This article was translated by John R. Bopp
We must thank the person who keeps the JP BIARRITZ YouTube channel running, and for sharing this jewel of a video about a time gone by (but not that far gone) in the history of the Basques both in Europe and in the US.
In its 90 minutes, this documentary film talks to us about Juan Gorospe, a young man from Nabarniz, Biscay, and his journey to the US to spend three years as a shepherd, saving up the money necessary to allow him to go home and get married.
It was filmed at the beginning of the 1970s and as we said, it shows us a world of which only a few echoes are left.
It’s true that the Basque Community in the US is strong, active, and determined to keep its traditions alive. But the role of the “basco” in American society has changed substantially. The world of Basque sheepherders, in its most traditional sense, the one discussed in this documentary, is turning into a museum piece; similarly, in the Basque Country itself, images like this are being relegated to history. Neither the towns nor the people are the same. Even the shots from the Sanfermines Bull Run in Pamplona are shown as those of a bygone time.
In the film, we can see the protagonist walking among the poplars that have become a true “library” that preserves the arboglyphs: the thoughts, desires, and frustrations of those Basque sheepherders who engraved them over a century ago.
All this makes an extraordinary documentary that was filmed by International Films, produced by Yould/Weld Film Production, written and directed by John Weld, with the collaboration of Rod Yould as Director of Photography and Editor. It was distributed by the Basque Educational Organization on VHS.
We found all this info on the film’s file in the database run by the OCLC, a worldwide library cooperative. Unfortunately, there is a bit of confusing data, as the file says the film was produced sometime in the 1980s, a decade after it was filmed.
To finish out this jewel, we’d like to accompany it with an article published by The Fence Post, an agricultural daily, and penned by Shirley Kelly and Glade Park, in Colorado. It’s an article that tells us about the Basque presence in that part of the US and about this documentary.
“The Basque Sheepherder”
The Fence Post – 2/5/2011 – USA
Salute to the Sheep-men
heir origin is still a mystery … their language is not related to any other tongue … yet they have not lost their identity or traditions. The Basque Fathers and Forefathers migrated to this country from the Pyrenees Mountain Ranges of the rugged border country of France and Spain. They came as Sheepherders – with their dogs, hard work and sacrifices they became sheep-masters. Sheep were first introduced in the Grand valley in 1852 and many immigrants migrated to this country and settled in sheep country areas of Colorado, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, Nevada, and California.