any reward, satisfaction?

Chronicler: Yes, yes, I live economically quite well. I want to give to my daughters a good future. That is the reason I am doing all this. I adore my girls and all of this will be for them.

Interviewer: When the people tell you that America is the land of opportunities, what true is on it?

Chronicler: For me, America has given me opportunities in this life, and I believe I have taken them and I have squeezed them. Here in this land, there are opportunities and for everyone…

Interviewer: …are you happy working so hard?

Chronicler: Of course, I want to carry like that for another four years. I would like to find somebody to replace me and I would like to travel. That is what we want to do. We travel for a month every year. I take one month of vacation every year. We go to Central America, Costa Rica or to Euskadi. Every year I have a month of vacation. I work hard for eleven months, but the twelfth I rest. I see the plans that we are carrying forward are going very well. That is what I say, why not? If we can do it now, why not? In five years, I will retire and then we will go to Costa Rica to fish every day. Those are the plans. Or perhaps I will work less, but I will never stop working. I want to work the rest of my life, but not as much as now. I would work less; I would employ more people to replace my job. I would just collect the money rather than just work.

Interviewer: As you arrive in the eighties, do you see much difference between you and the generation of your uncle that came to work as sheepherders? Do you see a great difference between those people who left their village to find a job and then, thirty years later, probably, you arrive with better qualifications and with the passage of the time you acquire their same economic level? Therefore, there are differences between the two generations, but both share a same goal.

Chronicler: Well, the generations…when they came, they did to work the borrega [sheep] for a period of five years. From there, they ended in a village or in a ranch, or many of the Basques ended working in the railroad system, Amtrak, and in the construction because these jobs were very well paid. In our case, I always came to study and I had clear goals. I have been determined in this life. I have risked one hundred percent, because I risk. I risk everything in this life. I have taken the chances to go further than they have. Moreover, everything has gone well. They worked in the construction as ordinary workers, others for example my uncle, worked as managers. The salaries were good. They were content with the weekly check. They said we have earned $40,000 at the end of the year. This did not mean anything to me. I have no price; it is not about 40,000 or 100,000. It is about how much I can make. That is the reason I work so hard for it. If we work is for the money, we want to have a better future.

Interviewer: Probably, you might be a good witness of the evolution of the Basque community in Reno; from those who worked in the borrega, to those who become the last ones to arrive. You are probably one of the last persons to arrive in Reno…

Chronicler: Yes, one of the last ones…

Interviewer:…to the American West…

Chronicler: Yes, I am the one of the last ones to arrive.

Interviewer: Then…

Chronicler: Three or four arrived after me, particularly to Reno. I have not been too involved in the Basque community. I do not know, never…

Interviewer: Why?

Chronicler: Why? Lately, it was because of the work, because there is no time. Before, I used to go to the festivals with the uncle. To the parties, yes but I have not been involved in Basque things. There is no much to do anyway, understand me. I have not been very involved.

Interviewer: Can you tell something about how you have seen evolved the Basque community since the eighties when you arrived? A community characterized by old generations related to the borrega industry. You were a stranger for them, and then twenty years latter. What can you tell me about the Basques in Reno?

Chronicler: When I arrived here in the eighties, I just knew my uncle and my cousins of my same age, 47, 48, 50 years old. These people have their own families. Most of them worked in the construction; 95% of them worked in the construction. They lived with a very good weekly check. They have an ordinary life. They worked during the week. During the weekends, they used to go to the mountains to get some wood for the winter; to fish. In wintertime, they used to go hunting. I was part of their lives as I did not have anybody here. Dou you know what I am trying to say?

Interviewer: Yes.

Chronicler: What could you do? During the week, you work; you did not go out. When I was younger, I used to go out more. Once I got married, I have also an ordinary life, work. I have clearly in mind, all my life, the necessity to save some money in order to create my own business. I opened a jewelry with a partner…

Interviewer: When was that?

