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Jaialdi

The World's largest celebration of Basque cultureā€”in Boise.

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“We were able to do the flag dance in the United States before they could do it in the Basque country,” says dancer Garikoitz Otamendi. “There, they were forbidden even to speak the Basque language.”

Dave Eiguren started dancing when he was four. Every Sunday, his parents would take him to the Basque Center to dance with the other children—most of them girls. “I hated it,” he says. “But our parents were strong enough to know the value of it. By the time we got to high school, dancing with the group was considered cool. We were part of something bigger than ourselves.

“We were invited to the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962—and we were bussed up to Sun Valley to dance for President Nixon at the Challenger Inn. It was an honor to think that we were representing the state, as well as our nationality.”

Boise’s Jaialdi always attracts a planeload of Basques from the Old Country. They swell with pride as they watch their dances and other traditions celebrated halfway around the world.

“They’re amazed to see the culture being kept alive through language and dance,” says Hailey resident Rose Mallory, one of Epi Inchausti’s daughters. “But then, I never expected to see something like Jaialdi either, when I was growing up. We started out just hearing the music they’d play at my parents’ boarding house. It wasn’t until my children were growing up that everything really took off.”

Mallory has attended all of the Jaialdis but one.

“It was really cool the first year, when they held it at the Old Penitentiary. The old building made it feel very authentic—like we were right in Spain. But there is too much going on now for such a small space. Of course, I try to take in as many Jaialdi functions as possible. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful celebration.”

Writer Karen Bossick, now a resident of Ketchum had her first taste of chorizo a few days after she moved to Idaho—a gathering at the old Basque Center in Boise. Folks, the Basques don’t lack for parties!

 

 For more on the Basque culture, see Idaho's Basque Tables in the Summer 2010 issue.
 

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