THE CITY with the largest population of Basques outside of Spain, rather surprisingly, is Boise, Idaho, says the seventh edition of Moon Idaho. Boise, the state capital, has 10,000 Basques in its population of close to 650,000.
How did so many Basques end up in Idaho? Sheep herding. “It was a job that they could get without needing to speak English and that few others were willing to take because of its solitary nature.”
Basques began coming to Boise soon after it was founded in 1910, says the guidebook. They were gradually assimilated by American culture, but have retained quite a bit of their Old World inheritance. The 600-block of Grove Street in Boise’s Historical District is known as the Basque Block. It has the Basque Center, where Basques plays cards and converse in their native tongue, but whose bar, with its sidewalk patio, is open to all. In the same block is the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, in Boise’s oldest surviving brick building (1864).
At the end of the block Bar Gernika (www.bargernika.com), “a popular hangout for people from all walks of life,” serves Rioja, the Basque red wine. It also has Basque-influenced food, but for a more proper Basque meal try nearby Leku Ona (www.lekuonaid.com). Beside it, the Basque Market (www.thebasquemarket.com) “is the place to go for all things Basque, like imported wines, cured meats, cheeses, chocolate, good olive oil, house-brined green olives, and more.”
There’s also the annual Festival of San Inazio at the end of July and, every five years, Jaialdi (www.jaialdi.com), an international Basque culture festival that brings more than 40,000 people to town. The next one is in July 2020.
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