Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Basque Museum and Cultural Center

John and I were curious about a Basque museum located here in Boise.  What we did know was that Basque Country is an autonomous community in northern Spain.  Many years ago the majority of the people were sheepherders.  Not surprising, then, that those migrating here at the turn of the century were looking for similar country to continue their sheep herding.
Pictured above are the hills surrounding Boise.  Not surprising, then, that the Basque came to Idaho, as well as other western states.  The first Basques came over in the late 1800s, some wanting to get in on the gold rush, others just stopping in places like Idaho and Nevada.   California presently has the most Basques..  Those who came over first built boarding houses which could accommodate 15 to 20 people.  These places were more than a place to sleep and eat, there were magnets for the Basque culture.  Next door to the museum is a boarding house built by Cyrus Jacobs in 1864.  It is the oldest surviving brick dwelling in Boise.  Several families lived here over the years and took in boarders until 1969 when the house was was purchased for the purpose of preserving it.  It is located on a block of other Basque buildings in Boise.  By the way, the oak tree is a sapling of the oak tree which stands near the medieval Bizkaian town of Gernika, a Basque country village.
 The museum is next door to the home.  We were fortunate to get in on the last tour of the day of the boarding house before touring the museum.  Our guide's father came over from the old country as a young man so she was able to give us a bit of a glimpse into the Basque culture and their way of life here at the turn of the century.  People who rented out rooms were like surrogate parents to their boarders.  They helped with medical issues, translating, and banking.  Most importantly they preserved the Basque culture.  After the evening meal the dining table was pushed against the wall and musicians climbed on the table with such instruments as the tambourine and accordion to provide an evening of dancing.  There were pictures taken of such happenings, which can be seen in the museum.  The archive of the museum contains a host of other materials as manuscripts, passports, obituaries, record albums- to name but a few of them.  There are also toys to folk art , dance costumes and saddles.  A wonderful museum!
In the boarding house the master of the house and his family had a couple of bedrooms downstairs.  There were three rooms upstairs similar to the one above.  Men shared beds with other men, the women did the same.  They wrapped themselves in a sheet and shared a common blanket.  Overflow of people were sent outside to the carriage house.  The carriage house is still on the property, a family lives in it presently.  Remnants of a bowling alley are next door to the house
The building pictured above is on the corner of the block which has the museum.  It was a hotel built in 1912.  The builder of the hotel, Juan Anduiza, had a regular size pelota court placed in the building so that the Basque could continue playing the game from the old country ( a game similar to handball).  The court remains in the building, but the rooms were turned into offices in 1948.
One last item here.  Earlier in this posting I mentioned the town of Gernika.  It was burned during the Spanish Civil War (1937).  Spain's ruler Francisco Franco ordered the bombing, but he insisted the town bombed themselves.  Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica (Basque name for Gernika) was his response to that tragedy and the pain it caused.   A copy of that painting is in the museum.  Today Gernika is a sister city to Boise.
In the Basque neighborhood is a cafe offering the food of the old country.  I had lamb stew with croquetas de pollo, John had a chorizo sandwich.  A good ending to our day!

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