Jaialdi: A to Z 

An illustrated exploration of Basque culture

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Jaialdi, the big Basque blowout that takes place in Boise every five years, is upon us. Walking around downtown Boise, you might have noticed a proliferation of Basque berets, or txapelas, smelled the deep-fried sizzle of croquetas and heard consonant-rich phrases like kaixo and eskerrik asko echoing through the streets. Even if the only Basque word you know is kalimotxo, you can easily become a Basque savant with our handy illustrated guide: Jaialdi: A to Z.

click to enlarge JEFFREY C. LOWE
  • Jeffrey C. Lowe

A: Amuma Says No

Based on the traditional trikitixa—a Basque musical ensemble featuring accordion and tambourine—Amuma Says No combines Jill Aldape's energetic Basque vocals, Dan Ansotegui's festive accordion playing and Sean Aucutt's tambourine skills. Straying from tradition, the band also adds other instruments like bass and guitar, which gives the group a modern rock vibe.

Amuma Says No just released its third album, Gatz and Berakatz, which was inspired by Jaialdi 2015. You'll have plenty of opportunities to catch the band during the festival: Amuma Says No is performing at Alive After Five on The Grove Wednesday, July 29; at the Dance at Expo Idaho on Saturday, Aug. 1; and at the Street Dance on the Basque Block Sunday, Aug. 2.

B : Basque Block

Located on Grove Street between Sixth Street and Capitol Boulevard, the Basque Block is home to a variety of Basque cultural hubs, including the Basque Center, the Basque Museum, the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga house, the Anduiza Fronton, Leku Ona, The Basque Market and Bar Gernika. During Jaialdi, this strip of downtown will be closed to traffic through Monday, Aug. 3, so revelers can wander the block, sip kalimotxos and snack on street food with friends and family.

click to enlarge JEFFREY C. LOWE
  • Jeffrey C. Lowe

C : Chorizo

Ruby-hued Basque chorizo, studded with garlic and peppers, is a juicy summer treat. Gem Pack Meats in Garden City supplies Jaialdi with chorizos, which you can pick up hot off the grill on the Basque Block and at Expo Idaho. Gem Pack owner Brent Compton said the company anticipates selling around 20,000 chorizos during Jaialdi, the perfect pairing with another Basque specialty: croquetas. You'll find these heavenly balls of fried béchamel pretty much everywhere you'll find chorizos.

D: Diaspora

The Basque Country, or Euskal Herria, is a small swath of land on the border between southern France and northern Spain where the Pyrenees Mountains meet the Bay of Biscay. According to Boise's Basque Museum and Cultural Center, "Basque people have a homeland, but no nation of their own. The region occupies three areas—part of the Atlantic Pyrenees Department in France and two areas in Spain—the Basque Autonomous Community and the Autonomous Community of Navarre." Over the years, limited space combined with economic and political factors have encouraged Basque emigration. There are now substantial Basque populations in countries around the world, including Argentina, Colombia and the United States. Boise is home to one of the largest concentrations of Basques in the U.S.

E: Euskara

Euskara, or the Basque language, is the only surviving pre-Indo-European language in Western Europe. Its words, described as an "imposing stew of consonants" by The New York Times, are often written in a folksy font with swooping serifs. Euskal Herria literally means "the land where the Basque language is spoken." Though the Basque language was repressed during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who declared Castilian Spain's official language, Euskara is once again gaining popularity as Basques seek to preserve their culture. Boise is home to the Boiseko Ikastola, the only Basque language preschool outside of the Basque Country.

click to enlarge JEFFREY C. LOWE
  • Jeffrey C. Lowe

F: Fronton

Hidden inside the Basque Block's Anduiza Building, a former boarding house built in the 1910s, the Anduiza Fronton is a 3,400-square-foot pala court with white walls and a 50-foot-high ceiling. Pala—aka Basque racquetball—is played with flat, spoon-shaped paddles and a small rubbery ball. Four pala players compete in pairs on the century-old fronton, which is the oldest pala court still in use in the U.S. There will be a pala tournament held at the Anduiza Fronton Thursday, July 30 and Friday, July 31.

G: Bar Gernika

The building at 202 S. Capitol Blvd. that is now home to Bar Gernika once housed a Chinese laundry, the Chin Joe Restaurant and the Trade Dollar Bar before it turned into the Cub Tavern in 1948. This landmark bar survived downtown redevelopment in the 1970s, but by the late '80s, the tiny tavern's owner wanted to bulldoze it to make room for more parking spaces. Luckily, Adelia Garro Simplot fought to preserve the building. With Simplot's help, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center was able to purchase the space and rent it to Dan Ansotegui, who turned it into the iconic Bar Gernika, named after the Basque town of Guernica, which is a sister city with Boise.

More than 20 years later, the popular pub still slings Basque specialties like lomo, beef tongue and croquetas, along with a top-notch selection of rotating micros on draft and Spanish wines.

H: Herri Kirolak

Basque rural sports, or herri kirolak, originate from the region's two primary historical occupations—farming and fishing. The sports include everything from aizkolaritza, an event in which woodcutters chop through tree trunks as quickly as possible, to lasto botatzea, hay bale tossing, to orga jokoa, or oxcart carrying.

On Thursday, July 30, you can catch all the herri kirolak action during the Jaialdi Sports Night, which takes place at the CenturyLink Arena at 7 p.m. and costs $15 per person. There will also be herri kirolak demonstrations at Expo Idaho at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2.

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