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"Jalgi Hadi Irratira"

Forty Years of Basque Radio in Buffalo, Wyoming

Reproduced by permission of the North American Basque Organizations

Every now and then, our Basque communities do something special and out of the ordinary. This does not belittle the efforts of those who work diligently to staff our various club events, because it is not a simple task to keep the picnics, dinners, etc. going. This occasional column, however, seeks to recognize extraordinary Basque events. Previously we acknowledged the unique effort of Liz Hardesty and Boise area Basques [Volume 7:1] to commemorate the memory of early Boise Basques by finally providing personalized gravemarkers for previously unmarked Basque graves. Now we focus on the extraordinary effort of Buffalo area Basques to keep alive a weekly Basque language radio program for forty years!

The Buffalo Euskaldun Ordua or Basque Hour first aired on Sunday, December 1956 on radio station KBBS with the volunteer contributions of commentators and the financial sponsorship of the Buffalo area Basques. Since that first broadcast, the program has continued every Sunday at noon with the news, music and messages of the Buffalo Basque community—all in Euskara or the Basque language. Several of our Basque-American communities over the years have produced a similar weekly program and thus are familiar with the incredible effort that this entails; it is not easy to put together the material and locate the volunteers to keep this effort alive. Thus they can appreciate this extraordinary achievement of the Buffalo Euskaldunak to keep this program alive for 40 years!

The Buffalo radio program emerged from a joint effort of volunteer assistance, but several individuals were especially crucial to the endurance of the program. They include:

Pierre Amestoy

Martin Camino

Jeanette Esponda Maxwell, station owner

Jean Cinquambre

Grayce Esponda Miller

Bernard Etchemendy

Jeanne Etchemendy

Domingo Martirena

Rosalia Maya Ibarra

To commemorate the contribution of these individuals, the Society of Basque Studies in America sponsored its 17th annual Omenaldi ceremony early this last March in Buffalo; all nine were inducted into their Basque Hall of Fame. In a special evening, Buffalo Basques were joined by visiting friends to pay tribute to these nine folks who selflessly gave of their time and energy to keep their Basque community and language alive and vibrant in this corner of Wyoming. The state’s governor Jim Geringer and the city’s mayor Nels Lofgren issued proclamations, and then the following day a street in Buffalo was christened "Euskaldun kalea" or Basque street. Entertainers from Euskal Herria included singer Erramun Martikorena and bertsolari Xabier Euskitze. The Euskalzaindia or Basque Language Academy was represented by its President Jean Haritschelhar who also presented awards recognizing the special contribution that the program has made to the promotion of the Basque language.

President Bob Echeverria represented NABO which also recognized the honorees with special commemorative plaques that are only occasionally presented; previously NABO recognized Pedro Juan Ethamendy [CA], Jim Jausoro [ID] and Bernardo Yanci [NV] for their contributions to Basque music. Now NABO wanted to acknowledge the special contribution of these Wyoming Basques in promoting the Basque language.

A program of Basque song and dance inaugurated the evening’s festivities with performances by the local "Zaharrer Segi" folk dance group, the songs of the bertsolariak Xabier Euskitze and Martin Goikoetxea [WY] and the visiting Basque choir from Rock Springs [WY]. It was certainly an evening to celebrate, as too few times do we Basques pause to appreciate those who have really made an extraordinary contribution to promoting our culture here in America. The speeches and the reminiscing brought both laughter and tears and moments that those assembled will always remember. Kate Camino of Buffalo and Joseba Etxarri of Donostia, Euskadi deserve special recognition for their work in helping to arrange this commemorate evening. Thanks to their vision and labor these nine individuals received well deserved recognition from their neighbors as well as Basque friends from numerous other states and the Basque Country.

One theme of the evening revolved around a refrain from the first book published in the Basque language in 1545. Bernard Etxepare’s Linguae Vasconum Primitiae concludes with lines of verse in "Kontrapas" which asks the Basques to take their language out into the world: "Heuskara jalgi adi mundura". The Basques of Buffalo have responded to this centuries—old appeal as they have taken our language out into the world via the radio. ZORIONAK-Congratulations! May they find the good fortune and strength to carry on this Basque radio program for the next forty years! EUSKARA JALGI HADI IRRATIRA!

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