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Mendata turned into a town from the Far West to pay tribute to sheepherders who immigrated to America

11/06/2015

Cowboys were rampant through the streets of Mendata (photo Idoia Mallea)
Cowboys were rampant through the streets of Mendata (photo Idoia Mallea)

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Cowboy hats, plaid shirts, sheepwagons, horses…The Bizkaian town of Mendata looked like a scene from the American West for a day as a very special tribute to Basque sheepherders who immigrated to the US.  The people of Mendata dedicated themselves to the festival’s organization and were also active participants in it, dressing up and enjoying a taste of the Far West. The event was a huge success and plans are already in place for it to travel throughout Urdaibai next time. 

Mendata, Bizkaia.   Mendata, Bizkaia turned into a scene from a wester on September 26, in order to pay tribute to the sheepherders in the area who immigrated to the US to work.  There were many youth form Mendata and from all of Urdaibai who left home and at some point, or another, had to go to the Far West in search of a new life. The entire town came together to pay tribute to those who came back as well as those who remained, by getting a taste of their experience.

The festival included a special ingredient this year: all of the people of Mendata dressing like cowboys and recreating the feel of the Old West, with horses, country music, a rodeo, and a saloon…..  The day began with a parade, a caravan heading west that included tributes to various herders on every stop.  Julian Iantzi, son of a herder and born in the US, was the presenter.

Sheepherders that were honored include: Jose Mari Arangunea “Baltza,” who went to the US several times; Sebe Erleaga and Miguel Angel Gorriño, whose children live there; Jose Maria Maguregi, who had been in California, and Juan Jose Mallea, in Arizona; Martzelin Urresti, Klaudio Abanzabalegi and Iñigo Elgezabal; and, on the last stop, Benedicto Intxausti, Karmen Totoricaguena, Patxi Zubizarreta and Enkarna Ikazuriaga (who were in Emmett) and Jose Ignacio Mallea, who worked in the north of Idaho, around Grangeville.


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