Patxi Txurruka

Interviewed by Miel Anjel Elustondo

In Reno, Nevada


Interview conducted in Basque


Indexes and translations by Kate Camino

Sound byte files by Pedro J. Oiarzabal


0:00     Patxi Txurruka he is from Asterrika above Berrixu? (Itxola is the name of his baserria) The Baserri is still there but none of his family lives there now.  He was born on October 4, 1945.  He’s 49 at the time of the interview. 


            Where did you meet Migel Anjel?


            He was from the same neighborhood.  They went to school together but he’s younger than Patxi.  And last summer wasn’t his first time here was it?  Migel Anjel was here before about 6 years ago?  Five years ago in July. 


1:52     And you knew each other there (in the Basque Country)? They knew each other since they were small. 


You grew up in the Basque Country?  Yes, in Asterrika (Near Ondarroa).  Did you go to school?  Yes, we had a mean teacher that was from Navarre.  She used to hit us with a stick.  She was a Carlist and mean and since they only spoke Basque she was mean to them.  We didn’t know much Spanish but had to speak it in school.  One way or another we had to speak Spanish in school.


When did you start school?  Maybe at 8-9 years.  I was sick as a child.  With what? Pneumonia when I was 7 until I was 8.  After that I went to school but not for long only until I was 13.  And at 13 I went to work.


3:28     How did you learn Spanish?


I learned most of it in the military.  I knew some before but I learned a lot in the military we had to learn there.  Where did you do your service?  In Zorroaga del caldillo? 


Spanish is easy, it’s easy to learn, Basque too but it’s easier to talk about anything in Spanish.  Why’s that?  I don’t know but for me Spanish is the easiest language of all.  I think.  And English, English isn’t pronounced the way it is written but Spanish is, so that’s the biggest difference.  That’s a big difference I think. 


What was your job at home? Or did you have to work at home? (on the baserri)


5:00     We knew very well what work was at home. 


We had to bring Idi? (oxen) from the coast, the ocean was close, we were renting so we went to the coast ([jaungoikoren etxera] to the landlord’s with the cows, helping dad, helping mom.  Sometimes we had to go to Ondarroa too with mom, to make her happy.  Then at home there were nuts, potatoes, cheese, corn to be picked? there was always something to do.  Land. But we were healthy and tranquil, we had no big worries.  We hoped at least that nothing bad would happen to us.  We used to go between our neighbor’s houses, from one to the other, Anacabe and Urkia above us always had their doors wide open.  And still, last year when I went, this Christmas, I went there and the doors were still wide open at the Anacabe’s, the only house like that. And I really like that a lot.  There are no more like that these days.


6:42     Did you play?


Yes, we used to play soccer we weren’t very good but…Asterrika Gorozika we used to play against them (Gorozika where is that?) it’s a small town.  Gorozika is towards Markina.  Asterrika is on one side of the mountain and Gorozika is on the other.  We always use to play them.  We used to play hard, not to really hurt each other but hard.  I got one of the worst beatings of my life in one of those.  …15 it was overtime and we had a penalty kick and won one-to-zero...  Those were good times.


8:00     You mentioned that Miel Anjel had a knack for playing things as a child?


Yes, he was an artist, and he really played well.  He had huge hands.  Out of the 3 brothers he was older one was a artist at pintxetan, they all had a knack but he had a little bit more.  He was really a nice guy.  {karatillak?} You’d put something in front of him, like something to play with more or less, and he was really good.  Pintxetaz he was an artist.


9:09     How long did you stay in the Basque Country?


I came here from the Baserri, (how old were you?) 25 years old.  (So after your military service you went back home?) Yes, (and from there you came to the states?) Then I logged pine with Ignacio Beketxe, (was he from there?) from the same place, he died about a year ago.


Why did you come to the states?


