We had a pending debt with the memory of this Basque born in Idaho in 1917: Pete Cenarrusa Gardoki (automatic translation).  This Basque-American, wouldn’t you know it, had the same surname as Diego de Gardoqui, one of the leading figures, as we can see here, of the independence of the United States.

And we owe him this debt because, on September 29th, we should have posted an entry here in his memory, as it was the 10th anniversary of his passing.  We didn’t, so here we are, as far as we can, trying to make up for that.

Pete Cenarrusa was an extraordinary US citizen and tireless Basque patriot.  He perfectly fulfilled the petition Lehendakari Aguirre made of the Basques of the diaspora: “in your adopted lands be, among all, the best citizens.”  Pete Cenarrusa was, like many Basques around the world, doing that well before the lehendakari made the request.

He never shirked his duties, with Basque society or with American.  Reading his biography proves it.  He volunteered to fight in the Second World War, and was a businessman who was committed to the Basque community, taking on ever greater political responsibilities right up until he reached the post of Secretary of State in Idaho.  He did so as a Republican, though it must be said his brand of Republicanism differed greatly, if not completely from the kind practiced by the party under Donald Trump.

Pete Cenarrusa con la ikurrina en el Capitolio de Boise
Pete Cenarrusa with the ikurriña at the Idaho Capitol in Boise

This can be seen by how he was an unrepentant defendant of peace and the greater freedoms for the Basque land from whence he came.  This caused him a good deal of ill will among Spanish unionists, who tried everything to shut him up in life and even went so far as to denigrate his memory once he’d died.

We’ve spoken a lot about him over the years.  We’ve covered how committed he was, and how outraged his enemies were.  This outrage reached its pinnacle with the infamous obituary written for him by Javier Rupérez, a member of the People’s Party and former ambassador of Spain to the United States during the term of Prime Minister Aznar.  This obituary was published in the pro-monarchy ABC newspaper a few days after his death.

That text, which was full of the hate and vile that had been triggered by their inability to quiet him, led to a rather unconventional response: seven Basque websites got together to write a joint response to Mr. Rupérez’s text.

This hatred was caused by a statement released by the Idaho legislature.  It had been presented by a Democrat, also of Basque heritage, by the name of Dave Bieter, and it was passed unanimously.  We republish it below, but it was also published by the Euskaletxeak magazine, published by the Basque Government under the title:

BASQUE HOMELAND – Stating findings of the Legislature and calling for the immediate cessation of all violence occurring in and near the Basque homeland; and to request that a peace process be undertaken.

This statement ruffled more than a few feathers among those in power in the Spanish Government.  But it was well received among Basque people.

Before bringing you that joint statement we published in response to that atrocious obituary and the Idaho legislature’s 2022 statement, we’ll reprint two paragraphs we wrote on the day when we bade farewell to Pete Cenarrusa on September 20, 2013.  We also include the “Agur Jaunak” as recorded by the Coro Eresoinka, organized by the Basque Government in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.

“An extraordinary man, an extraordinary Basque, an extraordinary American has left us today. But he leaves us with a legacy of a perfect example of “living a full life.”  It’s hard not to feel a healthy jealousy for his success as a person and a professional, for his incredible breadth of experiences, and for his ability to project extremely human values on the world.

Even the day of his passing reflects his ‘Basqueness,’ as he died on our patron saint’s day, that of St. Michael of Aralar.  For the Basques in the US and around the world, this is an irreparable loss.  But he leaves behind his immense legacy and the hope that we can follow his example.”

Coro Eresoinka: Agur jaunak (Dir: Gabriel Olaizola)

Coro Nacional Vasco (1937 – 1939)


“In defense of Pete Cenarrusa: In Memoriam” (a joint statement you can join, too)

El senador de Idaho, Bob Geddes, desmiente a Javier Ruperez sobre su postura respecto a Pete Cenarrusa

(Automatic translation)




Last Updated on Feb 12, 2024 by About Basque Country

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