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The Historical Society in San Juan Capistrano pays tribute to Basques for their contribution to the local history


Maria Sansinena Lacouague at her home in Camino Lacouague, San Juan Capistrano. She will be one of the honorees (photo JE)
Maria Sansinena Lacouague at her home in Camino Lacouague, San Juan Capistrano. She will be one of the honorees (photo JE)


San Juan Capistrano, CA, USA. The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society is paying tribute today to Basques from San Juan Capistrano for the contribution they have made throughout the history of this beautiful California locality. San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1775 as the site of a Franciscan Mission and its first priest were Fermin Francisco Lasuen, from Gasteiz, who would eventually become the president of the California Missions, and his colleague, Fr. Gregorio Amurrio.

The Basque presence is rich iin this area.  We can mentionere the Oyharzabal family and its hotel in 1880, with Domingo and Esteban, and his nephew also Esteban.  Their place is an adobe building, with two floors that is part of the register of historic places located in the center of town that is today both residential and touristic, and that used to have many important orange groves in its surroundings.

Oranges were grown here by the Lacouague, an authentic Californian Basque family..  American born children of this family that originated in Behe Nafarroa were Jean-Pierre and Grace Lacouague.  Jean-Pierre Lacouague, a Basque Californian rancher who passed away in 2008 married Maria (Sansinena) Lacouague who still lives in their family home on Camino Lacouague in San Juan Capistrano.  She is one of today’s honorees.  Jean-Pierre and Maria were the parents of well-known religious singer, Renee (Lacouague) Bondi. Grace (Lacouague) Mainvil, was also born on the ranch who would eventually become the treasurer for NABO, the North American Basque Organizations for many, many years.  She also married another California Basque, John Mainvil.

San Juan Capistrano: the Oyharzabal’s Hotel building (photo Joseba Etxarri)

Besides the Oyharzabals and the Lacouague’s we also fin the Errecas in San Juan Capistrano, along with the Etcheverrys, Salaberris, Amestoys, Zozayas, Echeniques, Errecarts... the majority of which came from Navarre from both sides of the Pyrenees and some of which have streets named after them.

Some members of these Basque families will attend the gathering and BBQ hosted by the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society, in the green area on Los Rios Street today. They will talk about the Basque history of the town and will respond to questions that the audience may pose.  Since the society is a non-profit, admission to the event is $50, and more information is available by calling them (949) 493 8444 (Chevon Vermeulen).

The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society has also announced that they will publish a book on the Basques and San Juan Capistrano, complete with biographies of some local Basques that they will recognize today including Maria Lacouague and Carmen Oyharzabal who was born in her family's hotel.

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