Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba: Minden and Gardnerville, Nevada Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba: Minden and Gardnerville, Nevada Gloria Totoricagüena Egurrola Anita Izoco and Jeannette Fernandez founded the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, Minden Gardnerville, Nevada in 1981, with ninety members. Because the hour drive north to Reno was too far for many to travel for social functions with other Basques, the original goals of this Basque association were to provide social gatherings such as a summer picnic and an autumn Sheepherders' Dance along with monthly meetings. Basque community leaders also wanted to teach their children the folk dances and traditional songs. Today the Basque families of these two small towns next to each other meet every month at a different Basque restaurant to enjoy Euskera, Basque food and cuisine, and each other's company. The 2002 membership is 450 adult paying members. The scenic Carson Valley at 4750 feet elevation faces the Sierra Nevada Mountains which rise to 11,000 feet on the California Nevada border, and for many Basques reminds them of their homelands in Euskal Herria. The Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba fosters Basque heritage by advancing the teaching of Basque history, culture, and customs. Because of the interest and intense work of Jesus and Frances Pedroarena, they also sponsor the North American Basque Organizations (NABO) "Kantari Eguna", or Day of the Singer. Every August the Basque club celebrates its annual picnic festival in conjunction with a day to celebrate bertsolarismo, with Basque singers coming from around the western United States and the Basque provinces. The first Kantari Eguna and Bertsolari Festival was held in April, 1988, as a competition with categories of "Traditional songs", "Contemporary songs", a special classification for "Children", and one for "Bertsolaris", who sing and create lyrics extemporaneously. There were a total of thirty four singers and competitors that year. Though the numbers of participating individuals changeand the competition has been changed to a festival, choirs from San Francisco and Boise have also traveled to entertain the audience of several hundred Basques and friends. Gardnerville's Euskal Etxea . Bertsolari and Basque Song Festival. Photo: Joseba Etxarri During the 1980s, University of Nevada, Reno Basque Studies Program assistant professor Gorka Aulestia regularly served as an educator for the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba's monthly meetings. He lectured on the history of the coat of arms of the Basque provinces, Basque music composers, and musical instruments. He taught members the Basque traditional folk songs as well as Christmas carols. Club members initiated an annual Christmas caroling and gift exchange that continues to this day with entire families riding through the towns of Minden and Gardnerville, stopping to sing Basque Christmas songs for their impromptu audiences. The Overland Hotel and Basque Restaurant in Garnerville then provide hot chocolate and pastries for all of the singers. Additionally, the other two established Basque restaurants of the Carson Valley area also support the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba; they are the Carson Valley Country Club, and the J.T. Bar and Restaurant. In December, 1996, the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the first Parade of Lights which made its way through the streets with decorated parade floats and candle lights and the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba won First Prize in the civic organizations category for their Basque entry. The next year they won Second Prize. The group of Basques continues to participate in this winter festival each year. The Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba Dancers were established in 1983 and between the 1980s and the mid 1990s there were over thirty dancers between the ages of 3 17 participating with weekly practices. Instructed by Jeanette Fernandez, Jackie Basagoitia, Anita Izoco and Frances Pedroarena, they danced for community general public events, attended the NABO annual music camp "Udaleku", andperformed for many Basque festivals and celebrations. The Ipar Ameriketako Euskal Dantzarian Biltzarra, North American Basque Association of Dancers, and the Federation of Basque Dance Groups was hosted and organized in Garnerville in August 1989 with Basque dance leaders meeting to discuss the goals of the organization. The individual interested dance groups in the United States function more through NABO than their own association and there were no official meetings after this initial organizational initiative. In 1993, the Mendiko group itself disbanded due to a lack of interest and lack of dancers, though they did organize sporadically for special events. Jeanette Blanco initiated the dancing again in 1997 with a small group of interested youth, but by the end of the year they too had disbanded and abandoned the weekly practices. Basque dancing has to compete with after school activities, church functions, sports for youth, and community classes and events etc. Many parents report that they simply