Basque ethnic communities of the world have benefited from the many
musicians who have dedicated their lives to learning and teaching
the art of playing Basque musical instruments, as well as playing
Basque music on classical instruments. In theories of ethnic identity
maintenance, we often find that music and dance serve as ethnicity
markers for latter generation ethnics attempting to preserve aspects
of their group distinctiveness. Utilizing the example of one of
these musicians in Idaho, Jim "Jimmy" Jausoro, this article
will demonstrate the significance of his music to Basque culture
in the American West.
Jim Jausoro was born in 1921 in Nampa, Idaho to Tomasa Mallea (Ereño,
Bizkaia) and Tomás Jausoro (Gipuzkoa). His neighborhood was
predominantly Basque with Basque families on both sides of the street.
The Jausoro family operated a boarding house, the Spanish Hotel,
and had as many as thirty sheepherders that his mother Tomasa cared
for and fed at any one time. The length of time that each herder
stayed at the boarding house varied, depending on the season and
how close they were to their work in the Treasure Valley hills.
Many came in and out and left their belongings at the Spanish Hotel
for safekeeping. They usually paid monthly for their board and room.
Often, new immigrants would arrive to Nampa by train, and it was
Jim's job to meet them at the rail station, which was less than
a mile away from their home. He would pull their bedrolls and/or
luggage in his small wagon from the train platform to the boarding
There were additional boarding houses in Nampa where Basque sheepherders
could stay. The Piemonte was across the street from the Spanish
Hotel and was managed by an Italian family named Bruno. The Bastida
family also had a boarding house nearby and Jim does not remember
that there was any real competition for the boarding customers.
However, he does remember that sometimes the herder might go where
they "best liked the looks of the women working at the boarding
house." In the Spanish Hotel, the Jausoro family, mother, father,
four sons and two daughters, lived downstairs and the sheepherders
lived upstairs. The entire Ansotegui family lived with them for
a while, and there were also eight or nine Basque families living
on the same city block. The boarding house institutions functioned
as social gathering places and it was common for Basques to visit
from one house to another for dances, singing, mus card games, and
listening to accordion. On Sunday afternoons Tomas Jausoro would
start a card game with Candido Mendiguren, who would walk over from
town, and the women, "Mrs. Gabica, Mrs. Navarro, Mrs. Ereño,
and Mrs. Ansotegui would play briska or casino on many evenings.
They played for pennies, and had many great arguments." One
thing they did agree on was that Jimmy had musical talent and the
Basque community in Nampa enjoyed his musical entertainment. The
boarders of the Spanish Hotel were Jim Jausoro's first audience.
|Jimmy Jausoro and His Orchestra.|
Typically Tomás and Tomasa spoke to the children in euskera
and they would answer in English. Jim's parents spoke very good
English, and they always spoke Basque with each other. Tomasa dealt
with many non-Basque speaking people because of the hotel business,
for example the Chinese selling eggs, the Japanese selling vegetables,
the French at their bakeries. There were many Chinese and Japanese
families in Nampa at the time, only a few Mexican families, and
no African-Americans. A family named Lalande established a French
bakery right in the downtown area where the boarding houses were
situated. The French were all Catholic as were the Czechs and Basques
and many Germans, and the Sunday masses were fully attended in the
1930s through the 1970s.
Jim's siblings Louie, Lola, and Tony participated in the Glee Club
for singers and sister Marie was selected for singing parts in local
musical productions. Their mother knew many Basque and Spanish songs
that she would sing and try to teach them. The trikitixa songs had
to be metered, and Jimmy would try to repeat them to her. Just being
around the Basque sheepherders and hearing their music provided
some of his best lessons and great memories. Louie Barnes allowed
Jim to play his accordion, and Jim also learned by listening to
John Urlezaga and Vic Arego from Boise. Vic Arego played accordion
for the Basque community picnics in the 1930s, which added a festive
factor to the gatherings with people learning and singing the traditional
Basque songs, as well as the folk dances. The new immigrants provided
a constant stream of Basques who knew the songs and dances and served
as examples for United States born Basques who were forgetting these
details of their culture. Jimmy had always been interested in music
and when he bought his first accordion he was excited to play the
Basque music for song and dance that he has heard from other Basque
|Shoshone, Idaho. Basque music with Domingo Ansotegui.
In 1933, at the age of twelve, Jim Jausoro had saved $120 to buy
myself an accordion; it was a brand new Chromatic piano accordion.
Some of the money came from a jackpot that he had won at the Spanish
hotel. He bought his accordion from Charlie Johnson at the Samson
Music Company where he knew Lola Mendiguren, a pianist, also worked.