Chronicler: In ninety…

Interviewer:…once you finished the job in the construction company and you have the garage…

Chronicler: Yes, in 1991. The business was going well. The partner had drug abuse problems and we lost money. We broke the partnership. If we have continued, today the jewelry could have been one of the largest in Reno. The partner was an artist, but the drug finished him…

Interviewer: Where was the jewelry shop in Reno?

Chronicler: It was in Shopper Square, in Plumb Lane. It was a good place, a good shop. Nevertheless, the man and his wife…the wife had serious problems…and that was the end. I lost among $35,000 to $40,000. However, as a good Basque I said, we will stand up again. I stand up again. Then, after working in the construction, I began installing sprinkling systems. There was always extra money. The question was to save money to open a business. The two businesses I have are doing very well. Today, I have five lots of land in the middle of town. In one of them, I am building in order to rent it. I am involved in serious money. However, as I said to you, everything has been doing well.

Interviewer: To what extent you would define the Basque as pragmatic or ambitious?

Chronicler: The Basque is not so ambitious. I am not ambitious. I do not believe on ambition. I believe on work. Work, and as it logic, I will obtain benefits from my work. I do not want to be ambitious to have everything. No, no, it is not that. What I want to do it I want to do it for myself. I began from zero, and what I have it is due to effort, hours, and dedication. Overall, it is dedication.

Interviewer: What about pragmatism? Do you think that the Basque is pragmatic?

Chronicler: The Basque is realist. I am realist, idealist and always thinking on the future. As I said, I have two girls. One is 16 years old and the other one is 12 years old. I want for them the best. They are doing piano, art, ballet, tennis…I want to give them the best. I want to give them, overall, education. My father-in-law told me, give education to the girls. The husbands can be drunks, can bit them up, buy they cannot take the education from them. An educate woman, a woman with future.

Interviewer: Talking about your daughters, are they enrolled in any type of activity in the Basque Club? dance, music?

Chronicler: They are not, but they will be.

Interviewer: How do they see the Basque?

Chronicler: I talk to them about it. They are learning Basque. They did not have a good experience in Euskadi, and that is the reason that Euskadi is not as attracted to them as Costa Rica. When they go there, all their friends speak in Spanish, and suddenly they shifted to Basque when they joined them. They do not understand them. They call them gringas. They feel rejected. This happened three years ago, they were children. Then the oldest told me that the next time we will go there, she wants to be able to speak Basque to understand them. They go to Costa Rica, my girls speak correctly Spanish, and they feel much better. They prefer Costa Rica, although they are happy to go to Euskadi. The next time we are going to Euskadi, next summer, it is going to be different. We are going to Gernika. There is a swimming pool in Aldape. Every time we go to Euskadi, they want to go to Lekeitio, to the beach. You are there, and every day it rains. Then, I will enroll them in the swimming pool. They will be able to make friends, and the situation will be much different. The oldest is going to be 17 years old and I have to let her to go out by night. I think she will love the atmosphere in Euskadi. I know it. I want that they learn the language, the traditions. They want to begin dancing lessons, with the group Zazpiak Bat. Every time that there is a Basque picnic, they feel very happy. Many of their friends are Basque. Most of them are Basque.


Side 2


Interviewer: We were talking about your daughters and about what you tell them about the Basque Country’s reality - País Vasco, and how you are trying to transmit them the Basque culture…how the majority of their friends are Basque…

Chronicler: Yes, the majority of their friends are Basque. Not all, but the closest ones are Basque.

Interviewer: Do you believe is important that they continue with the Basque culture?

Chronicler: Yes, of course, I would love that. I would be very happy. I would like also that in the future they will marry a Basque man. Of course!!

Interviewer: Why?

Chronicler: To keep the traditions. The oldest want to become a doctor...

Interviewer: …Ok.

Chronicler: …and I say to her, poor one! Because, it is a twenty-four hour job, constantly in call. That is not a job. Any job will do. If the husband is from Euskadi, at least once a year they must go to Euskadi. They will go on vacation to Europe, and they will visit Euskadi. That will be good.

