Leandro Urrutia Villanueva


By: Miel Anjel Elustondo



Index and translation by Kate Camino
Sound byte files by Pedro J. Oiarzabal


Leandro’s wife’s name is Magdallena and he has two daughters.  He went to the Basque Country after spending 16 years in the states. He got married and decided to came back.  His daughters are Marylou 32 and Christina 29. Christina is married and has a baby. The girls do not speak Basque but they speak Spanish. Chris does not speak as much as Marylou. He thinks that the Basques born in the states will lose Basque. He went home to Linzoain two years ago and at that time the youth there did not speak Basque either. The old timers do though. When he was young they all spoke Basque, Basque was his first language.  He spoke Basque at home but Spanish at school.


Miel’s question is why Basques always stay together; he is referring to the Basque picnic that took place 15 days prior. Leandro though says he also has American friends and Basque friends so he gets along with everyone. Miel points out though that because of the various picnics and the Basque hotels it seems like Basque people are always together. 


He has been a sheepherder, worked construction as well as working in a barbershop.  In the last 50 years, he has been back to the Basque Country 3 times, the last time being 2 years ago.  The other visits were in 1960 and again 1970. When he goes to the Basque Country he visits his family in Linzoain and so he stays there with his family as well as traveling around a bit, sometimes to Pamplona. He likes going to San Fermin too. Now he would rather live in the US than the Basque Country.


He retired 7 years ago and now he spends his time walking. He really likes to walk and likes the exercise. If he had it to do all over again, he would not come to the states as a sheepherder. It is not worth making a living as a sheepherder according to him. His advice for the youth in the Basque Country that is without work would be to come to the states but just not as a sheepherder.


Leandro learned English by reading. It was not easy at all. 


Miel remarks on how well Leandro still speaks Basque even though he does not speak it at home.  Leandro says he kept it because it was his first language so you do not forget it.  He explains that many Basques came as sheepherders but then ended up in construction.  He thinks they made the change because Basques are good workers and so they do well.  In Boise, there are Basques in gardening, but in Reno too. Miel says there is a lot of Basques in construction, in gardening but very few Basque barbers.  Leandro’s shop is called the Scissor and Comb Barbershop. 


Leandro is agreement that the Basque language is being lost here because the Basques born in the states do not speak Basque, also because there are no more Basques coming from the Basque Country. Miel asks why Basques should come to the US. Leandro says not to come as a sheepherder. Miel remarks that he has said that a lot during the interview.  Maybe they could come to teach Basque.


Leandro says now Europe is now united and wonders if Miel thinks there will be one currency for all of Europe. Miel says it will happen eventually but who knows.  Leandro wonders about Europe because he used to live there.


Leandro says that it is a good thing for Europe and for the Basque Country that Indurain has won the Tour de France three times.  He says he does not need to work anymore because he has enough money.  He was not able to see the Tour that day but others told him the results.  He thinks Indurain will win the Tour again this year.  Miel says that Indurain and the riders from Nafarroa all rode with a red bandana for San Fermin on July 7.


Linzoain’s festival is on September 8. There are 100 people in Linzoain more or less. He grew up in town not on a farm.