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The traditional Basque-Australian get-together in Oleta, Bizkaia celebrated its XXIV edition


Top row: Mario Satika, Begoña Barrutia, Koldo Goitia, Maribi San Antonio, Jose Badiola, Iñaki Etxabe, Anne Etxabe. Bottom row:Mila Aboitiz, Mila Aberasturi, Jose Ignacio Etxabe and Angelita Fundazuri (photo P-J. Oiarzabal)
Top row: Mario Satika, Begoña Barrutia, Koldo Goitia, Maribi San Antonio, Jose Badiola, Iñaki Etxabe, Anne Etxabe. Bottom row:Mila Aboitiz, Mila Aberasturi, Jose Ignacio Etxabe and Angelita Fundazuri (photo P-J. Oiarzabal)


It was 1988 when a group of returning Basque migrants and families from Australia started to get together in Oleta in the Ugaran neighborhood of Amoroto in Bizkaia. This last Saturday the gathering celebrated its XXIV anniversary. Around forty people attended the event on Saturday that has reached its silver anniversary and which testifies to the fact that the XX century was marked by a significant Basque emigration, in particular to North Queensland where the Basque club now resides in Townsville. This year’s get together was also attended by Pedro Oiarzabal and Ainara Puerta Larrañaga, historians from the University of Deusto specialized in migration and the Diaspora, who we thank for their collaboration in the publication of this article.

Ainara Puerta Larrañaga/Oleta, Bizkaia.  Oleta, situated in the Ugaran neighborhood of the Bizkaian city of Amoroto and very well known for its restaurants and businesses, was the site this weekend of the 24 annual Basque-Australian get-together. 

We should take a look back and situate ourselves in 1988 to understand the origins of this meal.  In April of this year Jon Mikel Goitia, eldest son of Mila Aboitiz and Koldo Goitia from Lekeitio, married Jasone Azpiri, and the family invited several friends who had migrated together with them to the small town of Home Hill (Queensland, Australia).  When considering the great time had by all at the wedding, several people, among them Juan Plaza, who was considered the alma mater of the organization (and sadly passed away two years ago), decided to repeat the experience that summer. 

The date was set for the first Saturday in June, 1988 at the same restaurant where the wedding had taken place, the Epermendi in Oleta. Later the date was moved to the second Saturday.  According to many of the attendees, among them Mila Aboitiz, nearly 200 people used to attend during the first few years coming from many different places of the Basque Country: Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and especially Nafarroa, with very few from Araba and other regions attending.  Initially Basques who migrated to Australia along with their spouses and also their children attended the Basque-Australian get-together. 

Last Saturday, June 9, there were about forty people in Oleta.  The great majority were Bizkaian from Gernika, Lekeitio, Ispaster, Markina and Ondarroa, who migrated to Australia with their spouses, mainly in the 1950s and 1960s.  Over the years, the numbers have decreased due to the younger generations, as well as those from Nafarroa and Gipuzkoa no longer attending.  Nevertheless, there are those who have been faithful from the beginning such as the couple Mario Satika and Begoña Barrutia among others. 

The Epermendi restaurant has been the chosen site since 1988 and has also been in charge of choosing the menu.  This year an assortment of starters (peppers stuffed with cod, varied croquettes, asparagus…) gave way to garnished fish and meat dishes, ending with a delicious desert of puff pastry cake with vanilla ice cream.  The discussion regarding where the meat came from was animated and not lacking in those who thought it was from Australia, although it seemed that not everyone was in agreement.  Without a doubt, no one left hungry and “Good Luck” was heard during the toast. 

Following the meal there was music of all kinds for those who wished to dance, while others took advantage of the time to watch the pilota match at the bar, or chat with friends. 

The video of Koldo Goitia’s trip, with one of his sons in 2008 was shown on a laptop computer and aroused the curiosity of the guests at the end of the day.  Agur Jaunak with all the guests standing put the finishing touch to a lovely meal that will celebrate its silver anniversary next year, a valuable legacy that will hopefully be continued by future generations. 

[This article is part of the field work that historian Ainara Puerta Larrañaga has conducted on migration from Bizkaia and consequent return (e-Etorkinak), under the direction of Pedro J. Oiarzabal and Nerea Mujika of the University of Deusto]

Detailed photo caption.  Some of the people who attended the meal at the entrance of the Epermendi restaurant in Amoroto: from left to right in the top row Mario Satika (Ispaster), Begoña Barrutia (Ea), Koldo Goitia (Lekeitio), Maribi San Antonio (Ondarroa), José Badiola (Ondarroa), Iñaki Etxabe (Home Hill), Anne Etxabe (Home Hill). In the bottom row: Mila Aboitiz (Lekeitio), Mila Aberasturi (Gautegiz Arteaga), Jose Ignacio Etxabe (Gautegiz Garteaga) and  Angelita Fundazuri (Lekeitio) (photo by P.J. Oiarzabal).


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