Interviewer: What about an American?

Chronicler: If Asian, then Asian, but I would love personally that, their husbands would be Basque.

Interviewer: Where do you think you will end up?

Chronicler: Here.

Interviewer: You told me before…

Chronicler: I would love to die there, understand me. However, I will be here most of the time. Many things would have to change in order to live there. I am 48 years old. What could I do in Euskadi? I am not going to look for a job there. It costs lots to find a job. The employment situation is not so good. I do not see myself working in a factory. Maybe if I am the president of the factory.

Interviewer: To what extent is important to have left everything and have begun from zero, to feel that everything you have done is yours, with so many sacrifices?...

Chronicler: …I am proud of it. When I arrived in New York, I have $50 in my pocket.

Interviewer: How was your trip?

Chronicler: It was Bilbao-Madrid-New York-Boston-Reno.

Interviewer: What was your first impression of America?...

Chronicler: My first impression was the airport size, where you can get lost. I had not English. You are hungry and you point with your finger that you want a burger. In New York, some people spoke some Spanish but not in Boston. There was not even a Latino there. I was so happy when I arrived in Reno and I saw my uncle and brother. Experience was good, nice. New York was enormous, big.

Interviewer: To what extent was essential that your uncle and brother were in the US for you to come over here to learn English?

Chronicler: If they had not been here, I would have not come ever.

Interviewer: But you had intention to learn English…

Chronicler: Yes, I wanted to learn English but I would have gone to England. I would have not come so far to learn English. I would have gone to England to learn the language.

Interviewer: What news you got in the Basque Country from your uncle and brother?

Chronicler: I have not much contact with my uncle. My brother wrote me from time to time. He always told us that everything was going well, that everything was very beautiful…My parents came to see him, and when they returned, they told us that everything was going well for him. My parents were never impressed by the US. They believe that Europe is prettier than this, particularly for my father. I have the urge to come here, to see this. I came; I liked it. I went back home after a month. I returned for a whole sabbatical year. I liked it even more. I was there for few months and returned definitely. I saw that there were work opportunities.

Interviewer: I guess you thought thoroughly about taking this decision. You talked to your friends; did you ever attempt to convince one of your friends or co-workers to come over here?

Chronicler: I have not much relationship with my co-workers. Work is work. I always make friends outside work. I worked my 8 hours. I go to the village. I have only one good friend from work, Pedro Ibarra. I have not much relationship with them. I did many sports in Euskadi; I played pala [a type of Basque ball game] very well. I won many trophies. I played in the Deportivo [the name of a Basque ball game court in Bilbao]. I was asked to become a professional player in the Deportivo.

Interviewer: Yes, you have said that your brother was a professional cesta punta player…

Chronicler: Yes, but I played pala.

Interviewer: When he went to Miami, Florida, he was 15 years old…

Chronicler: He was 15, that is right.

Interviewer: Sorry, how many brothers you have?

Chronicler: I have two brothers. The oldest one is Jose Ignacio -Iñaki who lives here and Fernando who lives in San Diego.

Interviewer: Is he also pelotari?

Chronicler: No, the oldest is not pelotari. He finished his Master Degree and came here to learn English. He never returned. The second one left as a pelotari at the age of 15. He played for a period of 8 or 9 months in Miami and then he played 3 or 4 months in Euskadi. He stayed here also. I was the youngest and I stayed at home.

Interviewer: You were an amateur player, weren’t you? Where did you live in Munitibar? Do you live in a baserri [Basque farmhouse]?

Chronicler: Yes, we live in a baserri, in the middle of town, in a big and beautiful baserri near to the river. I played as an amateur, never as professional. I was asked to become a professional when I was twenty years old. I was never interested. I just wanted to play to sweat and to have a good time. I do not believe I would have ever been a great player. I played well. I have a great arm. I played baseball in the Salesians Brothers. When I was 16 years old the first division team of Araca in Vitoria, wanted to hired me because I have a great arm.

