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01.- Basque Beginnings

Basque hotels, or ostatuak, that have been well established, throughout the west, for one and a half centuries preceded today's Basque clubs. On the east coast, New York's ostatua founded by Valentin Aguirre, served as the reference point through which many Basques arriving in the US during the first half of the 20th Century passed. However, the Plaza Hotel of San Juan Bautista (California), operated in the 1850's by Julian Ursua, was the first establishment predating the ostatua, for which there are records. In 1866 the Aguirre Hotel was set up in San Francisco by Juan Miguel Aguirre, who had fought on the losing side in the First Carlist War. He emigrated in 1845 to Uruguay, and from there, in 1849, to California.


Plaza Hotel in San Juan Bautista, California
In a country being shaped by immigration, the ostatua was present from the mid 19th century. It was a response to the various waves of young Basques moving to the western US. As a testament to this, the December 30, 1893, issue of the Los Angeles newspaper California'ko Eskual Herria carried advertisements for at least five Basque hotels in Los Angeles, one in San Diego, two in Kern City, one in San Francisco, and another in San Jose, all in the Basque language.
Advertisement of Basque boarding houses, hotels and businesses published in Basque in the Californian Basque press of the late 19th century

In the late 19th century, San Francisco and Los Angeles already had Basque communities of certain importance, in whose ostatuak Basque was the language commonly used. In this American Euskal Herria, there arose publications such as Escualdun Gazeta, entirely in the Basque language, established in 1885 by lawyer Martin Biscailuz, or California'ko Eskual Herria, also in Basque, established in 1893 by journalist Jean-Pierre Goytino. Where hotels are concerned, research carried out by Californian historian Jeronima Echeverria reveals that there have been at least 304 Basque boarding houses and hotels set up throughout the US in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Escualdun Gazeta was founded in 1887 in Los Angeles by Basque Californian Martin Biscailuz

Unquestionably, the ostatua was a key reference point for many of the early generations of Basques coming to the US. There were many communities in the western regions with one or more of these establishments. Some survived, either having reorganized their operations or continuing simply as restaurants. Many of the meeting-point functions associated with the hotel of yesteryear are currently found in the Basque clubs.



The Aguirre Hotel was built in 1866 in San Francisco

There are nearly fifty such clubs in the US. The oldest of which is the Central Vascoamericano, today the Euzko Etxea of New York, founded in 1913 and currently situated in Brooklyn. In the west, in 1907 there were efforts made to set up a club in Stockton. In 1914 the Basque Club of Utah was founded in Ogden, while in 1924 the first Zazpiak Bat Club was started in San Francisco. In 1938 the Basques in the Bakersfield area founded the Kern County Basque Club. Even though there are Basques in each of the fifty states, according to the most recent census, Basque clubs are only found in New York, Florida, California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. However, there is a significant Basque population in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico.


The original Basque Club of Utah was incorporated in 1914 in Ogden, Utah
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