Miguel (Mike) Olano


Interviewed by: Miel Anjel Elustondo



Indexes and translations by Kate Camino

Sound byte files by Pedro J. Oiarzabal


Miguel was born in Buxturia? in San Bartolome, Goeri, in 1923.† He came to the US in 1948 at the age of 20 years.† Has 46 years in US.† Came as a sheepherder to Yakima WA.† He worked for the Bohaski Bros. for 3 years.† From there he went to Idaho in 1950 for two years for Archabal Sheep Co.†† From there he went to Boise for 3 months working on highway construction.† Then went to North Idaho to Makow where he worked for a lumber company worked there for 4 years. Then went to Oregon in a lumber company for 11 years.† Came to Winnemucca 1963 and thatís when he bought the Winnemucca hotel with his friend Claudios Aguirre.† They were partners in the hotel until 1971 when Claudios sold Miguel his share and moved back to the Basque Country.† He later returned and retired from the school system when he moved to Bend Oregon, where he lives at the time of the interview.† Since then Miguel has been the sole owner of the hotel.


It was Miguelís idea to buy the hotel.† So he bought it having never sold a ďhigh-ballĒ before, not even whiskey.† He learned as he went.† The Winnemucca Hotel is one of the oldest in Nevada and is used often as a gathering place for Basques.† It was built in 1863 and it has been a hotel since.† Since Mike is the owner more Basques gather there.† They serve good food and drink.† There are around 500-600 Basques in Winnemucca but others in surrounding area.† He works with his son and wife and four other workers to clean rooms etc. Also has a cook but heís the bartender.†


There used to be a fronton in the back of the hotel and from 1966-67 they used to play a lot of pelota (handball) and people used to bet a lot as well.† The reason why there is no fronton today is because one of the walls began to fall so the hotelís insurance instructed Miguel to tear it down.† He made a proposition to the Basque club at that time, he would buy the materials to rebuild it if the club would do the work.† Miguel thought that if they had a fronton then pelotaris from around the west would come and play in Winnemucca, but as it turns out the distances are too great for such a tour and the club turned down the proposition.† But he hasnít lost hope.† Maybe heíll restore the fronton himself one day.† Then if the pelotaris want they could use Winnemucca on a tour from San Francisco to Elko to Boise etc.


The hotel clientele is mostly made up of working people.† The hotel has 38 rooms and a shared bathroom.† The Basques in the area are mostly from Nafarroa, Iparralde, and Bizkaitarrak.† Most Basques in Winnemucca are from Iparralde he thinks.† In Nevada he thinks there are around 3,000 Basques but very few Bizkaitarrak among them.† He continues that there arenít very many Gipuzkoan Basques in all of the states, maybe because theyíre the smart ones he says.† His grandfatherís father came to Bizkaia from Ataun (Gipuzkoa) the Olano name comes from there.† Two brothers came from Ataun one stayed in Buxturia and the other went to Zomorrostro near Bilbao to work with sheep.† Then he started in a mine.† His grandfatherís fatherís brother years ago worked in that mine about 170-180.†


The last time he was in the Basque Country was in 1970 for 3-4 months.† He travels all over when he goes there.† He had an apartment in Gernika and spent time at his brothersí baserris.† One is near Bermeo and the other is near Buxteria.† He also found a lot of his childhood friends.††† He may return someday but heís very comfortable in Winnemucca.† Many people tell him that he should run for office either for senator or mayor or something because heís so good with people but heíd be afraid to be voted out.


Heís been a NABO (North American Basque Organizations) delegate for 15 years.† Heís been involved since the picnic started there.† Itís the smallest picnic he guesses because thereís not enough advertising done to promote, but heís not really sure why itís so small.† Winnemucca is a NABO club as well.† Another delegate joined him 8 years ago before he was the only delegate from Winnemucca.† He enjoys going to the meetings plus the club pays for his travel and meals.† But no one else wants to go so he does because he feels itís important to go and meet the other people and discuss what NABO is doing.† NABO has a lot of activities like pelota, dancing, music camp every year.† He thinks that Music Camp is NABOís most important activity.† There they learn Basque, dance, txistu, accordion, everything and kidís can learn a lot of things, songs etc.† Itís nice to see the kids participate, they have to be 10 years-old to participate.† NABO has 30 clubs.† Music camp travels from one to another.


Besides the yearly Winnemucca Basque festival, the club also has other activities for club members.† In August they gather in the park and have a lamb BBQ, steaks or whatever there is and have a party.† Like Basques in the Basques in the Basque Country ďJan eta EdanĒ Eat and drink and have a good time and then they play mus.† Then the girls dance as well.† At Christmas they hold a Christmas party and have a gift exchange.† Then they eat, drink and play mus.† In Winnemucca thereís around 500 Basques.† In club there are 200 some members.† Most speak Basque in the club.† The youth there are doing well especially those who attend Music Camp.† It also gives them an opportunity to meet kids from other Basque communities.† The Winnemucca club pays the tuition for each kid to go to Music Camp around $220.† Some clubs donít pay though.† He doesnít think the Basque culture is declining in Winnemucca especially thanks to Music Camp.† Then when they travel dancing etc. they also make friends which helps maintain the youth in the club and itís activities.


He learned how to speak English being in the states, reading the newspaper etc.† He thinks the best way to learn English is to marry an American.† Also reading is a good way to learn, as well as going to the movies and listened to how they spoke.†


He hopes that next yearís festival is twice as big as this yearís.