Interviewer: Did you ever play baseball here?

Chronicler: I was 27 years old. I was too old. I was one of the best amateur players of pala. Do you know Torre from the Deportivo?

Interviewer: No, I do not.

Chronicler: He has been one of the players…Laca, Iturri… I played against Torre in championships in Mundaka; Plencia…Uspaditza was a good player. The Laca brothers…I do not remember surnames from Bermeo. I have trophies that I won. I love the game in the fronton [Basque ball game court]. If I was not playing, I used to go see the matches. I was all the time in the fronton, because I loved the game

Interviewer: It is a pity that there is not a fronton in Reno. Did not you know the fronton in the MGM Hotel?

Chronicler: Yes, I know it.

Interviewer: It did not last long.

Chronicler: The players that they brought were bad. The players were not good. If there are good players, there is a good game.

Interviewer: Do you go to see matches, perhaps in California? I do not really know where the games are played. I know that games are played in Basque festivals…

Chronicler: …I do not go…

Interviewer: Elko?

Chronicler: Yes, there are amateurs’ games in Elko. No, I do not go. You see, it cost lots to go to Elko with the whole family. It is not easy. Until now, my wife used to work during the weekends. On of these days she will stop working.

Interviewer: What do you think is going to be the future for the Basques in the American West, particularly in Reno, seeing your uncle, your brothers in Reno and San Diego, your daughters that will become part of the Basque community?

Chronicler: Well, here there are no new Basques arriving. This is the problem of Reno. There are no new Basque people. My uncle is getting older and the worst can happen in any moment. The few Basque people remaining… particularly, I get on well with my brother and I see him every week. I talk to the one in San Diego once a week. I talk to my parents every two weeks o every week. It is not that we are getting together. We have our own families. My work…My brother has lots of work. He has his own business. God willing you will interview him to see what he has to say.  I have not so many Basque friends. I have friends of descendants of Basques, which they consider themselves Basques. They do not speak Basque. We get together sometimes. Due to the stucco business, I have to meet many constructors and I have to go for lunch with them…

Interviewer: … are many of them Basques?

Chronicler: Yes, there are also Basques. No Basques, but descendants of Basques…

Interviewer: …descendants of Basques…

Chronicler: …they consider themselves Basques.

Interviewer: To what extent was important…You have mentioned that you came here because of your uncle and brother… To what extent was the help of Basque people important for your work, social life?

Chronicler: In the state of Nevada for example, there are many Basques, Basque-Italians, the majority. There are also Irish. Basque-Italians…When you go to anywhere over here and they ask you where you are from…you say Basque…oh, Basque! My grandmother was Basque or…They are always trying to help you. Basques with Basques, no matter if their great-grandparents were Basque. They consider themselves Basques and they try to help you. As Italian with Italian…Even Basques with Italians, always Basques have got on well with the Italians. If a need to find work, they ask me where I am from; Basque…oh, I am an Italian, and you talk to him with more confidence. If they are Basques, you start the conversation if they have been in Euskadi. Many of them have gone to San Sebastian, Gernika. Well, you tell them that I am from a small village close to Gernika. Therefore, they understand, and the conversation is even friendlier. It is much easier. Being Basque helps in Reno.

Interviewer: Do you think that there is solidarity between Basques? They are well known…Being Basque facilitates things…

Chronicler: It is prestige. Being Basque is a prestige here. I am very proud when I say I am Basque.

Interviewer: The people know the Basques?

Chronicler: The Basque is famous for being very industrious, in the borrega, ranchos, construction, railroad…The Basques have offered the brute force…the Basque force. The Basque has never said no. I have never said no to anything. I say yes, of course. Always forward. I never use the word no. It is not fame but a reality…

Interviewer: It is a reality. You have to work even Sundays as the other day…

Chronicler: Those are few days. Normally, I do not work on Sundays…

Interviewer: How many people do you employ?