At that time things were hard in the Basque Country and we were young.  When your young you know how it is, your mind’s agile, and your body even more agile.  And I had a sort of a problem with the local police in 1970 on my birthday.  On my way home we were stopped, and right then I decided that I better do something because I would be in a bad way, one way or another.  My brother was already here and I asked him if there was any work for me there, and he paid my trip here to go to one of his neighbor’s ranches in California.


Where was your brother?


In Willows CA


11:38   How many brothers & sisters are you?  We’re 4 brothers.  And which one are you?  I’m third.  And the one that was already in the states which was he?  He was the oldest.  What was his name?  Josemari.  Is he still alive?  Is he here?  Yes, he’s here in Reno.  Was he with you in Douglas and in Elko at that snack place?  He wasn’t with me in Douglas but in Elko.  We were together with Miel Anjel at the Biltoki.  Maybe I know him? Yeah, you probably do.


12:23   What happened with the police?


            It was my birthday and with my cuadrilla we went to San Geronimo to a small barrio for their fiestas to celebrate. You know like young people we ate and drank and drank a little more.  Then I don’t know, the Guardia Civil were real jerks, that’s how I remember it of course I had been drinking. And I don’t know….  It was like a dream.  There was a huge curb and we saw another car, from behind we recognized the car with a Vitoria license plate and they took me to the cuartel and cut my hair….I didn’t think it was my fault…Maybe if it had been now it would have been different but then it was dangerous.


            Yeah you said in 1970 right? 




14: 43  Did you come right to Willows CA?  Yes.  How much time were you there?  Were you a herder or did you work on the ranch?


            Yes I came to the ranch as a sheepherder.  For how long?  From September 1970 to 1975 (voice in background 1976) yeah 1976, I left in April.  But then from Willows I went to (town name ?) to another ranch and that’s where I ended up.


            How was the ranch work? With sheep.  Yeah, but was it hard, lonely…?  Yeah, with sheep, during lambing it was hard work, a lot of work but good, but you always slept well once you went home….


15:45   Were you with your brother there?  No I was with a friend of mine, we were two.  Jesus Irazabal, he died. A bachelor. 


You were three years? More than that 3 ˝  years.  Did you come on a contract?  Yeah, on a contract.  But through your brother?  Yeah, but my younger brother was here before, he came before me, and he came home on vacation and saw me there, a big strong man, and said I could work there too so he brought me.  I came with my oldest brother’s help.


16:49   And after 3 years what did you do? From there I went to the Basque Country to do my

papers.  It took a month, or I stayed three months longer, after lambing I went to the Basque Country.  And then when did you come back to the states?  After I got married.  Oh, is that when you met Begońa, or did you know her before?  No, I knew her before, she was my girlfriend, I don’t know, for about 4-5 years before I came here, then I went back and we were married.  We were married on July 18th  [egun seneilue (a marked day)]… But you have to do something… That’s when the best days started.


18:07   Her brother was really busy and didn’t have any time off.  He had a lot of work and no days off in the summer.  For me it was clear, I’ve never had any politics other than Born Basque, raised Basque, live Basque, and die Basque.  I’ve never accepted that people have to have the same ideology or idea, everyone has the right to their own ideas, without doing any harm with anyone.  For me that’s the most important thing.  Is that the case here? Not here, but there.  But there that’s not the case there (Miel).  No that’s not the case there.  Miel: people get mad at each others ideas. Patxi: yeah and that’s bad.  That’s the worst thing.  It’s OK to discuss things but that’s where it should stop.  Days after you shouldn’t have to pay for your ideas with your blood.  That’s the bad thing.  It used to happen a lot there and it still does, that’s the bad thing.


19:50   After you were married, when did you both come to the states?


