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Basque Sheepherders that worked in the United States will celebrate their day in Eugi and Zubiri, Navarre


Newcomers to the west, taken 50 years ago (photo EEA)
Newcomers to the west, taken 50 years ago (photo EEA)


This Saturday’s event, that hopes to gather a thousand participants in Eugi and Zubiri, will mark the sixth edition that honors Basque sheepherders who worked in the United States. Those featured will be the herders from the Valleys of Erro and Esteribar, and the Association 'Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan' (Basque Herders in America) will be officially presented. The event includes a complete program including the reproduction of a sheep camp. “It’s a very exciting, emotional day, especially since you get a chance to see friends that you haven’t seen for 30 years,” explains pelotari Fernando Goñi, who is part of the organizational committee.

Eugi, Navarre. The Navarrese pelotari, Fernando Goñi’s, father worked in the United States as a herder as well as one of his uncles.  Another uncle is still there, and his grandparents were herders too, one in Argentina.  It’s something that is familiar to many, and Goñi has spent several months working with on the organization of this event entitled, Adiko Artzainak Ameriketan which will be celebrated this year in his hometown of Eugi.  “This year is very special because we will officially present the Association Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan,” he told  “Our hope is to organize events throughout the year, not just on one day.” 

The meal that will take place in Zubiri’s sports center already has 700 confirmed reservations, with some of those coming from the United States.  “The majority is from Navarre, some from Iparralde, and there are also those that come from America, every year more and more.  They organize their vacations to coincide with this day,” Goñi commented.  

'High Ball' 

The festivities will begin at ten in the morning with a reception and hamarretako (mid-morning snack) for the participants.  This will be followed by mass, with the participation of the Auzperro choir and the group Bankako Menditarrak.  Those being honored this year are the herders from the valleys of Erro and Esteribar.  After mass there will be a procession through the streets complete with music and dance, and the party will move to Zubiri.


Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan cartel

[Event Poster (photo EAA)]

In Zubiri sheepcamp life will be revisited and sheepherders’ bread will be made, as back then, in the ground.  There will be a photo exhibit in the sports center, and before the meal, the participants will be able to enjoy their “typical drink”, the high ball made with whiskey.  During the meal, entertainment will be provided by the Bankako Menditarrak group, and after the meal there will be a pilota (Basque handball) game. 

Presentation of the association; it’s in Facebook

This get together will help familiarize others with the experience of these men and women who left their homes to work in the mountains in the Western United States.  It also helps them to maintain their identity, Goñi explains.  Presenting the association on Saturday is another step in this direction.  “We are finding very interesting things in Esteribar, for example, in almost every house there is someone that went to America,” he says.

The pelotari personally got to know the Diaspora in the US, two years ago when he participated in a pelota championship in Bakersfield, California.  “My parents also came and it was really nice, there was great atmosphere and it was really exciting,” he recalls. Much like this Saturday will be, no doubt.

The Lesaka-American Laura Igantzi heads the association Euskal Artzainak Ameriketan and has created a Facebook page where all their news is available (see here).



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