The Basque work to live. And they live to enjoy song, dance, good food and drink while in the company of others. These passions will be on full display during the Basque Picnic this weekend at the Los Banos Fairgrounds, 403 F St.
On Saturday, a Mus tournament will be held at 9:30 a.m. in the O’Banion Building. Entry is $20. The first place team will win $500 and second place will receive $250.
“Mus” is a game of luck and skill traditionally played using a Spanish deck of 40 cards, which contains all the usual cards except 8s and 9s.
At 6 p.m., there will be a dinner/dance with musical performances by Noka, Kantu-Afaria and Luhartz. Joseba Etxarri will present a history of the Basque in California. Dinner tickets are $25 for adult and $12 for children.
On Sunday, there will be a traditional Basque Mass at 10 a.m. Lunch, which is $20 for adults and $10 for children, will be served from noon to 2 p.m. Following lunch, folk Basque dancers from Los Banos and San Francisco will perform. There will also be weight carrying and wood-chopping competitions.
The first large wave of Basque immigrants came to Los Banos toward the end of the 19th century. However, the Basque people were not unfamiliar with the North American continent. They had “discovered” the Americas at least 120 years before Columbus accidentally happened upon Hispaniola. Though, unlike Columbus, they opted to keep the secret to themselves so they could whale off the northeastern coast without competition.
By the 19th century, the fertile soil and warm weather of theCentral Valley was attracting farmers and ranchers from all over the world. The Basque came because word had reached them that somewhere in the foothills they could find work as shepherds. They did not stop immigrating to the Central Valley until the mid-1970s.
Many planned to stay for the three years of their contract and then return home with the money they had made to that small part of northern Spain known as Basque County. Those plans changed. The American Dream, the idea that hard work and determination could lead to obtaining one’s goals, appealed to them and fit in with their work ethic and cultural values.