            December 21st we left there, 1976, to San Francisco…. But in San Francisco I couldn’t find any work, plus I didn’t know much English.  There was no work, I wanted to find something but there was nothing, I couldn’t find anything.  So, we went back to Willows, we had some friends there.  Rubena Hoover and Gus Hoover man and wife, some good friends of ours here.  Their daughter Maryann married a guy from Gernika, Ricardo Madariaga, and we went to the wedding with them.  And that’s where, with their help the wife’s first cousin needed some help with sheep, and so I went there for lambing.  He said you don’t deserve to stay idle, so he told me that he’d find me some more work.  From one day to the next I went to work for another uncle, Delphinie, I spent about 6-7 months there, very little.  From there I wasn’t very happy, with the son for starters, he was young and smoked marijuana, and lived pretty hard….One day he said “you have to do what I tell you” and I said, “I’m not so sure of that, if I do what you say I’ll be doing something wrong.” 


22:45   Then it was Reno’s Basque picnic, at the end of August.  Miel: Yeah it’s the second Sunday of August.  We came here to see my friends, Txato and Jayo (Eremun Jayo).  Then I ran into Txato (Jose Mari Guerricagoitia) and I said “Hey, is there any work here?”  and he said “yes, there’s tons of work here.”  So I said I’m ready to leave the ranch, he said “give me your phone number and I’ll let you know.”  So about a week later he called and said “you have work here where I work at H & Buyers.  There’s work so come on.”  Right then I went to Gabi, the uncle, and I said I’m out of here, I’m going to Reno.  “So what’s the problem,” he said “money?”  No, I told him I don’t see any way out here, I know what it is to work with sheep and I want to see something new. He started crying.  He was really a decent man and he said, he was still crying “I can’t leave the sheep the way they used to be so do you want more money?”  I said no I’m going.  So that’s when I came here, in September, (August 30th voice in background) I thought it was September but I came that same day, left in the morning, since I had to start work the next day.


25:10   What company was it?  H & Buyers construction.  Construction?  Yes, with a shovel.  Are you still there?  Yeah, for a few more years. That’s what they call the Basques’ pen. (Euskaldunen boligrafo) Miel: a shovel?  Yeah, the Basques’ pen, it’s sacred to a Basque…Miel: Was it a mechanized shovel?  No, the Japanese made many good machines but they haven’t made a motor for this yet (shovel).  It still doesn’t have a motor.  Maybe some day they will but it doesn’t have a motor yet.


25:56   How’s your health? Thank God it’s good.  Miel: But when you were young your health wasn’t good. No, no I suffered a lot when I was young, but now it’s good. Miel: but now you take care of yourself.  Yes, now I do take care of myself.  When I was young I ate and drank and drank a lot even smoked.  When I was young I never smoked everyday, maybe 3 packs one day, 2 the next and maybe the next day none at all, but I smoked, everything bad…I realized when I came to America that there was more to life than just eating and drinking, that there were a lot more things.  I realized that here but not there,…now I realize but not then.  [Voice from background] I didn’t listen to what she used to say then.


27:33   How many Basques are there here? Are there more Basques here in Reno?


            (Latzimin, Latzimin) Miel: yes but Latzimin (surname?), like you mentioned on the phone yesterday, so and so is my really good friend, but I haven’t seen them for a while, or yeah so and so is a good friend by we haven’t seen them for a while.


            We don’t get together as much as we used to.  Why’s that? Everyone’s busy with their own lives.  And it’s not like over there.  There there’s a lot of time.


            Begońa talks from background – Like living in the capital.  If you were in a smaller town it’d be different. 


            You have friends, and we get together for dinner in our homes a couple a times a year, Marcelinda. Josu Aldekoa doesn’t come very often, neither does Ińaki Muńoz.  We used to go every Wednesday just like at home. (Begońa: but with others we see each other once a year or so).


            Otherwise there’s Basque atmosphere at the Basque picnics but the youth from here, you know born here, they don’t have our same way of doing things, the youth are losing it, we do what we can but…


            Is the youth are losing the Basqueness?  Yes.  Is there no future?  Very little. It’s not like before and in a few years there won’t be anything left.


30:36   Are you all happy here?  Yes. Begońa: Yes, now we are but not at first.  Miel: Begońa come in here.  Begońa (can’t understand what she says) OK then just say it from there. 


            I was always happy here.