He took lessons for six or seven months from a woman named Frechette
who traveled to Nampa from Boise teaching the piano accordion and
he rode his bicycle to his lessons carrying the accordion in one
hand and steering with the other.
The first time Jim played publicly was in the local pool halls,
where he got paid nickels and pocket change from those listening.
The Basque ladies social club in Boise, La Organización Independiente
Sociale (sic), sponsored dances in the various boarding houses in
the valley starting about 1935. Jimmy played in Nampa and Boise
at the boarding houses of Mateo Arregui, the Letemendi's, and at
Patxi's on Main Street. "Chardio", Domingo Ansotegui's
uncle, played tambourine, as did Joe Anacabe. "We played all
night-that was my life", said Jimmy. Every Sunday night Basque
musicians would play at the boarding houses and Basques from the
communities would join the boarders in dancing and singing. The
biggest events included the celebration of Epiphany, or Three Kings
Day on January 6, and other dances through the holidays. Other special
days with hours of music included the festive Basque picnic dances.
Attendees continue to mention the importance of the music as the
means to gather Basques together for celebration, and the dances
for finding marriage partners as salient in maintaining their Basque
identity, even seven decades later.
|Oinkari Basque Dancers.|
Jim won a talent competition just two years later when he was fifteen
years old. He entered a sponsored contest called the "Amateur
Hour" at the Adelaide Theatre in Nampa. He rode a bus to Portland,
Oregon where he participated in the Amateur Hour show at the KGEW
studio, and introduced the national audience to himself as a young
Basque boy from Nampa, Idaho. Later, during his WWII naval service,
he took his accordion along and learned to play other types of what
he called "modern music". In the 1940s, Jimmy, John Anduiza,
Domingo Ansotegui, Frank Arego, Joe Villanueva, Angeles Murelaga,
and Ray Mansisidor were several of the performing accordionists.
Jim Jauroso states that he learned to really play accordion from
Vic Arego and he completely idolized him. There was a Basque man
from Emmett named Mitchell who played as well as another named Arrieta.
Before beginning a forty-year partnership with Domingo Ansotegui,
Jim played with Domingo's uncle "Chardio", then with John
Arregui and Dick Lenhardt, and other musicians included Cecil Holmes
and Ralph Fry on the drums. These musicians played casually in Vail
and Ontario, Oregon, and in Nampa and Boise for Basque or American
events. He also played with a man from Nevada named Clete Bengoa
and with various Basque herders who played button accordions, and
soon teamed with Domingo Ansotegui (who lived across the street
in Nampa) and both learned by ear from listening to the music repeatedly.
Jimmy remembers that they learned the music from records from Mexico
because those were the only available materials. He learned musical
melodies from his mother and from the ladies at the hotel who sang
Basque and Spanish songs. Jim realized that singing the Basque songs
for those from the Basque Country served as an emotional connection
to their homeland, and that it was a meaningful part of their Basqueness.
Jimmy Jausoro and Domingo Ansotegui began playing accordion for
Juanita Uberuaga Hormaechea in 1947 when she requested several musicians'
help to teach young children Basque dancing. They also traveled
around southern Idaho playing at boarding houses and Basque dances.
At one point, he and Domingo decided that they would have to do
something different and not have both playing the accordion, but
they needed another instrument, so Domingo took up the challenge
and went on to become a tambourinist and drummer. Ansotegui purchased
a cocktail set of drums with a bass that stood upright, a snare,
tom-toms, and sticks in 1956, and became the drummer for their band.
Jimmy eventually formed an official band in 1957 named "Jimmy
Jausoro and His Orchestra".
