Boise Basque Museum
By Chelsea Chambers
Photos Kimberlee Miller
Annie Gavica grew up in northern Nevada as a third generation Basque where she learned early on the importance of keeping their culture alive. And that’s precisely what she does every day as the Director of the Basque Museum, a title she earned in 2016. Living in a highly concentrated Basque area gave Annie many opportunities to explore her culture. She spent a lot of her time pursuing traditional dance with the Oinkari dancers, which allowed her to visit the Basque country twice. After moving to Idaho, she attended Boise State, just around the time they began offering the Basque Cultural Studies minor, and she, of course, jumped at the chance to learn more about her culture.
Annie enjoyed the time she spent teaching at the Boiseko Ikastola, a Basque preschool, but when an education position opened up at the museum, it seemed like the right move, and it absolutely was. “I am very lucky in that I am able to spend my days helping to preserve, promote, and perpetuate Basque history and culture to the local community, visitors and, beyond,” says Annie.
History of the Basque People
What is called the Basque Country is, in fact, not a country at all, but rather it is a sizeable plot of land that straddles the border of France and Spain. Their language is the oldest Endo-European language still spoken and is unlike any other on Earth, making it both challenging to learn and captivating to understand. After a series of wars, many of the Basque people immigrated to other countries, hoping to earn money that they could send back to their families, and like thousands of people before and after them, they found a haven in Idaho. And while Idaho doesn’t have the highest population of Basque, we do have the highest concentration per capita. Many of those who came to Idaho never left and are now firmly rooted in our history and politics.
“The Basque Museum not only tells the story of my Basque family, and many other Basque families and their immigration to the United States, but also the broader immigration story to the US and the many impacts the various cultures have had on America over time,” says Annie. There are several consistent and rotating displays in the museum that depict the history of the Basque country. From old photos to life-size renditions of sheep-herder carts, the museum is chock-full of beautiful stories and historical depictions. It is also conveniently nestled next to some delicious Basque restaurants, like Leku Ona and Bar Gernika.
There are so many upcoming events to look forward to this year, such as the Running of the Bars fundraiser on July 7 and the Basque Festival July 27 and 28. Music from Basque performers will also be featured, and we personally cannot wait to see Xabi Aburruzaga, master of the Trikitixa, an incredible diatonic accordion.
It’s amazing to see a culture so alive and thriving as well as the Basque. It’s imperative that we spend time celebrating all cultures and expanding our perspectives (and our palates!). Take a day trip to the Basque Museum, learn about both Basque and Idaho history and how they have grown to support one another throughout the decades.