do not have the time to serve as a "full time taxi" for their children's activities, and the end of Basque dancing seems to have been one of the casualties. Johnny Curutchet, a bertsolari born in San Francisco singing at Gardnerville Euskal Kantari Eguna. Photo: Joseba Etxarri The mus competitions and championships are very popular in the Carson Valley of Nevada and California, and every week players drive from as far away as two hours to arrive in Gardnerville ready to challenge each other's skills. The club joined the NABO in 1987 in order to compete in the NABO mus championships, and also to enable their members' children to attend and contribute to the annual music camp. Members of this Basque club are active in their community affairs and in 1996, with the assistance of a grant from the Eusko Jaurlaritza, they donated an authentic sheepcamp exhibit to the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center in Gardnerville. Basque family histories were recorded and photographsdonated as a part of an interactive exposition. Families donated items and instruments pertaining to their days spent herding sheep, and Anita Izoco and Frances Pedroarena presented oral lectures regarding Basque topics to the Historical Society members at their monthly meetings. They also spoke to the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce Rural Round Up, at the Douglas County Leadership Council Tourism Heritage Day, and for the Soroptimist International organization. Educating the public about Basques in the Basque Country and about Basques in the United States has always been a meaningful factor for the Minden Gardnerville Basques. The Overland Hotel and Basque Restaurant in Garnerville then provide hot chocolate and pastries for all of the singers. Beginning in the autumn of 1998, the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba embarked on an historically significant project that would consume four years of intense work and dedication and result in a beautiful publication dedicated to the Basque emigrants who constructed the society they enjoy today. Frances Pedroarena, Anita Izoco, Jeanette Blanco, Annie Guecamburu, and Nancy Hamlett researched, wrote and published, From the Basque Country to the Sheep Camps of the Carson Valley: The Personal Stories of Basque Immigrants, in 2001. These women interviewed local Basques who had immigrated to the area, and recorded their experiences and scanned photographs to include in this self published book. It includes the biographies of such people as Francisco Yparraguirre, one of the first Basques to begin as a sheepherder in 1877 and progress to an important landowner. Yparraguirre was honored by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1977. José Sario, who began with no financial resources and no English skills, eventually operated a sheep company with 50,000 head of sheep. Families who left the sheep business and crated successful hotels and restaurants such as the Borda, Lekumberry, Etchmendy, and Micheo families are also highlighted. Of course not allexperiences were positive and the authors include information regarding the deaths in sheepherding such as the freezing death of Juan Azparren while tending to his flock, and of Beltran Indiano, who was killed at the High Rock Canyon Massacre in 1911. An Eusko Jaurlaritza grant also helped fund production expenses but as usual, members donated all of their time and expertise to establish another successful volunteer project. One can order a copy by writing Jesus Pedroarena at: Jesus Pedroarena, 2002 President, is another of the Mendiko Cluba's tireless volunteers. He also serves as the NABO Video Chairman for copying and selling videos tapes, as well as converting video from the United States NTSC system to the European PAL system, and vice versa. Basques from all NABO organizations send him United States recorded tapes to convert to the European system, which they can send on to their relatives. He has converted hundreds of wedding, First Communion, Christmas gathering, and Basque festival tapes that relatives and friends send to each other across the Atlantic. Club leaders have worked effectively with the Basque Government of the Basque Autonomous Community to secure grants for special projects and also for operating expenses. They have been awarded monies in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. In 1997, the Director of Relations with the Basque Collectivities for the Basque Government, Mr. Iñaki Aguirre, visited Gardnerville to meet with club members. The success of the many initiatives of this Basque community depends on the volunteer work of its leaders and the mixed membership of Basques from Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon, and Idaho. The financial assistance from the Basque Government has fortified and strengthened undertakings that help preserve Basque identity in this region of the United States. Dr. Gloria Totoricagüena Egurrola, Center for Basque Studies. University of Nevada, Reno Photos: http:// http://hotel.com/hotel.htm http:// Euskonews &Media 208. zbk (2003 / 04 25 / 05 09) Euskomedia: Euskal Kultur Informazio Zerbitzua Eusko Ikaskuntzaren Web Orria
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