The "Jim Jausoro & his Orchestra Band," played both
Basque and contemporary music for dances, weddings, picnics and
Basque festivals around southern Idaho, eastern Oregon, and northern
Nevada. Each of the musicians had their own day jobs: Jim worked
for the railroad and Domingo for Interstate Electric. By night,
they practiced for upcoming billings. They began their decades-long
career together at the Euzkaldunak Incorporated Anniversary Dinner
and Dance on November 16, 1957. The Jim Jausoro dance band consisted
of members Domingo Ansotegui on the drums and tambourine, John Arregui
on the also saxophone, Dick Lenhardt on the trumpet and trombone,
and Jimmy Jausoro on the accordion. No one knows, or even ventures
a guess, as to how many thousands of miles these four men and their
wives traveled together. From December through April, most Friday
and Saturday nights were booked at Basque dances and Sheepherders
Balls in Jerome, Twin Falls, Elko, Ely, Winnemucca, Gooding, Grandview,
Bruneau, Mountain Home, Caldwell, Marsing, Kuna, Melba, Jordan Valley,
and Ontario. May gave them enough time for a quick breath before
the wedding season and the Basque picnics and festivals started
up again June through September. Isabelle Larrondo Jausoro managed
her husband's business and booking arrangements, and in 2002 still
In October 1972, the Euzkaldunak, Inc. honored Domingo Ansotegui
and Jim Jausoro with special plaques commemorating their service
to the Basque community. Their hours of entertainment included performances
with the Oinkaris at the Seattle World's Fair, New York World's
Fair, the Smithsonian Institute Folk Festival in Washington D.C.,
and the Montreal World's Fair as representatives of the United States
State Department. In the April 1975 issue of Voice of the Basques,
editors John Street and Brian Wardle pointed out the work of more
than 25 years of Jimmy and Domingo in providing music and entertainment
for the Basque folk dance groups of children and the Oinkaris. Another
twenty-five years later, Jimmy tirelessly continues to provide music
accompaniment to the Boise'ko Gasteak children's dancing group and
to the Oinkari Basque Dancers with his tambourine player, Juan Zulaica.
|Oinkari Basque Dancers.|
President Jim Ithurralde of Elko presented the North American Basque
Organizations (NABO) first ever annual Basque of the Year Award
jointly to Jim Jausoro and Domingo Ansotegui on November 29, 1975.
Their selection was unanimous among all of the delegates. Letters
and telegrams arrived from all over the United States and the Basque
Country, and there were personal words of praise from Idaho Senators
Frank Church and James McClure, Governor Cecil Andrus, Idaho Representatives
Steve Symms and George Hansen, Bishop Sylvester Treinen, Secretary
of State Pete Cenarrusa, Boise Mayor Richard "Dick" Eardley,
and a special telegram from Jon Oñatibia from Euskal Herria.
NABO President Ithurralde, and Vice President Frank Maitia, of Bakersfield,
and several other NABO delegates traveled to Boise to personally
thank these icons of Basque culture. For more than fourty years
Jim and Domingo worked with the Basque children of Boise Valley.
In their own quiet way these two men contributed in a great way
to America's awareness of the Basque people and their heritage through
their music. Jim and Domingo spent countless hours away from their
families and used their vacation days from work to travel with the
Oinkaris Basque Dancers.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Jimmy Jausoro and Domingo Ansotegui
continued playing for Basque dances all around the western United
States, the Oinkari Basque Dancers and the Boise'ko Gasteak. After
Domingo's death in 1984, Juan Zulaica assumed the position of Jimmy's
partner and tambourine player, and Domingo's son, Dan, took his
chair behind the drum set in the dance band. In 1985 the Oinkaris
made a 25th Anniversary tour of the Basque Country and highlighted
the significance of these dedicated musicians, and the same year
Jim Jausoro was selected for the national Endowment of the Arts
National Heritage Award. Oinkari President John Aldape III wrote,
"The entire structure of Basque activities in Boise would be
so different were it not for the contributions of Jimmy Jausoro."
In 1988, Jimmy won the Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts
from the Boise City Arts Commission and in 1994 was inducted into
the Society of Basque Studies in America Basque Hall of Fame. Gloria
Garatea Lejardi praised him, "When I hear of someone dedicating
their lives to a cause, I always think of Jim and what he has done
for the Basque community..." Jim Jausoro was again singled
out for his dedication in 2000 when he was chosen for the Idaho
Commission on the Arts Fellowship Award and the Idaho Commission
on the Arts Governor's Award. Jimmy's humble personality and desire
to keep Basque music alive have kept him enthusiastic all these
years. Boise'ko Gasteak Director Linda Barinaga captured what the
Basques in the United States believe about Jim Jausoro: "What
a legacy to a people and a culture!"
Without the dedication of Jim Jausoro and the Basque musicians
in Idaho, there would not have been a Basque dance group for the
hundreds of teenagers that have passed through the Oinkaris. Those
present and former Oinkaris have generally agreed that if they had
not participated in the dancing groups, they most likely would not
have joined the Euzkaldunak Basque Center, and perhaps not even
taken part in other Basque activities in the valley. They might
not have made friends with other Basques, and several certainly
would not have met their marriage partners, which were also Oinkari
Dancers. Jim Jausoro's legacy is one of constructing a musical atmosphere
for Basque ethnicity maintenance as well as creating social environments
for cultivating that identity.
Dr. Gloria Totoricagüena
Egurrola, Center for Basque Studies. University of Nevada, Reno