This isn’t the first time we’ve brought up the very well founded theory that the name of the 48th US state, Arizona, comes from the Basque language, and is indeed a Basque story.

On this occasion, we’re bringing you news about this history, with new details we found in an article that was published in past January in the Nogales International.  It was penned by

It’s just that the list of disagreements between Nogales, Arizona, and Heroica Nogales, Sonora, or rather between the countries they’re in today, is very long, and had its climax in the confrontation that broke out on August 27, 1918 between Mexicans and Americans.  But that is another story, and though it’s quite interesting, it’s not what this entry is all about (if you’re interested, check out more here).

So back to the history of the name Arizona and its Basque origin.

Mapa del Virreinato de Nueva España (1794)
Mapa del Virreinato de Nueva España (1794)

It turns out that in those days when a good part of the Americas was a colony of the kings of Castile and Spain, in that part of the world, insidethe Viceroyalty of New Spain, there was an administrative division called Nueva Vizcaya, and within that was a province called New Navarre.  After Mexico gained its independence and then lost the war with the US (called the US intervention in Mexico on the Spanish-language Wikipedia and the Mexican–American War on the English-language Wikipedia) and the Gadsden Purchase (known as the Venta de La Mesilla in Spanish), the northern parts of New Navarre and Nueva Vizcaya came to be under the administration of the United States.

The southern part of modern-day Arizona is what was the old New Navarre, while the rest was part of Upper California.

In the Alex la Pierre article, he doesn’t discuss studies that attribute the origin of this state’s name to the Basque language or people.  Instead, he reminds us of the 18th-century discovery of a rich silver mind found on a ranch named Arizona, owned by Basque-New Spaniard Bernardo de Urrea, who was the first lieutenant mayor of Juan Bautista de Anza, the Senior Justice of Sonora and one of the heavyweights in the history of that corner of the world.

La expedición Anza
La expedición Anza

Juan Bautista de Anza was also a New Spaniard of Basque descent who, among other things, led a caravan of 240 colonists over more than 1,800 mi or 2,900 km from Sonora to modern-day San Francisco, to found a colony on the coast of Upper California.  It was the first time a land route was used to take people from New Spain to Upper California, and in fact those colonists were the founders of the town of San Francisco.  Nowadays, you can follow the Sendero Histórico yourself.  Coincidentally, that’s also the same distance between the two North American Durangos, from the Mexican state of Durango to the American state of Colorado.

The Border Community Alliance was preparing a a visit to Hernani, where Juan Bautista de Anza was from, as part of a trip to the north of the Peninsula they were going to do in May.  The current pandemic has put a stop to that.

We do hope it’s nothing more than a delay.

Nogales International – 3/1/2020 – USA

Guest Opinion: Arizona’s Basque connection

Have you ever wondered where the name for our state, Arizona, came from? Well, the answer is interestingly from somewhere very close to us and, at the same time, originating from as far away as across an ocean. There are several theories that have circulated in regard to the etymology of the word Arizona, but perhaps the strongest theory has emerged from research completed by Don Garate, Tumacácori National Historical Park’s former chief of interpretation. Don, who unfortunately passed away from brain cancer several years ago, was instrumental in uncovering the Basque heritage of our binational Arizona-Sonora region for the public.

(Sigue) (Traducción automática)
Debido a los problemas que genera fuera de Europa la adaptación a nuestra Ley de Protección de Datos, muchos diarios de USA tienen bloqueada la visita a usuarios que navegan desde Europa. Por eso dejamos una reproducción en PDF del artículo al final de esta entrada del blog.

Juan Bautista de Anza. National Historic Trail

(Automatic translation)

Bernardo de Urrea y su rancho «Arizona»

(Automatic translation)

Last Updated on Dec 20, 2020 by About Basque Country

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