While history places the Basque people in the Americas as early as the 1500s, one of the largest migration occurred during the California Gold Rush, creating the Basque community of Bakersfield, California and later, Boise, Idaho. Miners needed food and clothing, and the Basque had farms and livestock. Then 90% of Basque families were working in the farming or livestock industries, today only 30%.
The strength and determination of the Basque people have thrived for over 4 generations. While living their American dream, they helped us live ours. In today’s ever-changing cultural and economic climates, their adaptation and self-survival are essential to the American story. Current generations have weighed the intense labor against the economic of ranching and farming, and begun to pursue other options. As a defining element in their culture, how will the American Basque look in 20 years?
I begin this project with the most popular industry, sheep herding, and in particular the Etchamendy and Iturrira families, two of the biggest and historic in Bakersfield.
With inspirations from my blue collar family and the work produced by the Farm Security and Works Progress Administrations, I’ve set out to capture the American Basque.