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Hundreds of “amerikanoak” got together in Pamplona for “Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan”


Photo during the meal that brought together 600 Basque sheepherders "amerikanoak" in Pamplona. The first row smile belongs to Californian Basque, now living in Erratzu, Josephine Etcheverry Irigoyen (photo
Photo during the meal that brought together 600 Basque sheepherders "amerikanoak" in Pamplona. The first row smile belongs to Californian Basque, now living in Erratzu, Josephine Etcheverry Irigoyen (photo


Pamplona became the meeting place, last weekend, for hundreds of “amerikanoak” coming from both sides of the Pyrenees to gather for the annual sheepherder’s get together organized by the Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan Association (Basque Sheepherders in America). The day always serves as an opportunity for those who were formerly in the US working as herders and then returned home, to get together, “Without forgetting our time in the American West, which is part of our lives and has influenced us to a lesser or greater extent, as well as the excuse for us to get together today,” according to an 'amerikano' from Sunbilla.

Iruña-Pamplona.  The event was organized by the Navarrese association Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan who wants to call society’s attention to the migration and the contribution that different generations of “amerikanoak” made throughout history in the development of different areas and villages, peoples that left for America as well as towards the progress and the wellbeing of Nafarroa and Euskal Herria.  This year’s event took place in Pamplona supported by city hall, as well as for the first time, by the Government of Navarre. 

The events began at 10:30am with mass in Basque and Spanish celebrated by Fr. Ander Guillegui, Leitza’s parish priest, at the church of San Nicolas which filled to capacity with many having to stand.  All had the reunion neckerchiefs on, even the priest placed one of them around his neck at the end of the ceremony.   Mass was also enriched by music with the Otxote Orbela and Bankako Menditarrak choirs that also singed at various times during the day.

A photo exhibit on the life and experiences of emigration by the “amerikanoak,” which has been opened since the beginning of the month, was available to view in the Plaza de Armas in Ciudadela.  An official ceremony followed. The day also included a traditional “highball” which many herders drank during their time in the United States.

The fronton at the Iturrama public school served as a large enough dining room for a meal that gathered 600 of the participants, many of them coming by bus from various places in Nafarroa and Behe Nafarroa that had “amerikanoak” among their population.  

During the day there was special remembrance of some who had been present at prior get togethers and friends such as Josu Goldaraz, from Ultzama, Maria Dolores Leonis, from Bera, and Kepa Mallea Olaetxea, who was murdered last year in Santutxu (Bilbao) during an indescriminate attack by a mentally deranged person on passers-by resulting in his death. 

As every year some Basques who normally reside in the US were also present.  One of these was accordionist Bernardo Yanci originally from Lesaka, now reseeding in Elko, NV who also played a few tunes during the meal, under the watchful eye of his niece Laura Igantzi, one of the organizers and members of Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan.  Along with her, Josephine Etcheverry, Xanti Alzuguren, Félix Almirantearena, and other members of the organization committee worked tirelessly and never stopped.

Just before returning home, those present honored Santiago Presto who is 86 years old and originally from Erro, as well as Adriana Marmaon, from Erro, and Miriam Almirantearena from Auritz-Burguete for the invaluable support given to Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan and their work collecting, preserving and disseminating materials relating to this emigration to the American West.


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