Chronicler: I have ten people in the garage and fourteen in the construction business. I hope next year, I will employ thirty to forty people in the construction company, as it will expand. In the garage business, everything will be the same.

Interviewer: We talked about the importance of being Basque; does this also help with public institutions, Town Halls, or only at social level?

Chronicler: Yes, many of those working in the Town Halls are also Basques. Therefore, when you go there, they open the doors for you. Being Basque in the State of Nevada, in Reno is a help, a guarantee of help. They will always try to help you.

Interviewer: You referred a factor in relation to Irish, Italians and Basques. The three groups are Catholic, to what extent is the religion important for the Basques as a differential factor with other groups, as least in the West?

Chronicler: The question of religion is a private matter. I am Catholic. I go to church every time I can. My daughters go to private Catholic schools.  We try to go church as a family. We want to show the girls the Catholic way and the good way, I believe.

Interviewer: Then, Basques are related into many ways, due to the religious aspect or for marriage purposes, with other Catholic groups, for example the Italian and Irish communities…

Chronicler: Yes, they are Catholic. Moreover, my wife is very Catholic. She is much involved with the Catholic community, with the school. Her surname is Araia. Although she is from Costa Rica, her great-grandparents are from Euskadi. They were Basques who immigrated to Costa Rica.

Interviewer: …they were Basques…

Chronicler: They were Basques. In America Latina, Catholicism is very important.

Interviewer: It is a not essential aspect in Euskadi. Many young people do not go to church…

Chronicler: I was one of them when I was there. When I came here and before I met my wife, I did not go to church. Then, since I met her, I go convince to church.

Interviewer: Do you believe that due to this Basque religious differential factor there is a difference between being Basque in Reno, Nevada and being Basque in Euskadi? You have probably experienced this situation.

Chronicler: Yes, the Catholic Basque is Catholic Basque. In Euskadi, being Catholic Basque is because he was born there. There is not other religion than the Catholic one. When you are younger, the parents take you to church. You have to go. When you are sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, you do not go. On Sundays, the mother used to ask me about the color of the priest’s dress. I said red here, yellow…well, it is red, yellow, so which color was it? Red I said. Ok, that day, the priest wore black or purple colors. You never went. There, thirteen, fourteen years ago when we went there was no young person in the church. There were only old people.


[The interview is paused]


Interviewer: After a small break, we resume the conversation…We were talking about the differences between being Basque here and in the País Vasco in relation to the Catholic religion. How do you perceive the difference between being Basque in Reno and being Basque in Euskadi from the point of view of a person who has lived in both societies?

Chronicler: Being Basque…there are not so many activities for the Basque people. There is a Basque festival, the picnic. There, the Basques from the Western US get together. It consists on two days of festivities, Saturday and Sunday. You see the friends from the village of Munitibar; people who live in California and Idaho. They are a couple of days when you eat, and drink…Then, they leave…and that is the end of the Basque community. Comparing this to Euskadi, we live like Americans. I am not too much involved in the Basque matters. However, I would like that my daughters would learn how to dance, or at least, I would like that they learn something. That is what I want.

Interviewer: You have mentioned the people from your village Munitibar. How many people from Munitibar are over here?

Chronicler: Munitibar is a village populated by 700 people. I believe that there have been people in Reno from every single household in Munitibar. It is a very small place, and only in Reno, there are some fifty people from Munitibar. Those people are older than I am. They are of the same age than my uncle…

Interviewer: …they came to work in the borrega

Chronicler: …in my uncle’s time, there were many and many people from the village and of the same age. As they said, there was a Basque atmosphere here.

Interviewer: What was the situation in Munitibar or the reason that force these people to leave?

Chronicler: In the 1950, and 1960s, the situation was quite severe…in the post-war era; the economy was on a terrible condition. There was not much work, and here there was a demand of sheepherders. Therefore, the people came. There, at that time the primogenitor inherited everything.

Interviewer: …Yes…

Chronicler: …therefore, what did the rest do? Many of them go to work to Bilbao, Eibar or anywhere and the rest, that they were more adventurous went to America. Now, many people form Central America want to come over here. The people from Euskadi come here to buy land in Florida for vacation. Nobody from Euskadi come to work here. The borrega business has died.

Interviewer: As you said, you might be on the last people that came to Reno.

Chronicler: I think I am the last one that came to Reno. Here I do not Basque younger than me.

Interviewer: Why do you think that they…?

Chronicler: The employment situation in Euskadi is much better…I did not come for the economic situation, much the opposite. I came more for the adventure part. I came to see…I did not come for the economic situation.

Interviewer: Do you think that is also the same reason for many people of your uncle’s generation to leave?

Chronicler: Yes, of course…

Interviewer: …many of them went also to work to the factories in Eibar, Elgoibar, Bilbao, Barakaldo

Chronicler:…but at that time there was not enough work for all…Also, there were from baserris, and they preferred to come here to look after the borrega as they said. They were more used to do this type of work. They earned well. They had not expenses. They lived of the mountain. Therefore, they saved everything that they earned. I remember my deceased uncle Pedro who died last summer. He worked for three years and when he went back, he bought the house, the car, and a butcher shop. At that time, with only three years, a person could buy a small house in Gernika and a car. On those days, you could not do that in Euskadi. They worked temporarily here, and then they returned. With two seasons, you could buy double. On those days, the people who bought warehouses, in Gernika, Markina, and Lekeitio are economically quite well. The people invested. My deceased grandfather came here. He was in Elko. He was here for twelve years. When he returned, he bought the baserri.

Interviewer: In what year was that?

Chronicler: He came in 1910s.

Interviewer: There is a great tradition within your family to come to the US. This is also probably part of the adventure.

Chronicler: In our family, we have all been adventurers. My father almost came also. I am not sure but I believe that my great-grandfather was here. My grandfather told me that he came by boat. It took over forty to fifty days. He got sick, vomiting all the way. That was part of life.

Interviewer: What was his name?

Chronicler: His name was Dionisio Ibaibarriaga.

Interviewer: This is a great tradition. This would be the third generation to come to the US. You are telling me that from a village of 700 people…

Chronicler: …800 people, 900, anyway less that 1,000 people…

Interviewer: …we have a good percentage of the population come to the US, and particularly to Reno…and many of them stayed.

Chronicler: …to Reno…The population of Reno has growth increasingly for the last twenty years. It is a boom, even Las Vegas…We have the tradition to come here within our family. There is my uncle Txato [Joe Guerrikabietia), the deceased uncle Pedro, and the brother of my father, uncle Jesus, who is an engineer in San Diego. He was a teacher of cesta punta. He played in Tijuana while he studied engineering at the University of San Diego. His son, the cousin Juanjo, has a high position in an electronic company…

Interviewer: …Juanjo was born in America?...

Chronicler: …he was born in San Diego…He is a very nice person…

Interviewer: How would you react if your daughters decide to go Europe, as an adventure?

Chronicler: If they go away, they go…I would give to them lots of advices. I do not think I would let them go now. Once they are eighteen, they…My wife and I would let them know the vicissitudes in life…My wife would go with them. This is part of life. Do you understand?

Interviewer: Yes…

Chronicler: When I left Euskadi, I hurt my parents. This is part of life. I wanted to leave, to come over here…

Interviewer: Do they live alone?

Chronicler: They have lived alone for the last twenty years since I left…

Interviewer: …since you left…

Chronicler: We are three bothers and all of us are abroad. Now, they are happy knowing how we live. They were here two years ago. They saw the way that we live. Do you understand me?

Interviewer: Yes…

Chronicler: Three sons and all of them abroad…It hurts…They did not come two years ago, but last year.